Resolved, That in actions against an employer for death or injury of an employee sustained in the course of an industrial employment the fellow-servant rule and the rule of the assumption of risk as defined and interpreted by the common law, should be abolished.
Mr. Pruitt, speaking for the affirmative:
The question which we discuss tonight is partly economic and partly legal. By that I mean that viewing it from the standpoint of legal liability, we possibly can agree with the gentlemen of the Negative that the employer should respond in damages to his injured employee, only when the injury has been caused by the employer's own fault. But, on the other hand, viewing the same problem from an economic standpoint, you cannot deny, that, when through no fault of his own, a worker is injured in the course of an industrial employment, that industry should compensate him for the loss.
Here then is the issue—the world-old-problem—established principles of law in conflict with changing social and economic conditions; and, as history shows, there can in such cases be but one solution. The decision of the court, the statute of the legislature, yes, even the constitution of the nation, must in turn yield to the march of progress and adapt itself to changing conditions until once more it shall reflect the sense of public justice in its own time. Hence, I say that in our discussion this evening, there can be no confusion of issues. The Affirmative, according to the wording of the question, are to advocate a change in our common law, while the Negative in duty bound are to oppose the proposition for change, and to defend as the Negative always defend, the order of things as they are.
The Affirmative are to advocate such a change, the abolition of the common-law defenses of the employer. For the purposes of this debate, it is immaterial to us whether this change is brought about by a simple extension of the employer's liability, or whether it is accompanied, as in many of our states, by a system of workman's compensation. Likewise, it is a consideration extraneous to the issues of this debate, whether the employer shoulder this risk himself, whether he insure it in a private insurance company, or whether he be compelled to insure it in a company managed by the state. At all events, and under any of these plans, the proposition of the Affirmative will be maintained, the employer will be deprived of his defenses at common law, and the employee will recover his damages regardless of questions of fault.
Assuming then the full burden of proof, the Affirmative propose to demonstrate that the assumption of risk and the fellow-servant rule as defined and interpreted by the common law should be abolished, first, because whatever reasons may have justified these doctrines in years gone by they have no application to industrial conditions in our day; and, secondly, because the abolition of these common law defenses will but place the burden of industrial loss, as in justice it should be placed, upon the ultimate consumer of the product of the industry.
Mr. Watson, speaking for the Negative:
The proposed abolition of these two common-law defenses, like every change of law or any suggested reform, is brought to our attention by certain existing evils. The advocates of this reform have a definite proposition in mind and that proposition is definitely and clearly stated in the question. It is a question in which people in every walk of life are concerned. Since it is of such widespread interest, let us lift it from a plane of mere debating tactics, in which a question of this kind is so often placed, and where a great deal of time is spent in arguing what the Affirmative or the Negative may stand for according to the interpretation of the question, let us lift it from that plane, and consider it as practical men and women who are interested in the outcome of this great problem. It is, then, in its larger sense, a legal question and must be considered from the standpoints of justice and of expediency.
It is not enough for the Affirmative to point out evils that exist under these two common-law rules, for there is bound to be some evil in the administration of all law; so they must further show that these evils which they have named are inherent in these two laws, and that the proposed change will remedy the existing evils. Now the Negative maintain that the evils complained of are not inherent in these laws, and we believe that the Affirmative plan is not the proper solution of the problem.
I will show you that these common-law rules are founded on principles of justice and that their removal would be unjust to the employer; second that it would discriminate against the smaller tradesmen, and third that the proposed remedy does not strike at the root of the evil, since it would affect only a small percentage of industrial accidents.
CARL SCHURZ ON GENERAL AMNESTY
(A bill being before Congress proposing to restore to leading Southerners many of the privileges which had been denied them following the war, Mr. Schurz determined the issue as follows:)
Mr. President: When this debate commenced before the holidays, I refrained from taking part in it, and from expressing my opinions on some of the provisions of the bill now before us; hoping as I did that the measure could be passed without difficulty, and that a great many of those who now labor under political disabilities would be immediately relieved. This expectation was disappointed. An amendment to the bill was adopted. It will have to go back to the House of Representatives now unless by some parliamentary means we get rid of the amendment, and there being no inducement left to waive what criticism we might feel inclined to bring forward, we may consider the whole question open.
I beg leave to say that I am in favor of general, or, as this word is considered more expressive, universal amnesty, believing, as I do, that the reasons make it desirable that the amnesty should be universal. The senator from South Carolina has already given notice that he will move to strike out the exceptions from the operation of this act of relief for which the bill provides. If he had not declared his intention to that effect, I would do so. In any event, whenever he offers his amendment I shall most heartily support it.
In the course of this debate we have listened to some senators, as they conjured up before our eyes once more all the horrors of the Rebellion, the wickedness of its conception, how terrible its incidents were, and how harrowing its consequences. Sir, I admit it all; I will not combat the correctness of the picture; and yet if I differ with the gentlemen who drew it, it is because, had the conception of the Rebellion been still more wicked, had its incidents been still more terrible, its consequences still more harrowing, I could not permit myself to forget that in dealing with the question now before us we have to deal not alone with the past, but with the present and future of this republic.
What do we want to accomplish as good citizens and patriots? Do we mean only to inflict upon the late rebels pain, degradation, mortification, annoyance, for its own sake; to torture their feelings without any ulterior purpose? Certainly such a purpose could not by any possibility animate high-minded men. I presume, therefore, that those who still favor the continuance of some of the disabilities imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment do so because they have some higher object of public usefulness in view, an object of public usefulness sufficient to justify, in their minds at least, the denial of rights to others which we ourselves enjoy.
What can those objects of public usefulness be? Let me assume that, if we differ as to the means to be employed, we are agreed as to the supreme end and aim to be reached. That end and aim of our endeavors can be no other than to secure to all the States the blessings of good and free government and the highest degree of prosperity and well-being they can attain, and to revive in all citizens of this republic that love for the Union and its institutions, and that inspiring consciousness of a common nationality, which, after all, must bind all Americans together.
What are the best means for the attainment of that end? This, Sir, as I conceive it, is the only legitimate question we have to decide.
A TYPICAL COLLEGE FORENSIC
The forensic which follows is the one which was used by the State University of Iowa in its debates with the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota in 1908. In the form in which it appears here it was given in a home contest a few evenings before the Inter-State Debate. It is quoted here with the permission of the Forensic League of the State University of Iowa.
Resolved, That American Cities Should Adopt a Commission Form of Government.
Mr. Clarence Coulter, the first speaker on the Affirmative, said:
It is not my purpose to picture the shame of American cities; that is well known; but I am to consider only those evils due to the present form of municipal government, an organization based on the separation of the powers into the legislative, executive, and judicial departments. The proper remedy for these evils will be secured only by adopting a form which concentrates the entire authority of city government in one definite and responsible body.
It is a significant fact, that during the last quarter of a century, the tendency in municipal organization has been toward concentration of powers. Certain of our cities have recognized the wisdom of such action, but have unwisely attempted to concentrate only the executive power whereas the real solution lies in concentrating all governmental authority in one definite and responsible body.
New York City tried such a plan and it has failed; failed because its separate legislative department has proved an obstruction to effective action. Consequently, there has been a continual tendency to deprive the council of all power, until today its only function is to vote on franchises and issue certain licenses. So evident is the imperative need of concentrating the legislative and administrative powers in one body, that there is now a charter revision committee meeting in New York whose great object is to consider the advisability of entirely eliminating the separate council, and creating in its place a small commission possessing both legislative and administrative authority. Practically the same condition obtains in the city of Boston.
