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A Statement of Policy and Method
The corporation "The City of New York" carries on a business of approximately $250,000,000 each year.
New York City spends more money each year than the national government, outside of the military and post office departments.
How New York does its business is a matter which should interest every citizen.
New York's business is not only large, but it is complex and technical in all of its processes.
To find out how New York does its business and to keep in touch with what 90,000 employees are doing is more than any one citizen can undertake. Yet the underlying theory of popular government is that each of New York's 5,000,000 citizens should be able to think about what each of its 90,000 employees is doing-this is the primary assumption of government" of the people, by the people and for the people."
THE BUREAU AS AN AGENCY OF CITIZENSHIP
For several years the Bureau of Municipal Research has been operating as an independent, non-partisan agency for keeping citizens informed about the city's business. Instead of organizing and spending money` with a view of finding fault with public officers, the Bureau has assumed that citizens are primarily responsible for what is wrong. It recognizes that when officials take office they must work under handicaps which should not exist. It further assumes that neither citizens nor officers can remove these handicaps without knowing the facts. As a citizen organization the trustees of the Bureau have employed a staff to find out what are the facts about organization, methods, and results; to make these facts available to officers; to withhold a statement as to what is wrong until the responsible officer has had opportunity to take a stand for improvement and then to make known to all other citizens what the conditions are, and what the officer is doing to correct defects and to give the public better service.
THE COST OF KEEPING CITIZENS INFORMED
To get the facts about such a highly complex and technical subject as the business of the City of New York requires both time and money. The complexity of organization is indicated by the fact that New York.
ments and offices. The volume of its business is indicated by the fact that during the last eight years it has spent about $1,750,000,000, of which amount $1,250,000,000 was provided through current revenues and $500,000,000 was obtained by borrowing. During the last eight years citizens have contributed to the Bureau $540,000 for the purpose of finding out what amount of this vast sum represents service and what amount is wasted through defective methods and antiquated processes that may be remedied.
THE CO-OPERATIVE PURPOSE OF THE BUREAU
The Bureau has a constructive program. Its purpose is to get things done for the community through persons who are in office. Its method is one of co-operation with officers. It is with a view of obtaining co-operation that its facts are made available to officers. It was two years after its organization before this program of co-operation had been fully developed; that is, it was necessary not only to get the facts. but to establish a reputation for non-partisan, independent approach to subjects on which reports were made-to obtain the confidence of public officers in the purpose actuating the officers of this Bureau through whom co-operation was proffered.
CONSTRUCTIVE RESULTS OF CITIZEN CO-OPERATION
The year 1908 may be taken as the date of the beginning of a movement for increased efficiency and economy in the conduct of the city's business. This movement has expressed itself in the more effective interest and activities of citizens; in the more intelligent support which citizens have given to officers who have tried to serve the public well; in the more effective opposition to those who have sought to use public offices and resources for private ends; in use of a budget which may be understood, and through which expenditures may be controlled; in the revision of the city's accounting and reporting methods; in more effective methods of auditing; in better protection to the city's trading credit through more prompt payment of bills; in better control over the contracting and purchasing relations of the city and the elimination of the opportunities and the inducements to "graft "; in the breaking-down of organized bureaucracy with its obstructive methods and "red tape"; in better tests applied for the determination of individual efficiency; in better opportunities afforded to those who would make the public service an honorable career; in many ways that, broadly expressed, may be found in the changed attitude both on the part of persons inside and persons outside of the government.
What officers have done when supported by an informed citizenship is evidenced not only in the increased and better service rendered to the public, but also in a very telling way in the decreasing ratio of increasing
From 1903 to 1908 the total budget increased 48 per cent. From 1908 to 1913 it increased but 34 per cent. The reduction that has been made in the rate of annual increase in the total budget is effectively shown in the following table:
But this table does not disclose the real success of improved methods. In the total budget are included state taxes and expenses of county government, neither of which is under the control of city officers. If these items be deducted it is found that the budget for city purposes increased 49 per cent. from 1903 to 1908 and only 29 per cent. from 1908 to 1913. The reduction that has been effected in the rate of increase in the budget for city purposes is shown in the following diminishing per-, centage of increase:
The difference between the final items in these tables is accounted for by the fact that, although the city budget increased $3,260,000 from 1913 to 1914, this increase was offset in the total budget by a decrease. of $3,370,000 in the state tax..
That the reduction has not been greater and that the tax rate has not been reduced until this year is due in part to the greatly increased burden of state expenditures for roads and canal, to the larger county expenditures, to the mandatory increase in teachers' salaries by the equalpay legislation at Albany, to the rapidly increasing interest charges on our new aqueduct construction, etc. Moreover, the increase in the tax rate does not indicate the vastly improved services the city has received for its expenditure and its rapidly broadening scope of public beneficences.
To-day the city is getting far more for each dollar expended than at any previous period in its history. It is better policed; its streets are better paved and better cleaned than at any time since Colonel Waring's day; it has become one of the most healthful of the great cities of the world; its institutions are efficiently and benevolently managed. The city now pays its bills promptly and in the order of priority. Its productive properties were never so remunerative. Its budget-making, formerly perfunctory, has become a matter of widespread public interest, and appropriations are now discussed in a veritable forum. For the first time in a great many years, it knows what its assets and liabilities are, and what is its debt-incurring capacity. Its credit is improved. It has still, however, many lengths to go in the acquirement of the efficiency and economy that are necessary to meet the pressure of its rapid development and the increased requirement for social betterment demanded by public sentiment.
Changes of administration do not seriously affect the Bureau's usefulness. It has co-operated with Mayors McClellan, Gaynor, Klein, and Mitchel, and with Comptrollers Metz and Prendergast. To-day, with an adminstration in hearty sympathy with the desire to have the city equipped with the best methods of doing business, the opportunity for co-operation of citizens with officials for municipal betterment is extraordinary.