« AnteriorContinuar »
RAMSHACKLE COUNTY GOVERNMENT
so far as it goes. But the framework of but the point is that when under the present county government as laid down in the writ- system two branches of the county governten law is no skeleton. A diagram of it looks ment disagree, this ridiculous spectacle of the like a ball of yarn after the cat has got through State Legislature solemnly enacting a law with it.
settling the salary of the cook of a certain In its form of organization the typical county jail exhibits the typical method of county is ideally bad. It is almost completely relief. This endless legislative tinkering, even disjointed. Each officer is independent of all if it were always sincerely done, serves its the rest, standing on his own separate pedestal temporary purpose, remains unrepealed and of popular election with a full right to tell all forgotten on the statute-books, and becomes the other county officers to go to glory. It is a permanent nuisance.
The usual remedy, if like an automobile with a separate motor at a county officer fails to come up to these every wheel, each going its own gait.
written requirements, is some kind of a manNominally the board of supervisors is at damus proceedings or action by the district the head of the county because it holds the attorney against the county officer or his purse-strings; but the power of the purse is bondsman. only partial, inasmuch as a multitude of laws A county official is lucky if he has a really fastens various charges upon the county and clear idea of what his own duties are The sets the salaries of a great many of its sub- much patched and often contradictory statordinate officers. Practically the board's only utes which are supposed to govern his adpower consists of an ability to hamper the ministrative procedure in detail are scattered other elective officials by making restricted ap- through from three to twenty different gen propriations. It has no other real power to eral laws. As a rule he is no lawyer, and if supervise them or to compel them to expend he undertook the research his term might the appropriations with care and discretion. end before he was ready for business. Ac
Even if they had the power, the board of cordingly tradition becomes the guiding star supervisors is not properly organized or of every county officer, for no matter how equipped to handle such a task.
The run- slight and innocent a variation he may make ning of a county is a complex administrative from precedent in the interests of efficiency, problem, requiring incessant and active super- he is liable to find that he is violating some vision ; but the supervisors meet only at stated unheard-of statute. Many of the laws are intervals, quarterly or monthly, for instance, out of date, anyway, and county officials, and are in no position to keep continuous revolting at the senseless red tape, often disoversight over affairs. Frequently the board . regard them for the sake of the taxpayers. is too large to be anything but a debating That is why every student of county governsociety, anyway.
ment soon finds that the laws in the library
give him an incorrect idea of what county PATCHWORK LEGISLATION
officials are doing. So the State Legislature steps in, and every To turn back to Westchester County time one county official is impolite to some again, which is quoted so often here because other county official somebody takes the train it is the most thoroughly explored county to the capital and a new law is passed to government in the United States: the offirectify the difficulty. In effect these inter- cials of the County Research Bureau, after minable minute memoranda, called laws, lay working for six years in intimate touch with down the office rules of county government county problems, declare that their county and attempt to decree fraternal love among could be run better for less than half the county officers. Witness the plea, made on present cost and with half the number of behalf of the sheriff of Rensselaer County, men. But they freely concede that they exhibited in the title of the following bill, which would not care to undertake it without radpassed the New York Legislature of 1915 : ical revision of the laws and governmental
An Act providing for the appointment by the organization. sheriff of Rensselaer County, of an under sheriff, jailers, watchman, matron, cooks, janitors, OBSCURITY AND THE LONG BALLOT process servers, firemen, and court officers, and
can peer into the cobwebs of for their compensation and duties.
