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Baltimore's local hiring bill worth a try

Justice SystemJob MarketStephanie Rawlings-BlakeBernard C. Young

The Sun's argument that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake should veto Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young's local hiring bill is quite weak on a number of fronts ("Noble but flawed," May 15).

First, The Sun argues that if challenged, the proposed law will likely fail constitutional muster. However, like San Francisco and Boston, the law may never be challenged, and if it is, we have a judicial branch to decide its constitutionality. As many are aware, the law in any field is almost never settled and can always change. We are reminded of this principle every Supreme Court term.

Second, The Sun speculates that even if the law stands, it may be ineffective (like Boston's), and that covered employers could reserve their "broom-pusher" positions for city residents only. As The Sun concedes, however, Boston's law was ineffective due to lax enforcement. The only lesson Baltimore should draw from that is to enforce the law. And regarding which jobs may be reserved for Baltimoreans, I would rather have a host of moderately-paid broom-pushers who pay taxes than dope-pushers who do not.

Third, The Sun notes that Baltimore's law does not model that of Boston's or San Francisco's, which are less sweeping. However, the law does resemble that of another city's law, which is just as sweeping and has not been found unconstitutional. The City of East Palo Alto, California passed a similar law in 2000. That law has a hiring requirement, a city subsidy threshold that triggers employer coverage, and is applicable to both construction and permanent jobs.

And last, The Sun contends that advocates of Baltimore's law have not gathered enough evidence to support its need like San Francisco. A few facts: In 2011, when San Francisco adopted its law, it had an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent. Baltimore currently has an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent. Also, U.S. Census data reveals that between 2007-2011, San Francisco had a poverty rate of 12.3 percent, while Baltimore had a poverty rate of 22.4 percent. These two indicators alone speak volumes to the fact that if San Francisco can gather enough cover, so can we.

As a city resident, I am in full support of this measure, and I am proud of our City Council for taking it up. The city and its residents need this. And if we have to go court, so be it. A loss will only return us to the status quo.

Jesmond O. Riggins, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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