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I. MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT.
Brooklyn.-Amalgamation. The experience of Brooklyn with amalgamation has, in the pain, been satisfactory. The community insisted on uniformity of assessments and taxation throughout the consolidated city, before it would consent to surrender its autonomy. A provision was accordingly put in the charter of the enlarged city, requiring that there should be a uniform rate of taxation throughout the new municipality. The tax laws already provided that all assessments throughout the state should be made on a uniform basis, but the charter gave to the people here a remedy for unequal assessments, in that it permitted them to seek a review of the proceedings of the assessors in the courts. Lower tax bills were promised to dwellers in Brooklyn and the bills have been lower there, while in Manhattan and the Bronx, or in the old city of New York they have been higher. The equalization of assessments involved a raising of Manhattan valuations, and the levying of the tax uniformly on the whole city distributed the burden of taxation more equitably than had been possible when the old city of New York profited exclusively by the taxes on the great wealth concentrated on Manhattan Island. In spite of the fact that the cost of government in the consolidated city is larger than the total cost of government in the independent municipalities composing it, Brooklyn has to pay less for government than when she was independent.
But aside from taxation the experiment of consolidation has not been immediately successful for Brooklyn. What it will be in the future it is useless to prophesy. The local interests of the borough have suffered. No plans for new school houses have been made, and few, if any, sites for new buildings have been bought. Some schoolbuildings that were planned or begun before consolidation have been completed, but the new officials have either not planned any new work or have not succeeded in getting money appropriated for doing that which they have planned. The same conditions prevail in the street department, in the department of sewers and in the water department. Practically all improvements have been at a standstill. This situation has been produced partly by the practical and unavoidable difficulties in the way of fitting the new government to the I Contributed by F. H. Gunnison, Esq.
enlarged city, and partly by the complicated machinery provided for the doing of business. The charter methods are so cumbersome that it takes a long time to accomplish anything, and emergency work has had to be abandoned almost entirely, for it is so long before it can be done that by the time the proper authority to do it has been secured, the emergency has passed.
Everyone admits that some change should be made in the charter, looking to the removal of these defects. There are two parties of charter revisionists, one party holding that reform can be secured best by the concentration of power in the heads of the various departments of the city government and in the practical destruction of what independence the boroughs now have. The other party demands decentralization and an increase in the autonomy of the boroughs. Indeed, there are some people who advocate that the boroughs should raise within their own boundaries the money which is spent there, and spend it to suit themselves. This means, of course, the practical repeal of consolidation. It is not known just what will be done, but a commission appointed by Governor Roosevelt to consider the subject is at work on a revision of the charter. It will make its report to the legislature, which meets in January. It is not probable that the report will be published until the legislature sees it. The fate of the recommendations of the commission, whatever they may be, will depend largely upou the exigencies of politics, which cannot be foreseen at this time.
St. Louis.-Amalgamation. The city of St. Louis, with a need of at least ten million dollars for public improvements, finds itself facing a deficit estimated at a million dollars. The municipality has already contracted a bonded debt up to the constitutional limit, and has levied the maximum revenue rate, which is double what it is in the state at large. No apparent source of immediate relief is therefore open to it. This grave condition of affairs may be said to be largely due to injudicious amalgamation. The present scheme and charter, adopted in 1876, was planned apparently in contemplation of a compact population. Such is the inference that must be drawn from the limits which were placed upon the rate of taxation and upon the ability of the city to contract indebtedness. At the same time, however, the limits of the city were extended so as to include practically the whole of the suburban population on the west side of the Mississippi, while the county organization within the territorial limits of the city was abolished and the burden of maintaining what are properly county institutions was thrown upon the municipality without the possibility of levying a corresponding county tax.
Contributed by Professor R. F. Hozie, St. Louis.
While the outlying urban units were unimportant in size and wealth the grave possibilities of this wholesale amalgamation without adequate charter modifications did not at once develop so as to attract serious attention. Of late, however, owing to improvements in rapid transit and as a result of the change of St. Louis from an essentially river town to a railroad centre, the suburbs, especially to the west which were widely separated from the old city, have grown with remarkable rapidity. The resulting increased demands for water mains and sewers, for paving, lighting and police protection, have been altogether ont of proportion to the increase of taxable wealth. This would have been true had the growth of the outlying districts been due altogether to additions to the population of the city, but the proportion of expense to taxable wealth has been greatly increased by the fact that this suburban growth has been, to a large extent, due to migration of wealthy residents. This has left a middle zone, in which public improvements have already been made and which requires adequate lighting and police protection, with decreased taxable value. The remedy for the existing state of affairs seems to be in a reorganization of the present charter or the adoption of a new charter which shall recognize the needs of a widely scattered municipal population. No increase in the tax rate which may be legally levied will suffice, since a great part of the need is for immediate improvements of a relatively permanent character. The ability to increase the bonded indebtedness for these improvements seems to be a prime necessity in order that the burden may fall to a great extent on those who will benefit from the improvements in the future. The situation is calling forth much discussion locally, owing to the special urgency of city needs in view of the proposed world's fair in 1903.
