Page images
PDF
EPUB

extent than people living in country places. Not many years ago our cities, as well as those of other civilized lands, were frequently visited by frightful epidemics which carried away thousands of victims. Because of our modern methods of fighting disease, these great epidemics are probably a thing of the past. Most of the work of protecting the public health is done by city governments. The following are some of the things that the health department in a city does :

1. It enforces state laws and city ordinances that relate to the public health, and all orders issued by the state board of health. Its power to establish quarantines in dealing with contagious diseases has been mentioned. It also has power to provide isolation hospitals, and to order unsanitary buildings, public or private, closed.

2. Formaldehyde, salicylic acid, and other poisons put in milk to prevent or delay natural fermentation have caused the death of many hundreds of young children in our large cities. Cows frequently have tuberculosis, and many people have contracted this dread disease through the milk which they have used. The health department inspects milk at the time of its arrival in the city, or when it is being delivered to consumers, and causes impure milk to be destroyed. Inspectors also visit. dairies to prevent the sale of milk from diseased cows.

3. The health department inspects meat, vegetables, fruit, and other kinds of food that are offered for sale in the city, and causes the destruction of articles found to be in a state of decay or contaminated with disease germs. It also inspects the water used in the city.

4. The department does what it can to compel people to keep the premises where they live in a sanitary condition.

It inspects the plumbing in public and private buildings, unless this duty is assigned to some other department.

5. It is helpful to the school department. Many boys and girls do poor work in school because of weak eyes or some other physical defect. An inspector from the department visits the schools, examines the children, and tells teachers and parents what should be done in such cases.

6. The department takes immediate care of people who are accidentally injured on the streets, by removing them to an emergency hospital, and caring for them until they can be removed to their homes or other hospitals.

7. The health officer, who is the executive officer of the department, issues burial permits in the case of deaths that occur in the city. He also keeps a record of births and deaths, and reports these matters to the secretary of the state board of health, including in his report, when possible, the cause of every death.

101. Some Facts that should be Remembered. The national, state, and local governments do much to protect the people against disease, but much is left for the people to do. Here are a few simple facts that our health departments would like all people to remember:

1. That disease germs do not flourish in fresh air and sunlight. 2. That dirt furnishes a congenial home for disease germs.

3. That tuberculosis or consumption is contagious; but that it is not inclined to take hold of people whose respiratory organs are in sound condition. People cannot inherit tuberculosis, though they may inherit a condition of lungs and throat that will invite the dis

Fresh air and sunlight constitute the best protection against it. One should sleep with windows wide open.

4. That one should let liquors and patent medicines alone; and that tobacco is injurious to growing boys.

ease.

SECTION 2.

OTHER MUNICIPAL DEPARTMENTS

102. Introductory. - In addition to preserving order, suppressing crime, protecting property against fire, and guarding the public health, every city must attend to many other matters of public interest. The most important of these are the construction and care of public buildings, docks, and wharves; the care of streets, parks, and playgrounds; the removal of garbage; the granting of franchises; and the control of public utilities.

Subject to the initiative and referendum, and to the necessity of consulting the people before bonds can be issued, the city council determines what shall be done concerning these matters. This is legislative work. In small cities, — those using fifth and sixth class and special charters, and some of those using freeholders' charters, — the city council or board of trustees, like a county board of supervisors, also does the executive work of carrying its own orders into execution. Larger cities have special departments to attend to this executive work. The departments most commonly existing are the department of public works, the department of public supplies, the departments of public utilities, the park department, and the playground department.

103. The Department of Public Works. — This is one of the most important departments of a city government. When it exists as a separate department, it is under the control of a board known as the board of public works, or of one commissioner, known as the commissioner of public works. Where there is a board, it usually consists of three persons, who are either appointed by the mayor or consist of the mayor and two others. These may be appointed by

the

mayor, or they may be two elected officials holding ex officio positions on the board. The duties of the department are as follows:

1. It constructs municipal buildings, and keeps them clean and in repair. If the council provides for the erection of a new building, the department decides upon plans, advertises for bids, lets the contract to the most satisfactory bidder, and supervises the construction. It also repairs municipal buildings when necessary, and employs janitors to keep them clean.

2. In like manner the department puts in sewers and builds wharves and docks when such work is required.

3. Unless there is a separate department for the purpose, the department of public works has entire control of the streets. It opens new streets, paves and widens streets, and builds bridges and culverts. It also controls the use of the streets. No house may be moved through, and no lumber or other material may be piled in, the streets without its consent. It has charge of the trimming of trees along the streets, and of cleaning and sprinkling the streets.

4. The department usually has charge of the disposal of ashes, rubbish, and garbage. This is a serious problem. In some of our cities this waste matter is collected by private scavengers and dumped outside the city limits. Some cities take it from the scavengers and carry it out to sea; others burn as much of it as possible. In a few cities it is collected by city employees rather than by scavengers."

1 This waste matter need not be all waste. The manner in which it is disposed of in New York is instructive. Ashes are used to fill in swamp lands, and city parks have been thus built up. Certain men pay for the privilege of picking over the rubbish for rags, pieces of rubber, wood, and other things that can be used. The rejected portions are burned by the city and the heat is used to run machinery. Men take the garbage from the city and make oils, soap, and perfumery from the fai that they extract from it. The solid parts are then made into commercial fertilizers.

5. The department enforces city ordinances relative to the construction of private residences. No one may build a house without a permit from the department. Inspectors are sent to examine the framework of the house, the foundations, the chimneys, and the electric wiring, unless these services are rendered by other departments.

The department of public works in any of our large cities must appoint many officers and employees, such as a superintendent of streets, a superintendent of public buildings, a chief of the street cleaning department, a city engineer, etc.

City charters are far from uniform in respect to the duties they assign to the department of public works, and it will be found that some of the duties mentioned here are not infrequently assigned to other departments. In a city as large as New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia, the original department of public works has disappeared, and a number of separate departments have taken its place; such as a department of public buildings, a street cleaning department, a street paving department, a department of sewers, etc. In San Francisco the department of public works consists of a number of bureaus which are practically independent of one another. A history of the development of any large city would show that when it was small its council, or board of trustees, exercised executive control over all of its civic affairs; that, as it grew to be a town of from ten thousand to twenty thousand inhabitants, police, fire, and health departments, in addition to a general department of public works, were found to be necessary; and that, as it grew to be still larger, new departments had to be established from time to time, some to take over duties that had previously been discharged by the council, or the board of public works, and others to take charge of new kinds of work undertaken by the city as the scope of its governmental activity widened.

104. The Department of Public Supplies. — The department of public supplies exists as a separate department

« PreviousContinue »