What is true of New York and Boston is equally true of scores of other cities. Memphis tried for years to reform her government with an isolated council. Today she is clamoring at the doors of her legislature for a commission charter. Within the past two years more than a dozen states have provided for a commission form of government, while within the past year more than a dozen cities have actually thrown away their old forms and assumed the commission system.
The success of a separate legislative body in state and national government is the only excuse for its retention in our cities, yet the failure, for over a century in all its different forms and variations, proves that such a government is unsuited to them. There are several important and fundamental characteristics of the city that demand a different form of government and show conclusively that there is no need of a separate legislative body. In the first place, the city is not a sovereign government, but is subordinate to state and nation. There is no reason for a distinct legislature to determine the broad matters of policy, for they are determined for the citizens of the city as well as those of the country, by the state and national legislatures, in which both the city and country are represented. In the second place, the work of a city is largely administrative and of a business character, as my colleagues will show, and there is no necessity for a separate council to legislate when a commissioner is better able, as we shall show, to pass the kind of legislation characteristic of the city.
In the third place, we do not find, as in the state, the necessity of a large and separate body to represent the various localities. The city has a large population living in a restricted territory; in the state it is scattered. The city is unified by means of its rapid communication and transportation facilities, and its interests are common. These, Honorable Judges, are some general reasons why there is no necessity for trying to maintain a separate legislative body at the expense of efficiency in administration and the fixing of individual responsibility.
But let us now examine as to wherein this principle of separation fails to meet modern municipal conditions. In the first place we find that this system has failed to produce efficiency, because, in actual practice, it has been impossible to keep the legislative and administrative branches within their proper spheres of action. To be sure, such difficulty does not exist in state and national governments where the work is naturally divided. But in city government, where the work is of a peculiar kind, where it is unified in character and is largely administrative and of a business nature, it has been found impossible to maintain a separation. It is not at all surprising to find that in some cities, the mayor is the dominating factor in both legislation and administration. He is the presiding officer of the council with the deciding vote, and, in addition, is clothed with the veto power. On the other hand, there are scores of instances where the council assumes administrative functions. It names all appointments to office, and it creates and controls all the departments of city government. Under such circumstances the administrative department is subordinate to the council, because its officers can be both appointed and removed by that body and because it can carry on no work without the council's authority. Thus there is an inevitable tendency to concentrate the powers in one of the two branches, yet, at the same time, diffusing responsibility between them. Such a condition only goes to show that city government is gradually but surely working its way toward concentration in one body. But the trouble lies in the fact that the present system makes possible concentration of power, without a corresponding concentration of responsibility. From such a condition have grown two grave and inherent evils. First, it has entirely eliminated the system of checks and balances, which is a fundamental doctrine of the division of power. Secondly, it has utterly destroyed all effective responsibility. It is apparent at once, that when one branch of the government dominates, the checks and balances between the departments are immediately lost, and facts bear out what theory shows to be logically true. The system of checks and balances failed absolutely in New York, where the mayor is supreme, and where the city has been plundered of sums estimated at 7 per cent of the total valuation of real estate. It has failed in St. Louis, where the council dominated, and where "Boss Butler" paid that body $250,000 to pass a street railway franchise. Neither did it work in Philadelphia, which has been plundered of an amount equal to 10 per cent of her real estate valuation; nor in San Francisco under the disgraceful regime of Mayor Schmitz. So overwhelming is the evidence on this point that it is needless to dwell further upon it.
In the second place, this domination of one branch over the other has resulted in a lack of responsibility and of co-ordination in city affairs. These two elements are indispensable where the work to be performed is of a local and business nature. We find that under the present system, no matter which branch of government dominates, there is always a notorious lack of responsibility. If the council makes a blunder in legislation, it immediately lays the blame upon the administrative officials, maintaining that it passed the measure upon recommendation of the administrative branch, or that branch failed to carry out its policy. If the administrative officials are neglectful, they shift the blame onto the council, and insist that the difficulty lies in insufficient legislation. Under such conditions, the average citizen has no way of telling where the blame really lies.
At present, there is no attempt at co-ordination between the legislative, executive, and judicial departments. On the other hand, there is often open rupture between them. For years before the commission form of government was adopted in Galveston, there was open warfare between the legislative and executive departments, which saddled upon the city a bonded debt of many thousands of dollars. In our state, there is a municipality in which the two departments of government are defying each other. Both are exercising legislative and administrative authority until the citizens of that place are at a loss to know which is right. This is admittedly a deplorable state of affairs, yet it is the logical result of forcing upon the city a form of government entirely unsuited for its needs. Moreover, this lack of co-ordination and responsibility has resulted in the confusion of powers and the creation of needless boards and committees. A recent investigation in Philadelphia showed that it had four boards with power to tear up the streets at will, but none to see that they were properly relaid. Chicago finds herself possessed of eight different tax levying bodies, while in New York City there are eighty different boards or individuals who have power to create debt. Is it any wonder that inefficiency and graft infest such a maze of boards, councils and committees? We see, then, that the present system of separation of powers produces inefficiency through a confusion of functions; it does away completely with the system of checks and balances and results in utter lack of responsibility and co-ordination of departments.
Honorable Judges, if we are ever to arrive at a solution of our municipal problem, we must concentrate municipal authority; we must co-ordinate departments, eliminate useless boards and committees and fix absolutely and completely individual responsibility. This, we propose to do by establishing a commission form of government, where all governmental authority is vested in one small body of men, who individually act as the heads of administrative departments, but who collectively pass the needed legislation. Thus, instead of a council with restricted powers and divided authority, we have a few men assuming positions of genuine responsibility, as regards both the originating and enforcing of laws. My colleagues will show that such a concentration of powers in one small body is necessary and desirable, both from the legislative and administrative point of view.
Such a concentration is desirable, since it is accompanied by a corresponding concentration of personal responsibility. This is secured in the commission system. Responsibility in administration is secured, because each commissioner is at the head of a department, for the efficient and honest conduct of which he alone is held personally responsible. Responsibility in legislation is secured, because, first, the body of legislators is comparatively small. Second, the very fact that each commissioner possesses information essential to intelligent action, places upon the commission itself absolute responsibility. Such a system makes it impossible to shift responsibility from one branch to the other, and guarantees to us better and more efficient administration of our municipal affairs for it eliminates all useless boards and committees and fixes absolutely and completely individual responsibility.
Mr. Earl Stewart, the first speaker on the Negative, said:
We wish it understood at the outset that no one deplores the useless boards and complicated machinery in many of our American cities more than do the Negative.
Before going a step farther let us get right as to what we mean by a commission form. The gentlemen state that they are standing for a concentration of all power in one small body. Honorable Judges, they are standing for something different. It is possible to concentrate all authority in one body and yet have the different functions performed by separately constituted bodies. For example, the cabinet system of Germany, where all governing power is vested in the legislative body which in turn delegates all administrative functions to the cabinet. Thus the legislative body is directly responsible, having ultimate authority, yet the actual exercise of power is done by distinct bodies. Now how is it with the commission? There, not only does one body have ultimate authority, but it actually conducts administration as well as legislation. Quoting from Sec. 7 of the Des Moines charter, which is typical of every commission form charter in this regard, it says: "All legislative, executive, and judicial functions of the city shall be placed in the hands of the commissioners who shall exercise those functions." The Affirmative, then, are standing for fusion of functions, and not concentration of powers.
