City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh, who has about one month remaining on his 16-year career on the legislative body, is not going out quietly. In an email to his council peers he urges them to examine residency preference for police and fire applicants with a push toward what the city of Hartford is doing. See Walsh email below followed by the referenced New Haven Register article regarding firefighter residency in Hartford.
On Monday night the Miscellaneous Matters Committee passed a resolution increasing the preference points for open competitive exams. And although there was much discussion about this matter, no one from the city offered the Hartford option as being available to us.
Below is an article concerning options that other cities in Connecticut have implemented or are considering. The city of Hartford requires that job applicants be city residents at the time that they fill out the application. This rule goes much further in ensuring Bridgeport residents receive the highest priority when it comes to hiring than giving residential preference to the 35 percent of the Bridgeport residents who currently make up the applicant pool additional point if they pass the test.
New Haven is considering at a minimum requiring that at least 50% of the pool of applicants are bona fide city residents. And this article goes on to state that the Hartford law has been on their books for more than a decade and has withstood court challenges. Why is the Bridgeport City Council willing to accept so much less than what other large cities are doing?
One reason is as I mentioned at the beginning, if the council does not have their own resources to perform their own research then we are left to accept what the city is willing to tell us. And the city cannot feign ignorance on the matter since Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine K. Ficarra is quoted in the article.
As I said in the meeting I have always been a big supporter of Bridgeport residents being members of the police and fire departments. I know from my father being a Bridgeport firefighter AND a resident that the city was served well be his vigilance 7 days a week when it came to fire hazards and other safety concerns. I voted against the item in committee because I thought it needed more review. In light of the article below I am urging my colleagues to reject this proposal until the council has received a much more thorough explanation of the options available.
And although an attorney is quoted in the article. “Attorney Karen Torre, however, said “at first glance” either policy could set up the city for a lawsuit based on disparate impact, the claim she successfully argued for the “New Haven 20″ firefighters. They claimed they were discriminated against when the city tossed two promotional exams when blacks scored disproportionately poorly” all of the council members should be aware that currently there are only 2 pre-qualified candidates who are female among the over 300 candidates in the pool. The city has no problem with discriminating against females when using the CPAT test and are not concerned about potential lawsuits. So do not buy the lie when they tell you that a much tougher residency rule would lose a court challenge.
New Haven Register article:
New Haven, Conn. Eyes Firefighter Residency
Oct. 22–NEW HAVEN — The city will consider adopting a policy similar to Hartford, which requires any fire department applicants to be residents of the Capitol city at the time they apply.
The idea was presented Thursday night by a 26-year-old who hopes to get hired on the New Haven department and as the city was pitching its own proposal that could help more city residents get hired.
Catrell Simmons, of New Haven, pointed out that to apply in Hartford, you have to live in Hartford.
“Why can’t this (New Haven) test be open to just New Haven residents?” he asked at an aldermanic hearing.
When city officials checked, they discovered Hartford in fact does have a residency requirement at the time of application. That doesn’t mean they have to remain city residents afterward.
On Friday, Robert Smuts, the New Haven’s chief administrative officer, said the city would do its “due diligence” on the legality, but added, “I think it’s something that we’re going to be inclined to look at very seriously.”
Of the state’s three largest cities, each handles residency differently. In Bridgeport, city residents get a bump of 10 percentage points on their final score on the fire department civil service exam. New Haven currently gives a flat five points.
The proposal before the Board of Aldermen this week aimed to increase chances for city residents and, by extension minorities given the city’s diverse population, to get hired on the fire service. When Smuts proposed to limit applications to 800 and set aside half for city residents; however, many in the room wanted more.
Darnell Goldson, the West Rock alderman, followed up Friday and requested the city follow Hartford’s lead.
“We should adopt a 100 percent New Haven resident application proposal. Apparently, Hartford’s policy has withstood court challenges, and has been successfully incorporated,” Goldson said in an email.
Bridgeport also is hiring a fire department class.
Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine K. Ficarra said the fire department began recruitment last winter with an emphasis toward increasing city representation and diversity.
In theory, New Haven’s 50-50 proposal would increase chances of residents of getting hired by limiting external candidates. The last time the city recruited a major class in 2007, more than 1,300 people applied and more than 1,000 firefighter hopefuls were from out-of-town.
James Rawlings, president of the Greater New Haven NAACP, said the civil rights group supported 100 percent of applications be for city residents.
Smuts Friday said, based on cursory research, the Hartford policy was challenged in federal court in 1998 and the case was dismissed.
Attorney Karen Torre, however, said “at first glance” either policy could set up the city for a lawsuit based on disparate impact, the claim she successfully argued for the “New Haven 20” firefighters. They claimed they were discriminated against when the city tossed two promotional exams when blacks scored disproportionately poorly.
“You can call it resident preference, but I don’t think there can be any question that the goal is to decrease the number of white applicants,” she said, noting the NAACP has successfully challenged barriers for non-residents in towns that are predominantly white.
If the city turns away 600 applicants and the “majority are white, you have some disparate impact,” she said.
After hearing Simmons’ claim, Hill Alderman Jorge Perez went home and did a basic Google search and, within 30 minutes, found not only Hartford’s policy, but also reference to the federal court case upholding it as legal.
Research by legislative support staff in New Haven Friday revealed a state opinion from the Office of Legislative Services that concluded that, while municipal residency requirements as a condition of employment are unconstitutional, the law does not prohibit requirements at the point of application.
Perez said he “absolutely” believed New Haven should try the Hartford model in the Fire Department as a pilot and maybe in the future in public works and the parks departments.
He said he heard again and again during the last election that “people are looking for jobs” and for leaders who will find creative ways to assist them.