The trajectory that led me to Baltimore is a fairly common one; I came here to go to school. Baltimore and I got off to a bit of a rocky start. But over the course of my graduate school program, I fell hard for the honesty, quirkiness, and history of Charm City and decided to stay.
As a graduate student, I considered many different careers, and one option that caught my interest for a time was local government management. Almost all of the job descriptions for city/county managers I read required residency as a condition of employment. A bit unusual compared to the typical job description, but it makes sense. The chief steward of a locality’s democracy should put his or her money where his mouth is. Otherwise, any advocacy he or she would perform on behalf of the city would sound hollow.
As a home owner in the Patterson Park neighborhood, I make it a habit to ask the police officers who come to my neighborhood from time to time where they live. I’ve met one who lived in the city.
My audacious idea: require all Baltimore city employees—civil servants, teachers, firefighters, and police officers—to live in the city. Most of these jobs are solid positions with good benefits. Imagine the increase in tax revenues. I would hope for less tangible benefits as well. What if all city employees could come to view Baltimore city as a rich, diverse place, full of nuance rather than that bad place where crime happens?
The not-in-my-backyard phenomenon is a continual reminder that each of us cares about where we live. What if all city employees cared as much and were equally impacted by the future of the city as the citizens they serve?