Sunday, November 27, 2011

On City Residency

Like many (but not all) cities, Kansas City requires that employees live within the city limits. Given the size of the city, this is not as onerous a requirement as it is for some in other cities. Because Kansas City has a reasonable cost of living, a variety of neighborhoods are accessible to people who are being paid workingman's salaries by the city. Urban, suburban and exurban neighborhoods can be had. This is under discussion right now, because the city spent over $70 K investigating whether or not a municipal court judge was following the residency rule. They set up cameras, used private investigators and took quite a bit of time to check her out. They discovered that, after stopping at a house she owned within the city limits, she drove on to another home outside the city limits to stay overnight. She would repeat this on returning to work--stopping before starting her workday in the courts. After all this, it was judged that she was not violating the rule.
Where is your residence? Where you lay your head, or pay your taxes and have your car registered? For the first four and a half years or so I that I "lived" in Missouri, I was a resident of Vermont. How did I do this? I was a student. It wasn't until 1994, when I completed my studies that I became a resident of Missouri. People do this all the time, leaving cars registered in their home states, and doing the income taxes for two states while they go to school.
The city defines residence thusly: Residence is defined as the place where a person has his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention of returning. A person satisfies the residence requirement if a portion of the lot or the parcel of land on which his residence is located is within the city limits. Link to ordinance here.
In many ways it isn't very specific. When you look at these words, you could easily say that the judge met the requirements. She had intentions, and did return regularly to the Kansas City home. It doesn't say she had to sleep there all the time, or anything else, just that she left the house and expected to return to it.
My personal problem with what happened here is two fold: one is that we spent over $70,000 investigating this judge, using some fairly invasive techniques: cameras, stake outs, private investigators. What set off this investigation in the first place? It didn't seem like a very good use of city tax money and bordered on Big Brother privacy invasion. The second is to ask are decisions with regard to residency being made consistently across the board? If a police officer, firefighter, parks or water company employee was doing something like this, what would the decision have been? There should be no difference if it is a front line worker or an executive. If you have a rule, it needs to be applied across the board, evenly, without favoritism. What is the point of having a rule if you don't enforce it correctly and uniformly?
Maybe it is time to consider dropping the city residency rule. Maybe just require that a city worker live in Missouri, or within a certain driving time from the work place rather then requiring them to live in a specific city.


chuck said...

I used to go up to Mt. Snow and get smashed. :)

Vermont is nice.

70 large to find out if she lived here?

Jeeze what a waste.

Bob G. said...

Again, you have managed to find ANOTHER one of those nasty "double-standards" we have in such abundance in America these days...

Excellent post.

Stay safe out there.

The Observer said...

LOL at your comment--you must be around my age or older as sometime in the 1980s the drinking age went from 18 to 21 in Vermont.

As I noted it is not too hard to find a nice place to live in KCMO, but I am beginning to think that the residency requirement is not needed. Let my people go!

Thanks for coming by

The Observer

The Observer said...

Bob G:
I heard through the grapevine that a front line worker lost his job when it was found that he was doing the same thing. That just ain't right!

Just require workers to live in Mo--that should be enough. Because they work in the city, the income is taxed either way.

Thanks for coming by :)