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the proper method of defraying the cost of municipal operation. The cost of operation, and, of necessity, the resulting loss in the case of ferries municipally operated, are paid at present out of issues of corporate stock. The evil of this system is twofold: first, future generations are thus charged with present operating loss; and, secondly, the present generation is de barred pro tanto of the use of the city's credit for public improvements, inasmuch as its borrowing capacity is impaired by the use of its credit for current ferry expenses and ferry losses.
The practice is an outgrowth of conditions created by the city's sinking funds. The ordinance of 1844 pledged all ferry income to the sinking fund for the payment of interest upon the debt of the former city, and the surplus of the interest fund now finds its way into the sinking fund for the payment of the principal of that debt. At present ferry rentals are paid into the interest fund. The question arises whether the gross income from ferries, or the net income merely, belongs to the sinking fund. In our opinion only net income belongs to the fund. According to the decisions of the courts the city's ferry franchise is an integral thing. The city's ferry system should also be treated integrally, and rentals from these ferries should so far as needed be applied to meet losses on municipally operated ferries, and only the net rentals remaining after this application should go to the sinking fund. If on the other hand after the application of ferry rentals, a loss should still remain in ferry operations, that loss, like all current expenses, should be paid out of the tax levy. But as the loss for any year would be conjectural at the time of the making of the budget of that year, we propose instead that it be paid out of special revenue bonds redeemable from the tax levy of the ensuing year.
Payment of these operating losses out of proceeds of corporate stock is indefensible; the community should know from year to year just what the annual losses are, and this information should be discoverable from the budget. If ferry losses are payable out of taxation, the taxpayer will soon realize the significance of the loss and be prompted to devise a solution consistent with the interests of the city.
It must be borne in mind that the city is carrying on a ferry business exactly as a private corporation might do if it possessed similar franchises. The city in part operates its ferries directly; in part farms them to lessees, but its ferry business is as much one business as it would be if it were the business of a private corporation.
Acquisition of Real Property for Public Purposes:
The cost to the city of the acquisition of real property for public purposes has become a matter of scandal. The method of correcting the waste and extravagance of condemnation proceedings will require the most careful attention from the legislature. The proposed real property chapter contains only a few sections, merely granting to the city the right of eminent domain, in broad terms. In the chapter dealing with the issue of corporate stock, provision is made that it may be used to purchase existing franchises. In the chapter on the board of estimate and apportionment power is given to acquire property by agreement with the owner without resort to condemnation, and that such agreement may be made during condemnation proceedings, or even after an award, provided the amount paid shall not exceed the award. The present charter contains many obscure, conflicting and redundant provisions for the acquisition of real property for different public uses. The confusion is enhanced by special laws — for example, the act creating the Aqueduct Commission and the act creating the Board of Water Supply.
The practice which obtains in the appointment of commissioners in such proceedings merits criticism; courts do not always sufficiently regard the public interest in the allowance of counsel and commissioners' fees; and the commissioners frequently deem their appointment not so much a public trust as an opportunity for exorbitant private profit at the city's expense. The evils are glaring and of long continuance. The vital question is the remedy. Upon this subject diverse views are entertained by the Commission as well as in the community. Some members of the Commission, as a means of temporary relief, favor the appointment by the Appellate Division of a permanent board of condemnation commissioners of twenty-one persons residents of the several counties included within the city, these commissioners to be salaried and to have jurisdiction over practically all condemnation proceedings where property to be acquired is within the city limits; the Appellate Division to make appointments from the list of permanent commissioners, unless objection be made by a property owner, in which case it may appoint at its discretion outside of the list. All commissioners who are not to receive salaries shall serve at the rate of ten dollars for a day of five hours, no allowance to be made for adjournments or for shorter sessions.
Other members of the Commission question the constitutionality of this plan, and believe the only remedy to be a constitutional amendment. All concur in recommending the amendment of the Constitution so as to provide for a court of condemnation.
