Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/284

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ing body of the powers already possessed by the municipality, and hitherto exercised by a large number of officials. The distinction which attaches to the commissioner's office, together with the consciousness that due credit for individual achievement will not be divided among a number of officials, gives to the position an attractiveness which is all the more effective because allegiance to the ward machine is not necessary to obtain it. "I should never have presented myself as a candidate for city office under the old government with its divided powers and doubtful honors," declared one of the commissioners of a New England city to the writer. Such men are not anxious to hold office where positive achievement is so difficult and credit for whatever is accomplished goes to nobody in particular.

It must not be inferred from what has been said that the popular political leader has been eliminated from municipal government under the commission plan. This mistaken inference has been the ground for much faulty reasoning about the new system, and has probably done more than anything else to obscure the real issue in the movement for commission government. Thus honest political leaders and their followers are frequently prejudiced against the new system because of their belief that its object is to banish the popular leader from municipal politics and to substitute for him the so-called "high brow," or "silk stocking," type. Government by real representatives of the people is to be superseded by government by the "intellectual" members of the community. The same opinion is reflected in comments upon those commission government elections in which a popular political leader or ex-official has been successful; the result in nine cases out of ten is regarded as a "reaction," a sign of the decay of a hitherto promising new system.

It can not be too emphatically stated that the assumption of those who believe that commission government means the elimination of the popular political leader is as mistaken as their fears are groundless. Everywhere the elections in commission-governed cities bear testimony to the fact that the political leader will be elected under a system of universal suffrage regardless of the form of government. The most widely known and most successful of the new governments have been in charge of men of this type. Thus the people of Des Moines, in the first election held under the new charter, rejected the slate of the reform element which had been back of the charter movement, and placed the new government in charge of popular leaders who had been opposed to the new system. The people of Houston in the last election, placed on the commission two popular politicians. A majority of the members of the Haverhill commission are political leaders who have served under the old government in that city. These cases are suffi-