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Mayor is promoting local hiring

A recent Sun editorial ("Jobs for city residents" January 9), suggests that city government has done little to promote local hiring and job creation and that by ensuring proposed city ordinances are legally-sufficient, the Baltimore City Law Department is somehow impeding the city's progress.

The truth is that under the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, much has been done over the last three years to achieve the goal of increasing local hiring and job opportunities without violating the law and exposing taxpayers to the great risk of costly litigation.

The Sun is right to say that "everyone agrees that creating more jobs for city residents is a worthy goal." However, it is my independent judgment that the legislation currently before the City Council designed to achieve this objective is legally defective and cannot be amended to make it legal. Any government policy directing preferences for private employment based on residence — even in the form of a "goal" — is likely to be struck down by a federal court if challenged under the Privileges and Immunity Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

There are many legally-defensible strategies to stimulate local employment. The mayor signed the Employ Baltimore Executive Order — approved for legal sufficiency by the law department — which requires certain city contractors to work with the Mayor's Office of Employment Development to match new job opportunities with qualified, job-seeking city residents. Numerous economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and job training initiatives and programs have also been advanced with the full support of the mayor and the law department, including new community job training hubs, summer jobs for youth, and a recent agreement with Caesars Entertainment to promote hiring of city residents for new jobs created at Baltimore's authorized gaming location.

The law department is always open to exploring the legal parameters of new initiatives but also recognizes that many of the legally-available strategies are currently in place. The law department has been clear and consistent with the City Council on this issue — with multiple legal opinions since at least 2010 — and has suggested that alternative approaches, including the mayor's executive order, could help achieve the goal of increasing job opportunities while safeguarding city taxpayers from the costs of expensive litigation.

George Nilson, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore City solicitor.

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