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GENERAL PROVISIONS REGARDING THE DUTIES OF OFFICERS.
This chapter contains those general provisions regarding the duties of officers and employees which are applicable to all alike. These provisions are, generally speaking, identical with the present law, except
First: Under the present law no member of the uniformed force of the Police or Fire Departments can be nominated for an elective office, and failure to decline such nomination at the time and in the manner provided is declared to vacate his office. This principle is extended to all persons holding appointive office or employment under the city government.
Second: The prohibition which forbids employees of certain departments of the city government to participate in associations organized for the purpose of contributing funds to affect legislation in their own behalf, or to promote such legislation, is extended to apply to all officers and employees of the city.
Third: In aid of the Civil Service, and of its divorce from politics, an entirely new subdivision is submitted, which provides that, at the risk of forfeiture of his office, “No person in the classified civil service of the city shall be an officer or member of any political committee, or a delegate or alternate to any political convention."
By proposed section 23, “No elective officer who shall have been removed under any provision of this act shall be eligible to election or appointment to fill the vacancy caused by his removal.” This would prevent the reappointment of a removed officer to the vacancy caused by his own removal.
Another recommendation requires the payment into the city treasury of all fees and emoluments received by any officer or employee of the city under any statute. This would put an end to the fee system so far as remnants of it still exist in Manhattan, Queens and Richmond. If this recommendation and certain other recommendations in the Board of Estimate and Apportionment chapter be adopted, all salaries and compensation will be paid out of budgetary appropriations, and the whole subject of salaries be brought within the exclusive control of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. The most important feature of this recommendation is to bring the appropriations for the offices of the several district attorneys clearly within the budgetary powers of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.
If the recommendation of the Commission be adopted, the Council should, it is hoped, become a more important factor in local government, with large and efficient legislative power. What constitution of the Council would tend most directly and immediately to secure in it the largest measure of fitness, and to secure for it the greatest efficiency, is a question to which the Commission has given much deliberation. With these considerations in view we recommend that the Council be reduced from its present number, seventy-three, to thirty-nine, distributed as follows: To Manhattan, fourteen; to Brooklyn, eleven; to The Bronx, six; to Queens, five, and to Richmond, three. This distribution will not materially alter the relations to each other of the several boroughs in the Council, but it will have the effect of making the Council districts about twice as large as at present, except in Richmond and Queens, and will insure all those advantages for business purposes which a smaller body possesses in contrast with a larger one, without materially disturbing the present proportion in representation.
The city's experience with an unpaid board of education has been so satisfactory that we recommend the abolition of the salary of councilmen in the belief that, if the office be removed from the field of small pecuniary political prizes, it will no longer be utilized as an adjunct to the organized political machinery of parties. It should cease to allure municipally paid agents of local political leaders, but should attract those seriously interested in the solution of municipal problems. The Commission favors return to the policy of requiring councilmen to be residents of the districts which they are elected to represent. Heads of departments continue to have seats in the Council and to be entitled to a hearing, although not to a vote.
The president of the Council is also vice-mayor and a member of the board of estimate and apportionment. His duties are or may be of a triple nature. His office is of great importance and the salary should be ample to attract the same degree of character and ability as the mayoralty. The Commission has, therefore, recommended that the salary be fifteen thousand dollars a year.
A cardinal departure has been made from the existing charter in a broad grant of legislative power to the Council, thus following what the Commission conceives to be the best of precedents in recent charters. A comprehensive grant within thoroughly defined limitations is in its judgment preferable to a detailed enumeration of specific powers. The broad grant includes everything within the circumscribed sphere, yet confers no jurisdiction beyond it.
This ampler ordinance making power, among other things, makes the Council the medium for the correlation and co-ordination of all ordinances and all departmental regulations. It may also amend certain specified sections of the administrative code which are so local in their operation that they may properly be altered by the city legislature, thus relieving the state legislature from consideration of unnecessary administrative detail.
Following the course of recent evolution, we remove from the Council every vestige of power over grants of franchises and have transferred all such powers to the board of estimate and appɔrtionment. The board of aldermen now has power to authorize the issue, for certain purposes, of revenue bonds not exceeding the sum of $2,000,000 a year, and the abandonment of this practice is recommended for reasons which will later be stated. The power now possessed by the board of aldermen to fix the tax levy and reduce specific items in the budget is continued in the Council.
