Milwaukee Co. judge says residency rule is "unenforceable"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Paul Van Grunsven says the city of Milwaukee's residency rule is "unenforceable." That was part of a 21-page ruling issued on Monday, January 27th.

The city's residency rule required all city workers, police officers, firefighters and teachers to live within city limits. But when Gov. Scott Walker signed the most recent state budget into law, he also lifted residency requirements across the state.

On Monday, Judge Van Grunsven said "the home rule amendment does not authorize the city to continue regulating residency requirements." He said the city's ordinance is directly contrary to legislative mandates. The judge indicated the lifting of the residency requirement was a "matter primarily of statewide concern and applies uniformly to all local government units in this state."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is not happy with the judge's decision.

"I was not shocked. I was disappointed. Clearly I was disappointed," Mayor Barrett said.

He said it's a state Constitution issue which allows the city to handle its own issues. Barrett says the city has been doing it this way for 75 years. He and the city plan to appeal the decision of the court.

"There's a Constitutional issue here, and that is what is the role of local government? If a Legislature, with the support of a state court, can come in at the behest of a special interest and eviscerate 75 years of local decision making, where does that leave local government?" Mayor Barrett said.

Barrett says the groups representing police and firefighters have huge sway over the state Legislature, which led to the ruling.

"There's nobody that has disputed that that both the Milwaukee Police Association and the Milwaukee Local Firefighters really have called the shots on this and basically dictated how the Legislature and the Governor would act," Mayor Barrett said.

Mike Crivello, the president of the Milwaukee Police Association issued the following statement in relation to Monday's decision: "The decision from the bench today was absolutely appropriate and consistent with the residency law that the Wisconsin State Legislature passed last summer... The Milwaukee Police Association is confident that this law (upheld) will ultimately strengthen our community as a whole while affording choice to those men and women who serve this city and would have otherwise been restrained."

Meanwhile, Barrett says the fight will continue.

"Anybody who moves has to understand that we are going to continue to appeal this case, and if we are successful in the end, we will require people as part of the condition of employment which we have done since 1938 to be a resident of the city of Milwaukee," Mayor Barrett said.

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