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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Legislative Matters to Take Up Local Hiring Ordinance

Committee Meeting of the Whole Scheduled for January 17th at 7pm in the Aldermanic Chambers

One of the most controversial legislative items that is being carried over from 2011 to 2012 is the Local Hiring Ordinance originally submitted by Alderman at Large Bruce Desmond and supported by numerous Somerville-based organizations including the Somerville Community Corporation and Save Our Somerville.

Proponents of the ordinance are seeking two guarantees from the ordinance when it comes to hiring: 1.) that a percentage of work hours be performed by Somerville residents and that 2.) the developer hires a specific percentage of Somerville residents for construction jobs, 10% of which would go to a disadvantaged worker as described within the ordinance. Other requests include training, appointment of contact person who oversees the ordinance application and enforcement, and availability of compliance records.

Members of the Board of Alderman, most of which support local hiring, had reservations about the ordinance citing other instances where similar ordinances were deemed unconstitutional because they discriminate against workers outside of the designated area while others pointed out that it may make Somerville undesirable for developers, having a negative impact on potential commercial revenue.

The ordinance, legislative item #191563, has been kept in the Legislative Matters committee since it was referred for recommendation in June of 2011.

Traditionally, Somerville has entered into covenants with developers in which, for legality reasons, local (and Union) hiring is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory. As of December 2011, the legal implications of enacting such an ordinance were still at the heart of the discussion. According to the most recent clerk’s notes, “Mr. Buckley (City Solicitor) spoke about viewing the proposed ordinance as a goal, adding that it would have to be written without penalties, otherwise it could be challenged as a violation of the Privilege and Immunities Clause, possibly opening the City to liability issues and costs. He believes that further research on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is necessary. Chairman White suggested keeping the reporting requirements and submitting them as public documents. The committee discussed the possibility of creating a resolution in place of the proposed ordinance as well as the option to exclude out of state residents from the proposal. Chairman White’s motion that the proposed Local Hiring Ordinance be presented to the full Board of Aldermen for instruction as to how the committee should proceed on the item as to whether out of state residents be excluded from the local hiring ordinance, whether the ordinance should be drafted so that local hiring ordinance requires reporting and is goal oriented, with no penalty for failure to meet the 30% requirement or replacing the ordinance with a resolution, was approved.

The next meeting discussing the ordinance is scheduled for January 17th at 7pm, being held in the Aldermanic Chambers as it will be a committee meeting of the whole. Presiding over the meeting will be Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz as she is the chair of the Legislative Matters Committee for 2012.

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