The Negative do not defend the evils of present city organization. The Negative believe that far-reaching reforms must be instituted before we shall enjoy municipal success. The issue then is, does the commission form, or do the reforms proposed by the Negative, offer the more satisfactory solution of our municipal problems?
The Negative propose, first, that the form of organization shall embody a proper correlation or departments.
In the early council system the functions of the legislative and executive departments so overlapped that there was continual conflict of authority. Under the board system the two departments were almost disconnected, so that the legislative department could not hold the executive accountable to the will of the people. In many forms today, as the gentlemen have depicted, the relations between the departments are such that responsibility cannot be fixed.
But, Honorable Judges, these instances of failure do not show that it is impossible to preserve a proper division of functions, for every conspicuous example of municipal success in the world is based upon the proper correlation between the legislative and administrative departments. Municipal success in Europe is an established fact. There we find the cabinet form. A similar form is in vogue in Toronto, Canada, which Mayor Coatswain says is most gratifying to the public. Says Rear Admiral Chadwick: "The city of Newport, Rhode Island, has now a form of government that awakens the interest of the citizens, keeps that interest awake, and conducts its affairs in obedience to the wishes of the majority." Charleston, S. C., Elmira, New York, Los Angeles, Cal., are but a few of the typical American cities which have successfully adopted the ordinary mayor and council form. Says Mayor Rhett, of Charleston: "I am the executive of a city that has been under a mayor and council for over one hundred years. It is quite as capable of prompt action on any matter as any business corporation." The National Municipal League, composed of such men as Albert Shaw, of New York City, and Professor Rowe of the University of Pennsylvania, appointed a committee to formulate a definite program of reform. This committee did not even consider the abandoning of distinct legislative and administrative bodies, but, after three years of unremitting effort, presented a working system, embodying, in the words of the committee itself, the "essential principle of all successful government," namely, the proper correlation between the legislative and administrative departments. That program has left marked traces in the constitution of Virginia, Alabama, Colorado, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Delaware.
Proper correlation between departments is best facilitated in the cabinet form, because all governing power is vested in the legislative body, which in turn delegates all administrative functions to the cabinet. However, many cities have properly correlated mayor and council by utilizing the model charter of the National Municipal League. The Negative, therefore, is here to promulgate no specific form for all American cities: conditions in Boston may require a different mechanism from that in San Francisco, but whatever form, the underlying principle of a proper division of functions must be embodied. The Affirmative must admit that proper correlation of departments has brought about municipal success, as far as mere organization can do so, yet, notwithstanding that, after fifteen years of misrule under the commission form in Sacramento the freeholders by unanimous choice again adopted distinct legislative and administrative bodies; and that the commission form has lately operated but a few years in a few small cities, amid aroused civic interest. The Affirmative would abolish at one blow the working principle of successful city organization in France, Germany, England, Canada, and unnumbered cities in the United States.
In the second place, evils in our cities are due to bad social and economic conditions. Harrisburg, Pa., was notoriously corrupt. A spirit of reform aroused the citizens, and Harrisburg stands today as a remarkable example of efficient government, yet the form of organization has been unchanged.
In many of our large cities there is a feeble civic spirit, due, in part, to undesirable immigrants, the prey to the boss, and utterly lacking in inherited traditions so essential to the capacity of self-government. Another instance: the mutual taxing system has fostered public extravagance and loss of interest on the part of the taxpayer. Again, favor-seeking corporations have continually employed corrupt methods. James Bryce says that in the development of a stronger sense of civic duty rather than any change in the form of government lies the ultimate hope of municipal reform.
A third cause of municipal ills is that of poor business methods. First, unjust election laws and lack of proper primaries have permitted the corrupt arts of the caucus politician. Second, lack of a uniform system of accounting has served only to conceal the facts, resulting in apathy on the part of the people, diffusion of responsibility, and widespread corruption among officials. Third, lack of publicity of proceedings has protected graft. Fourth, lack of civil service has perpetuated the spoils system.
All these can and are being remedied. The Bureau of Municipal Research shows plainly that it is not necessary to change fundamental principles to secure business efficiency. It reorganized the Real Estate Bureau of New York that eluded all graft charges and made 100 per cent profits. The Department of Finance, heretofore unable to tell whether taxes were collected, is reorganized from top to bottom. Through the glaring light of publicity, the bureau collected more than a million dollars for paving done at the public's expense between the street-car company's rails. The old conditions, where examination of the books of any department involved weeks of labor, have given way to a uniform system of public accounting. In the words of the Springfield, Mass., Republican, "The work of the Bureau of Public Research is far more fundamental than the question of substituting city organization with a commission."
A fourth cause of evils is that of state interference in purely local affairs.
In the United States the city may not act except where authorized expressly and especially by the state. In Europe the city may do anything it is not forbidden to do, and municipal success there is based on this greater freedom. The European city, though subject to general state law, makes its own local laws, not in conflict with, but in addition to, state law. But in the United States the state legislature, accustomed to interfere in matters of interest to the state government, failed to distinguish between such matters and those of exclusive interest to the cities themselves. To illustrate: The Cleveland Municipal Association reported in 1900 that legislators from an outside county had introduced radical changes in almost every department of their city government. In Massachusetts the police, water works, and park systems are directly under the state, and the only part the cities have is to pay the bills. In Pennsylvania for thirty-one years the state kept upon the statute books an act imposing upon Philadelphia a self-perpetuating commission, appointed without reference to the city's wishes, and with all power to erect a city hall and levy taxes to collect the twenty-million-dollar cost.
State and national political parties, controlling the legislature, have meddled in the private affairs of the city, resulting in the decay of the city council and the destruction of the local autonomy. Professor Goodnow says that under these conditions a scientific solution of the vexed question of municipal organization has been impossible.
The remedy lies in restoring to the city its proper field of legislation. Already thirty states have passed constitutional amendments granting greater legislative powers to the cities. Five states now allow cities to amend their own charters. But in direct opposition to this movement for municipal home rule, the commission form takes the last step in the destruction of the city's legislative body and fosters continued state interference. President Eliot says that the functions of the commissioners will be defined and enumerated by the state.
Now, Honorable Judges, the basic principle of city government the world over is division of functions. It is the principle that the commission form attempts to annihilate. But we have pointed out the real causes of municipal evils and have shown they are to be remedied without tampering with the fundamental principles which time and experience have shown to be correct in every instance of successful city organization. The Affirmative say: change the fundamental principle; all changes in form and other remedies are insufficient. The Negative say: retain the principle of distinct legislative and administrative bodies, but observe a proper correlation between them which is done in countless instances as we have shown. We would remedy bad social and economic conditions, introduce better business methods, and, most important of all, give the city greater freedom in powers of local self-government.
Mr. Clyde Robbins, the second speaker of the Affirmative, said:
It should be understood at the outset that the Affirmative desire all the local self-government for American cities that the Negative can induce the state legislatures to give them. But just what is home rule for cities? It is simply granting additional functions to the city by the state legislature. The only possible way home rule can affect the question under discussion is a consideration of which form of government is best suited to perform additional functions granted by the government. We maintain that the commission form can do this better because, first, it furnishes superior legislation, and second, it furnishes superior administration.
