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own apartments or in those of his subordinates, so that generally the community came to know of them only after the city was bound and it was too late to object.
Many of the departments had become independent, either through the direct appointment of their heads by the governor
of the state or through the legislature making Independent
them distinct corporations, so that they had a Departments
being separate from that of the municipal corporation itself and beyond its power to change. Some of them could spend money without check and without regard to the appropriations made by the city council.
I give you one instance; the directors or trustees of the Boston public library, formerly chosen by the city council, recently appointed by the mayor, asked the legislature to make them a distinct corporation. This was done. They were granted the charter, so that gifts of money, or books for the library, instead of going to the city for its department of the library, go directly to this corporation, and are beyond the power of the city to touch or control in any way.
Moreover, when it was a question of building a new public library, these trustees, as a distinct corporation, not asking for an appropriation from the city council, but obtaining authority from the legislature so to do, made their own contracts, made their own plans, and put up their own building without regard to any appropriation by the city council whatever; and that is true of very many of the other departments.
In addition the expenses of the county of Suffolk, which consists of the cities of Boston and Chelsea and the towns of Revere and Winthrop, were and now are paid by Boston without regard to their amount and with no representation on the part of the city in determining that amount. Several state commissions, appointed by the governor, controlled and still continue to control the water supply, the sewage, the parks, and the roads, of a socalled Metropolitan District of which Boston forms a part, and a large portion of the expenses of which must be paid by Boston, again without regard to their amount and with no representation on the part of the city in determining that amount.
The legislature had passed an act limiting the sum which the city should spend in any year, either from taxes or loans, to a
fixed percentage; and then, whenever any deLegislativo
partment wanted more money than the city Control
would or could give it, and whenever any section of the city wanted some improvement for which the city was unable to pay, this department or some of the inhabitants of this section would petition the legislature to compel the city to borrow money outside of the debt limit for these purposes, and so generally has the legislature granted these petitions that the debt of Boston now is much larger outside of than within the limit fixed by statute.
I may cite one instance where the people in one of the sections of Boston wanting a plank sidewalk went to the legislature and got an act passed compelling the city of Boston to lay a plank sidewalk and to borrow $300 with which to pay for it.
During the recent charter discussion much has been said about a city as a business corporation. It is this, but it is much more. It not only is a business corporation, but is a form of government. But even as a business corporation, no one would expect success from any of our large corporations unless the directors can control the expenditures. If one or more departments of any corporation could spend what they pleased without regard to the wish of the directors, we should expect that corporation to reach insolvency; and yet that was exactly the situation in Boston. Its council, its directors, could not control the expenditures; and therefore very much of the criticism which has been made upon the council for waste or inefficiency has been unjust, and very much of the criticism of the city for not having an economical and proper administration also has been foolish.
This is a brief sketch of the condition of Boston in the year 1906. The financial portion of it was brought to the attention of the community by Walter A. Webster, a young lawyer then associated with me in practice, who had won distinction and honor by able public service in the legislature. The occasion was his address as the presiding officer of the Republican convention to make nominations for the ensuing city election. This address, by its careful marshaling of figures and its sharp and terse comments, aroused general attention, and not only was given space in the newspapers, but was considered in many published communications and several editorial articles.
He asked for the appointment of a commission to investigate the financial condition of Boston; and, as this, to be complete,
must include several departments which had Appointment
been established by the state and not by the of Finance
city, he advocated the appointment of the comCommission
mission by the governor and not by the mayor. The mayor, however, followed with a communication to the council advocating the appointment of the commissioners by himself, not though such men as he might choose but such men as should be nominated to him by certain designated business and local organizations. The council, March 25, 1907, gave the authority, and seven citizens were appointed, three Republicans, three Democrats, and one independent. Its chairman had been mayor; one member had been treasurer of the city; two members had served in the state legislature, and two members in the school committee. The councils of the city, both present and past, were unrepresented.
