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Public will have a chance Wednesday to weigh in on St. Louis’ residency requirement

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will hear from the public on Wednesday whether the city should lift its residency requirement for city employees.

A St. Louis alderwoman wants to lift the requirement that St. Louis employees have to live in the city.

Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, said she introduced the measure after hearing from the director of personnel that requiring people to move into the city was making it hard to fill vacant positions.

“He said, ‘I get applications from qualified people, but they don’t live in the city and they’re not willing to relocate,’” Howard said. “Let’s just open it up and offer an incentive for people to stay in the city or move into the city, rather than making that the first criteria for hiring.”

The city charter requires anyone working full-time for the city to live in the city’s boundaries, with few exceptions. Police officers and firefighters are allowed to leave after seven years, but anyone else must remain in order to stay employed.

The residency requirement is constitutional, but Howard called it narrow-minded.

“If we’re looking to expand the city and really move to a more cosmopolitan-type, and metropolitan area, we need to open up our borders and allow people to live where they will, and maybe offer an incentive if they live in the city,” she said.

Howard said none of the city’s unions pushed her to introduce the measure, but that they support it.

A hearing on legislation eliminating the requirement is set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The charter change would also need 60 percent approval by the voters.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.