The gentleman blandly assumes that the commission form is fundamentally wrong, because it fails to provide a separate legislative body as do the governments of the state and nation. An isolated legislative body is desirable for state and national governments. Is that a reason for applying it to city government? Here, social, economic, and political conditions are entirely different from those of either state or nation. The city is not a sovereign body. Its powers are exclusively those delegated to it by the state legislature. They are confined wholly to matters of local concern. Furthermore, we do not deny the legislative functions of the city, nor does the plan we advocate contemplate the destruction of the city's legislative body. It simply means that in place of the present notoriously inefficient, isolated council, we establish a commission council composed of the heads of the various administrative departments. The question at issue is not whether we shall have a city council, either system provides for that; but whether a commission council, or an isolated council will furnish better ordinances. We are contending that the commission council must furnish superior measures, because in the making of city ordinances there are at least three great essentials for which this commission council alone makes adequate provision.
First the legislative and administrative work of the city must be unalterably connected;
Second, the councilmen must have a direct and technical knowledge of the city affairs;
Third, the councilman must be representative of the whole city.
Consider, first, how the legislative and administrative work are connected. State and national legislation are general in their nature and scope. The extent of territory, and the variety in local needs have naturally created a separate law-making body. But in the city such conditions do not exist. The legislative acts of the council are specific in their nature. The very name reveals their distinctive character. They are ordinances as distinguished from other laws, and are designed to meet a particular kind of administration. The specific act and the particular administration of it go hand in hand. Hence, satisfactory measures can be enacted only when they come from the hands of a commission council.
President Eliot recognized this fact when he said that the work of the city council is not concerned with far-reaching policies of legislation. There is no occasion for two or even one separate legislative body. Dr. Albert Shaw writes, that so indistinguishably blended are the legislative and administrative departments of the city, that it is impossible to separate one from the other.
Second, a commission council is more effective because it furnishes a direct and technical knowledge of city affairs. An investigation in Des Moines showed that out of 370 acts performed by the council, 32 were granting of saloon licenses and similar permits; 338 concerned matters demanding technical knowledge. To have a street paved, shall one body legislate; a second group administer; and a third pass upon the validity of the whole thing? Rather the councilmen should know good paving; they should know how to draw up and enforce a business contract. These are the vital necessities.
The commission council secures such results. Its membership is comparatively small. Its sessions are held daily. Its members have a direct knowledge of the city's needs for each one serves as the head of a department. Satisfactory legislation then becomes a mere business proposition. It is but carrying forward the work of each commissioner, for successful administration is impossible without competent legislation. Hence, a city commissioner would no more think of passing improper legislation than a bank director would think of advising unsound loans.
The Cedar Rapids commission met to legislate on replacing an old bridge. The commissioner of public safety told in what respects the old structure was unsafe. The commissioner of public property knew how much land the city owned abutting the bridge. The commissioner of streets explained what alterations should be made in the approaches, and the commissioner of finance knew in just what way the city could best pay for the improvement. Honorable Judges, such men are in a position to legislate with thoroughness. They are a commission council, the very nature of which makes it inevitable that they act with intelligence and efficiency.
Contrast now, the commission council with the isolated council. Here we find positively no co-ordination between the legislative and administrative branches, while a century of experience with the scheme of checks and balances has proved conclusively that it can not prevent municipal corruption. Moreover, legislation by the isolated council is not only chaotic in form but it is irresponsible, while in the case of the commission council the very fact that the head of each department possesses necessary information not only secures adequate legislation but fixes with certainty the entire responsibility.
The isolated council is a large and unwieldy body. Each member of it has his own private occupation. Without special preparation of any kind he attends council not oftener than once a week. Intelligent action under such conditions is simply impossible. The only way this council has of securing reliable information is from the heads of the administrative departments. But even then responsibility is still divided between the legislative and administrative branches. This deplorable state of affairs has been synchronous with the growth of the isolated council in America.
Is it any wonder that the old Des Moines council voted to construct a bridge only to find when the work was completed that the city did not even own the approaches, or that the old Cedar Rapids council let a similar contract at an exorbitantly high price, only to find, when the work was completed, that the contract called for no protecting wings or abutments, and the city was compelled to spend many thousands of dollars additional in order to make the structure safe? Such nonsensical legislation is a direct result of the isolated council. It fails to provide information essential to intelligent action. It does not permit a proper co-ordination of departments so vitally necessary in successful city government.
Lastly, city legislation demands unbiased representation. In this respect a commission council is superior to an isolated council.
In the commission council each member represents the entire city. Hence, there is no incentive to favor one ward at the expense of another. In fact, any such an attempt could result only in disaster to the commissioner himself. Furthermore, each commissioner is held individually responsible for his department. Consequently he is forced to insist upon an impartial representation of the entire city. This is well illustrated by the present situation in New York City. The Bureau of Municipal Research, admittedly the most practical organization of its kind in the country, is conducting its work along the line of effective competency in city departments. As a result of its investigations, the citizens of New York have been forced to the conclusion to which my colleague has already referred, namely, that the ultimate solution of their municipal difficulties will be reached only when they have disposed of their present inefficient and useless ward council and created in its place a commission council.
Under the isolated council a member is elected to represent a certain section of the city. He must do this, no matter what may be the effect upon the rest of the city. For example, in legislating on the annual budget, each ward boss brings pressure to bear upon his own councilman to have certain levies reduced, and to secure stipulated appropriations for his own ward. In New York City last spring, Bird S. Coler, representing a part of Brooklyn, blocked every appropriation until he secured certain selfish measures for his own district. What is true of New York is an annual occurrence in practically every other ward-ruled American city.
Furthermore, councilmen from one ward are shamefully unresponsive to the needs and desires of citizens in other wards. Just this summer the council of Duluth, Minn., granted saloon licenses for a ward in which 90 per cent of its citizens signed a written protest against such action. The councilmen representing that district were helpless to prevent the legislation and the citizens themselves had no recourse whatsoever. The grand jury in St. Louis reported that the wards of that city were an actual menace to decency and good government.
With these instances before us it is well to remember that the scheme of ward representation is a necessary part of the practical operation of the separation of powers in government. This is exemplified in our national, state, and city organizations. In fact, the principal reason for an isolated legislative body is that the sentiments of the different localities may be expressed in legislation. The practical result is that 95 per cent of our city governments are based upon ward representation, nor can an instance be cited in all American political theory which shows the creation of a successful political organization based upon an isolated legislative body in which there has not been an accompanying representation by territorial districts. This principle is always the same no matter whether it be a congressional district of the national government or a ward of the city government. Hence, it is for this principle that the gentlemen must contend if they wish to argue for an isolated council in city government.
In conclusion, Honorable Judges, a commission council is superior to an isolated council, because the work of city legislation and administration must be unalterably connected; because the councilmen must have a direct and technical knowledge of city affairs; and, because the councilmen must be representative of the whole city.
Mr. Vincent Starzinger, the second speaker on the Negative, said:
The Affirmative continue to direct their attack against the "old form." Yet my colleague has suggested substantial changes in present city organization, changes which have brought about success wherever tried. Moreover, we wish to make it clear that we are not necessarily standing for a division of power. There may be separately constituted departments of government, one primarily for administration, the other primarily for legislation, yet a concentration of authority in one of them, as in the case under the cabinet system of Europe. The gentlemen of the opposition are advocating not only a concentration of power, but a fusion of functions as well. Their commission is at once the executive cabinet and the legislative body.
