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SECTION 1. General Outline. The City Government as now organized consists of a Mayor and thirty-three executive departments under his control; of a legislative branch. composed of a board of twelve Aldermen and a Common Council of seventy-five members; of a city clerk and city messenger elected by the city council; of a board of three Street Commissioners, elected by the people; of a School Committee consisting of twenty-four members elected by the people; of a Board of Police, consisting of three commissioners appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth ; of various county officers, including the judges of the Supreme Judicial, Superior and Probate Courts, the sheriff, clerks of court, register of probate, etc.; of certain attendants upon the legislative branch, namely, the clerk of committees, and the clerk of the Common Council; of a few temporary commissions, such as the Board of Survey and the Transit Commission; and of a host of minor officers, such as constables, weighers of coal, measurers of grain, inspectors, etc.
SECTION 2. The Executive Department. This consists. of twelve boards or commissions, as follows: The Board of Assessors, the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Board of Health, the Boston City Hospital, the Board of Trustees of the Public Library, the Trustees of Mt. Hope Cemetery, the Board of Park Commissioners, the Board of Commissioners of Public Institutions, the Board of Registrars of Voters, the Overseers of the Poor in the City of Boston, the Board of Commissioners of Sinking-Funds, and the Boston Water Board; of twenty single heads of departments, the City Architect, City Auditor, City Collector, City Engineer, Superintendent of Ferries, Superintendent of Public Buildings, Inspector of Milk and Vinegar, Inspector of Provis
ions, Superintendent of Lamps, Superintendent of Markets, Superintendent of Printing, Inspector of Buildings, Superintendent of Public Grounds, City Registrar, Sealer of Weights and Measures, Superintendent of Streets, City Surveyor, City Treasurer, Water Registrar, and Commissioner of Wires; and of a Law Department in joint charge of the Corporation Counsel and the City Solicitor. This makes a total of thirty-three departments, in charge of eighty-two persons, acting singly or as members of commissions, all of whom are appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the Board of Aldermen, and all of whom are subject to removal by the Mayor for such cause as he may deem sufficient.
This organization is smaller by five departments than in 1890; the departments of Bridges, Cambridge Bridges, Sewers, and Sanitary Police having been consolidated with the Street Department under a single superintendent, and the Ancient Records Commission having been abolished and its work assigned to the City Registrar. The Board of Directors of East Boston Ferries was also abolished and the department placed in charge of a single superintendent. The Department for the Inspection of Wires, created in 1890, was abolished in 1891 as a separate department, and the work was placed in charge of the Board of Fire Commissioners; but a new department was created in 1894 to carry out the provisions. of the law relating to overhead wires passed in that year."
These reductions and consolidations have been productive of excellent results, and, as frequently suggested to the City Council, indicate the value of further changes tending to a simplification of the machinery of government and a concentration of responsibility. Among these changes are the substitution of single superintendents or commissioners for the Board of Commissioners of Public Institutions, the Board of Fire Commissioners, and the Boston Water Board. The work of the Fire Department is purely executive in
1 St. 1894, chap. 454.
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character, that of the other two departments nearly so. The office of Water Registrar should either be made a subordinate division of the Department of Water Works, or consolidated with the Collecting Department. The Inspectors of Milk and Vinegar and of Provisions might be made subordinate officers of the Board of Health, which has general charge of all matters relating to the public health; and Mount Hope Cemetery could also be placed in charge of this Board.
As to the terms of office for the Mayor and his executive officers, it is my opinion that they should all be longer than at present. The Mayor should be elected for a term of two or three years; and the length of service of the heads of departments should be indeterminate. This is to a great extent the present practice, most of the heads of the more important. departments having held office continuously under the various Democratic and Republican administrations of the recent past;1 and it would, I believe, be well to change the statutes and ordinances so that the heads of departments as well as the subordinate officers of the Government shall hold office. indefinitely until death, resignation or removal.
