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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/27

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THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITY IN THE WORLD.

of New York was the culmination of a sentiment so fixed upon an ideal that there had been little careful reckoning of the cost. The municipality, by taking in the extra territory and population, doubled its debt, added less than one fourth to its tangible assets, and increased the cost of local government $15,000,000 a year. This added cost is the price paid by the taxpayers for a sentiment and for haste and carelessness in the work of completing consolidation. The cost of government for the enlarged city was in 1899 approximately $15,000,000 more than the combined expenditures of the various municipalities for the last year of their separate existence. This increase was excessive and altogether unnecessary to the maintenance of thorough and progressive government.

The present charter of the city is supposed to provide a large measure of home rule, yet the salary of almost every officer and employee, from the mayor to the doormen of the police stations, is fixed by act of the State Legislature. The former cities of New York and Brooklyn had been so long regulated and governed from Albany that the commissioners who drafted the charter evidently overlooked the fact that a municipality might be trusted to regulate the pay of its own employees. To-day the pay of the school-teachers, policemen, firemen, heads of departments, and chiefs of bureaus is fixed at Albany, where the representatives of the city are in the minority. When the charter was prepared the commissioners agreed that taxation and salaries must be equalized. The members differed in their views on many questions, but they evidently agreed that the way to equalize salaries was to increase the lowest to equal the highest.

In extending the benefits of a great corporate government to the many suburban communities included in the consolidation a uniformed policeman, or five or ten of them, at fourteen hundred dollars a year took the place of a town marshal or constable at three hundred dollars a year, and high-priced trained firemen were substituted for unpaid volunteers. This method of equalizing salaries was extended to every section of the city and to every branch of the government. No attempt, apparently, was made to devise some system that would adjust salaries in various localities to local conditions and cost of living. The sentiment in favor of a great city was not disposed to quibble when the cost of maintaining the visible form of municipal government was increased fivefold in much of the outlying territory.

Aside from the extension of high-priced municipal service throughout the great area of the consolidated city, many useless offices were created and many salaries fixed at excessive figures. Authority was too much divided. The borough system is expen-