We have heard much about the practical working of the new plan. Upon this matter, the Negative shall have a few words to say before the close of the debate. But granting for the sake of argument that the commission form has operated with some degree of success in a few small towns, especially when compared with the admitted inefficient machinery of government in vogue before its adoption and when favored by an aroused civic interest, nevertheless, it does not follow that it is adapted to the needs of the typical American city. There, administration is a matter of great complexity and of vital importance. Boston has pay-rolls including 12,000 and annual expenditure of $40,000,000. Successful administration under such conditions has necessitated the growth of city departments. The heads of the various departments constitute an executive cabinet. Under the commission form, this cabinet is established by popular election and made the single governmental body for the performance of both the legislative and the administrative functions.
Such a fusion of functions must necessarily result: in poor administration; in the sacrifice of legislation; and in the ultimate destruction of local self-government.
Consider the problem of administration.
An efficient cabinet cannot, as a rule, be secured by popular election. Men who possess the ability to direct a city department acquire such capacity only after years of preparation, and such men will not endure the uncertainties of a career dependent upon the favor of the public. The commissioner of finance who understands the intricate problems of accounting will not coddle the people to insure his election. Popular judgment, no matter how enlightened, cannot be entrusted with the selection of such men. The old board system proves this conclusively. Here, the choosing of the heads of the important city departments was placed in the hands of the people. The system stands condemned.
A commission form makes the additional blunder of uniting completely the two functions of legislation and administration in the same body. This makes the commissioners representative in character. But this condition is disastrous to successful administration. Whenever the people desire even the slightest change in their local policy, the stability and continuity of the city departments must be upset. Representation is secured at the expense of efficiency. Administration becomes saturated with politics.
Again, Honorable Judges, the management of a city should be subjected to the criticism and control of a reviewing body. Both the welfare of the people and the interests of good administration demand it. Administrators, no matter how valuable their technical knowledge, make poor legislators. Being interested in their work, they very naturally exalt and magnify their departments. Just a few years ago, the city of Cleveland found it necessary to take even the preparation of the budget from the heads of the departments concerned and to place it with a board which could view with impartiality the demands of the various department chiefs. Think of turning over all the functions of a city like St. Louis to an executive cabinet without even the oversight or criticism of an impartial body.
And, Honorable Judges, the whole experience of government proves the absolute necessity for a separate legislative department. Look where you will, and in each case there is an executive cabinet, based upon appointment, untrammelled by the burdens of legislation, and subjected to the criticism and control of a reviewing body. In Europe, the city councils are elected by the people, and the administrative departments are made up through a process of selection and appointment, together with the assurance of reasonable permanence of tenure, responsibility, and adequate support. Likewise in America, the larger cities are already organizing their cabinets upon a somewhat similar basis. The six largest cities of New York, all of the cities of Indiana, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, and many others are securing their important administrative officials through appointment by the mayor. This is the general plan advocated by the National Municipal League. It centers responsibility for the administration in one man. On the other hand, some of the cities of Canada follow more closely to the German system. There the cabinet is selected by a representative council. In practically all of these instances, men of special ability have been obtained, the departments of administration have been properly correlated, responsibility has been concentrated, and the general principle, that successful administration depends upon a separately constituted legislative body, has been firmly established.
It is plain then that a commission form violates the fundamental principles of successful administration. It first attempts to secure a cabinet by popular vote. It then upsets the stability of the city departments by completely uniting both the legislative and the administrative functions. Finally, it destroys the responsibility of that prime essential of successful administration, namely, a proper reviewing body.
In the second place, Honorable Judges, the permanent adoption of a commission form must necessarily mean a sacrifice of legislation and the ultimate destruction of local self-government. Even though the city may be subordinate to the state, nevertheless, it has a broad field of independent action. Otherwise, why give it a separate personality and a separate organization? Cities are permitted to exercise vast powers of police and of taxation. It is idle to say that a few commissioners can give satisfactory legislation. They cannot represent community interests. Their executive functions will naturally bias their judgment. Moreover, each commissioner, knowing little of the needs of the other departments, will naturally take the word of its administrative head, especially since he desires the same freedom. This was actually the case in Sacramento, Cal., where the commission plan was tried for fifteen years and given up as an abject failure. Says the Hon. Clinton White of that city: "In almost every instance, the board soon came to the understanding that each man was to be let alone in the management of the department assigned to him. This resulted in there being in fact no tribunals exercising a supervisory power over the executive of a particular department." Honorable Judges, a reviewing and legislative body is indispensable in city government and a commission makes no such provision. Weak in administration, wholly lacking in matters of legislation, dangerous as a theory of government, it cannot help but result in the complete subjection of local government to the state. The inevitable result of its permanent adoption will be that the important local legislative functions will become a mere administrative board with discretionary power as in the case of Washington, D.C. In the words of Professor Goodnow: "The destruction of the city council has not destroyed council government. It has simply made local policy a matter of state legislative determination." If we wish to destroy the life of the city, make it impotent to discharge the functions for which it was organized, then, and then only, it might be feasible to place over it a commission.
But, Honorable Judges, authorities are agreed that cities must be allowed greater freedom of action in local affairs, that municipal home rule is indispensable. The governments of our large cities have been dominated to such an extent by the state legislatures, usually partisan and irresponsible to the locality concerned, that in many cases self-government has become a term, hollow and without meaning.
The gentlemen condemn the city council, yet they pass over the real cause for its decay. Restore to the city its proper legislative powers, confine the work of the council to legislation instead of allowing it to go into details of administration, reduce the number of councilmen, if necessary, adjust the method of representation, introduce needed electoral and primary reform, establish responsibility by means of uniform municipal accounting and publicity of proceedings, and we ask the gentlemen in all earnestness why American city councils will not take on new life just as the city councils of every other country have done in the past.
The two great problems of American city government are: first, administration; secondly, municipal home rule. The solution of both depends upon the existence of two separately constituted departments of government. This principle is being emphasized by the leading scholars of political science, as illustrated by the program of the National Municipal League. In fact, Honorable Judges, every deep-seated reform in our large cities for the past quarter of a century has tended toward this cardinal doctrine of municipal success. The Ohio Municipal Code Commission, after two years of careful study and observation, presented a bill based upon the principles which we defend tonight, namely, a separation of administration from legislation, and secondly, municipal home rule.
In direct opposition to this, the gentlemen present and advocate as a permanent scheme for the organization of American cities, both large and small, a commission form, a quasi-legislative and administrative board patterned to give mediocrity in the performance of both functions, success in neither; a form which destroys forever the possibility of developing an efficient executive cabinet and is entirely out of harmony with the advancing idea of municipal home rule.
Mr. George Luxford, the third speaker on the Affirmative, said:
It has been made very clear by my colleagues that the present shameful condition of many of our American cities is due in large measure to the peculiar form of the government patterned after a scheme which is adapted to a sovereign government like the state or nation. The Negative demand an isolation which history shows, so far as our American cities are concerned, leads to a complete confusion of functions, with a consequent loss of responsibility. Knowing the inadequacy of the scheme they then demanded municipal home rule; but we have shown that the Affirmative are thoroughly committed to municipal home rule which under the commission form alone can be safely intrusted to cities. State interference in city government is the child of the form of government for which our friends of the Negative are sponsors. Thus far the gentlemen have failed to disprove the points which we have presented that the theory of checks and balances when applied to American cities has failed; that the plan of concentrating municipal authority under one head as advocated by the commission plan is in complete harmony with modern industrial and social development, and that the plan is superior from a legislative standpoint. It shall be my purpose to show that it is superior from the standpoint of administration. We believe this because the commission lends itself to the application of business methods. The plan provides for a comparatively small body of men who meet in daily session and who give their whole time to the work of governing the city. At present, too often the real business of the officials is anything else. They give their spare time to the city and we have seen the results. Honorable judges, we claim that there is a special virtue in the very smallness of the number inasmuch as they are properly paid, devote all their time to their work, and are made in fact governors of the city. They have a great deal of work to do and they do it, while under our present systems the councilmen have comparatively little to do and they fail to do that little efficiently.
