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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/287

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281
COMMISSION GOVERNMENT

the method secured neither; effective popular control of public officials became as impracticable as administrative efficiency.

The municipal needs of the present day are stronger than ever in their demand for a system which will insure administration by experts. The increasing social and economic complexity of modern urban life has entailed burdens and obligations hitherto unknown to local government, and if the work of meeting these needs is not carried on with the assistance of permanent experts the cities must fail in their obligations. At the same time it is plain that government by experts alone is undesirable and out of harmony with American political ideas. A staff of permanent officials which is out of touch with the electorate tends to develop into a professional bureaucracy, tied up with red tape and unresponsive to the popular will and needs. It is therefore necessary that the expert should be under the constant supervision of the layman, who will thus form a connecting link between the professional staff and the people. In this way the permanent official will be brought into contact with the needs of the people, and the people, through their elected supervisors, will possess the means of controlling the permanent official. As President Lowell, of Harvard, put it at a recent meeting of the National Municipal League.

The current management and, for the most part, the suggestion of improvements ought to lie with the expert, but he ought to work under the constant supervision and control of unprofessional men representing the community at large. The expert ought to devote his whole time to the business and receive a salary high enough to pay for the whole time of a man with the capacity required. The person who oversees him ought to be expected to give far less of his time. If he gives much it is because he undertakes to do himself what had better be left to experts. . . . His duty is not to administer, but to supervise and direct the administration.

It is precisely this adjustment between the professional and lay elements in the government which has been responsible for the marked success of the English borough governments. As in the commission plan the legislative and administrative powers of the English borough are vested in the council, which is the sole governing authority. The actual work of administration is carried on by a permanent staff of experts acting under the supervision and control of standing committees of the council. As the commissioner of police overlooks the police department in the commission-governed city, so the watch committee supervises the police administration of the English borough. In the same manner the library and school boards of American cities have been for several years supervising with distinct success the permanent corps of experts in charge of the public libraries and schools. Thus we are not compelled to subscribe to any new or untried principle in advocating municipal administration by a permanent staff of experts working under the direction of elective laymen.