« AnteriorContinuar »
real city legislature, and not a mongrel administrative and legislative body. The proposed charter simplified and made orderly the keeping of the city accounts; it abolished the office of coroner, and made many minor changes, such as that of creating a uniformed superintendent of police subject to removal by the police commissioner,
In his annual message Governor Hughes made the following sensible recommendations in the matter of charter legislation:
“Each year a very large number of bills are introduced amending the charters of our cities. These amendments for the most
part are suggested by exigencies which seemed to Governor
demand escape from restrictions at one time supHughes Position
posed to be in the public interest. Their con.
stant recurrence and the absurdity of securing relief from the legislature with regard to the minutiae of local administration, point to the advisability of widening the sphere of local control. There should be a careful study of the problem of city charters, in order to develop a plan under which local responsibility may be fixed for the details of administration within the limits of a general scheme of government provided by the legislature. Elaborate charter provisions are the prolific cause of special legislation and defeat their own purpose. For apart from exceptional emergencies, communities must look for their salvation not to the state government, but to the public spirit and active interest of their citizens. Meanwhile, and until improved charters are provided, I recommend that care be taken in amending existing charters, so that, wherever practicable, the amendments should be made in such manner as to make further special legislation unnecessary.”
After failing to take any action on the splendid charter proposed by the Ivins' commission, the legislature appointed a committee of its own to investigate the evils of municipal government in Greater New York anew and to make its own recommendations. This procedure will delay, but it is not likely that it will indefinitely postpone constructive action upon the very carefully worked out plan of the governor's commission.
Ohio, during the past eight years, has been the scene of a very interesting municipal development: as a result of the sweeping supreme court decision handed down in 1902, all the old municipal charters and legislation were swept off of the statute books. Chaos was only prevented by the supreme court extending the operation of the judgment of ouster for a sufficient time to enable the governor to call together the state legislature to enact the necessary legislation. The Municipal Code passed by the legislature in 1901 proved cumbersome and expensive, especially in the smaller cities. So great and so widespread
was the discontent with it that the legislature of Paine Law in
1908 passed a law, known as the “ Paine Law,'' Ohio
which abolished unnecessary boards, centralized administrative power, simplified the machinery of municipal government, and enforced responsibility and accountability. Under the amendments the mayor will be actually, not figuratively, the responsible head of the administrative departments of the city government."
In St. Louis, where a board of freeholders is at work, the same fight for simplicity is being made, but with what result it is not now possible to foretell. The St. Louis Civic League, an unusually effective organization, has very carefully studied the situation and made suggestions under the title of a “Plan for New City Charter" that seem to be an attempt to engraft the
best ideas of the English and Prussian systems St. Louis
on the American system. It suggests that the municipal assembly should be composed of eighteen members receiving each an annual salary of $2,400 elected at large for terms of six years; six members to be elected every two years; the members to be assigned, two to each of the nine departments as members of a supervisory committee. The mayor should, furthermore, be charged with the duty of appointing two responsible citizens not holding public office selected for their special information and qualifications, to act in conjunction with the members of the assembly. These four persons so designated to have, however, only supervisory, not directory, power over the department.
The mayor to be elected for four years should be the executive officer of the city, and primarily responsible for the administration, with power to appoint the heads of the city department
* See Proceedings of Boston and Detroit Proceedings. See paper of John R. Schindel, infra.
(except the commissioner of eleemosynary institutions) and the power to remove them for any reason assigned of record. He should be chairman of the board of administration and have direct charge of the police (so far as permitted by law), and the various departments, but with no power to select the appointees under the heads of departments.
Heads of administrative departments, nine in number, should constitute a board of administration, to which all administrative affairs should be reported, and whose action should be subject to its approval. The estimates for all public expenditures should be made by this board and submitted to the municipal assembly as a basis for its appropriations. It should have the contracting power of the city, subject to the appropriations and general ordinances.
With the recommendation that "the scope of the charter should be as simple as possible and follow the lines of the present charter wherever practicable," and one that “the expression of the municipal power should be declared in general terms, rather than in detail. The charter should contemplate ordinances relating to every department to carry its provisions into practical effect,” every publicist will be in hearty accord.
