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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 97, no. 2510: Articles]: April 22, 1916

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NEW YORK, APRIL 22, 1916 HOME RULE NECESSARY TO NEW YORK CITY Municipality Should Manage Its Own Affairs —Mandatory Legislation Should Be Curbed By SENATOR ROBERT F. WAGNER THREE classes of legislation have been enacted in the past, and as the result. New York City is the sufferer. The first is mandatory expenses forced upon the city in the administration of its own affairs—for instance, increasing salaries. The second class of legislation froni which New York suffers is the dis¬ criminatory legislation such as provides that the expenses of the Public Service Commission of the First District be paid out of the city treasury, while the Pub¬ lic Service Coinmission of the Second Department, also a State department, is paid out of the State treasury. Thus it is clear that New York City is compelled to pay the entire expense of the Com¬ mission of the First District, amount¬ ing to about $3,000,000, and also 70 per cent, of the cost of the second district commission. Also the State Department of Health lias jurisdiction over the entire State, except the City of New York, and we in New York City must have our own Health Department at our own expense and also contribute 70 per cent, of the expense of the administration of the Health Department for the remainder of the State. We are compelled to support our own normal schools within the City of New York, while the expense of main¬ taining the normal schools in the rest of the State is paid out of the State treasury: so here again, while we pay for the administration of our own normal schools, we are also paying 70 per cent, of the expense of the normal schools of the rest of the State. We are com¬ pelled to pay 70 per cent, of an annual $2,000,000 appropriation to maintain town roads, although New York City is spe¬ cifically excluded from enjoying one dol¬ lar of this nionev. We are paying $75,- 000,000 of the $100,000,000 expended for the comprehensive system of highways throughout the State, but New York City is excluded from the enjoyment of any of these monies. There are a num¬ ber of other like instances to which I could refer, but these are sufficient to illustrate my point. One Reason for Tax Burden. Thirdly, New^ York City has its bur¬ den of taxation increased because of the large number of so-called local appro¬ priation bills that are enacted each year —appropriations which are given to the rural legislators purely in the nature of patronage. For instance, to improve a creek, dredge an inland lake, change the course of streams for the sake of improv¬ ing property. New York City has never been known to receive any local appro¬ priation of that character for its own use or benefit. These appropriations amount in some years to several millions and one can see the injustice to New York at a moment's reflection, for we must pay 70 per cent, of all these local appropriations. Then take the case of bridges: The State of New York e.Kpended several luindred thousand dollars last year to provide bridges between Rensselaer and Albany Counties and Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties, the State paying the entire cost of the construction of, these bridges, while in the City of New York the taxpayers of that city, without one dollar of assistance from th? 5tate, have "P OBERT F. WAGNER, repre- -*-^ senting the 16th Senatorial District of the City of New York has advocated Home Rule meas¬ ures for the Metropolis and all other municipalities. Progressive thought throughout the country has brought with it many reforms, such as direct primaries, social welfare legisla¬ tion and the revival of the theory of Home Rule, Senator Wagner has made sincere efforts during the present session of'the Legislature to put some of the Home Rule ideas into effect and if he has not succeeded he has at least kept this question in the foreground and as¬ sisted in shaping some of the laws which the Legislature in its clos¬ ing days has enacted for the bene¬ fit ot the city. During the sessions of the Con¬ stitutional Convention held last summer he addressed the members of that body on Home Rule legis¬ lation and stated his belief: 1. That the city is capable of self-government; 2. That city conditions require self-government; 3. That cities would progress more rapidly with self-govern¬ ment. The majority of the members of both houses in the Legislature rep¬ resent districts above the Harlem River and Senators and Assembly¬ men from Rochester, Buffalo. Syracuse and Utica join with rural law-givers in preventing genuine Home Rule amendments to be in¬ corporated in the State Constitu¬ tion. "What right has the maior¬ ity of the Legislature coming from rural districts to imoose upon the City of New York the laws which they deem proper for it?" Sen¬ ator Wagner remarked in his de¬ bate on Home Rule. "Distinct from the rest of the State." he continued, "the Citv of New York stands alone with its peculiar in¬ terests. We, of New York City, are essentially a financial and com¬ mercial community in distinction to the agricultural and industrial communities of the State at larpe. The interests of our citv, its de¬ fects, its tendencies, its advantages and its disadvantages are primarily local and peculiar to itself. To satisfy those interests, to cure those defects, to encourage those tendencies, to co-ooerate with those advantages, and to eliminate those disadvantages are among the duties of its citizens, and we whose interests are identical with the interests of our city and whose livelihood and existence depends unon our municipality, know just what are our reauirements and how those requirements mav be suDplied. The government of the ritv sVioiild be conducted from the City Hall and not from Albany." been obliged to spend millions to con¬ nect the County of New York with the Counties of Kings and Queens. The question is: What is the remedy? In my judgment, there are two remedies: l._ To prevent in the future the im¬ position of mandatory expenses upon the city in the administration of its local affairs, the constitution of the State should be so amended as to give to the municipalities of the State absolute home rule; that is, the right guaran¬ teed to them by our fundamental law, without State interference, to manage their own affairs, property and govern¬ ment. 2. A never-ending protest, backed by an aroused public sentiment within the City of New York, which will compel the enactment of a constitutional amend¬ ment guaranteeing to the city fair and equal representation in the Legislature according to its population. The two remedies are interdependent, for when New York City has the repre¬ sentation to which it is justly entitled it will be political suicide for any Legis¬ lature to attempt to interfere Avith its k cal affairs. It is obvious that these purposes must be accomplished before New York City can create for itself a municipal situation which will insure honesty, efficiency and wisdom in the management of its local affairs. Until the citizens of New York City can elect its own officials pledged to carry out policies which are approved by the people themselves, it will never be as¬ sured of obtaining the result in city government that its citizens desire and certainly ought to have. Not Real Home Rule. The constitutional amendment which Senator Brown, following out the rec¬ ommendations of the joint committee of the Legislature appointed to investigate the financial condition of the City of New York, proposed in the Senate on March 6, 1916, falls far short of satisfy¬ ing the public demand for home rule. It is only half a remedy for our rnunici- pal needs. The amendment contains no guarantee that home rule shall be given to the cities except when and to what extent the Legislature may deem expe¬ dient. A genuine home rule provision should not merely delegate to the Legis¬ lature the right to empower cities to conduct their local government,^ as Sen¬ ator Brown's amendment does; it should by its own terms vest in the cities the right to manage their own municipal affairs. The exponents of hoitie rule have insisted, and continue to insist, that local government be vested in the locali¬ ties absolutely and that in order to work out their municipal destinies cities should not be compelled to seek powers from the Legislature but should have those powers assured to them by the funda¬ mental law of the State. I have intro¬ duced a proposed amendment to the con¬ stitution which embodies my views or rather the views of those who want gen¬ uine home rule. The amendment which I introduced does not merely delegate authority to the Legislature to confer home rule upon cities, but actually vests in the cities the greatest possible meas¬ ure of home rule independent of legis¬ lative action.