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East Boston Ferries. The Cochituate Water-Works might have been managed very much more advantageously than they have been, they ought to be burdened to-day with a debt certainly not more than half the actual amount, and I believe that they might have been entirely cleared from debt; but, on the other hand, they have not been so utterly mismanaged as the East Boston Ferries, and it is still possible without increasing the rates to gradually reduce the debt and thus pave the way for a reduction in rates without violating business principles.
The lesson of these experiments in municipal ownership seems to be that it is possible for a city to manage these undertakings fairly well from the standpoint of private ownership, and distinctly well considered as municipal investments not necessarily undertaken for profit; and that it is also possible to manage them so badly that they constitute in the end a hopeless burden, the weight of which even fictitious bookkeeping cannot conceal. The history of our water-works and ferries is the record of a never-ending struggle between the taxpayer on the one side, and the rate payer on the other; and in view of the unfortunate results of some of these undertakings, we ought on the whole to congratulate ourselves that the results have been no worse in the others. The city should certainly decline to be drawn into such undertakings in the future, unless the necessity is urgent and the utmost precautions are taken to prevent a reduction in rates, tolls, and fares below the point of profit.
SECTION 7. The Subway. I regard this enterprise as a municipal investment, believing, as pointed out to the Legislature of 1894,1 that the rentals received for the use of tracks and other privileges in the subway should be sufficient to pay the sinking-fund and interest requirements of the debt to be issued to build it. This debt will be presumably $5,000,000, the estimated cost of the work, including land. The money can be borrowed at from three and a quarter to
1 Sec Doc. 86, of 1894.
three and a half per cent. per annum, and the sinking-fund requirements on a forty years' loan are 1.1427 per cent. per annum. This makes a total of about four and a half per cent. or $225,000 per annum for forty years as the income needed to relieve the city treasury from all payments on account of this enterprise, and to make it a source of large annual profit in the year 1935. As pointed out in the argument referred to, I entertain no reasonable doubt that if, as must be assumed, the present commissioners exercise their great powers in the sole interest of the public treasury, and there is no interference or retrograde action taken by the Legislature, this income can readily be secured.
There is of course the danger that the public, through its representatives in the Legislature or the City Government, will some day voluntarily surrender the profits that ought to be derived from this enterprise, or fritter them away in unprofitable extensions, and, as in the case of the East Boston Ferries and the Cochituate Water-Works, insist that the undertaking shall be managed without profit to the city treasury, or even at a loss to be made good by the general taxpayers. This ought to be a purely theoretic danger; but the experience of our city in the two enterprises mentioned, as well as the growing demand for the public ownership and management of all kinds of semi-public enterprises upon terms which imply increased taxation, justifies the fear. On the other hand, it has been proved to be possible for municipal corporations to manage such enterprises upon business lines, at least in such a manner as to make them profitable regarded as municipal investments, and in Boston we have two conspicuous illustrations in the Quincy Market and the Mystic Water-Works.
In leaving, therefore, this great project, which has occupied so much of my time during the past four years, to the care of succeeding City Governments and Legislatures, I desire once again to express the fixed opinion that this enterprise can be so handled as to be no charge
upon the taxpayers, to pay for itself in forty years, and thereafter to be a source of large profit to the city and the means of reducing the burden of annual taxation. It can also be mismanaged, the rents and profits thrown away, and its cost charged upon the taxpayers. Which course shall be taken depends upon the action of the future rulers of this city, and the responsibility for the financial success or failure. of the subway rests, in my opinion, exclusively on them.
THE CITY CHARTER.
SECTION 1. The Charter of 1822. For forty years after the close of the Revolutionary war the people of Boston debated the desirability of procuring a city charter, and finally voted in favor of the change on January 7, 1822. The State constitution of 1780 had previously been amended1 so as to remove all doubt concerning the power of the Legislature to establish city governments; and on February 23, 1822, the Legislature passed a city charter, which was accepted by the voters of the town on March 4, 1822.2 Elections were held on April 8 and April 16, and on May 1, 1822, the new city government was inaugurated.
The charter of 1822 created a government consisting of a mayor, of a board of eight aldermen elected at large, and of a common council of forty-eight members — four elected by the voters of each of the twelve wards into which the city was divided.
The financial, executive, and administrative powers of the government were vested partly in the Mayor and Aldermen, to whom the powers of the selectmen of the town were transferred, and partly in the City Council, to be exercised by concurrent vote of both branches. The executive officers of the city were, generally speaking, elected by the City Council, while the Mayor was to preside over the Board of Aldermen, and to constitute with the Board a single body known as the Mayor and Aldermen. Beyond the power to appoint committees which this position gave him, the Mayor was little more than a figurehead; and although he was enjoined by the charter "to be vigilant and active at all times in causing the laws for the government of said city to be duly
1 In the convention of 1820, ratified by the people April 9, 1821.
executed and put in force," and "to cause all negligence, carelessness, and positive violation of duty to be duly prosecuted and punished," the Legislature omitted to clothe him with the powers necessary for the performance of these duties.
Other features of the charter of 1822 worth noting are the existence of a separate school committee elected by the people, and a board of fire-wards elected by the voters of the several wards. This latter body was abolished in 1825, and a municipal fire department established in its place.
The charter of the city of Boston was, I believe, the first city charter to be granted in the New England States outside of Connecticut. It was not, like the Constitution of the United States, a carefully studied effort to create a new form of government; it was simply an attempt to substitute representative for direct control. The community, then numbering forty thousand people and seven thousand voters, had outgrown the capacity of the town meeting to conduct its affairs with efficiency and despatch, and a representative substitute was all that was thought necessary. A double legislative body, consisting of a Board of Aldermen and a Common Council, with a Mayor, who was practically nothing more than the presiding officer of the former, had existed in many of the towns of England from the Middle Ages; and had also been adopted in some cities in other parts of the United States. It was accepted by the people of Boston without serious question, their principal object being to secure the conduct of municipal business through representative institutions, rather than as hitherto by direct popular vote. The Common Council has sometimes been regarded as a substitute for the town meeting,' and the Board of Aldermen was in terms the successor of the Selectmen; analogies are also discovered to the legislative system adopted by the
1 1 Section 25 of the charter provided for the calling, on request of fifty voters, of general meetings of the citizens "to consult upon the common good," ete. These meetings, not the Common Council, were at the time regarded as a continuation of the none in recent years. town-meeting system; but few have ever been called