The reason why this small body can administer with dispatch and efficiency is seen at a glance. Each commissioner is the head of a department for which he is personally responsible. He is not hindered as is the executive at present by an inefficient and meddling council which has more power, often, than the executive himself. He knows the laws for he has helped to make them. It is his business to see that they are executed, and if they are not, he cannot escape blame. He cannot plead ignorance, lack of responsibility, or lack of power as do present administrative officers.
Moreover, this body is admirably constituted for effective carrying out of city business. It is larger than the single headed executive and possesses, therefore, a division of work which makes the administration far more effective. At the same time it is smaller than the old council and for that reason is more efficient in enacting the city's peculiar kind of legislation. In actual practice, and that seems to be the real test of city government, both administration and legislation are accomplished with accuracy and dispatch. For instance, every spring for the last decade carloads of "dagoes" with their dirt and disease have come to Cedar Rapids. Every year protests have gone up to both mayor and council, but without result. Cedar Rapids has adopted a commission form of government. Last spring when the "dagoes" came the same complaints went up as usual, that because of their insanitary methods these people carried with them filth and disease. But the petitioners did not go to the city council which met once in two weeks, nor were they referred to a committee which met less often. They went directly to the commissioners who had charge of the city health and in less than twenty-four hours the "dagoes" had been notified to either clean up or leave, and they left the city. But, say the opponents of this plan, this could have been done under the old system. To be sure, but the burning fact remains that in spite of the protests of the people, it was not done.
In Houston the government was both inefficient and dishonest. For years the annual expenditures had exceeded the income a hundred thousand dollars. The city adopted a commission form and a four hundred thousand dollar floating debt was paid off in one year out of the ordinary income of the city. At the same time the city's taxes were reduced ten per cent. In the health department alone there is a saving of from $100 to $150 per month, while a combination in the operation of the garbage crematory and pumping station saves the city $6,000 annually. These results have been accomplished under a commission plan by the application of common, everyday business principles.
Galveston adopted a commission plan, and although its taxable values were reduced twenty-five per cent by the storm of 1900, yet within six years its commissioners not only put the city on a cash basis, made improvements costing $1,000,000 annually, but actually paid off a debt of $394,000 which had been incurred by the old council, and all this was accomplished without borrowing a dollar, issuing a bond, or increasing the rate of taxation. Other cities which have adopted a commission plan are accomplishing equally as beneficial results. Hence, we maintain that the commission form of city government is superior from the standpoint of efficiency in administration.
The commission plan is superior in administration for it is adapted to the city's financial problem. The same body of men are held responsible for the levying and collecting of taxes and for the spending of the money. This is desirable because the administrative body which is to spend money knows, accurately, the city's need of revenue. They are in a position to know; it is their business. A legislative body, whether council or a board, cannot know the city's needs for money without getting the facts from the administrative body. F.R. Clow says the council does not pretend to know the city's revenue problem and they adopt the recommendation of the administrative departments. The Negative's system of division of powers simply divides the responsibility between the legislative and administrative departments for the thing which in fact has been done by the administrative department itself. Since the administrative department really dictates the budget, it should be held directly responsible for it. Therefore, we contend that the commissioners, knowing best what the budget should contain because as administrators they know the city's need for money, are the body of men preeminently fitted to handle the city's budget.
The commission plan is adapted to the city's financial problem because it fosters economy. Economy is the result of understanding. The commissioners knowing the city's government, not from the administrative side alone, but from the legislative side as well, are in a position to economize and in practice they have done so. The running expenses of Galveston under the commission plan have been reduced one-third. In Houston it costs $12,800 a year less to run the water and light plants than formerly, while by a combination of work in the different departments there is a saving of $9,000 annually. In Cedar Rapids, since the adoption of the commission plan, there has been a reduction in the paving contracts let of ten and one-fifth per cent, in sewerage contracts, fourteen and two-sevenths per cent, and in water contracts, twenty per cent. Immediately after the adoption of the commission plan in Des Moines the annual cost of each arc-light was reduced five dollars. Reports from all the cities using the commission plan show that by the use of business principles the commissioners have economized in the administration of the city's government.
The commission plan is adapted to the city's finances because it provides a superior safeguard. Legislative bodies in our cities have been depended upon to represent the citizens' best interest. In practice, as we have pointed out, they have not done so. Never in the history of our municipal affairs, says Henry D.F. Baldwin, has a legislative body stood out as the representatives of the people against the administrative department. Why then continue a representative body which does not in fact represent? Instead of the withered form of a council or legislative body standing between the citizen and his government the commission plan simply removes this useless obstacle and allows the citizen to participate directly in the government. This is directly in harmony with the well-established economic principle that the self-interest of the taxpayer will control where responsibility is fixed.
Mr. Charles Briggs, the third speaker on the Negative, said:
It will be well while the matter is fresh in our minds, Honorable Judges, to make a brief examination of one matter of which the Affirmative are making a feature, that the commission form affords unusual safeguards for the financial and economic interests of the city. Now, in all fairness to the scheme which is doing quite well in a very few of our smaller cities, the question ought to be raised as to what other form of city government could be devised which would provide greater opportunities for graft and corruption. A little group of autocrats is the ideal form for which the ardent corruptionists might pray. They have it in the commission form. Exemplary men in office or a constant civic interest, may prevent the commissioners from becoming a band of robbers; but are these two preventives likely always to exist? Human experience says "No." The history of New Orleans and Sacramento confirm that decision. Civic interest is bound to subside; corrupt men are sure to become commissioners. Then the oligarchy advocated by the Affirmative becomes not a "safeguard" but a band of raiders equipped by the very form of government to loot the treasury. We must insist, at this point, that our opponents have failed in their assault upon our main contention:
First, that the evils in American city government are not attributable to the fundamental principles of that government; second, that the principles underlying the proposed form are in themselves wrong and are not consonant generally with American ideals. It remains to be shown that the commission form is impracticable as a general scheme for the government of all American cities.
We can very well agree that where the commission form of government has been tried it has been productive of some good results, and further, that in certain homogeneous communities of high culture and intelligence it might work with considerable success; but that the result obtained in cities where the commission form has been tried would warrant the universal adoption of it by American cities we must deny.
We deny the wisdom of adopting the commission form for it results in inadequate responsibility; third, it could never work in the vast majority of American cities. These reasons are apparent from examinations of the commission form where it has been and is being tried, and are inherent in the plan itself.
