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the contention that, in the light of our municipal experience, it concentrates too great a power in the hands of a few men and makes it easier for those who wish to buy a city government to carry out their design. Iowa, however, has sought to meet this objection by establishing the system of recall noted above.' Under this system twenty-five per cent of the voters, who disapprove of the policy of any commissioner or believe that he is not discharging his functions honestly and efficiently, may petition for his removal and compel a new election. The whole question is then submitted to the electorate at large, and if the commissioner is upheld, assuming that he stands for reëlection, he retains his office, but if defeated is supplanted by the popular choice. This system of recall has been extended to some cities which do not have the commission form of government, and is ably defended by many publicists on the ground that it conduces to effective popular control.
Under the Iowa scheme all important franchises must be submitted to popular vote before going into effect; municipal ordinances may be initiated by the voters, and ordinances passed by the commission must be referred to the electorate on a petition properly signed and filed.
The danger of concentrating power in the hands of such a small body is further offset in the Iowa law by the abolition of the party convention as a means of nominating candidates for the offices of mayor and councilmen and the substitution of nomination by direct primary. No party ballot is used at this primary; names are placed upon it by petition; and the two aspirants receiving the highest vote for mayor and the eight aspirants receiving the highest number of votes for councilmen are put upon the regular ballot as candidates for the offices of mayor and councilmen. This ballot is then submitted to the voters at the regular election. While this system does not prevent members of parties from concentrating their efforts upon their own candidates, it does prevent the politicians from forcing their ready-made “slates” upon the voters; furthermore, at the regular election it focusses the attention of the public upon only two candidates for each of the five offices.
This general tendency toward the concentration of power was manifested in the revolution that took place in the government of Boston in 1909. The bicameral city council was abolished and a single-chambered body, composed of nine men, elected on a general ticket by popular vote, was substituted. Partisan nominations for city offices were abolished and nomination by petition signed by 5000 voters adopted. The mayor was authorized to originate all the appropriations except those for school purposes, and the city council merely given the power to reduce any item. The mayor was also given the absolute veto over any ordinance or resolution carrying an appropriation with it. To secure adequate scrutiny and publicity for taxation, appropriations, and expenditures, a permanent finance commission, appointed by the governor, was created and invested with the power of examining all matters relating to appropriations, loans, and expenditures. To improve the personnel of the city administration, a provision was adopted requiring the heads of departments to submit the names of their appointees to the state civil service commission for investigation and approval; and, to remove the control of the politicians in the council over appointments, the mayor was empowered to fill all important administrative offices.?
1 See Readings, p. 531.
Municipal Finances As in the case of the state government, the most important functions of the city at present are those connected with raising and disbursing funds; and, inasmuch as corruption and inefficiency are constantly arising in our municipal finances, special attention has been given within recent years to the problem of budget-making and effective control over city expenditures. In our great cities the financial problem is vast and complicated. The budget of the city of New York for the year 1909 totalled $156,545,148.14 — five times the budget of the state for the same year, and four times the combined budgets of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, and Georgia. The annual increase of the budget of New York within recent years has been greater than the total budget of St. Louis or Baltimore and Cleveland combined,
five times greater than the total budget of Louisville, Kentucky, and ten times greater than the total budget of Kansas City.
Even if all of the officials of the city administration are men of unquestioned integrity, great waste and extravagance in expenditure will inevitably arise unless there is provision for the most scientific bookkeeping and adequate scrutiny and control by capable and responsible authorities. An investigation in New Yo City, in 1908, resulted in some remarkable revelations. It was discovered that cheap coat hooks which any citizen could buy for five cents apiece had been purchased by the city at sixty cents apiece, with an additional charge of five cents for each small screw used to put up the hooks. One hundred and sixtyfive hooks, 172 bolts, and 18 screws cost the city of New York
$117, and it took two workmen thirty-one days at $8 a day to put up the 165 hooks - making a total cost in materials and labor of $365.10, or $2.21 a hook. It was found also that the police department paid 21 cents a pound for nails which any private citizen could get for 4} cents. A charming bit of “high finance” in street contracting was also unearthed: a contractor who was paid to make excavations for paving a street was also paid $900 for filling in a near-by road with the dirt removed from the first one. Similar extravagances and wastes could undoubtedly be discovered in any other large city in the Union.
To remedy these undoubted evils in municipal finance many reforms have been devised and projected. There is, in the first place, a general tendency, as we have seen, to take the budgetmaking out of the hands of the city council and vest it in some smaller and more responsible body. In New York, the budget is made by the board of estimate and apportionment composed of the mayor, comptroller, president of the board of aldermen, and the presidents of the five boroughs. The budget of Boston, under the recent law, is originated by the mayor, and city finances are to be scrutinized by a commission appointed by the governor. In several other cities budget-making is also vested in the hands of some special authority. In Ohio cities, the mayor makes up the budget from estimates furnished by the departments; the council may omit or decrease items, but cannot increase the total of the budget. In Denver, the mayor prepares the estimates and a two-thirds vote is required in the council to change them. In Detroit the budget is prepared by the comptroller; and in San Francisco by the auditor after public hearings.
To secure the desired efficiency in controlling city finances, even where small responsible boards are in charge, many specific reforms have been suggested by experts, of which only a few can be enumerated here. There are two aspects of budget-making. On the one side the will of the voters with regard to the several amounts to be appropriated for the great purposes of city government should be realized, and some provision must therefore be made for enabling the citizens who wish to bring influence to bear on behalf of certain institutions, such as the tenement, health, and school departments, to have an adequate opportunity to be heard by the public authorities in charge of making up the budget. In New York City, the law provides for hearings by the board of estimate and apportionment and it is a common practice for the various departments, taxpayers' associations, and other interests in the city to present their claims. Advocates of improvement in our educational methods, those who wish to see more searching tenement-house and sanitary inspection, those who want new systems of transportation, and all other groups desiring the city to undertake or extend or curtail any particular functions, may present their respective demands before this board. Unfortunately, however, the public does not realize the importance of budget-making, and we are sadly in need of general education with regard to the proper expenditure of municipal revenues.
1 See the Outlook, for August 28, 1909.
2 See the publications of the Bureau of Municipal Research, 261 Broadway, New York City; and the Political Scien e Quarterly for December, 1908.
The second aspect of budget-making is largely concerned with technical matters the effective execution of the public will in the disbursement of funds; but even here the influence of the public should be brought to bear in order to secure scrutiny and publicity. The charter-makers of New York City attempt to provide for this side of financial administration by creating commissioners of accounts, but their purpose has not been realized in practice. Boston has attempted publicity through the commission appointed by the governor with full power to investigate the expenditure of money in the city.
On this technical side certain positive demands are being made in the name of efficiency. A uniform system of bookkeeping should be established in all departments, and when the budgetmaking authority desires to secure specific information from them it ought to send out uniform questions and secure uniform answers, "so that the salary changes and costs of supplies and repairs, etc., will mean the same thing in all estimates, for each department, and for each main division of work." The estimates for pay-rolls and general maintenance for each department should be made on an annual, not a monthly, basis. When increases in pay-rolls are demanded, it should be specifically stated whether
1 See Readings, p. 520.
? See How Should Public Budgets Be Made ? Bureau of Municipal Research, New York City.