Live it or leave it

I once read a book about the development of Windows NT (no, I really don’t know why). It introduced me to a wonderful concept, inelegantly named “eating your own dog food.” It was a stage of development where the programmers were forced to actually install and run Windows NT on their own computers and use that for work, to see how their efforts work for a user.

I think it’s a great idea. It forces people to see just how their efforts work for the people on the other side of the fence, to see their perspective. What seems perfectly intuitive and simple to the engineer can be baffling to the end-user.

That’s the idea behind cities having residency requirements for employees. City governments set the tone for the quality of life, and their employees carry out those policies.

The residency requirement is currently stirring up some controversy in Boston. Many city workers are complaining that it costs too much to live in Boston, and they want to be able to live in the cheaper suburbs and commute to work. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is closing in on $1500/month, and the price of a home is almost $600,000 in downtown Boston.

Now, the logical response to this, it seems to me, would be to look into what’s causing the prices to be so high and see just what the city can and should do to reduce it. My first thought would be to look at property taxes; they’re often a major factor in housing costs.

If I were an elected official in Boston (shudder), the last thing I would do would be to loosen the residency requirement. From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, I’d be doing a favor for a small percentage of my constituents (who, in return, would not be able to vote for me as thanks) and ignoring the much larger number of voters who would still be stuck with the high cost of living.

But that’s just what a couple of candidates for mayor are doing. I suspect they’re being swayed by the potential money and other vote-getting power of the public unions, and are deciding that they’d rather have their support than address the root causes of their stated concerns.

Because that just might threaten the city’s income and power, and we can’t have that.

Bonfire of the Vanities #99
The Multi Blog Interview: Zell Miller


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