there has been some permanent increase in the interest of the people in municipal government and in their devotion to the civic welfare, and this fact will tend in itself to give us a higher level of city administration. But the path of one man rule is not all rose-strewn. Many bad mayors have got into power and, by the abuse of their immense prerogatives, have given administration scarcely equalled in extravagance, inefficiency and corruption, during the worst periods of the earlier regime. Nor have the people always been able-as they should have been, according to the theory of the oneman system-by at once placing the blame where it belonged, to overthrow the unworthy ruler and establish an upright one in his stead. The untrammelled mayor, with his enormous patronage, his control of the election machinery, his ability often to conceal from the public the true character of his administration, has not unfrequently succeeded in securing reelection for himself or triumph for his ring. Only a few instances of the unsuccessful working of mayor rule can be cited from among the many whose existence any candid student of recent municipal history must admit.

[ocr errors]

It must be confessed that Boston has for the most part elected efficient and upright mayors during recent years, but other cities have not been so fortunate. In New York City the prominence of the mayoralty has at times driven even Tammany Hall to put up good men, such as Grace and Hewitt. But within this very decade, in the face of the growing reform sentiment, that organization has elected to the mayor's chair for two successive terms an "illiterate and obscure man' who filled all vacant offices with "adventurers of the lowest character"; while under the rule of his successor, also elected by Tammany, a legislative investigating committee unearthed in the police department scandals such as scarcely any other civilized city has ever known. The first election under the Greater New York charter resulted in the defeat of Seth Low, well known to have been the best mayor Brooklyn had ever had, by a man who has followed almost absolutely, in his appointments and his general policy, the dictation of the Tam

many boss and whose connection with the Ice Trust has been by no means creditable.

In Brooklyn the first election under its famous "model charter" brought Mr. Low into the Mayor's chair, but for eight years after he left office "mayors were elected, and appointments were made by them, on party grounds"; while the administration of the city was "believed to be feeble and untrustworthy, its public moneys and franchises to be unscrupulously wasted. This last is the admission of a strong advocate of the mayor system, who insists that it was even then working well in Brooklyn, for the reason that the people knew precisely who was at fault, but who fails to show us why they did not straightway put better men into office.

Philadelphia, too, since the great increase in the power of the mayor in 1887, has found it impossible, with perhaps a single exception, to elect good men to that office, while the character of the council has fallen lower than ever before. A state investigation, made in 1897, revealed many abusesfavoritism and extravagance in letting contracts, interference by the police in elections and connivance by them in all sorts of violations of law, and above all, a complete undermining of the civil service reform system, this last evil being emphatically corroborated by the secretary of the National Civil Service Reform Association. The recent attempt of the mayor and city officers to blackmail Mr. Wanamaker illustrates the character of the administration; while the lease of the gas works in 1897 appears to have been accompanied by wholesale corruption. Philadelphia's expenditures rose from $13,273,000 in 1887 to $23,491,000 in 1895.

Similar, too, has been the experience of several smaller cities which have changed to the one-man system. Indianapolis, since the adoption of her centralizing charter in 1891, has not elected a single mayor who has obeyed the spirit, or even the letter, of the laws regulating the civil service. All appointments have been made on strictly partisan grounds. Four years after Quincy, Mass., greatly increased the power of the mayor, Mr. Gamaliel Bradford, who had specially urged

[ocr errors]

the change, was forced to confess that "extravagance of expenditure, local jobbing and caucus politics are as rampant as in any other city in the state. In Cleveland the mayor has abused his appointing power for the sake of aiding his own political ambitions. Nowhere, in fact, can the advocate of mayor domination, if he be candid, point to anything like thoroughly and continuously good administration where that system has prevailed. Temporary improvement has often followed a change to mayor rule; permanent improvement even has resulted in certain cases from doing away with the anomalies and complexities of earlier charters; but the actual success of the centralization of power has fallen very far short of fulfilling the promises which were held out to us.