county government without developing the Perhaps the supervisors had been stingy, deepest sympathy for the many conscientious perhaps the sheriff's ideas were extravagant, and unappreciated public servants who are trying to operate the present antiquated mech- science—there is such a thing, but no true anism. The same obscurity which protects American will respect it-teaches that no the crook also prevents good work from being technical office should be elective ; none, in rewarded. Theoretically the public official fact, except truly representative offices where who does his duty will be promptly supported the function is to interpret public opinion. by public opinion, but the fact is that the Members of the Legislature, Congressmen, people of the county know very little about aldermen, and county supervisors (or whathis official conduct, and if he comes in conflict ever you call them in your State) should be with some other officer, the people, who con- amateurs, spokesmen for the people, samples stitute his only court of appeal, are in no of the ignorance as well as of the enlightenposition to determine the merits of the con- ment of the voters, and from them all the troversy. There are so many office holders others, the experts, should take their orders. to watch that public opinion is baffled and That is the pathway toward efficiency and ends by keeping track of almost none of economy. them. The voter has four National officers But it is also the pathway toward the to select, a dozen State and judicial officers, bigger goal of a real democracy that will and a string of township and village or city "democ.” Bossism is not democracy. Ring officials, anywhere from thirty to a hundred rule is not democracy. Government by a altogether, to be elected in the course of a ruling class called “the politicians ” is not four-year cycle. What chance has this or democracy. And county government is not that county officer to get into the spot democracy—it doesn't “ democ." light where his good deeds may be appreci- County government, on the contrary, is ated ? He is only one of from two hundred ideally designed to resist popular control. One to fourteen hundred office-holders who are way of concealing a public officer from effective elective in the county. He is lost in the public scrutiny is to make his office so small shuffle. The people of the county may hap- that it will inevitably fail to command public pen to be familiar with his personality-in attention. A second way is to have so many rural counties they often are—but there still elective officers that the public cannot possibly remains the impossible task for them to keep keep track of them all. A third way to baffle track of his official activities and appraise his the public is to divide the responsibility, so that work, which, of course, is largely technical. each public officer under attack can excuse himThe county clerk in New York, for exam- self on the ground that the necessary co-operaple, is elected. It is therefore presumably tion of some other officer was lacking. County the duty of the people, and of no one else, to government involves the liberal use of all three see that he performs his duty under the penal of these expedients; and so, in spite of its law, banking law, lien law, executive law, superficial aspect, the county is the least demotax law, fish, forest, and game law, prison cratic of all our political divisions. law, liquor tax law, domestic relations law, Indeed, it is a standing menace to democpartnership law, public officers' law, general racy. The unorganized citizenry cannot operate business law, judiciary law, real property law, the present complex, rusty instrument.
By legislative law, town law, decedent estate always requiring a greater amount of popular law, and county law !
participation in government than the citizens
are willing to furnish, it removes itself beyond VIOLATES SHORT BALLOT PRINCIPLES the grip of the rank-and-file voters and lapses County officers, except the governing into the hands of the political machines. If the board, are not in any proper sense repre- citizens of a given county want to displace the sentative officers, and democracy gains noth- dominant political machine, they can do so ing by keeping them in politics. There is no only by the expedient of building up another legitimate Republican way or Socialist way machine to supplant it, and the new machine, or Progressive way of being county clerk or like the old one, will continue to be the real superintendent of highways. A member of guiding force in county affairs, selecting the New York's recent Constitutional Conven- public officers and telling them what to do. tion argued that when the people elected a In fact, the private political machine, simple, Republican to build the roads they thereby well unified, and efficient, but powerless to ordered all the jobs to be transferred to Re- resist the intrusion of corrupt men, has often publicans, making the roads all good Repub- been the one element of strength to the lican roads. But he was mistaken. Political official county government by compelling
RAMSHACKLE COUNTY GOVERNMENT
some degree of harmony among the latter's an organism that will be an effective and disorganized elements.
California took a hopeful step three years THE PROSPECT OF PROGRESS
ago by allowing its counties to draw up charCounty reform is in its infancy. There is ters of their own just as the cities did. Three no State in the Union which has worked out counties have taken advantage of the oppora good system. The embryo County Gov- tunity, Los Angeles in particular making the ernment Association of New York State is notable improvement of getting thirteen offithe only such association in the country. cers off the elective list, and making local There is no one who is prepared to advance politics notably simpler and more popularly a plan for a model county government. understandable. The People's Power League
A satisfactory solution of the many prob- in Oregon, authors of the initiative and lems can be worked out only by a steady referendum in this country, have a scheme process of evolution, under conditions that
for mowing down their county jungle and give scope for experiment, free from need- substituting simplicity and directness by erectless Constitutional restrictions. The counties ing a small elective commission which will must be free to advance individually and not hire a county manager, who in turn will in perpetual lockstep. Let the more progres- appoint everybody else except the judge sive counties feel their way cautiously forward, (who remains elective) and the prosecuting to be followed by the others when the value of attorney (whom the Governor is to appoint). a given step is clearly proved by experience. That line of progress is also indicated by the
The path of progress will surely be in the experience of cities in which the twin principles general direction of unification and simplifi- of the short ballot and the unification of cation. Some of the elective officers must powers have fructified in the commissionbe transferred to the appointive list, and those manager plan of government. There are who remain elective must be built up in now thirty-six cities operating under that plan, power, influence, and conspicuousness until and there will be hundreds within the next they command the discriminating attention of five years. The plan requires modification the electorate. The ballot must not continue to fit it to counties, and there are difficult to be too long to remember, but must be constitutional obstacles, but one of these days shortened sufficiently to come within the some county will make a start. complete oversight of the voters. Responsi- County government is the uttermost citadel bility must be clearly located. The county of our political overlords, the one base of must be given a definite head. The limbs supplies from which they are never ousted. and the body must be joined together and But its very rottenness as an institution guarput under the easy control of a brain. Not antees that when it once starts to crumble it otherwise can the people of a county secure will go swiftly !
