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rations in which he has no voice or share, he will cease to respect or care for it. If we are anxious for the citizens to elect officials who will purify their local government and place its employes upon the permanent non-partisan basis of the merit system, it seems reasonable to urge that we should advocate measures which will rather increase than curtail the functions of that government as the only form of organization which can represent all the owners of public property, and in which every voter can feel that he is an active member, entitled to a voice in the management and a share in the profits and benefits.

And it should be remembered that a large majority of the voters have no private property directly subject to assessment, and are therefore much more likely to take an interest in the management of their public property and public services than they are in any questions of municipal income or rates of taxation. If we want the people to develop higher civic ideals we must enlarge the scope and importance of their city government. If we want them to appreciate the advantages of intelligence and fidelity in their public servants, we must give those servants such duties and responsibilities that incompetence and dishonesty can neither be concealed nor endured.

It may be said further that the indifference of the voters which is so generally complained of, is only one of many evils which are natural results of transferring useful functions from public officials to private corporations. On the other hand a positive antagonism to reform measures is created in the minds of those who become directly or indirectly interested in the financial success of companies obtaining municipal franchises. The community becomes divided against itself. The interests of a large and very influential class are opposed to those of their fellow-citizens, the newspapers take the side of their wealthy patrons and advertisers, and the advocates of honest government are exposed to a social, political and business ostracism which greatly increases their difficulties.

Careful students of the subject are convinced that it is in the agents and lobbyists of franchise-holding and franchise-seeking companies that the professional politicians find their principal allies and sources of supply. In the absence of such corporations they could have no means which would be so effective for the creation and organization of anti-public interests, and for en

abling their political machines to control the nomination, election and subsequent conduct of public officials and members of local legislative bodies and courts of justice.

The committee appointed by the National Municipal League is unanimous in the opinion that the city should be free to choose for itself between the policy of leasing its franchises or of retaining and operating them for its own benefit in any given case, and should be clothed with ample power for acquiring and managing public properties.

The committee regards the possession of this power as essential to protect the interests of the city, and as supplying an added motive for the watchful and intelligent participation of the people in the affairs of their local government.

The committee is also convinced that it has been demonstrated by abundant experience that in the interest of the public, when a city grants a franchise to a private corporation, association or individual;

The term of such grant should be limited to a definite period, not exceeding twenty-one years;

In addition to any other form of compensation the grantee should pay the city a percentage of the gross receipts from the exercise of the franchise;

At the end of the period the plant of the grantee should become the property of the city if the latter should so desire, either without further compensation than the original grant, or, if additional compensation be paid, it should not in any way include or be based upon any valuation of or allowance for the franchise itself, which at the termination of the grant should ipso facto revert to the public;

Every grant of a franchise should contain ample provisions, enforceable by forfeiture of the grant, or otherwise, to secure efficient public service at reasonable rates;

Every grantee should be obliged to render to the city complete accounts of its financial condition, including its receipts from all sources and its expenditures for all purposes, such accounts to be public records;

The books and accounts of the grantee should be at all rea

sonable times open to the examination of the city's fiscal officer or his representatives.

The tendency of successful companies to try to conceal or disguise the extent of their profits makes it necessary for the agents of the city to have very full powers of investigation.

The question whether it should be the policy of a city to try to obtain the largest pecuniary returns in relief of taxation, or to provide for the lowest practicable charges for the services to be rendered to the citizens is a difficult one. But that each city should have the power to decide this question in its own way, in the light of its own need and experience is clear.

However they may differ among themselves in other respects, neither the advocates nor the opponents of municipal ownership and operation can deny the strong probability of great public advantage in enforced publicity of accounts of the grantees of franchises from the city; and that it is obvious that with the rapid growth of our cities and the consequent changes in the conditions which make and unmake the values of such franchises both to grantees and to the city a sound public policy would seem to forbid the tying of the hands of the next generation by the bargains of this generation. Nor can those who believe in clothing a city with the requisite power to live its own life and to work out the solution of its local problems in the light of its own needs and its own experience consistently oppose granting to a city authority to decide for itself whether it will undertake to supply on its own account those public services which are the usual subjects of the grants of franchises to private corporations.




Secretary, National Municipal League.

If one

were disposed, after a consideration of the prevailing conditions in great cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, to be pessimistic concerning the municipal problem in our American cities, he would only have to look at the other side of the picture to be convinced that the situation is not by any means hopeless, but full of auspicious augury. Too frequent contemplation of the evils of American municipal life is apt to obscure the substantial progress attained by the movement for better city government, which is steadily becoming stronger and more influential each succeeding year. The conferences held under the auspices of the National Municipal League have demonstrated this. The reports constantly being received from every section of the country fully confirm it. The continuous discussions of municipal questions in the daily and weekly press indicate the deep interest the people are taking in them. The amount of literature bearing on the subject that has been printed during the five years of the existence of the League is a substantial proof of the awakening of a too long dormant municipal spirit.

Not that our municipal problems are solved-far from it; not that the forces of corruption, iniquity and chicanery that have entrenched themselves in our municipalities have been overcome and driven from their strongholds ; not that the average citizen realizes the full measure of his civic duties ; not that the day has arrived when men as willing to sacrifice their time, means and energy to fighting the forces of evil at their


doors as they are to sacrifice their lives in fighting foreign foes on foreign soil—but the beginning, and a good beginning, has been made. The evidences of an aroused municipal patriotism are rapidly multiplying, and I deem it a part of my duty in this annual survey of “The Advance of the Movement for Municipal Reform" to set forth briefly some of the grounds for this conclusion.

In the first place, voters in American cities are showing a constantly increasing tendency to disregard national party ties in the consideration of municipal questions. Heretofore only a mere handful of the more advanced reformers were willing to vote against the nominations of their party when they felt that they were less worthy of support than those of other parties; and the votes given to independent nominees were so few as properly to be designated as “scattering."

While many men still adhere to the old doctrine of a straight ticket and regard the cutting of a ticket as an act little short of immoral and treacherous, events of the past five years indicate that adherence to this doctrine is much less general than at any time heretofore. For instance, in Chicago, in April, 1897, John M. Harlan, as an independent candidate running upon a distinctly reform platform and without the support of either the Democratic or Republican machine, polled upwards of 69,000 votes against his Democratic opponent's 148,000 and his Republican opponent's 59,000, in the face of a 56,000 majority for McKinley in November, 1896. In New York, in November, 1897, Seth Low, running as a Citizens' Union candidate on a reform platform and without the support of either of the regular party machines, polled 151,000 as against 233,000 for Van Wyck, the Tammany candidate, and 101,000 for Tracy, the Republican candidate, likewise in the face of a McKinley majority the year before. In Philadelphia, in February, 1898, William Henry Rhawn, running as a Municipal League candidate upon a distinctly municipal platform and independent of the support of either of the regular machines, polled 58,000 votes as against 93,000 for the Republican candidate and 34,000 for the Democratic candidate.

These three purely municipal contests waged by municipal candidates upon purely municipal platforms constitute three of

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