« ZurückWeiter »
mittee. By the dissemination of the report among the colleges, the cause of education as well as of municipal progress should be greatly advanced.
Buffalo._State Legislation. Three measures affecting the city of Buffalo have been presented in the legislature at this session. One abolishes the Board of Public Works, which consists at present of three members, two appointed by the mayor and the third elected by the people. The two appointive members must be of different political parties. The proposed bill substitutes for these three commissioners a single commissioner elected by the people, who will have power to appoint two deputies. It is doubtful whether this measure will effect much economy in public expenditures, but it will at least concentrate responsibility. There seems to be no very serious opposition to it and it will probably become a law.
A second measure substitutes a single police commissioner for the present board of police commissioners, which consists of the mayor, ex officio, and two other members appointed by him. The single commissioner is to be appointed by the mayor, but may be removed summarily either by him or by the governor of the state, and a commissioner removed by the governor is made ineligible for reappointment by the mayor. There is a general belief in the public mind that the police force of Buffalo has become corrupt, and that there is no hope of a change for the better under the present management. Gambling dens are believed to be tolerated, if not protected, and officers high in rank who commit offences against public decency are “ whitewashed” and retained in office. Most men, therefore, approve the proposed measure on the ground that it furnishes the only way out of the present situation, that it will concentrate power and responsibility, as does the bill first mentioned, and that its results cannot at any rate be worse than the existing state of things.
The most objectionable feature of this bill is the clause giving the governor the power of removal. This practically makes him the appointing power, is said to be a glaring violation of the principle of home rule for cities, and a long step toward that centralization of power at the state capital which is ever viewed with alarm. The advocates of home rule insist that the citizens of every community, great and small, should be compelled to lie in beds of their own making and to work out their own salvation. Without this clause there would probably be very little opposition to the bill, and it is but fair to say that there are some who think the clause in question will do very little if any harm. The objection that the bill is a "partisan grab” has been cunningly disarmed by providing that the present mayor (who is a Democrat, 1 Contributed by A. C. Richardson, Esq.
while the legislature is Republican) shall appoint the first commissioner.
The third bill referred to proposes to establish a bureau of elections, consisting of a commissioner and a deputy, with the necessary force of clerks and assistants, who are to have entire charge of preparing for primaries and elections and the custody of primary records. As this work has been done for the last ten years to everybody's satisfaction by the city and county clerks and their subordinates, the proposed bill is criticised as a palpable attempt to provide places and salaries at public expense for a couple of party workers. It does not seem to be necessary, has not a single friend and will probably not be pressed seriously.
Pittsburg. State Legislation. There is great activity at present in devising new charter legislation for Pittsburg. The situation is complicated by the fact that any legislation passed for it must also apply to Allegheny and Scranton, which are also cities of the second class. At present the charter for cities of that class gives very little authority to the mayor. The heads of municipal departments are elected by councils for five year terms, and while nominally they are subject to the supervision of the mayor, he has practically no control over them. A new charter is proposed in an act introduced by Senator Muehlbronner, of Allegheny, which centres responsibility in the mayor's office and provides that the heads of departments shall be appointed by him and shall be removable by him. Heated controversy has been excited by a portion of the act which legislates the present mayors out of office and provides that appointees of the governor shall fill the vacancies. His appointees are to hold office until the municipal election in 1903, and these appointed mayors shall have complete power to fill all offices and employments in the executive department, whereas in the regular operation of the charter the mayor's appointments shall be subject to confirmation by the select branch of councils. The reason urged in behalf of this extraordinary provision is that it is necessary to get the new form of government fairly started.
Under the new charter the select branch will be elected from the city at large on a general ticket and it is hoped that in this way a body of higher character will be obtained than exists at present. Select councilmen are to be elected for a term of four years, but it is so arranged that only about one-half will be elected at any one time, the other half holding over. The mayor is to be elected for a term of three years, and common councilmen, who alone are to be chosen by wards, will serve for a term of two years. The act provides for the 1 Contributed by Henry Jones Ford, Pittsburg.
adoption of civil service regulations and contains various other requirements intended to promote good administration.
Baltimore.-State Legislation. In the course of ordinary events the Maryland legislature would not convene until 1902. An extra session has been called by the governor in response to party demands from two quarters. The city leaders strongly urge sewerage legislation for Baltimore. The state leaders wish a state census for the purpose of redetermining the representation of the different counties in the House of Delegates, upon the ground that the national census was packed in order to wipe out Democratic majorities in certain counties. It is also proposed to amend the present ballot law, the main object being to disfranchise the negro, but without the saving conditions of Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina. The people of Baltimore are not disposed to question the motives of party leaders in calling an extra session provided that a sewerage system will be made possible.
It is not generally known that the city of Baltimore is entirely without any adequate method of caring for house refuse. The prevailing method is by cesspools in a majority of cases and by private sewer pipes which, without exception, empty their contents into the harbor of the city, or the “Basin” as it is popularly known. This has naturally created conditions which are being more and more realized as hazardous to the health of the community. The principal business interests of the city are adjacent and in proximity to the water front at the basin. The basin being at the head of tide water has no current, and solid matter carried down Jones' Falls deposits itself in the form of a delta at its mouth. The basin has become a pot of corruption and during the heated summer season the effect upon even the least fastidious is nauseating.
