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it should be clothed with complete authority to do everything which is not distinctly forbidden. Then and then only may we expect that full civic life which is characteristic of the cities of Europe, and then and then only may we expect that civic interest which is the only assurance of good government.
Commission Government in American
ERNEST S. BRADFORD, WASHINGTON,
Post-Graduate Department, University of Pennsylvania. The interests aroused by the experiments of Galveston and Des Moines in their efforts to secure more efficient city administration is manifesting itself increasingly by the large number of cities which have adopted the commission plan within a comparatively short time, and by the thoughtful consideration being given it by students of municipal government. To inquire what cities have already installed a board of municipal directors, what variations have been developed in different cities and to what extent commission government may be said to have succeeded, is the purpose of this paper.
The story of Galveston and the crisis in its civic existence which gave rise to the commission plan is familiar to all; the features of the system there adopted were adequately described by Professor W. B. Munro, at the Providence meeting, and are discussed in their recent books by Professor Rowe and Horace
Commission government went into operation in Galveston in 1901; the city of Houston followed in the winter of 1904 and
1905. Galveston has a population of about Cities which
40,000; Houston has 80,000. Dallas, with about Have the Plan
80,000 people, in 1907, was followed by Ft. Worth, Austin, the state capital, which voted on the question December 29, 1908, Greenville, Denison, Sherman, Waco and El Paso.
Kansas adopted a state law in 1907, allowing cities to employ the board form; the law was amended in 1909. At present Leavenworth, Wichita, Hutchinson, Anthony and Independence are so governed. Kansas City, Kansas, adopted the plan July 14, 1909, to go into effect April, 1910; while Topeka, Parsons and Coffeyville have voted favorably (November, 1909). All of
these cities have less than 100,000 population, except Kansas City, Kan., which is estimated to have a little more than 100,000.
The legislature of Iowa granted permission in 1907 to cities of over 25,000 population to avail themselves of the board plan, and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids have been operating under it since April, 1908. Keokuk and Burlington have only recently decided to adopt the system. Davenport and Sioux City voted against the plan, but are said to be re-considering the subject. An amendment adopted at the last session of the Iowa legislature allows cities of over 7,000 inhabitants to install the board plan. An interesting feature is the number of cities in the various state; which at first rejected the new system but which later ratified it.
A group of cities in Oklahoma, including Ardmore, Enid, Guthrie and Tulsa, adopted the Plan in 1907, 1908 and 1909.
Three cities in Massachusetts (Chelsea, Haverhill and Gloucester) have the system, which in the case of Chelsea was an emergency measure put into effect after its disastrous fire. The Chelsea commissioners were appointed by the governor. Brookline, Mass., has a board of selectmen who constitute practically a commission. The recently-adopted charters of Boston and of Indianapolis, providing for a smaller council with increased powers, may be said to be a step in the direction of commission government.
Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, and two other cities in that state, Mandan and Minot, have commissions, as have also the cities of Sioux Falls, S. D., and Boise and Lewiston, Idaho. In Colorado, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction have adopted the plan.
In the south, aside from the Texas cities, Memphis, Tenn., is a notable example; in this city a new charter providing for a board of five will go into operation January 1, 1910. The state of Mississippi, in 1908, adopted a state law under which no city is yet operating
St. Joseph, Mo., has voted to install the new system in April, 1910.
On the Pacific Coast, Berkeley and San Diego, in California, have put this plan into effect; Portland, Oregon, voted against it only this year (1909); Tacoma has just voted favorably, while
Spokane has the matter under advisement. Huntington and Bluefield, W. Va., have had the plan for several months.
Wisconsin and Minnesota adopted at the last sessions of their legislatures state laws permitting their cities to employ the board system. No cities in these states have yet held elections for this purpose, except Mankato, Minnesota, where the negative prevailed by a majority of 24. However, it is confidently expected that the matter will be reconsidered in Mankato, while the cities of St. Paul (with a population of 200,000), and St. Cloud, in Minnesota, and in Wisconsin, Superior, Eau Claire, Madison and other cities have the matter under consideration.
The bill to permit Illinois cities to adopt the Galveston-Des Moines method failed of passage at the last regular session. Fifteen cities, however, sent delegates recently to Gov. Deneen, urging him to include consideration of the commission plan in his call for a special legislative session.
Among the latest municipalities voting favorably is Buffalo, N. Y., with a population of perhaps 350,000, although not yet having been granted power by the state legislature to adopt the plan; and Mt. Vernon, N. Y.
There are, then, nearly fifty cities which are now operating or have decided to operate under a commission; while over sixty others are considering the subject. No cities which have adopted this plan since 1901 have returned to the old mayor-council system. Several cities have refused to try the experiment; while a number of those which at first refused have later decided to make the trial.
The first commission, that of Galveston, was partly appointed and partly elected; three members were appointed by the gov
ernor of the state and two were selected by the Development
people of the city, but the appointive feature and Present Variations
was held to be unconstitutional by the Texas
court and was abandoned; since 1903, when an amended charter was secured, the Galveston commission has been wholly elective.
Houston added to the commission idea a referendum on franchises, and retained the old names—mayor and city council. It also permitted the mayor to keep his veto, at the same time giv
ing him a vote as a member of the board of five: this, with certain other provisions in their charter, gives the mayor a large amount of power, and distinguishes the Houston plan in this respect from all other commissions. Houston also added a civil service commission. The other Texas cities followed Houston in providing for a referendum; many of them designated the commission by the old names-mayor and alderman, or simply council ”.
Des Moines accepted not only the commission plan, with the referendum, on both franchises and ordinances, but added a nonpartisan primary, a recall for unsatisfactory commissioners during their term of office, the initiative and a civil service law. The commission governments recently installed have for the most par adopted these provisions.
The various forms of commission governments may therefore be grouped roughly into three classes :
First: Those cities in which a small board with large powers is appointed—not elected. In this class come Washington, D. C., and Chelsea, Mass.
Second: Those cities in which a small board with large powers is elected; and elected usually at large-not by wards; in which class may be placed Galveston.
Third: The "improved type” of commission, in which not only are large powers conferred upon a small elective board, but
certain features have been added with design to Forms of
secure a more effective popular control; the reCommission
ferendum on franchises, on ordinances, or both; the recall; the initiative; a non-partisan primary; a civil service board and other provisions. In this class are the great majority of the present commission governments.
In Galveston the board makes ordinances, appoints and removes the other city officials and employees, fixes salaries and qualifications, and the members of the board act as heads of the various administrative departments of the city.
In the third type of commission government it is sought to control officials both before and at election by means of the nonpartisan primary, by the small number of commissioners to be voted for, and by their election at large; after election by mak