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There are other diseases, diseases which spring from other causes, but which are just as easily to be controlled, just as easily to be eliminated. Why, with an earnest effort for ten years you can make a new case of tuberculosis as rare as typhoid fever will be in a little while. Just think what that means. Just think of the suffering that will be eliminated.
I won't take up more of your time on this line. There are other speakers that you want to hear, who are to follow me, so I will pass on to other ideas. These things to which I have referred, however, illustrate what I mean when I speak of the vital importance of good government to the people: what I mean when I say the city can make out of the life of Pittsburgh whatever the highest standard and the highest ideal of the people may demand-intellectual and physical ideal we can lift our people to.
Now then the other thing that you need is not only a knowledge of what cities mean and of what can be done with them, but a moral purpose that you will meet the responsibilities which rest upon you in these matters before you can accomplish them. We are moral agents. Our city, which is but the aggregate of a number of moral units, is also a moral agent, and upon us rests the moral responsibility for what we do with it-for the influence of the city as controlled by us upon the life of those who will come here after us and upon the life of our nation itself for good or evil. We may neglect our duty-we may misuse our power-but we cannot escape our responsibility.
So we come to the next need. I believe these two needs to which I have referred are fast passing away in our state, that we are learning to know what the city should be, and that we are awakening to our responsibility and to a moral determination to meet it. But next we want the opportunity and the legal power to meet this responsibility.
Now there is one very serious obstacle in the power of the people to govern their city as well as their state, and that is in the restrictions which have been placed upon the liberty of the ballot in this A little while ago these restrictions were attacked in the courts as unconstitutional, because they destroyed
The Liberty of the Ballot
the liberty and the equality of elections which the constitution guaranteed to the people; and I want to tell you that so plainso strong—was the attack on that ground, that the provisions complained of were sustained by a majority only in the supreme court. Some of the judges were of opinion that they ought to be stricken down for that reason. Well now, when it comes so near to the letter of the prohibition of your constitution, don't you see how really obnoxious it is to the spirit? This law which destroys the liberty of the ballots, which destroys the equality of elections, must be changed to give back to the people the whole power to govern our cities.
Demand of the legislature that they give back to us that which belongs to us by virtue of our manhood, a free ballot that no one can control and in which no one has a greater right in than we have.
And then you want more power to your cities. You want more authority in your city government to do that which is needed for the well being and the safety of the people in general in order that it may fully meet the responsibilities belonging to it.
There is no use in thinking that you can make your cities good by depriving them of power. They can be just as vile and vicious in their administration under restriction
More Power for the Cities
as they can be with full power, but they cannot be as effective for good. Give them the full power. Let the people have the power to do right. Let them bear the responsibility for doing wrong. And then we shall have an opportunity to make out of our cities what they ought to be.
Look at the absurdity of the law as it stands today. Philadelphia, being the one city of the first class, can, if she has sufficient political influence, get some change in her charter from the legislature without anybody else's consent. Pittsburgh and Scranton have got to go together. Pittsburgh cannot get a change in her charter without satisfying Scranton; nor can Scranton get a change in her charter without satisfying Pittsburgh. Neither of these cities can get out of the class in which it now belongs without getting permission from the legislature;
and if we want to go into the cities of the first class we have got to get the consent of Philadelphia's representatives. And moreover if we do get into that class we have got to take the charter of Philadelphia as it stands whether it suits our needs or not; and if Scranton does not like the charter we have, she may if she can get permission become a city of the third class and be governed by its law. She must sleep in a bed made to fit all the little cities of the state. Why, it is absurd. Let our cities, as the National Municipal League has advocated for years, be given power to frame a government of their cities in such form as they think wise. They are able to do it. They are just as able to do it as the people of the state. Let them, subject to the general laws of the state, have all the powers necessary to carry out the purposes of municipal life. Then we can look forward to bright days for city government. Then we can unhampered go forward and get rid of the evils which injure our lives and obstruct our development.