SECTION 3. The Legislative Branch. This, in my opinion, should be reconstructed by abolishing the present bicameral system and substituting a single legislative body. This body should be larger than the present Board of Aldermen, but not so large as to become unwieldy, and liable to degenerate into a debating society. The scheme which has seemed to me on the whole the most desirable, and which has been advocated on other occasions, is to establish a single legislature of twenty-four or twenty-seven men, elected at large, eight or nine each year, for a three-years term. If minority representation is desired, some system should be invented different from that in operation under the law of 1893.2 This law is admitted on all hands to have
1 For instance, no changes have been made since 1890, except those caused by death or resignation, in the heads of nineteen of the thirty-three executive departments, namely: Board of Assessors, Auditor, Collector, Engineer, Ferries, Fire, Hospital, Inspection of Buildings, Inspection of Milk and Vinegar, Inspection of Provisions, Printing, Markets, Public Buildings, Public Grounds, City Registrar, Sinking Funds, Surveyor, Treasurer, Board of Health.
2 St. 1893, ch. 473, accepted by the people at the State election of 1893.
been a failure; and it is extremely doubtful whether any system of minority representation can be devised that will secure satisfactory results.
It would be foolish, indeed, to expect that this, or any, reconstruction of our municipal legislature will remove all the difficulties in the way of securing an economical and business-like government. The representatives of the citizens, howsoever elected, will continue to represent with more or less fidelity the wishes and principles of their constituents; and as long as the people at large, while in favor of economy as a general principle, yet desire appropriations for particular purposes on a scale that makes economy impossible, just so long will it be difficult to restrain the City Council, however constituted, from an improvident expenditure of the public funds. I believe, however, that some gain would follow from the change suggested; that a more responsible class of aspirants for positions in the City Council would appear, if the term of service were longer and the work of legislation restricted to a single body; and that in this way the difficulties of securing economy in expenditure would be diminished, though by no means. removed.
SECTION 4. The Board of Street Commissioners. Why the Board of Street Commissioners should still be elected by the people, I have never been able to understand, except upon the theory that its members had sufficient influence to secure its omission from the scope of the charter amendments of 1885. The present system tends to create a division of responsibility, and the members of this board, like the other heads of departments, should, in my opinion, be appointed by the Mayor.
SECTION 5. The School Committee. The School Committee has been an unpaid elective body from the earliest times; but the business of the schools has outgrown the capacity of a board selected in this manner; and there is constant friction between the Mayor and City Council, who are responsible for the school appropriations, and the School
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Committee, which has sole charge of expending them. Such friction is inevitable where the business in question is voluminous and complicated, and the responsibility for its proper conduct divided. I should recommend the passage of a law placing the public schools in charge of a superintendent, to be appointed in the usual way by the Mayor of the city.
SECTION 6. Board of Police. This department can never be managed to the satisfaction of the public so long as it remains in the charge of a State board1 not responsible to the City Government, and composed necessarily of gentlemen who, whatever their personal qualifications, are yet regarded by a majority of the voters of this city with distrust. Besides the division of responsibility which the system entails, City Council being responsible within certain limits for the appropriations, and the Board of Police for their expenditure, there are many special objections to the plan, such as the inability to secure the enforcement of the city ordinances. The Board of Police should be abolished; the police force should be restored to the control of the city, and placed in charge of a chief or superintendent appointed by the Mayor, and responsible through him to the people of the city; and the license-granting powers of the Board should then be vested in a special license board.
It will be said that this plan has already been tried, and that the present system has worked better. I cannot assent to this proposition as a statement of fact, for the department was never so mismanaged as between the years 1889 and 1893; but even if true, the transfer of a purely local concern, such as the police force of a city, to the control of the Commonwealth is a violation of the principle of local self-government and a constant source of irritation to the people. The gain in efficiency, if any, is not commensurate with the breach of principle involved.
SECT. 7. In General. Most of the changes urged in this chapter have been recommended on previous occasions.
1 Established by St. 1885, ch. 323.