The tremendous centralization of power under this form of city government cannot escape a critical observer. A small body of men have absolute sway over the destiny of the city. They make all laws from the minutely specified contract for a water system to all important school legislation. All franchises are engineered by them. All contracts, great and small, are let by them. The city's bonded debt is in their hands; by them the city is taxed and incumbered. Parks, police, streets, education, public buildings, engineering, finance—everything from the smallest administrative duty to the all-engrossing functions of legislation devolves upon this commission. They can vacate any office, can create any office, and without limit fix any salary they choose. The entire officialdom, outside of the commission itself, and all the employes and the servants of the city are by law made the agents, servants, and dependents of the council. The possibilities for machine power with this autocratic centralization of authority are without condition. We can demonstrate this best by giving practical illustrations taken from the active operation of the commission form. We may preface these by saying that there is nothing inherent in the commission form or any of its attributes which can insure the selection of better men for office. The members of the commission will be about the same kind of men as the ordinary city official. Minneapolis by an election at large placed in the mayor's chair its most notorious grafter. This is proved by the personnel of the commissions where the system is being tried. The investigating committee appointed by the city of Des Moines, quoting their exact words, say that in Houston, where the commissioners are required to stay in the city hall every day, business men do not hold those positions, although the salaries are higher than the proposed salaries of the Des Moines commissioners. One commissioner was formerly a city scavenger, another a blacksmith, justice of the peace and alderman, a third a railway conductor, fourth a dry-goods merchant, and the mayor, a retired capitalist. Mr. Pollock of Kansas City says of the Des Moines commission, "The commission as elected consists of a former police judge and justice of the peace who is mayor-commissioner at the salary of $3,500; a coal miner, deputy sheriff; the former city assessor, whose greatest success has been in public office; a union painter of undoubted honesty and integrity, but far from a $3,000 man; an ex-mayor and politician, who is perhaps the most valuable member of the new form of government, but whose record does not disclose any great business capacity aside from that displayed in public office." The Des Moines committee says of the Galveston commission: "This is a perpetual body, a potentially perfect machine." There has been no change in the membership of the Galveston commission since it was organized. The extensive power of the commissioners have enabled them to control all political factions and to completely crush the opposition. The commissioners' faction is in complete control and even goes so far as to dictate nominations for the legislature and the national congress. In Des Moines we find evidences of this machine power in the very first session of the commission. Mr. Hume was appointed chief of police because he had delivered the labor vote to Mr. Mathis. The Daily News, the only Des Moines paper that supported the plan, was rewarded by having three of its staff appointed to responsible positions. Mr. Lyman was appointed secretary to Commissioner Hammery, Neil Jones secretary to Mayor Mathis. Another man was appointed to an important technical position. A brakeman was appointed street commissioner because he delivered the vote of the Federation of Labor.
These are but a few of the instances where this great centralization of power has shown itself in practice to be a system permitting of unrestricted machine power and political grafting. New Orleans tried the system and abandoned it over 20 years ago because of this very reason. The inhabitants were afraid of this tremendous centralization of power.
The friends of the commission idea claim for it the advantage of centered responsibility; but practice has proved that this form of city government is actually formulated to defeat responsibility. By the construction of this governing body each commissioner is held responsible for his respective department. But regulation for each department is made not by the commission as a whole but by the whole commission. This results in a confusion of powers. Thus in the city of Des Moines, Mr. Hume, the personal enemy of Commissioner Hammery was made chief of police by three other members of the commission for political reasons.
Who is responsible for the mistakes of Mr. Hume? The people say Hammery. But Hammery says: "I had nothing to do with his appointment." It has actually happened time and again at the commission table in Des Moines that regulations for the financial department were made by the police commission, the street commissioner and the commissioner of parks and public buildings; that the police commissioner would have the deciding vote on some important school legislation; or the commissioner of education control the appointment of policemen. This defect has given rise to log-rolling. Bridges have been built as a personal favor to one commissioner whose vote is needed to construct a new schoolhouse. Large paving and building contracts are let simply because the police commissioner wanted to oust some unfaithful political dependent. In this way each commissioner gains great favor with the voters and at the same time can escape personal responsibility for technical mistakes by shouldering the blame onto the whole commission where his identity is lost. This department trading has found its way into the Galveston commission, claimed to have the best commission of any city under this form of government. Here we find that at the same time the prosecutor of the city cases in the police court is allowed the right to collect a fee of $10 for every criminal, drunk, or vagrant convicted, and $5 for every one who pleads guilty; a 50-year franchise is granted to the Galveston Street Railway Co. without a vote of the people, the city not to receive one cent of tax and no compensation.
So, Honorable Judges, we must consider that, while the commission form may be a temporary success in a few small cities, its permanent success there is in grave doubt. Under these conditions we do not ask that it be abolished, but that under no circumstances its application be made general in this country where other forms of city government are in practice more successful and in theory more correct.
Mr. Earl Stewart opened for the Negative:
The gentlemen contend that the work of the city is almost wholly of a business nature. Honorable Judges, if the city does not have important legislative duties, what do we mean by local self-government? The courts have held again and again that the work of the city is primarily governmental. Says Judge Dillon: "The city is essentially public and political in character." Not a business corporation in this country could place vast sums of money in the hands of four of five men without the safeguard of some supervising body. Yet New York City has an annual expenditure of $150,000,000, equaled by the aggregate of seven other American cities of 400,000 population; more than that of nations; three times that of the Argentine Republic; four times that of Sweden and Norway combined. Honorable Judges, the American people are too business-like ever to place the entire raising, appropriating, and extending of such vast sums of money, or the half, or the quarter, or the tenth of such, in the hands of five men without the adequate check and safeguard of some supervising and reviewing body, call it congress, legislature, or council.
The gentlemen condemn divisions of powers because the city's functions are of such a mixed nature and no strict line of separation can be drawn. Granted. We have emphasized repeatedly that we are not standing for division of powers; we are standing for separately constituted bodies, which shall co-operate. We are defending no system of disconnected committees which the gentlemen have spent a whole speech in attacking, and we have shown, furthermore, that the evils are only augmented by going to the other extreme and completely confusing the functions in one small body. The gentlemen see no difference between principles of government and the form or mechanism which embodies, adequately or inadequately, those principles. They forget that the National Municipal League debated for three years over detail of form, never once disagreeing as to the essential principle of distinct bodies for legislation and administration. They forget that the model charter, which is efficient because it has a proper co-ordination of departments, is based upon the same principle of separately constituted bodies as the old board system with its disconnected departments and complicated machinery. Because the machinery has been inadequate, owing to causes which the gentlemen have ignored, they would abolish the working principle which is proved correct in every instance of successful city organization, wherever found.
Just a word on this over-worked argument of centering responsibility. Accountability means that a man charged with the performance of a task shall be held undividedly responsible for it. Now the commissioners collectively legislate. They can not do this without constantly and seriously intruding upon the work of the several departments. The moment this is done, responsibility is diffused. The Hume incident, mentioned by my colleague, is abundant illustration of the way responsibility is fixed under a commission form. Says Professor F.I. Herriot, head of the department of political science in Drake University and statistician of the Iowa board of control: "A commission form cuts at the very roots of official accountability and responsibility and, strange enough, it is because its friends believe that it enhances fixing of responsibility that they propose it." This from a scholar who has watched the plan in operation. A commission form does not fix responsibility, but even granting for the sake of argument that it does, are we to sacrifice representative government for the sake of fixing responsibility? If so, then why not make it still more definite and establish one-man power? Honorable Judges, we have shown that responsibility is more effectively centered by establishing uniform accounting and publicity.
The affirmative contend that the commissioners will furnish superior legislation. Now we do not say that knowledge of administration is of no benefit in legislation. But the necessary information can be secured without confusing the functions in a small executive cabinet. In Europe it is done by making the cabinet responsible to the council. In the United States, for example, Baltimore, it is done by having the cabinet meet and co-operate with the council. Nothing can be done by withholding the information, and as a matter of fact, the city secures all the benefit of the technical training of its administrators without the disadvantage of confusion of functions.