The legislature passed an act June 7, 1907, giving to the commission authority to summon witnesses, to order the production of books and papers, agreements and documents, and to administer oaths. The commission secured the services of lawyers, engineers, and accountants, who were paid liberally for their services, and of other experts who served without pay. There was also a considerable office force of lawyers, stenographers, and other paid assistants. The engineers devoted themselves mostly to the street, sewer, and water departments, and the accountants to the departments having in charge the financial affairs of the city. The commission itself not only passed with great care on all the work done for it, but the members were divided into sub-committees which studied the various departments of the city.
August 7th, eight days after organization, the commission sent to the mayor a communication relative to the sealers of weights and measures, and on September 21st another communication which disclosed only one hundred and fourteen days of work for each of the outside deputies for the year ending July 31, 1906, and only one day's work each for the whole month of December, 1905. The records of the inside deputies were equally unsatisfactory. On Saturdays none of the deputies ever pretended to do any work, except to draw their pay. Also on stormy days the outside deputies did not do any work. The investigation showed that one offender only had been brought into court since 1902. Succeeding reports showed an increase in expenses greater than the increase of work, that such increase had been for political effect, that it was without a corresponding increase in efficiency, and that much of it was due to the meddling of the mayor for the sake of political favorites.
Meanwhile public hearings had begun on the city's purchases of coal. These hearings showed that the city was cheated in
both the quantity and the quality of the coal Disclosuros by
which it bought. Sometimes there were no comthe Commission
petitive bids, and again, if there were, the lowest bidder did not get the contract. There were false bills of lading and, though coal of the highest grade was called for by the city's contracts, inferior varieties were substituted. The head of the supply department resigned in disgrace, and one coal dealer ran away but was at length arrested. Public hearings continued with further developments in the contract methods of the city. Whereas the laws governing the letting of contracts intended that all exceeding $2,000 should be awarded only after competitive bidding, except in emergencies, more contracts exceeding $2,000 had been awarded since February 1, 1906, without advertisement than with, and the giving of authority to dispense with public competition had become a part of the routine work of the mayor's office. Flagrant instances were presented of the letting of contracts without competition to members of the council and of the state legislature, sometimes under assumed names. April 17th, the commission reported the facts, brought out at sensational public hearings, connected with collusive bids for steel work from which the city had suffered seriously. In these revelations, some of the largest concerns in the country were involved. July 23rd, the commission reported on some startling developments in the cemetery department, brought out at public hearing, to the effect that the chairman of the board of trustees and its superintendent had been buying land of themselves for the city at extraordinary increases in prices.
Altogether the commission issued 127 reports and communications. Its engineers made seventy-seven reports. The reports form four volumes; the first two consisting of the reports of the commission itself and the last two of the reports of its engineers and other experts.
You will notice that the commission was appointed in order to investigate the financial condition of the city of Boston.
The commission obtained authority from the legislature to undertake the further duty of framing a charter for the city, and to this task it gave the last months of its existence. On the last day of its life it issued a final report, reviewing the form of government from the earliest days, showing how a charter was granted in 1822, revised in 1854, and further revised in 1885. There followed a criticism of the electoral machinery, an arraignment of the degeneracy of the departments, and a statement of how seriously expenses, debts, and tax rate had grown. Then came a variety of remedies which had been suggested, the changes favored by the commission, and a draft of a charter. The principal features of the commission charter are:
(1) The officials to be elected are a mayor for four years, subject to a recall at the end of two years, if asked for by a majority
of the registered voters—(by this we mean not Recommenda
the majority of the people who vote, but the mations by the
jority of all the people who might vote. The Commission
number of people who might vote in Boston is 110,000; the number who do vote is from 60,000 to 70,000. A majority of 110,000 must be obtained in order to make a recall effective)-nine councilmen for three years, one-third retiring each year, and five members of the school board, all to be elected at large.
(2) Nominations are to be by petitions signed in person by 5,000 registered voters, and there are to be no party designations upon the ballots.
(3) All the so-called executive powers are to be exercised by the mayor, including appointments without confirmation by the council, but subject to an approval in certain cases from the