Whatever Boston and St. Louis may adopt, the first under a referendum granted by the state legislature, the latter under the home rule provisions of the Missouri Constitution, will reflect the wishes of the electors of the two committees, both of whom are in a far better position than Chicago which completely failed
to secure any relief whatever at the hands of the Chicago
recent legislature, although what more could be expected from a body which elected a William Lorimer to the United States Senate? The situation in Chicago seems desperate.
Chicago could have had some of the legislation it asked for and desperately needs if it had been willing to agree to a permanent limitation of its representation in the legislature. The city is not anxious to set up in the state business, but its leading papers believe that there should be and in time will be a recognition by the whole State of Illinois of its substantial stake in the city's welfare and legitimate development in the line of her destiny as a world metropolis. Her plea for home rule in mu
nicipal matters is thus met by“ down state papers," the following being from the Rockford Star:
“The legislature has wisely refused to enlarge the power of the city of Chicago at the expense of the state at large. If the legislation sought by Chicago were granted that city would, for all intents and purposes, be a state of itself. It would continue to send boss-owned representatives to the legislature who would vote on matters affecting the commonwealth, but the down state' members would have no voice in matters relating to Chicago.
“The legislature will not add to Chicago's power until that city is restricted in its legislative representation. At the present rate of growth it will not be long before Chicago will control the legislature. ' Down state' people view that possibility with considerable alarm. The class of men Chicago sends to the legislature is not such that their increase can be viewed with equanimity. To allow Chicago a majority in each branch of the legislature is not best for the people of the entire state, nor would it be beneficial to Chicago. The country districts do not send their best men to the legislature, but such as they are they are not boss made. They come from a free and independent constituency which will not tolerate self-appointed political bosses."
It must be conceded that there is a considerable measure of merit in the demand that the city send a better grade of representatives, but this should not be allowed to interfere with the city's right of self-government.
Municipal home rule, although apparently a far cry in New York and Chicago, is a living actuality in St. Louis, and under
the new constitution in Michigan. The constiMunicipal
tution adopted a year ago gave to Michigan muHome Rule
nicipalities a very considerable degree of real self-government. The Michigan legislature, acting under the constitutional provision, has enacted laws in obedience to its mandates working out the details of an effective home rule.
A healthy movement for genuine home rule has been inaugurated in Wisconsin, the first steps having been taken at the Marinette meeting of the Wisconsin League of Municipalities. Although the recent legislature provided for an optional form of commission government, the movement referred to is of a more
. See paper of the Hon. Guy A. Miller, infra.-EDITOR.
general character, in that it leaves to each city the working out of its own frame-work of municipal government, rather than allowing it to make a choice between its existing form and the somewhat cumbersome and inadequate form of commission provided for in the Wisconsin statute of 1909.
Spread of interest in the commission form of government has been rapid and widespread and shows, as do the figures already
quoted, how keenly municipal students, legisCommission
lators and administrators are seeking some efGovernment
fective solution of the complicated difficulties of the modern municipal problem.
The principle of the Galveston plan (which has been extended to other Texan cities-Houston, Fort Worth, Greenville, El Paso, Austin, Denison, San Antonio, Waco, Dallas) was taken up by Des Moines, Iowa, in 1907, and expanded to include the expression of the public will through the initiative, the referendum and the recall; safeguarded by the application of the merit system to all appointive officers and employees, namely, all officials except the commissioners, and by the non-partisan open primary. In the words of an advocate of the system the nonpartisan primary “will eliminate partisan politics in municipal affairs. Civil service will do away with the patronage system. The recall gives the people a club to hold over a dishonest or inefficient official if such an one should be elected. The provision for the abandonment of the commission form after four years does away with the argument that people should not adopt the commission plan because there was no means of getting rid of it, if it did not prove successful. The initiative and referendum give the people a direct voice in legislation.” The Kansas law has an additional provision that the commissioners must give their entire time to the city, to insure dispatch and efficiency in handling the city's business.
Present popularity of the commission form of government may be measured by the extent of its adoption within the four years: Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma have passed commission laws relating to all or certain classes of cities within their respective borders.