In 1907 the General Assembly of Iowa adopted "an Act to provide for the government of certain cities" in which were combined many of the newer features lately advocated for city government in the United States. The following selection contains the important provisions of the law:

Section 1. [This law applies only to cities having a population of or exceeding 25,000 inhabitants.]1

Sec. 2. [Upon the presentation of a petition, signed by electors equal in number to 25 per cent. of all votes cast for all candidates for mayor at the last preceding city election, the question of adopting this plan of government shall be submitted to the voters.]

Sec. 4. In every such city there shall be elected at the regular biennial municipal election, a mayor and four councilmen.

If any vacancy occurs in any such office the remaining members of said council shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy during the balance of the unexpired term.

Said officers shall be nominated and elected at large. Said officers shall qualify and their terms of office shall begin on the first Monday after their election.

1 Sections enclosed in brackets are paraphrased.

Sec. 5. Candidates to be voted for at all general municipal elections at which a mayor and four councilmen are to be elected under the provisions of this act shall be nominated by a primary election, and no other names shall be placed upon the general ballot except those elected in the manner hereinafter prescribed. The primary election for such nomination shall be held on the second Monday preceding the general municipal election. The judges of election appointed for the general municipal election shall be the judges of the primary election, and it shall be held at the same time, so far as possible, and the polls shall be opened and closed at the same hours, with the same clerks as are required for said general municipal election.

Sec. 6. Every such city shall be governed by a council, consisting of the mayor and four councilmen, chosen as provided in this act, each of whom shall have the right to vote on all questions coming before the council. Three members of the council shall constitute a quorum, and the affirmative vote of three members shall be necessary to adopt any motion, resolution or ordinance, or pass any measure, unless a greater number is provided for in this act. Upon every vote the yeas and nays shall be called and recorded, and every motion, resolution or ordinance shall be reduced to writing and read before the vote is taken thereon. The mayor shall preside at all meetings of the council; he shall have no power to veto any measure, but every resolution or ordinance passed by the council must be signed by the mayor, or by two councilmen, and be recorded, before the same shall be in force.

Sec. 7. The council shall have and possess and the council and its members shall exercise all executive, legislative and judicial powers and duties now had, possessed and exercised by the mayor, city council, board of public work, park commissioners, board of police and fire commissioners, board of water-works trustees, board of library trustees, solicitor, assessor, treasurer, auditor, city engineer, and other executive and administrative officers in cities of the first class and cities acting under special charter. The executive and administrative

powers, authority and duties in such cities shall be distributed into and among five departments, as follows:

1. Department of Public Affairs.

2. Department of Accounts and Finances.

3. Department of Public Safety.

4. Department of Streets and Public Improvements. 5. Department of Parks and Public Property.

The council shall determine the powers and duties to be performed by, and assign them to, the appropriate department; shall prescribe the powers and duties of officers and employés; may assign particular officers and employés to one or more of the departments; may require an officer or employé to perform duties in two or more departments; and may make such other rules and regulations as may be necessary or proper for the efficient and economical conduct of the business of the city.

Sec. 8. The mayor shall be superintendent of the department of Public Affairs, and the council shall at the first regular meeting after election of its members designate by majority vote one councilman to be superintendent of the department of Accounts and Finances; one to be superintendent of the department of Public Safety; one to be superintendent of the department of Streets and Public Improvements; and one to be superintendent of the department of Parks and Public Property; but such designation shall be changed whenever it appears that the public service would be benefited thereby.

The council shall, at said first meeting, or as soon as practicable thereafter, elect by majority vote the following officers: A city clerk, solicitor, assessor, treasurer, auditor, civil engineer, city physician, marshal, chief of fire department, market master, street commissioner, three library trustees, and such other officers and assistants as shall be provided for by ordinance and necessary to the proper and efficient conduct of the affairs of the city; and shall appoint a police judge in

« ForrigeFortsett »