By an act of the legislature passed after the ratification of the Constitution of 1894, the Appellate Divisions were empowered to establish rules of practice binding upon all the courts in this state and all the judges and justices thereof, except the Court for the Trial of Impeachments, and the Court of Appeals. Under their rules they assign the trial and special term justices to the different parts during each calendar year. Applications for the appointment of commissioners in condemnation proceedings must, in the first department, be made at part three, special term. Inspection of the list of justices designated to sit in this important part since January 1, 1895, discloses the remarkable fact that few justices have ever been privileged to occupy this post and to dispense the patronage attached to it. In cases where owing to the absence of the designated justice some other justice sits, it is the almost invariable practice for the corporation counsel to adjourn applications for the appointment of commissioners until a term at which the regularly assigned justice presides. Thus, through its control over the rules of the court and over the assignment of justices, the Appellate Division in this department is in a position to remedy some of the graver evils of the system.
According to a statement submitted to this Commission by the Board of Water Supply as of August 31, 1908, its expenditures to that date in the acquisition of real estate, either by private contract or under the law of eminent domain, were as follows: Advertising ..
$187,158 10 Stenographers and other clerks to Commissioners of Appraisal
27,932 67 Special counsel fees and expenses.
268,775 60 Commissioners of Appraisal, fees....
104,515 48 Commissioners of Appraisal, expenses.
30,618 74 Awards in condemnation proceedings.
277,007 50 Interest on awards ...
15,781 93 Counsel fees of Parcel Owners.
18,862 70 Agreements, offices and buildings.
28,287 00 Advertising proposals
9,268 11 Contracts .
Of this enormous outlay, a sum aggregating $691,200.33, appears to have been incurred in the condemnation of land appraised at $277,007.50, and in purchases by contract amounting to $507,263.67. This vastly disproportionate expenditure is due to provisions of the statute creating the board, and revised legislation would fail of complete success if it did not prevent such excessive cost in the future.
We recommend that there be but one local board for each borough, to consist of the members of the council elected from it. This determination has been reached after thorough investigation and prolonged consideration, and we believe that the best interests of the localities will be subserved by the adoption of this course and the discontinuance of the large number of local boards now in existence.
We also recommend that the borough boards shall have power upon their own initiative, without approval of the board of estimaie and apportionment, to undertake local improvements not inconsistent with the general plan of city improvement, in all cases in which the cost of an improvement shall not exceed five thousand dollars — the cost to be assessed upon the area of benefit.
Inferior local courts.
No change is recommended in respect of inferior local courts, except that provision be made for the appointment of two additional justices of special sessions, seriously needed at the present time.
A number of sections of the present charter devoted to the inferior civil and criminal courts will be carried into the administrative code, until the passage of a law respecting courts of inferior local criminal jurisdiction throughout the state, and a new municipal courts act are enacted.
The only fundamental change we suggest is the imposition upon police magistrates of the duty (now performed by coroners) of authorizing autopsies, and of conducting inquests.
The proposed charter deals in the first instance in a single section with all pension funds, continuing and preserving them intact. Different pension and retirement fund sections of the present charter are largely repetitious. We have believed it better, after a general provision for the continuance of these funds, to put all sections relating to their administration, into the administrative code.
Board of Assessment and Award:
Great care has been given to the clarification of sections of the charter regarding the constitution and functions of the board of assessors. Inasmuch as we propose an enlargement of the powers of the former board so as to permit it to make awards for damages for changes of grade (functions which it now performs under numerous special statutes), we have changed the title of the board.
Such sections of the existing charter in respect to the board of assessors, not in the new charter, as we propose to retain, are incorporated in the administrative code, which provides also machinery for the collection of assessments. In this connection we may add that the administrative code makes adequate provision for the collection of arrears of taxes and of water rents.
TJIE MUNICIPAL CIVIL SERVICE.
Sections of general application have been placed in Title 1 of the administrative departments. The tenure of employees has been safeguarded by a requirement that in the removal of any employee holding a position in the classified municipal service subject to competitive examination, there shall, together with a copy of the charges forming the basis of his dismissal and the explanation of his removal, be filed a copy of his defense with the municipal civil service commission. This may have a tendency to check a practice which tends to reduce the civil service tenure to a farce — where a department head makes a charge against an employee which is abundantly met by his answer but is treated as insufficient. We recommend a particular chapter on the municipal civil service in which are set forth the fundamental principles of the Civil Service Law as applicable to the city, but without repetition of general provisions of the State Civil Service Law. This brief chapter shows the precise place and function of the municipal civil service commission in the political organization of the city.