Civil Service, 1899-1900.-In New York State, where the civil service rules apply to each of the forty-five cities many improvements have been brought about through the operation of the law, enacted April 14, 1899. During the period from that date to the following Autumn the New York City rules were amended to conform to the new system. The amendments consisted, for the most part, in reductions in the numbers of positions exempt from examination, and in changes designed to do away with opportunities for evasions. The new rules were promulgated by the state board, acting after Mayor Van Wyck's failure to act, on July 11, 1899. Although a great advance on the rules they superseded, they have since been further amended in many important respects, and now present a far more substantial barrier to the use of city patronage for the benefit of Tammany Hall than Tammary has ever had to confront
1 Contributed by Hon. C. R. Woodruff, Philadelphia.
before. The Civil Service Reform Association has won a number of important suits, designed to test disputed points in the new system.
The State Civil Service Commission, which has enlarged powers under the new act, including an effective supervision of the operation of the rules in cities, has recently appointed an inspector to visit the various cities periodically and report on existing conditions. This officer has already discovered a bad state of affairs in the city of Syracuse, and a formal investigation, resulting in the displacement of the local commission followed. With the exception of a few of the small cities, however, all others seem to be obeying the law in a satisfactory manner.
Massachusetts.-Several bills were introduced at the last session of the legislature designed to weaken the system in cities, especially in Boston; but all were either defeated or vetoed by the governor.
Chicago.—The backward tendency of civil service reform in Chicago has been arrested by the reorganization of the city commission and the appointment of Colonel John W. Ela, late president of the Chicago Civil Service Reform League, as a member. Since Colonel Ela's installation many improvements have been effected, particularly with regard to the system of promotions. The situation has been much improved, moreover, by a decision of the Supreme Court of Cook County, by which several injurious rulings of the old commission were set aside, and as the results of which the letter of the law must, in future, be adhered to strictly.
Baltimore.--Civil service rules have been introduced in the fire and police departments of Baltimore, in the one case under authority given by the new charter, and in the other under a special act. Competent boards of examiners have been appointed for each. The usefulness of the rules for the police department is somewhat marred, however, by a construction of the corporation counsel, based on an error in the language of the act, to the effect that appointments may be made from any part of the eligible lists. This construction, it is understood, will be disputed by the Baltimore Reform League and the local Civil Service Reform Association.
New Orleans.—The system in New Orleans established by the present charter, has been virtually destroyed by an act passed by the last legislature. The Civil Service Reform League, organized during the legislative campaign, will be continued. Under its auspices, the constitutionality of the modifying act is being tested in the courts.
San Francisco.-The civil service system was established in San Francisco, on January 1, 1900, when the new charter went into operation. It applies practically to all departments, is modeled on the best features of the systems in force in other cities, and is administered by a commission composed of known friends of the merit system, appointed by a well-disposed mayor. It may be recalled that the election through which the charter was adopted by popular vote turned principally on the issue of civil service reform.
Columbus.-Rules have been established for Columbus, under an act of the Ohio Legislature, requiring their application to the departments of public safety and public improvements, in "cities of the first grade of the second class,” and permitting their extension, on authorization of the common council, to all other departments and officers of such cities. The commission appointed for Columbus has drafted and promulgated an excellent set of rules and secured authority for their extension, practically, to the entire city service.
Chicago.—Drainage Canal Litigation.' An event of tremendous significance to Chicago was the opening of its great drainage canal on January 17, 1900. Lake Michigan is now joined to the Gulf, and the flow of its pure waters, passing through the new canal and into the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, receives and carries off the immense mass of Chicago sewage. As had been anticipated, the opening of the canal gave rise to litigation, which, if not of serious import to the future of the canal, is of great general interest.
The most important case is that of the State of Missouri, complainant, vs. State of Illinois and Sanitary District of Chicago, defendants. This is an original proceeding, instituted in the Supreme Court of the United States, to enjoin the drainage trustees from allowing the sewage of Chicago to be discharged into the canal. The case raises two important questions, one of constitutional law, and one of sanitation. The constitutional question is as to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to entertain the case. The complainaut asserts original jurisdiction in that court under Section 2, Article 3, of the federal constitution creating such jurisdiction in cases “in which a State shall be a party,” amended subsequently by provision that such jurisdiction shall not extend “to any suit, in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.”
It is averred in the complaint that the canal was built by the Sanitary District of Chicago as one of the “governmental agencies of the State of Illinois," and under the direction and control of that state ; that the flow of the channel will cause direct and immediate injury to the State of Missouri ; that the 1,500 tons of filth and sewage cast daily into the canal at Chicago will poison and pollute the waters of the Mississippi and render them unhealthful and unfit “for drinking
Contributed by M. F. Gallagher, Esq., Chicago, Ill.