Mr. Clarence Coulter opened for the Affirmative:
It has been argued by the Negative that the success of the commission form of government is based upon the assumption of electing good men to office, and as an illustration, that the Des Moines commissioners are inefficient members of the old city hall gang. As it happens, however, one of the commissioners is a man with a national reputation as a municipal expert, a man whose honesty and integrity have never once been questioned. The commissioner of public safety has been trained for his position by long experience in municipal affairs and is a college graduate. Admitting, however, for the sake of argument, that the gentleman's contention is true; yet the unquestioned success of the Des Moines government proves the wisdom of the commission plan, for it so centralizes individual responsibility as to require honest and efficient performance of duty on the part of each commissioner.
Now as to securing good men. In the first place, the negative did not, and cannot, cite a single city in which the commission plan has failed to secure good men. Better men are elected under the commission plan, for the number of elective offices is greatly decreased, while the responsibility and honor of the position is relatively increased. Moreover, the government is put on a business basis and the commissioners are given steady employment at a good salary. They have an opportunity to make a genuine record for themselves, as well as to serve the best interests of the city. On the other hand, the fact that responsibility is definitely centered on each commissioner will, in itself, prevent men of no ability or grafting politicians from seeking office. Political parties no longer have any opportunity of putting men of little ability into office, but instead, competent men with a genuine interest in the city affairs and with no party affiliations whatever, so far as municipal affairs are concerned, will be attracted to the position of commissioner.
The opposition go further and charge that, even though efficient men may be elected to office, the commission plan makes impossible the fixing of responsibility. They failed, however, to point out a single instance in commission-governed cities to prove their point and made no attempt to show how responsibility could be better fixed under the present system. As a matter of fact, Honorable Judges, the fixing of individual responsibility, under the present system, is utterly impossible, as we have already shown, while it is the strongest virtue of the commission plan. In matters of pure administration it is absolutely impossible for the commissioner to escape individual responsibility, for he has full charge of the administration of his own department. In matters of legislation, where the majority vote of the commission may determine a policy affecting a certain commissioner, responsibility is not lost but is fixed upon those few who voted for such policy.
It has been contended that the commission form of government is unpopular and that this plan has been rejected in both Sioux City and Davenport. That these cities rejected it is true. But why? Sioux City turned it down because the constitutionality of the plan had not, at that time, been determined. Davenport refused to accept it because the grafting politicians and the political ring so dominated the city's politics that they were able to defeat the new plan and retain the old, which was best suited to the furtherance of their own ends.
The gentlemen of the opposition have argued that the present inefficiency of city government is due to the interference of the state legislatures and contend that the ultimate solution of the difficulty lies in greater municipal home rule. They are correct, Honorable Judges! The state legislature has interfered. But why? Simply because the city council has proved itself inefficient. New York City's council was in full possession of its powers when the state legislature began to interfere. Legislation by somebody was necessary. The council failed, and now the negative say, give back to the city its powers and let the council try again.
According to the gentlemen themselves, the end to be achieved is less interference of state legislatures and more home rule. It is obvious, however, that this can be accomplished only when the city itself can put forth a capable and efficient legislative body. Honorable Judges, in our second speech we proved to you, that the commission provides a small but efficient legislative body, far superior to that of an isolated council. If you want municipal home rule, establish a form of government which makes it possible.
Mr. Charles Briggs replied for the Negative:
My colleague has proved that whatever the form of government, there must be a body capable of wise legislation, in fact, that there must be a body that is primarily legislative in character no matter what its connection or relation with the other departments of government. That a small commission, burdened with administrative and judicial functions, is not a proper legislative body is at once apparent. My colleague has demonstrated that this confusion of powers must result in inefficiency. But further than this, it is our contention that a body such as is the commission, without respect to the confusion of powers, without regard to the administrative duties weighing upon it, that this commission, of itself, is not suited to legislation.
There is no more reason for placing the legislation of the city of Chicago in the hands of five men than that the state legislature of Minnesota should be reduced to five members. It is true that, in many respects, the legislation of a city differs from that of a state, but it is, nevertheless, legislation, and in the larger cities particularly it is necessary that there be a representative legislative body. Five men no more constitute a proper legislative body for 800,000 or a million people of a city than for that many people outside the city. It is contrary to the fundamental conception of a legislative body that it be composed of a few. In no country of free institutions is a legislative body so constituted. My colleague has proved, and it cannot be successfully controverted, that in the city, as well as in the state, there is a large field for legislation. Why, then, should there not be a legislative body to perform the work of legislation? Why place the work in the hands of a body that is primarily administrative in character?
This objection alone must forever prevent the larger cities of the United States from adopting the commission plan. Or, if adopted, it must, for this reason alone, prove itself a failure.
Mr. Robbins replied for the Affirmative:
The Negative argue that the mechanisms of government in Boston may differ from those of San Francisco. This is not a discussion of the mechanisms of government. It involves deep and fundamental principles relative to a given form of city organization. The gentlemen have not, nor cannot, cite one iota of evidence that the underlying principles of organization in the governments of Boston and San Francisco should be different. The allusion to changing mechanisms is no excuse for their failure to set in operation a definite and positive form of organization. Yet the gentlemen have ingeniously endeavored to evade this duty. Why have they done so? Because every system of municipal organization based upon the separation of powers—for which the gentlemen are contending—has proved an admitted failure.
Do not the citizens of Brooklyn and San Francisco, as the citizens of every American city, like to drink pure water? Don't they desire good transportation facilities, and aren't they glad when they have clean streets and honest administration? Why, then, don't the gentlemen come forward, as the Affirmative has done, with a specific form of organization which provides for the successful administration of the underlying features of city government? Instead, the gentlemen seem to delight in wandering across the seas, telling what might happen if we would be indulgent enough to pattern our form of organization after that of France, Germany, or Bohemia. Yet they glibly refuse to consider that the city problem of this country is distinctly American and is due to conditions peculiar to America.
As a matter of fact, the gentlemen have held before us the salient features of a half dozen opposing forms of organization, none of which have succeeded individually, and the combined features of which can make nothing more than a conglomeration of theories and dogmas. Yes, the gentlemen have been painfully careful not to put their scheme into practical operation.
They talk blandly of more home rule, when it is evident that such a matter is actually beside the question at issue. In the same way they speak at length of the cabinet system of England, forgetting that the form the Affirmative is advocating involves the underlying features of the cabinet system altered to meet conditions peculiar to America. The commission form, Honorable Judges, is an evolution of the cabinet form.
Likewise they have talked much of the need for a separate reviewing body, citing the insurance scandals of New York state legislature to prove their contention. Why don't they give instances where a municipal reviewing body has checked fraud? The reason is obvious. As Henry Baldwin writes, "Never has there been an instance in American municipal history where the council has stood out against the corruption of the administrative department." Rather these so-called "reviewing bodies" are hand in hand with graft. Look at the shameful conditions of the "reviewing bodies" of Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, with their hands in the city treasury up to their elbows, and we realize something of the absurdity of the argument for a separate reviewing body to preserve efficiency and honesty in the city government. The people should be the reviewing body of their government. Its organization should be so simple, yet so complete, that every citizen from the educated theorist to the humblest day laborer, can review its facts with ease and understanding. This is the kind of government the commission form supplies. Why don't the gentlemen come forward with an organization equally as simple and complete?