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Mayor Bancroft delivered an address last evening in the Fogg Art Museum on the subject of Municipal Government. He spoke in part as follows:
The question of municipal government touches us very closely, for all our immediate surroundings are concerned. To a great many people the conception of municipal government is that of a pawn in the game of national politics. But this is very remote from the fact. It is an independent community and is a trust to be managed for the benefit of the city.
Municipal government divides itself naturally into two parts, its form and its work. The American form of government has not been altogether successful and to remedy this some interesting experiments in municipal government have been made, and many suggestions have been offered. One of these is that the city should be run like a private corporation, but the objection to this is that in a corporation all the members are stockholders whereas many individuals own no property in the municipality and so do not take an interest in it.
The restriction of suffrage to taxpayers has also been suggested; this, however, would be very objectionable and should only be resorted to as a last expedient. State interference with municipal government should rarely be resorted to, for it is apt to lead to trouble; in fact the revolutions in France were caused in a great degree by this.
Minority representation can also be suggested, but the principle of the rule of the majority is not likely to be given up. Much can be said for a single chamber instead of two, but even in a smaller city than ours, measures need most thorough discussion and mature deliberation and the opinion of one house is much more likely to be at fault than that of two.
Whatever else we have, there certainly ought to be non-partisanship in city affairs. There is no reason why local voting should be influenced by the national elections or why Democrats and Republicans should not sit side by side in the legislature, for offices are not sought here for private services, but should be filled by the most competent men.
The work of a city government is not to accumulate, but to administer; not to make money, but to spend it judiciously. Holding a public trust, the government is analogous to the trustees of an estate and is not warranted in taking any risks, therefore there ought to be no extravagent expenditure. Of course water works, public schools, police force, and fire department are necessary, but there are many things far beyond reasonable resources which can be dispensed with.
Poor government is caused by men not acting together and not being united on the same questions. The city is only a large club, so it would seem that the simplicity of its object would ensure success. Yet a city government will not run itself and there is need of continual watchfulness and bright intelligence.
Conscious as all must be of the existing evils it is the duty of each one to do his part for the general good and to be reasonably informed and fairly intelligent upon a question which concerns him so closely.
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