“We can't go abroad this summer,” says Mrs. net is called “cure-dents” (toothpick); bullets, Twickembury (the “ Christian Register's ” Mrs. "pruneaux.” Another reader writes that the Malaprop), " and so we have decided to take word “boche," concerning the derivation of a transatlantic journey to California." Mrs. which there has been much discussion, is said to Twickembury will have many fellow-travelers have been applied to German soldiers in 1870-1 this season, whether she goes (as she might say) exactly as now, and that it appears in Zola's in a personally conductored tour or by the indi- celebrated story of the Franco-Prussian War, vidual travail plan.
“ Le Débâcle” (The Downfall). . One of the big automobile companies an- Brantford, Canada, feels that her title, “The nounces that it will soon turn out one thousand Telephone City,” is assailed in the tablet automobiles a day. If these were parked in recently set up in Boston reading " Here the New York City, two days' output of the factory telephone was born, June 2, 1875," though Dr. would, allowing 6 x 14 feet space for each car, Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone's inventor, cover entirely with automobiles a vacant lot apparently sanctioned the tablet by his presence equivalent in area to the immensely long block at its unveiling. The Toronto “ Globe ” says: inclosed between Eighth and Ninth Avenues “The telephone was devised in Brantford in and Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Streets. 1874 and made in Boston in 1875.” The instruNo wonder the railways are congested when ment's anterior history, our Canadian friends they have to carry away such quantities of may discover on reflection, is suggested in the freight from a single factory !
tablet's word “born." Why should not BrantThe lady to whom Shakespeare is supposed to ford generously make a tablet of its own, inhave bequeathed his “second-best bed” is clev- scribed: “The telephone: conceived in Branterly pictured in “ Life's ” Shakespeare Number ford, born in Boston, arrived at full stature in as gazing sourly at her husband through his America, and became a traveler thence all over study door and saying, “What! scribbling the world "? again, William ?" " William's " beseeching eyes Eighty per cent of the best-known players are as he gazes at the sympathetic reader appeal to now acting before the camera instead of before the universal love of a humorous situation. audiences, says Robert Grau in the “ Dramatic
Many of the games of Kaffir children, as Mirror.” Most of these are probably in Los described by a traveler, are just such "nice dirt Angeles, where it is said that there are over a games” as English children would like to play hundred companies engaged in producing mov: if only their mothers would let them. This ing-picture plays. observation gives point to a story about little Tommy Atkins, according to William J. Willie and John published in "The Pathfinder.” Robinson in “My Fourteen Months at the "My mother don't care how much I run over the Front," is very fond of pets, and finds room for kitchen floor," said John to Willie on a rainy them even in the trenches. “The Tommies,” day when Willie's mother had forbidden the play he says, “ keep canaries, rats, mice, dogs, cats, mates to cross her threshold with their muddy
goats, and even pigs, and they will go hungry boots. Then Willie said, enviously: "I wish I
themselves rather than see the object of their had a nice dirty mother like you've got, John !" affections want for anything. On the march if
A man got into a police station in New York they get tired they may throw their equipment City the other day for trying to sell, on the away, but I never heard of one yet who would streets, ten-dollar bills for a dollar apiece. He give up his mascot.” had probably heard the story that New Yorkers
The passion for games of chance, says Mr. are too skeptical to take up with an opportunity
Robinson, shows itself in a curious way in what of this sort, and determined to test the theory. the soldiers call “trench pools." A group of A friendly policeman arrested him for delaying ten men who expect to go into action each traffic before he had succeeded in selling any of
put ten francs (two dollars) into the hands of his bargains.
some one behind the lines. This money is to Dean Swift's famous sermon quoted in The be divided evenly among the men who live to Outlook April 12 is not the shortest on record, get back. “It was the only gamble I ever saw,” a reader says. He asserts that the palm belongs says the narrator, “where you couldn't lose. If to the late Dr. Muhlenberg, who at the funeral you came out safely, you were bound to get your of Mr. Robert B. Minturn read the text, " What own money back, at least.” Hardly a gamble. doth the Lord require of thee," etc., and deliv- The American War Risk Bureau has written ered this sermon: "So did he." This beats the policies amounting to $110,000,000 for war risks Dean's sermon by eight words.
on American ships and cargoes and has earned Apropos of the slang words to which the war premiums of $2,200,000. All losses, it is stated, has given currency, a subscriber sends these have been paid out of the premiums, and the notes: The French soldiers call their small can- $5,000,000 appropriated by Congress for that non “cigares," the larger ones "pipes;” a bayo- purpose remains untouched.
WHY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NEEDS
MEXICO-FROM THE INSIDE
BY GREGORY MASON
THE GARMENT TRADE AND THE
MINIMUM WAGE AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. HENRY MOSKOWITZ
FOR COMPLETE TABLE OF CONTENTS SEE
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 1916