City Council considers requiring City Hall supervisors to live in Baltimore

City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed submitted legislation Monday that would require all top officials in Baltimore’s government to live in the city.

Baltimore’s City Charter already requires the heads of each of Baltimore’s 55 departments and agencies to live in the city. But there is no requirement that other members of the mayor’s cabinet — such as the chief of staff or deputy mayors — and other agency-level supervisors live in Baltimore.

Sneed’s bill would change that. It requires all at-will supervisors who report directly to either the mayor or the agency head to live in Baltimore.

Sneed said she got the idea while knocking doors during her successful campaign for the council last year. The purpose, she said, is to help keep residents and tax dollars in Baltimore.

“This is a big one for me,” she said. “This will really make a difference for us with people living in Baltimore City and spending their resources in Baltimore City. Their taxes will make our schools better. If we all live here who work here, that’s a start.”

The bill applies only to new hires and does not apply to those who already work in city government. It provides a six-month window for a new hire to move into Baltimore and become a registered voter if the new hire signs paperwork pledging to do so.

The legislation applies to potentially hundreds of positions throughout city government.

A majority of the City Council pledged support for the measure. But Mayor Catherine Pugh said she had concerns about the bill and would not commit to signing it.

Pugh said she supports the idea of encouraging more people to live in the city and insists her top advisers do so.

“If you talk to Live Baltimore, folks are moving to the city,” she said. “We’re excited for every individual who lives in the city.”

But Pugh questioned whether Sneed’s proposal was legal.

“I don’t know if that’s even constitutional,” Pugh said. “You have to evaluate the constitutionality of the bill.”

Maryland law limits which employees of a municipal government can be required to live in the jurisdiction in which they work.

Maryland law states that a “county or municipality may not require an employee to reside within the State, county, or municipality or within a specified distance of the State, county, or municipality as a condition of employment” and “may not discriminate based on an individual’s place of residence … when making employment, promotion, demotion, layoff, and discharge decisions.”

The law does allow, however, jurisdictions to require elected officials, chief administrative officers and the head of agencies or departments to live where they work.

In 2016, legislation sponsored by state Del. Cory McCray — and signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan — allowed local jurisdictions to extend the residency requirement to at-will supervisory employees too.

McCray said at-will supervisors in all city agencies, including police and fire, could be required to live in the city.

“We need to make sure that people who are making the decisions for our city actually live in the city,” he said. “People will treat the places they live a lot better.”

The number of full-time city employees has shrunk from more than 15,000 to just over 13,000 over the past decade — as former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sought to reign in costs. About half of Baltimore municipal employees live outside the city.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said Young supports the bill and believes it is likely to pass.

“He himself has introduced similar legislation in the past,” Davis said. “The more dollars we can encourage to recirculate in the city, the better it is for the overall health of the city.”

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