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ernment in which Americans believe,-government in accordance with the ideas of the governed.
Great as are the problems which press upon the government of the state, they are as nothing to the problems which confront our cities. The state governments of America have, in the main, been conducted with a fair degree of honesty and efficiency, but the critics of America declare that the government of our municipalities has been a conspicuous failure. Instead of resenting this criticism, which comes from many quarters and in many ways, it is the duty of all good citizens to remedy conditions which make this criticism possible. Because any remedy must proceed from within the municipalities themselves, it is only proper and just that the state should give to its cities. the power to take any proper means to reform and perfect their civil administration.
The state of New York is doing its part. It is giving to its cities the right to adopt any one of a wide variety of means in their struggle for better government. The real battle, however, must be fought within the city walls; the real victory will be achieved only when the citizens of each municipality realize the full importance of good government and refuse to be satisfied with any government which does not measure up to the demands of American citizenship.
The rights of New York's cities have been asserted chiefly through legislative enactments. It is high time that they should be protected by the state constitution. The changes in the attitude of the state constitution toward local government should be made in the spirit of the movement toward greater municipal freedom that I have endeavored to outline.
Every citizen is conscious of the forces at work to free our cities from the chains of an outgrown adjustment of powers between city and state. It is to be hoped that this widespread consciousness will receive concrete and judicious expression in the organic law of New York.
THE CITY AND THE STATE CONSTITUTION'
JOHN PURROY MITCHEL
Mayor of the City of New York
E have heard this evening a great many extremely inter
esting speeches. They have all been very serious, and I should hesitate at this late hour to impose upon you another serious speech if it were not for the fact that this is no ordinary dinner, but a serious gathering to consider the most important question before this state and the people of this city at the present time. I shall endeavor to follow the admonition which your chairman addressed to those who may submit suggestions to the state convention, and be as concrete and specific as I can.
It seems to me that of all the phenomena of modern civilization, the most conspicuous is the marvelous growth and development of cities. There we find the most complex problems of social life; there the greatest burden is laid upon the government; and there we find the greatest opportunities for that effective service that government alone can give. City problems, at the same time that they are the most complex, are the most far-reaching in their effects. If city development be throttled, rural districts suffer, because trade is ruined. Our cities control the port facilities of our nation. Stop that development by hampering legislation and you put an end to
Efficient city government comes only with responsibility for results, and that responsibility, to my mind, should be upon the cities and the people of the cities. To-day that responsibility is passed between half-empowered local authorities and irresponsible and controlled legislatures. The question which is most commonly put is, can the cities be entrusted with this measure of responsibility in the control of their own affairs? I
1 Address at the dinner meeting of the Academy of Political Science, November 19, 1914.
declare that the regeneration of our cities, and their re-birth in democracy is to-day the most hopeful sign to be found in American life. Twenty years ago the cities of America furnished the most apparent tangible evidence of the failure of democratic institutions. To-day everywhere our cities are reawakening to an understanding of their own problems and a sense of their own responsibility, and are preparing their governmental machinery for new measures of productivity, and of service.
For more than thirty years party platforms in this state have contained declarations and pledges of home rule. For more than thirty years triumphant parties have ignored or spurned those pledges. Home rule for cities has been the program of both the great parties in this state since 1882, but home rule has been accorded to the cities of this state by no party.
Wherein has lain the failure to accord home rule? It seems to me in the failure to draw a distinction, a clear line of demarkation between those acts of the city which are its acts as a governmental agency, an agent of the sovereignty of the state, and those acts which are its acts as a local corporate entity, a social unit; and then, after having laid down that line of demarkation, to provide for local regulation of local affairs without legislative interference, to reserve to the state and the legislature powers in state-wide matters, and to limit the right to increase. the financial burden of the city in those acts which are its as a governmental agency, without the consent of the city.
We have developed in all our states the practice of rushing to the legislature whenever there has been any doubt as to the power of the cities in municipal affairs. The practice in the courts has been to resolve those doubts almost uniformly against the cities. Courts have been reactionary in their decisions in these cases-probably to protect the people and the cities against the acts of corrupt officials; and a presumption has arisen against the municipality in every activity which is not secured by long-settled custom. The usual provision in state constitutions against special acts-which, by the way, is not found in the constitution of New York-has become useless because of judicial construction. Then we have legislation enacted pro
viding for classes of cities. The courts have frustrated the provision against special acts by shutting their eyes to the facts and looking only at the theoretical possibility of a city coming into the class affected by a particular act through the growth of its population, although practically there would be no probability of any city, except the one affected by the particular piece of legislation, ever growing, within the period of the life of the constitution, to the class to be affected by that legislation. Many people think, I know, that this narrow construction by our courts is not blameworthy, because the limitation on the powers of the cities and officials has been valuable as a protection. It would seem to me a great deal better not to hamstring our cities or the officials of our cities, but rather to give them a wide latitude and a full measure of power, and then to protect and safeguard the people by a sane measure of recall hedged about and again protected by wise safeguard.
Of course, it is always important and essential not to strip the state of control of purely state matters. That principle we should always keep before our eyes, and we shall keep it if in this state convention we define and lay down that line of distinction between the acts of a city as a governmental agent and its acts as a corporate entity. I have often thought that in future, state constitutions may provide for a central administrative body of control. If that happens, as it must happenperhaps not in the near future, but I think it will inevitably happen some day even in this state, the sphere of the state legislature will be necessarily restricted. Bureau heads or department heads will initiate money legislation and the state business will be put, as it ought to be, upon a budget basis. If that happens, cities will come under the control of that central administrative body; but until it happens our cities must and will remain under the control of the state legislature.
In the various states that have attempted to secure some measure of home rule, various devices have been adopted. There is the prohibition against special acts, nullified, as I have said, by judicial interpretation. There is the classification of cities with a provision for uniform types of charter which cities can adopt, organizing under these classifications. There is the
prohibition against an attempt to regulate the internal affairs of cities, which has not been very effective. Then, and this is a late development, there has been the power granted-as in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington-to cities to draw and adopt their own charters. This has been the longest step in advance; but as this power has been granted in those states the plan contains the great defect that amendment of the charter, so adopted, is just as difficult as the adoption of the original charter itself, and therefore the charter has become rigid. Another device has been to prohibit legislatures from providing by special act for the creation or appointment of local officers. And then there is the provision which is, I believe, peculiar to our own state, namely, the mayoralty veto, a qualified veto given in the case of special acts.
Now, to meet the suggestions of the chairman, and as concrete suggestions to secure the kind of home rule for the cities. of the state in which I, for one, believe most firmly, I should suggest that the constitutional convention first delimit, with as much detail as the subject admits, the sphere of the municipality's governmental-agency activities and its purely local or corporate activities; that the constitution prohibit interference by the legislature or the central administrative body with the local or corporate part of the cities' activities; that the constitution make a broad grant of all corporate powers in addition to those which the cities now have, such as may conduce to the general welfare of the people, their convenience, their necessities, or the convenient extension of the corporate activities of the city, -the only restriction upon that broad grant being that the acts of the cities thereunder shall not conflict with the constitution of the United States, with the constitution of the state, or with the general laws of the state relating to governmentalagency matters, or the general laws of the United States. I would have the constitution specifically include in that grant of power the right on the part of the cities to acquire, to own, to construct, and to operate public utilities; and I should further provide that the cities shall be the sole judge of what shall constitute and be a public utility to be so acquired, constructed or operated; and I should distinctly provide that the presumption