Now, just a moment. Look at this situation. What we are we owe to our city. The value of our property is only great because of the congestion brought here because of the needs of the community in it-because of the protection which the city gives to it. The value of our business is due to the city; and what we are intellectually, physically and morally we owe largely to our city.
Now, is it not absurd under such a situation that a man should be permitted to do something with his property which is destructive to the best interests of the whole community? Is it not absurd that a man should be allowed to take that property which is made enormously valuable by the needs of the life of the city and put it in such a condition that it is debasing the lives of the people? This housing problem about which we have heard so much means much to our city life, and yet, sir, we leave to a man who may be animated by any selfish, greedy interest the right to put and keep upon that property a building in such a condition and use it in such a way that he is poisoning the physical and moral life of the whole community.
This is not right: we should have the power to deal with those problems. The mere moral responsibility of the individual is
something that he answers for to a higher power than the city; but his responsibility to the city, which springs from this close business connection between the two-from the value of what he gets from the city-imposes on him a responsibility for which he should be legally answerable to the city.
Let us look further. The city has power to take a man's dwelling house or his store to make a street. Why? Because the public needs the street, and it is necessary to the public life to have the street. But our court of Common Pleas has decided that we cannot take a bridge, which is as necessary to the development of the life of the city as the street; and the supreme court has decided that we cannot take by condemnation a portion of a street railway which may be hampering and obstructing the growth and developing the life of the city as much as your neighbor's dwelling house, which we are permitted to take from him upon paying the compensation.
This is absurd. Let the city have its rights. Take it out of leading strings. Why, many of our cities are greater in population and in educational development and in all that goes to make the life of a community truly great, than our states were at the beginning of this nation. Why should they not be taken out of leading strings and given the chance that our states were given then to move forward freely to the highest development which they can obtain.
Let me say in conclusion, that there are some other, perhaps smaller, matters of need. Take our own city. We have got a very cumbersome form in all of our cities of the bicameral system for councils. It is absolutely unnecessary and indefensible. I would also provide a better system for public accounting for our municipalities—a uniform system of public accounting in which, probably under state or other outside control-so that the cities can be compared properly with one another in such a manner that we, the people, can understand. As it is today, we in this city spend so much money and some other city spends an equal or greater amount, but we don't know whether it is for the same things or not. While this continues we cannot compare results. The United States census bureau is making great progress in producing this uniformity which we desire; but necessarily from
its conditions it is too far back to make it fully useful. moves too rapidly to make the information which is two years old very valuable. We want it today. I would have our system changed so that we would have a uniform system of municipal accounting. And I would have it made public, and I would probably have it under state control.
And while I do not believe, as a general proposition, in putting leading strings upon the city, there are some restraints which experience has shown to be wise. I believe the people have got to govern themselves and we have got to leave it to them to meet those responsibilities incident to that power. In the end it all depends upon their intelligence, honesty and capacity, but there are some things in which I think it would be well to guard them. I think the temptation of the people of today to care for themselves, to look to their own temporary good, even if it does sacrifice that of a generation to follow them, is very strong. So I think that our constitutional limit on the debt of the city is a very good one because it compels the people to pay as they go and only give them power to make debts for those things which the next generation will share in.
And I would not let them give away perpetual franchises. You may buy something with it today that you and I need, but the temporary good should never take the place of the great interest of the nation and the people. I would not let them do it. Think of what perpetuity means: why, Cæsar's legions entered England only about two thousand years ago, and that is not the beginning of perpetuity. It is only a little over five hundred years since Columbus came to this country. Now what would a perpetual franchise granted in this country at that time have been worth today? We have just been celebrating the one hundred and fiftieth year of the founding of this city. Then it was just a military post on the frontier. One hundred and fifty years have gone by, and that is not an hour-it is not a minute-when you attempt to measure perpetuity. Those things that bind the life of a nation or of a people forever, ought never to be granted for any temporary good. And when it comes to granting franchises even for lim