The present mayor of Baltimore, whose administration of municipal affairs stands out in attractive contrast to many that have gone before, has pledged himself to the construction of complete and adequate house sewers and has stated that if an extra session of the legislature is held, he will insist upon the passage of an enabling act authorizing the city to issue its credit to an amount necessary for the purpose.
This in brief, is the present situation : There have been two reports made by a municipal sewerage commission assisted by scientific investigation, in both of which reports the main question of the necessity for sewers is strongly urged; they differ only as to the manner of disposing of the refuse so as to be unobjectionable to the people of both city and state. The conclusions of these two reports are generally acceptable to the administration and to the public, the press of the city being specially importunate to have an early beginning of the work. In general it may be stated that the cost of the proposed system will be between seventeen and twenty millions of dollars. While this amount may seem very large, yet, when it is considered that it means a complete system of trunk, lateral and intercepting sewers, not to speak of the great number of connections into houses, for a city having between five and six hundred thousand inhabitants, with an estimated additional capacity for increase up to one million, the per capita cost is not extravagant. The public of Baltimore itself is in reality responsible for the large cost. From time to time the construction of sewers has been postponed, while at the same time valuable franchises have been granted by the municipality for occupation of the streets' sub-surface until low cost construction of any character is impossible.
The plan now being discussed contemplates, within the expenditure of the above stated amount, to repave the streets which will be torn up for sewers, with improved material from curb to curb. An early solution of the double problem depends upon securing authority from the legislature necessary to the issuing of a loan for the purpose before the details can be determined.
New Orleans.—Local municipal government has for many years been guaranteed to the people of New Orleans by the state constitution. The members of the legislature from other parts of the state have never forced on New Orleans legislation opposed by the members elected by the people of the city. There is no central state authority or control over local policies, local taxation or local administration except that the state constitution limits the rate of ad valorem tax on property for alimony to ten mills, for interest on debt to ten mills, for interest on water and sewage bonds to two mills. The assessors to list and value property are appointed by the governor and the assessment or valuation for state purposes is used for municipal taxation. The city is prohibited from imposing a license or occupation tax (which must be graded) greater than that which the state imposes. It may impose a smaller tax but it has never failed to impose the maximum. A state board of appraisers assess or value property of railway, telegraph, telephone, sleeping car and express companies.
The governor appoints a part of the local school board, the majority of whose members, however, being appointed by the city council. The following boards are created by acts of the state legislature: The police board, fire board, drainage commission, sewerage and water board, board of liquidation of city debt, levee board and board of health. The members of these boards, however, are chosen by the mayor or the city council, generally by the city council. The latter has a check on the action of all the boards, in that it distributes the i Contributed by B. R. Forman, Esq., New Orleans.
money to each. Two exceptions are the levee board, which has a special fund, and the board of liquidation of city debt. Thus it will be seen that the central state power in municipal affairs is very small, practically nothing as a legal power. It sometimes exerts political or moral influence through pressure on local politicians.
Cleveland, Street Railway Franchises. The street railways of Cleveland are owned by two different companies, the Cleveland Electric Railway Company and the Cleveland City Railway Company. The former has about 100 miles of tracks in and out of the city; the latter about eighty miles in and out. The franchises of the first company have an average life of about fourteen years; those of the latter about eight years. A number of attempts have been made during the past five years by one or both companies to secure a renewal of their franchises for twenty-five years, the period fixed by statute. During the present mayor's term of office the Cleveland City Railway Company has been persistently endeavoring to secure the passage of an ordinance that would extend its franchises. December last the Board of Control, which consists of the mayor and the heads of departments, and which, under Cleveland's “federal plan," passes on public measures of this kind in conjunction with the city council, reported favorably upon an ordinance drafted by the law department of the city granting renewal of contracts.
The chamber of commerce, which is the strongest civic body in Cleveland, asked permission to consider the ordinance whereupon the mayor referred it to that organization for consideration. The ordinance was received by the chamber of commerce and referred to a special committee of five which was to report upon : (1) the advisability of renewing the franchises of the Cleveland City Railway Company eight years in advance of the expiration, (2) whether the terms of compensation are sufficient, (3) whether the ordinance is satisfactory with regard to the safeguarding of the city's interests in its relations with the company. The special committee has had the ordinance under consideration for the past six weeks and during that time it has given a hearing to citizens, railway officials and others interested in the subject and is at present writing preparing a report for the chamber. The term of the mayor expires in April, the present city council is disposed favorably towards the street railway companies, and the chances seem to be very largely in favor of the acceptance and passage of the ordinance. It is generally conceded that if the Cleveland City Railway Company secures the passage of this ordinance that the Cleveland Electric Railway Company will ask for and be granted 1 Contributed by M. A. Fanning, Esq.. Cleveland.