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its own State, and so that it can at least inform the people of the State just how far and in what particulars their corporations fall below the best existing standards. If such work is done, there will be little danger that corporations will drift into a rut and fall behind the times, because the public will know what ought to be done and will hold them up to it. In order to do such work in the best way, the Massachusetts commissions will need more expert assistance and a larger inspection force than they now possess. The next few years may possibly see some change of this sort.

But there is another improvement in methods of regulation which the State is experimenting with at the present time, and which seems likely to make a permanent place for itself. It is well known that commission control may sometimes lead to stagnation. For example, the managers of a gas company, realizing that their rates are likely to be ordered down if they show an unusual profit, have no incentive to put their best brains and energies into the business. They are content to maintain the status quo, without striving for anything better. To get rid of this difficulty, the State is experimenting with the London sliding scale system of regulation, an importation from England, and has applied it to the Boston Consolidated Gas Company. A standard dividend of 7 per cent was fixed, a standard price of 90 cents, and for every reduction of 5 cents in the price of gas the dividends may be increased 1 per cent. For the period of ten years the company is free from any other regulation of its rates. This system has been in effect in Boston for two years, and has brought the price of gas down to 80 cents. So successful has it been that, in the near future, a general law is likely to be passed under which other gas companies in the State will be able to avail themselves of this form of regulation.

But, after all, these improvements and the whole system of regulation are matters of but secondary importance. The value of any system depends in the final analysis upon the temper of the people of the State. If the commissioners are men of force and genuine ability, they will accomplish good results even with very inadequate powers and imperfect laws;

The Sliding
Scale

but weak or dishonest men will bring into disrepute the best devised system in the world. Whether or not effective men are appointed, and whether or not even men of the right type do their best work, depends upon the people. In the first place, they must elect good governors, in the second place they must help those governors select the right men, and in the third place they must keep in touch with the commissions, study the questions which they are handling, and let them know how public opinion stands. This last requirement seems to be by far the most important of the three.

It is very easy for a commission to fall into a rut and lose enthusiasm. Such a thing has happened many times in this country. It is very easy for a commission to come, often without knowing it, under corporation influence. Both of these unfortunate results are likely to happen if the people of a State forget that they have such boards and pay no attention to them. In any event and under all circumstances, we may rest assured that the corporations will keep in close touch with the men on these commissions. No matter how trifling the question may be, able lawyers will say all that can be said on the corporation side. To act as a judge and an attorney for the people at one and the same time is a hard and discouraging task. To confront able lawyers day after day without assistance from the general public will sooner or later sap the enthusiasm of any man, and impair his best judgment. There is only one way to overcome this sort of thing, and it is to offset the pressure and influence from the corporation side by a keen public interest in the work of the commissions which will show itself at their offices, and by organized effort insure adequate representation of the point of view of the general public.

If Massachusetts has been at all successful in regulating publicservice corporations by means of commissions, it is due primarily to the fact that the people of the State have not altogether failed in their duty as citizens. They have elected good governors; the governors have appointed able and courageous men; and the people have in some measure shown an active interest in the work of the commissions after they were appointed.

Municipal Reference Libraries

DR. HORACE E. FLACK

Municipal Reference Librarian, Baltimore

The importance of efficient municipal government is more generally recognized today than at any previous time in our history. The citizen realizes as never before what inefficiency and poor laws really cost the community. Some of this cost is due to vicious or incompetent officials, but by far the greater cost can be laid to ignorance, both on the part of the citizens and the officials. Something more than honesty and sincerity is needed to make our municipal government what it should be; something more than the arousing of the public to take an interest in municipal affairs, and this something is knowledge and light. It does not suffice to point out an abuse, though this is essential; but it is necessary to provide a remedy. There are always those who have remedies ready-made for every abuse or imagined abuse that exists in the body politic, but these remedies are not always sound and practical. I do not believe I am overstating it when I say that almost the entire lack of interest which the ordinary citizen takes in municipal government and the apparent indifference with which he regards the so-called reform movements is due to the fact that so frequently the measures proposed have not remedied the abuses, or that the reform programs have not been carried out. Had those who fought the abuses been provided with definite knowledge and accurate data from other municipalities in regard to the same subjects, the results might have been different.

Something
more than
Honesty and
Sincerity

If the city does not at present, it ultimately will, exceed the state in importance. At present almost thirty-five per cent of

the people of the United States reside in cities of over 8000 inhabitants. In a few decades, over one-half of the people will reside in cities. It would seem to follow as a necessary result that the problems of self-government are fast becoming the problems of city government. The present tendency, a tendency which all municipal students heartily support, is to grant more and more home rule to the cities. Some one has remarked that it will not be long until there will be practically only two classes of law-making bodies-the city council and the national congress. Whether this belief be accepted or not, it is unquestionably true that the municipalities are coming to occupy a greater and more important position in the affairs of the country.

The great industrial and social problems of the country are almost entirely confined to the cities, and they must be worked out there, if worked out at all. Mayor Brand Whitlock has aptly and truly said in a recent article that on their solution depended not only the future of the city people, but of the great mass of people who dwell without the city. The city is to be the battle-ground of the future, and democracy, if it is to be justified as we believe it will be, will be justified by the dense, compact populations of the cities.

the Great Problems

As remarked by Dr. Charles McCarthy, of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Department, in his paper prepared for the recent meeting of the American Library AssoCity Problems ciation, at the request of the National Municipal League, we hear much about the national and state governments and of the men who are working out the problems which confront the United States and the states, but one has only to stop and think to realize that the great problems are the problems of the cities, and it is here that the great problems of the future are to be fought out. When the people fully realize how much depends upon the character of the municipal government, when the time comes that they have information on which to base sound opinions, there will be a betterment all along the line. The things which most vitally affect every one who resides in the city are those things which are provided by the city government itself, and not by the federal or state governments.

Our water supply, sewerage disposal, milk inspection, light,

transportation, sanitary conditions, fire and police protection, schools and many other things are dependent almost entirely upon the municipal government. Where the nation or state touches us once the city touches us a hundred times. Whether we have good, cheap transportation, telephone and light service, whether our water and milk supply is pure, whether there is adequate fire and police protection, whether we live amid sanitary surroundings, whether we have crowded tenements, whether we have playgrounds and parks, whether we have good schools, and whether we have the best of all the other things which pertain to city life, depends upon the efficiency or inefficiency of the municipal government, and not upon the state or national governments.

The welfare of the entire community, and especially of the laboring class, depends upon good business administration in our cities. If incompetency or viciousness prevail, if the public revenue is squandered or ill spent, then the community suffers in the way of higher taxes, bad service, or unsanitary conditions. If the water or milk supply is impure, then the people pay a terrible toll in the way of infant mortality and epidemics. The same holds true in regard to every question or condition which affects city life, and no argument is necessary to demonstrate the need of using every instrument possible in order to secure a wise and efficient municipal administration.

I am not here to propose a remedy which will be a panacea for all the evils and abuses which exist in municipal government today, but I am here to speak briefly of one of the instruments or agencies whereby our municipal government may become more business-like and more efficient. That agency is the municipal or legislative reference library. It is not a new thing for it has been tried successfully in connection with the legislatures of some of our states. If it is of value to the legislature of how much greater value ought it to be to the municipal government. The problems of the municipal government are becoming more complex and more difficult as the years go by, and it is too much to expect that every city official shall be prepared to meet successfully these problems as they arise.

It is practically impossible for any legislator, however ener

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