Burgess introduces bill for referendum on Pittsburgh police residency

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A bill that would allow Pittsburgh voters to weigh in on whether police officers should be required to live in the city was introduced today before city council.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Ricky Burgess, would put the measure on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election. Police officers, like all city employees, are currently required to live in the city under the city code.

Mr. Burgess' proposed referendum would ask voters whether they want to make the requirement a part of the home rule charter. The councilman, who is a strong proponent of the requirement, believes voters will side with him on the issue.

But the practical effect of the referendum has yet to be determined.

In October, a change in state law opened the door for the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1, to challenge the residency requirement. After months of unsuccessful negotiations with the city, the matter recently went to arbitration. It's now in the hands of a panel of three arbitrators, who will issue their ruling in late September.

Bryan Campbell, the FOP attorney and one of the arbitrators, said he believes the panel's decision likely would supersede a change to the home rule charter. He said the referendum was Mr. Burgess' attempt to circumvent the collective bargaining process, a process that's been laid out by state law.

"The public can't get involved in the collective bargaining process," he said. "Otherwise it's chaos."

Mark Wolosik, the county's elections division manager, said a city council resolution is enough to get a referendum on the ballot. The deadline for filing the referendum request is Aug. 6.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published July 9, 2013 8:00 PM


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