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CHAPTER I.

THE SOURCES IN EVOLUTION. The Complexities Surveyed—The Revised Laws of 1813—The Statutory Sources of the City's Government Permitted to Scatter, 1813-1882—The New York Consolidation Act of 1882—The City's Law Scatters Again-The Greater New York Charter Fails to Integrate the Law-Charter Revision in 1901 Leaves the Situation Unchanged-Special Laws That Have Not Amended the Charter -Adverse Comment on the Condition of the Statutory Sources of the City's Government-A Consolidation of Local Laws Advocated -A Digest Compilation Finally Completed.

In the movement for charter revision, the condition of the statutory sources of the city government has hardly been a less important consideration than defects in governmental structure. Less even than the latter, however, the problem of the make-up of the charter has been incapable of capturing public attention. This has been partly the reason why charter revision has never aroused enough popular support to float its bulk over the shoals of political opposition. Yet the nature of the charter as an instrument—the condition of the sources of the city government in law, as distinguished from the machinery which they createhas a double significance. First, it is important that the charter shall declare what it intends to say with as little ambiguity and confusion of arrangement as possible and with the minimum invitation to litigation, on the one hand, or to time-taking and cumbersome explanatory amendments by the legislature on the other. It is important that the sources of law affecting the city shall be integrated at least in the sense that all active or potentially active sources shall be known, even if not physically assembled, and that in so far as possible the relation of old and new law on the same subject shall be expressly clarified. Second, the make-up of the charter is simply another term for the scope of local power. The degree of charter detail determines the extent to which the city authorities are dependent upon constant and minute control by state legislation. More than that, since a charter usually assigns powers not to a city as a whole but in the main to particular city agencies, it determines how much flexibility in the every day processes of administration the city authorities will enjoy.

The Comple.rities Surveyed.

The complexities in the present make-up of the charter may first be briefly surveyed. (1) The charter, in the narrow and formal sense of the act of 1901 and the subsequent statutes which have amended it in terms, contains numerous errors of expression and of arrangement in its half-million words.1 (2) What is called the charter, however, is in fact only a part of the charter; it does not include all of the acts relating specially to the city and its government. A mass of special acts antedated the charter and were neither included in it nor repealed by it. Since its enactment, their number has been added to constantly. (3) In addition, the city government is conditioned by provisions in the general laws, notably the General City Law, the General Municipal Law, the Education Law, the Civil Service Law, the Election Law, laws affecting cities of the first class, the Rapid Transit Act, the bodies of law which govern the administration of justice in its several phases, as well as by other general acts on particular subjects, some of which, although in form general, apply almost peculiarly to New York City.

The complexities of the situation do not stop with mere lack of order and unity. Uncertainty also exists. As a usual practice, charter revision in the past has not repealed all prior legis

* Provisions egarding procedure in the acquisition of property are found in the charter both in ch. XVII, Title 4 (repealed and enacted anew by L. 1915, ch. 606) and in ch. XXI, secs. 1431-53 (repealed and enacted anew by L. 1915, ch. 596). These two sources of law are sufficiently similar to warrant Ash, The Greater New York Charter, Annot., 4th ed., in giving only one set of annotations to cover both. Turning to another illustration, it is perhaps a superficial confusion of arrangement that has put in ch. XXIII, entitled vaguely "General Statutes," under Title 3 thereof, material as disparate as a provision on the Sunday closing of barber shops (sec. 1535) and the vital provision regarding the power of heads of departments over their subordinates (sec. 1543). The fact that the charter now has two sections numbered 165, added by L. 1905, chs. 517 and 583, cannot be charged as a fault against the original charter, but the confusion which can follow upon even as slight an error as this is illustrated in the omission of one of these sections from the current Ash edition of the charter, which has an almost official status.

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