While picking up and endorsement from Chicago's 5,000-member strong firefighters union on Tuesday, Gery Chico said he was open to "discussing" the possibility of changing an ordinance that requires city employees to live within city limits.
"I think when the rule was put on the books decades ago we were at a different place in time in our city. I think now we're absolutely mature enough to put the issue on the table and at least discuss it," he said. "I can tell you right now, even running in this election, we have people who live in the city who work in the suburbs, and we have people who live in the suburbs and work in the city. We have to be cognizant of those trends."
- With city workers concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods at the fringes of the Northwest and Southwest Sides, lifting the residency requirement could transform, and potentially destabilize great swaths of the city. But it’s a been a dream for many police officers and firefighters, who envy their counterparts in other metropolises -- including New York and Los Angeles -- allowed to raise their families in the suburbs.
At least two of Chico's major opponents in the race for Chicago mayor almost immediately pounced.
"I find that shocking. I find that unbelievable," said Miguel del Valle, adding that Chico's consideration of such a plan was nothing more than "pandering to the unions."
Chico and opponent Rahm Emanuel made mention of being open to changing the requirement in a questionnaire with the Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP endorsed Chico last week.
Del Valle said that allowing city employees to live outside city limits would leave "neighborhoods to fend for themselves."
"When we talk about building neighborhoods, my vision of a neighborhood, a solid neighborhood, is a neighborhood ... that has police officers living in it, a neighborhood that has firemen living in it, a neighborhood that has teachers living in it and city employees living in it, a neighborhood that reflects the entire city, a neighborhood that is stabilized because of the commitment of homeowners who understand the importance of being in the city of Chicago and supporting the city of Chicago."
"Public employees who generate their incomes from the city of Chicago, who then will leave the city of Chicago and not contribute to the property tax base as well as the sales tax base and all of the other revenue measures that are important to the city of Chicago, would harm the city of Chicago."
Del Valle's sentiments were echoed by Carol Moseley Braun:
"Rather than supporting dangerous and capricious proposals, Mr. Chico would be better advised to focus on how to strengthen Chicago’s middle-class, not sacrificing its future for political gain. Giving the green-light for such a proposal means a mass exodus of city employees and the rich diversity they contribute to the city. This proposal demonstrates a level of irresponsibility by Mr. Chico that we cannot afford in City Hall," she said in a written statement.