« ForrigeFortsett »
more or less clearly defined, but, of course, these departments cannot work quite independently of each other, since their spheres of operation inevitably intersect. The health department must co-operate, on the one hand, with the education department in the matter of school hygiene. It must work hand in hand with the police department in the matter of executing its administrative orders. It must consult with the department of public welfare in the matter of housing legislation, public baths, etc. The department of public works must, in the same way, be guided by considerations of public health, safety and convenience in the provision of water and sewerage facilities, in the construction and maintenance of streets, and in the location of public buildings. All of the departments must be in close touch with the city attorney's office if they are not to be involved in legal and constitutional difficulties. Finally, the department of finance must have a certain jurisdiction in all the other departments if accuracy and completeness of accounts are to be insured. The instances in which no one city department can properly act alone in matters apparently falling under its jurisdiction could be multiplied without number. In fact, the difficulty would consist rather in discovering instances in which any city department could effectively act with entire disregard of all the other departments. Then, finally, there must be some central authority to act in matters of appointment, discipline and removal of subordinate officials, so that the service may be standardized and organized on a proper basis.
That the evils resulting from this lack of administrative centralization are not purely theoretical is evidenced by the complaints voiced by persons actively engaged in the administration of cities as commissioners. The log-rolling tactics, working at cross purposes, duplication of work, gaps in the distribution of functions are features of commission government that are actually encountered and against which those most directly concerned have raised a voice in protest. It is interesting to note that Houston, Texas, has realized the disadvantages from an administrative point of view of five co
ordinate department heads and has given to the mayor a degree of authority which is quite unusual in commission-governed cities. Indeed, it is hard to see how the mayor could be given any more power without practically destroying the very foundation on which commission government rests and returning to the mayor and council form with the single change of a reduction in the size of the council. So-called mayors in other commission cities have felt the very real need of greater administrative concentration.
There must, then, it is clear, be a change from the principle of administrative co-ordination and decentralization now applied in commission cities to a policy of centralization. This is exactly wherein the city manager plan is an improvement over the commission form in the very point in which the latter was weakest, namely, on the administrative side. A general manager chosen by and responsible to the commission would do for municipal administration what the general manager does for business administration. The analogy is close and the soundness of the principle admits of no doubt.
Administrative efficiency demands the greatest possible freedom in the manager's power of appointment, discipline, and removal. Public protection against corrupt politicians demands a limitation of those powers. Between these two opposing principles the proper path is not easy to find. It is clear, however, that until we have progressed much farther than we are at present in the development of a sound public opinion with regard to public offices, some sort of civil service merit rules must be applied, especially to city manager cities, in order to guard against the danger of machine control. While the danger of abuse of the administrative power of appointment and removal for party or selfish purposes constitutes, perhaps, the most serious danger of the city manager plan, it is not the one which will be so viewed by the general public. That word of universal taboo in this country, that anathema of the political demagogue, "undemocratic," has already pointed its reactionary and destructive finger at the new development. It is claimed that it is "undemocratic" to
lodge all administrative power in the hands of a single individual, even though he be appointed and removed by the elected representatives of the people and though his administrative powers be circumscribed by civil service merit regulations. It takes but little thought to show that a city manager thus at the mercy of the commission will have to make good with the electorate through energy and efficiency, coupled with the necessary amount of tact, if he is long to retain his position. He is, it is true, once removed from the improper political pressure brought to bear by a discontented minority whose personal interests are interfered with by an impartial and vigorous enforcement of the law. But who will say that the barrier thus set up against illegitimate influence is not a salutary one, or that the evident will of the law-abiding, decent element in the community cannot make itself effectively felt against the retention of a manifestly undesirable city manager. Democracy need fear no setback through the introduction of this new form of administration; and efficiency, so long absent from the councils of democracy, can come into her own at last.
Finally, the question has been raised whether or not the city manager plan, even if adapted to cities of medium size, could be made to work well in our largest cities of a million inhabitants and over. So far as some of the commission features are concerned there would seem to be some real need of modification. So, for instance, it is a fair question whether a commission of five, the usual number of representatives in commission cities, would be satisfactory for these larger cities. The principle of efficient administration is well served by a small governing body, whether the city be large or small. At the same time it is well to remember that city government, though much more largely business than is state or national government, is not without its important legislative problems in matters of municipal policy. For these matters it is desirable to have an adequate representative body and no doubt the commission might well be doubled or trebled over its normal size for the largest cities.
Closely connected with the matter of the size of the com
mission in our largest cities is the question of general ticket or district election. The practice of election on general ticket presents increasing difficulties the larger the area of election, since the labor and expense of conducting a campaign are greatly augmented. But, aside from that, it seems unquestionable that some of our largest cities are made up of several geographic divisions which really have rather distinct needs and whose interests would, perhaps, better be conserved by a representative body in which these geographical divisions as such have representation.
These questions, however, as was stated above, are not connected with the general manager features of city government. There is no reason why the efficiency of management should be destroyed by departing from the principle of a single administrative head in cities. This principle is fundamental whatever the size of the city; indeed, it may be said to increase in importance with the size and consequent complexity of the administrative service. There may be a need of an assistant city manager, or even of more than one, as in the largest German cities there are three burgomasters, but a single manager must still remain the head of the service.
Predictions are, of course, dangerous, and it would be folly to attempt a prophecy as to the spread of the city manager plan in this country. But, if we may conclude from the rapidity of the spread of commission government that the American municipal electorate has at last awakened to a realization of the importance of improving the machinery of city government, it seems safe to conclude that the superiority of the city manager plan over the ordinary commission government will not be any slower to receive recognition than were the merits of commission government over the old mayor and council form.
1-The City Council, Goodnow, F. J., City Government in the United States, 137-76.
2-Charter Making in America, Woodruff, C. R., Atlantic Monthly, CIII, 628-39.
3-The Bureau of Municipal Research, Bruère, H., Proceedings of the American Political Science Association, V. 111-121.
4-The Government of the Great City, Peabody, W. R., Forum, XXXVI, 611-24.
5-Municipal Ownership of Public Utilities, Fairlie, J. A., Essays in Municipal Administration, 262-74.
6-The Relation of the City to Public Utilities, Rowe, L. S., Problems of City Government, 208-40.
7-Does Municipal Ownership Pay, Howe, F. C., The City the Hope of Democracy, 136-57.
8-The Control of Public Utilities, Wilcox, D. F., The Amercan City, 52-90.
9-Public Control, Ownership and Operation, Zeublin, C., American Municipal Progress, 302-31.