Few material changes are proposed in this chapter. We recommend, however, that no person shall be eligible for the office of mayor unless he shall have been a resident of the city for at least ten years preceding his election, and that the salary be increased to twenty-five thousand dollars a year. The present term of four years is continued. There is doubt whether the president of the board of aldermen, in the event of vacancy in the mayor's office, would, under the existing charter, become mayor for the full term. This is removed by our provision that an election to fill the vacancy be held at the annual election following its occurrence — the president of the council to be mayor ad interim.
The mayor will continue to appoint and at pleasure remove all heads of departments, certain commissioners and members of boards.
The Municipal Courts' act should be amended to authorize the judges of those courts to appoint marshals, under civil service rules. The appointment of a marshal by the mayor is in the nature of a pure survival, without reason in logic or policy for its continuance. There is need for this minor change, which would tend to stop practices from which poor and inconspicuous litigants suffer seriously.
We recommend that the mayor be authorized to appoint an advisory board, to act in conjunction with the board of estimate and apportionment in devising and formulating plans for the comprehensive development and improvement of streets and parks. This advisory board would be distinct from the Municipal Art Commission, the existence of which is continued.
The duties of commissioners of accounts will be performed by a commissioner of inquiry — a title which, more fully than the present title, indicates the functions of this office. He may appoint and remove two deputies, one, an attorney and counselor at law. The commissioner and his deputies may investigate any department of the city government, but subject to the mayor's power to limit the scope of such investigation. The mayor will thus retain, but under better guarantees of efficiency, the right of executive investigation into the operation of all departments.
BOARD OF ESTIMATE AND APPORTIONMENT:
A majority of the Commission favor the continuance of a board of estimate and apportionment consisting of the mayor, the president of the council, the comptroller, and a borough president to be elected from each borough. A marked change in the existing system is made by the withdrawal from borough presidents of all administrative functions. The experiment of electing borough representatives as financial officers to vote appropriations, and as administrative officers to spend appropriations voted to themselves, was violative of two fundamental principles inherent in our sytem; namely, that appropriating officers should never be expending officers and that administrative officers should be, not elective, but appointive, and be at all times clearly within the sphere of unitary executive responsibility. Relieved of administrative duties which now make their offices centers of political patronage, the borough presidents will be required to give their undivided time and attention to the work of the board, which should become and be the great financial executive committee of the city. From the standpoint of the city's fiscal requirements, this board is the most important organ of the city government. Its members should be men of signal ability, chosen because of their peculiar fitness for the performance of their duties. To aid in insuring the election of borough presidents of high capacity and of conspicuous position in their respective communities, it is recommended that the salary be ten thousand dollars a year.
We propose to create under the board several new bureaus, for the more perfect co-ordination of the city business, greater protection of its rights, better preservation of its property, the establishment of large economies in its purchases and of a comprehensive and systematic plan for its growth. Plans for city improvements would fall within the province of the bureau of public improvements and engineering; franchises would be cared for by the bureau of franchises; the city's real property now valued at upwards of eight hundred and fifty million dollars would be under the charge of the bureau of real estate; and all claims against the city, instead of being adjusted in the finance department, would be first submitted to the bureau of claims. The bureau of salaries is to classify and grade officers and employees, their wages and salaries, and powerfully re-enforce the protection furnished to public servants by the Civil Service Law. The bureau of statistics and publicity would have charge of the City Record and with material economy to the city would print and publish departmental reports and all public advertisements.
The bureau of supplies is designed as a central purchasing agency for all supplies required in common by all city departments; its functions would be developed through use and experience until it assumed proportions entitling it to become a coordinate department of the city government. This natural evolution would, we think, be facilitated by the creation of a bureau under flexible regulations.
The Commission is firmly convinced that the board of estimate and apportionment should exclusively fix all appropriations for salaries, subject, of course, to their reduction by the Council. Exclusive of payments under the “ prevailing rate of wages ” law, salary appropriations of at least thirty-five million dollars a year are fixed by the legislature. The situation is unjust to taxpayers, and is anomalous and exceptional. The new charter proposes the repeal of all mandatory sections of existing law relative to salaries of policemen, firemen, school teachers, beads of departments and bureaus, and all other appointive city and county officials. If the legislature should determine to continue the maxima and minima provisions of the so-called “Davis " law, no modification of the educational chapter of the charter would be necessary, for this, in common with other chapters, contains only the structural or organic. The subject of teachers' salaries is treated in the edu