Imágenes de páginas

Expert and Non



removal, except for cause arising from inefficiency in his work or grave personal misconduct. He ought to devote his whole time to the city, preferably being forbidden to follow any profession or business of his own; and he ought to be paid a liberal fixed salary. The non-professional, whose principal function consists in bringing the expert administration into harmony with public opinion, ought to be treated in exactly the opposite way. While it is by no means necessary in order to keep him in touch with the community that he should be frequently changed, it is proper that, as a rule, he should give an account of his stewardship, and therefore come up for reëlection or reappointment, from time. to time. The intervals ought to be long enough for him to show what he has done, not merely to promise what he will do, and they ought to be at fixed periods. Then, apart from the mayor of a large city whose whole energy is, of course, consumed in the general oversight of the vast municipal activities, the non-professional ought not to give time enough to prevent attention to his private affairs, and he ought to receive little or no pay for his public services. This is now the case with many commissions, or boards, which give all the time needed to their duties. There is, no doubt, a widespread feeling that a single man, who is expected to do the work of a whole board, must devote a great deal more time to it than if he had colleagues, and must have a salary; but this rests upon a misconception. So far as the collective work of a board is concerned one man can get through it much faster than five, and in a board properly organized, with a permanent executive officer, the members ought to do very little outside of its meetings.

A system of this kind would tend strongly both to discourage the ward leader who seeks to make a living out of politics, and to enlist the services of public-spirited citizens who are willing to work for their city. There are no doubt difficulties to be overcome before it could be put in operation. One of them lies in a prejudice against "permanent officials as undemocratic. But it might as well be alleged that engineers and modern inventions in war are undemocratic; that a true republic ought

to go into battle with bows and arrows against machine guns worked by experts. In fact the disadvantage at which our cities fight with great public service corporations is largely due to the difference in the caliber of the officials employed. What chance, for example, has a city represented by a solicitor, who is perhaps, changed at every election, and is paid a small salary, against a great corporation which retains the best legal talent and pays for it many times as much? And what is true in a legal contest is true also of comparative efficiency in all directions. A democracy, like every other community, needs the best tools that it can find, and the expert of high grade is the best living tool of modern civilization. There are other difficulties, of organization and of tradition, but they can be overcome. If we need a system of this kind, a system that has made the success of foreign cities, we cannot believe it impossible without admitting that reform of municipal government in America is hopeless. The first question is whether we want it or not. The first thing to do is to recognize the need, and the rest will follow. As Professor Goodnow said, in regard to the use of permanent experts in the higher posts of the national service,

A Democracy
Needs the

Best Tools

That this can be accomplished by any changes in the law may, perhaps, he doubted. That it will be accomplished, as soon as an educated and intelligent public demands it, is a moral certainty.'

"Politics and Administration,” p. 121.

The Initiative, the Referendum and the Recall in American Cities

Member, Executive Committee, National Municipal League

Direct legislation has been rapidly becoming one of the leading questions in connection with the government of our cities. This movement cannot be comprehensively studied nor fairly and fully appreciated unless, in addition to its operation in cities, its working and results are studied in states and larger political divisions. Such a study is however beyond the purpose and scope of this paper which is intended to be a preliminary sketch of the movement in American cities. Yet anyone who desires to know "facts" rather than be content with theories is advised to examine direct legislation as actually applied in the state of Oregon. Adopted in 1902, it has been put to extensive use in 1904, 1906 and 1908, with results which appear on analysis to exhibit striking political merits.

The referendum is an established principle in American political life. It is not a new fangled device as it is characterized by opponents. Apart from its state use in the adoption or amendment of state constitutions and on other important subjects, the number and variety of question thus referred in cities is so large that one who examines into the history of his own and of neighboring cities will probably be somewhat amazed as to their frequency and importance. Aside from its best-known use to decide vexatious topics like local option and prohibition, the referendum is used on financial questions like issuing bonds, and on undertaking new enterprises, like schools, hospitals, public buildings, parks, boulevards, sewers,

Referendum an Established Principle

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

waterworks, lighting plants as well as on the most fundamental questions like the incorporation of cities and the acceptance of their charters. The Constitution of Massachusetts by amendment adopted as early as 1821, forbids the legislature to incorporate any town as a city except with the consent of a majority vote of the citizens of that town.

The direct legislation however to which we are directing our attention, introduces the distinction or differentiation in that the people themselves determine, and not the legislature, or the municipal legislative authorities, as to whether or not questions shall be referred through the referendum to a popular decision. The referendum is not compulsory: it need not be used unless there is a positive demand for it-a petition signed by a fixed number, or percentage, of the voters asking for it. Its use is optional. It becomes therefore a true people's veto to be used when occasion requires in the judgment of the people whether the municipal legislative authorities so wish or not. The people thus become directly sovereign in regard to the acts of their own agents or representatives.

Similarly the initiative takes its rise from an initial action by the people in those cases where their representatives appear unwilling to act in accordance with the supposed will of the community.

The authority of James Bryce is not necessary to convince Americans that the government of their cities is the conspicuous failure in American political institutions.

The federal system, with its two chambers, based on the theory of checks and balances, has been found wanting. Whether or not it sufficed for earlier days of simpler requirements when the non-interference idea of government prevailed is immaterial. Our cities today face problems of utmost gravity, arising not only out of the great increase in population, but also out of the far greater demands from this congested urban population which asks for and should be granted a higher standard of comforts and necessities. Modern civilization therefore requires that city governments be aggressive, positive forces that can grapple with and solve the problems as they arise or are foreseen.

The Failure
of Municipal

Unfortunately, in rather marked contrast with modern Europe and England, our cities have been mere creatures of the legislature with enumerated powers limited to known requirements. Therefore every new task has involved resort to the legislature. Results have been disastrous both in enfeebling the city's self-reliance and civic character, and in leading to an undue, injudicious and unjustifiable interference by the state authorities.

So well recognized has been this evil that a majority of the state constitutions now forbid the legislatures to interfere by special legislation. Owing however to the legislative device of classification this effort has been but partially successful.

In the west a remedy has been sought in a different direction, through the constitutional assertion of the independence, more or less complete, of the cities from the legislature.

In 1875 the constitution of Missouri was the first thus to be amended to give cities of over 100,000 population, that is St. Louis, and later Kansas City, power to decide upon their charters by a vote of their own citizens.

Home Rule

California followed with a constitutional amendment in 1879, but provided that these charters after adoption by the voters must be submitted to the legislature for ratification or rejection as a whole. The popularity of this move is evidenced by the vote in its favor of 114,617 to 42,076, in 1892, when the minimum limit of population, after a previous reduction in 1887 to 10,000, was still further reduced to 3400.

California further extended the power of cities over their charters by amending article xi, sec. 8, of the constitution, in November, 1906, so as to provide that an initiative petition of fifteen per cent can compel the submission to a popular vote at a regular municipal election of any proposed charter amend


In Oregon the constitutional amendment granting the voters of every city and town power to enact and amend their municipal charters was adopted, on an initiative petition from the people, by a vote of 52,567 to 19,852 on June 4, 1906.

Washington, Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma have carried

« AnteriorContinuar »