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joy in the development of its administrative duties in the fields of public charity and correction, and has also sufficiently outlined the position of your committee and the point of view of the proposed Municipal Corporations act on the subject of street franchises.
Your committee concurs with hearty unanimity in the opinion that in the exercise of functions under a broad and generous grant of power every municipality should be held to the very strictest obligation in its accounting, and that the accounts of all the municipalities in the State should be kept upon a prescribed and uniform plan, and should be submitted to a State officer, where they should be compiled upon a well-devised scheme, and when thus tabulated and placed in due comparison with one another that they should be printed and made easily accessible to all citizens. There is no check more salutary than the check of publicity. If our towns are disposed to go into the business of municipal gas works, for example, they should be held, like the English towns, to strict reporting, so that it may be readily seen which town manages its works best and which is doing worst. The results of public administration should also be brought into the most unsparing contrast with the results of private administration. With good accounting, upon a clear and understandable system, with uniformity throughout the State, and, so far as possible, with a tendency towards interstate uniformity, with periodic reports and prompt and regular intermunicipal tables, a very stimulating and valuable check is at once placed upon unwise, dishonest or slovenly municipal administrations, and an opportunity is readily afforded for each municipality to benefit by the experience of all.
If this paper has made reasonably clear the principles by which your committee has been guided in the drafting of these articles, and the general position which its members are agreed in believing that the modern municipality demands for the best results in its practical work for the well-being of our ever-growing mass of population assembled under urban conditions, it has accomplished as much as it was advisable to attempt in the half hour allotted.
It is only during the last few years that any considerable portion of the residents of American cities have begun to realize the immense value and importance of their local franchises.
Long before the attention of the people was called to the subject shrewd financiers, professional politicians and party bosses had foreseen the harvests of wealth and political power to be reaped by those who could control the giving of municipal franchises. The financiers saw vast returns for small outlays, and unlimited opportunities for stock watering, stock gambling and the manipulation of market prices. The professional politicians saw how they could control their workers and henchmen by obtaining for them special privileges, patronage or profitable employment from companies depending on municipal favor. The party bosses reckoned upon lavish contributions from the treasuries of such companies, and the political support of the thousands who would own or deal in their stocks and securities.
The process of capturing franchises from the agents of the people has progressed so rapidly that in some cities there seems to be but little left for the public to control. In many places the local government is so bound and helpless, and so entirely dominated by the public service corporations which it has created and nourished, that many of the voters now regard it as powerless to promote their interests and unworthy of their respect or support. The lack of wisdom and foresight which has been shown by most of our cities in connection with their franchises may be fairly likened to that of a tribe of Indians selling for a few beads the lands which would have yielded them an ample and permanent support.
It is not necessary to enlarge here upon the immense present and prospective value of municipal franchises or the enormous profits which they have already been made to yield. The facts
are familiar or accessible to all, and may be assumed for the purposes of this paper.
The properties and services which are the subjects of such franchises differ widely in character and consequence. Some, like a general water supply, are practically indispensable and monopolistic in their nature, while others, such as a turnpike road, may be merely desirable and subject to much competition.
The principles which should guide us in dealing with such a great variety of assets and duties may be applicable to all, but the importance of applying them will vary in proportion to the importance of the property to be managed or the duty to be performed. An error in regard to the water supply may be disastrous to the health, business and growth of a great city, but a mistake in relation to a turnpike road may be of small consequence.
. The methods which have been most advocated for the management of municipal properties and services may be classified under two heads, viz.:
Those which are equivalent to a lease for a period of years, and
Those which involve the direct control and operation by the local government.
The principal arguments in favor of the lease system may be stated briefly as follows:
First-That it is the quickest and easiest method for a city to obtain large sums of money or large annual revenues without borrowing, and that the success of this method will be in proportion to the length of the periods for which the franchises are granted.
Second—That with city management there is sure to be a great deal of fraud and corruption in the procurement of labor and materials.
Third—That municipal officials and legislators are so generally ignorant, negligent or corrupt that they are incapable of conducting the public business with intelligence, efficiency and economy.
Fourth-That by carefully-drawn leases and agreements the city's interests can be fully protected and its revenue assured and increased.
Fifth-That under our form of government the requirements
of party politics and the frequent changing of public employes make it impossible for the people to secure as good service at as reasonable rates as a private corporation.
Sixth—That under municipal operation the employes and patronage will be used for political, partisan or factional purposes, to such an extent that the spoils system will be greatly strengthened, and it will become much more difficult for the people to overthrow a political machine.
The advocates of municipal ownership and operation reply to these arguments:
First-That even if we should ignore the influence of a full treasury in encouraging folly and extravagance, it would still be true that neither the raising of money nor obtaining an income can justify a city in depriving its citizens and their posterity of the control of matters essential for their own service and protection, or in selling important privileges for much less than they are worth, or in granting them to persons whose private interests will thus be made adverse to those of the public.
Second—That as such arrangements are practically certain to be unfair to the city, the evils which they will inflict upon the people will be much greater if the grants are made for long periods than if they are limited to short terms.
Third—That in aggregate amounts and in multiplicity and variety of direct and indirect methods the bribery and corruption chargeable to corporations seeking and enjoying municipal franchises are undoubtedly far in excess of the totals of similar evils from all other sources combined, and that the way to abolish bribery is to abolish the corporations which do the bribing, by adopting the policy of municipal operation in every conceivable
Fourth-That if the city's representatives are unfit to conduct a business from year to year, it would be the height of folly to intrust them with the vastly more difficult and responsible task of selecting and installing a management which could not be changed for a long period of years.
Fifth-That in making a lease for fifty years the bribes are much larger, and the necessity for expert knowledge, shrewdness, sagacity, foresight and honesty is much greater, so that the damage resulting from the lack of suitable qualifications in the city's
representatives, is likely to be very much more than fifty times what it may be under a management that is limited to a single year and can then be changed by the voters if it is unsatisfactory.
Sixth-That under existing conditions the chances of any city obtaining a fifty years' or other long term agreement which will be entirely fair and desirable for the people, or of securing what might be even more difficult, a full and satisfactory enforcement of such an agreement if one could be made, seem to be too slight for serious consideration.
Seventh-That even if it was practicable to secure such an agreement and its continuous enforcement, its effect upon the character of the local government must necessarily be exceedingly injurious. A bad servant who can be dismissed is much better than a master from whom it is impossible to escape. Republican institutions are based upon the principle that the people should have the power to change their rulers without resorting to assassination or revolution, and a long lease of an important municipal service is simply the substitution of a limited monarchy for a popular government, so far as it relates to that particular function.
Eighth—That as the character of every Republican government must depend in the last analysis upon the active interest of the voters, it is obvious that every lease or agreement which ties the hands of a local government and lessens its ability to serve and protect the voters must tend to diminish their interest in supporting or improving it. While it is not possible to strip a city government so entirely of power as to make it incapable of attracting the efforts or serving the purposes of bad men, it is possible to render it so powerless to accomplish good or restrain evil the average citizen can no longer be induced to take an active interest in it.
There is much force in the argument that so long as each voter can directly affect the character and conduct of his local government, his interest in it will be in proportion to the number importance and directness of the different ways in which that government serves and affects him. So far as he may come to regard it as his business agent he will want to guard and improve it. So far as it becomes the servile instrument of private corpo