- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A proposal before the D.C. Council would give prospective city employees preference in the hiring process if they agree to live in the District.

The measure would require newly hired non-District residents in career and educational services pay scales, in jobs that pay at least $62,499, to move to the city in six months and commit to live there seven years. Residents of the city would receive a boost of 10 preference points on their applications.

The bill, authored by council member Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, is one of three bills discussed by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Government Operations at a hearing Wednesday to encourage more D.C. employees to live in the city.

“I represent Washington, D.C., not Prince William County or Montgomery County,” Ms. Alexander said. “If you work for the D.C. government, then our city is good enough for you to live here.”

Other council members agreed. The idea “is to figure out how we can maintain the long-term fiscal health of D.C.,” said committee Chairwoman Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat. “One way to do that is to keep D.C. dollars within the city.”

Ms. Bowser said 43 percent of the roughly 31,000 people who hold city jobs live in the District.

The District’s 9 percent unemployment rate is another reason to give preference to city residents, Ms. Bowser said.

Encouraging people not only to work, but also to live in the city would “add a certain color to how they interact with the residents they serve,” she said. Far fewer D.C. residents are employed by neighboring county governments than suburban residents are working in the District.

“We want our residents to be treated on an even playing field,” Ms. Bowser said.

Of the 1,944 job applications received this year, 17 percent of applicants claimed their residency points, according to Shawn Stokes, director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources.

“Either the incentives are not big enough, or the penalty is too big,” Ms. Bowser said.

Ms. Stokes pointed to high housing costs as a hindrance to D.C. residency. She emphasized the need to build university partnerships that would narrow the skills gap in the city’s technology, finance and education sectors in the long term. This way, she said, “we don’t have to hire so much from outside the city.”

The council members considered two other bills at the hearing that would promote living in the District. One would require prospective employees who live outside the city to pay the D.C. government 4 percent of their salaries. The other measure, authored by council member Marion Barry Jr., Ward 8 Democrat, would require agency heads to certify the employment of non-District residents and explain why they were hired.