A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. the problem created by the capacity of the present bureaucracies to absorb more and more money for the same, or perhaps less service. The destruction of the political machine has left the unionized civil service bureaucracies with the same control over the life of the city that the machine once enjoyed and abused sufficiently to lead to the growth of civil service. Finally, the destruction of the machine has left some governmental functions without anyone to perform them. The city’s election machinery, for example, was once operated by the political parties. The parties, rather than the city, not only trained the election inspectors but paid them \(the city paid a pittance, and still does, but the parties no longer can transform this pittance into reasonable polls were open when they should be, and that the voting machines worked. True, the parties sometimes abused their power. There were conflicts of interest in primary elections where one faction or another selected the inspectors. \(In the first primary in which I was elected a district leader, my opponent selected the thirty-two Democratic inspectors who, with thirty-two Republican ones, operated our sixteen polling .places. I won, But the parties no longer are capable of performing this governmental function. And although some critics attribute breakdowns in the electoral machinery to the venality of the political machine, in fact, it is the result of incompetence. The political consequences of the destruction of the machine are far more obvious than the governmental ones. The wave of upset victories in recent city primaries and elections all over the country is the obvious product of the death of the political party machines and party loyalty and party discipline. The solution to all this is not the recreation of the political machines, an impossible task given the level of competence of their present leaders and personnel. Rather it is to stimulate alternative methods of performing the necessary governmental and political functions that the machines once performed. The second major cause of the crisis of the cities has been the loss of a supply of cheap labor. This loss has not only escalated municipal government costs, but has posed the most serious threat to the capacity of the cities to survive. Eliel Saarinen in his book The City: Its Growth, Its Decay, Its Future pointed out that the basic function of a city is to provide places for people to live and work. Indeed, without places to live, there can be no city. The loss of a supply of cheap labor has eliminated the capacity of the city \(here I mean not the city government, but the places for people to live. In New York City, residential construction has come to a halt literally, not figuratively, for construction capital and labor can far more profitably be devoted to commercial construction, where rents of S 16 per year per square foot can be earned. Unless some solution is found to this problem, the city is doomed to a slow death as its existing supply of residential housing decays and becomes uninhabitable, and the city’s people are pushed out. The second major problem created by the ‘loss of a supply of cheap labor has already been noted the 15 per cent increase in the costs of city government each year. Once city employment was attractive to ambitious young men as well as to security-seeking citizens. There was a surplus of cheap labor. Jobs were impermanent in a non-unionized volatile economy, and many offered little in the way of a future. Lower paying government Cities need special forces of young people, to help in time of crisis On the governmental level, the first task is to create a device to perform the function once provided by the machine of giving the citizen direct lateral access to his government. The most popular proposal to accomplish this has been called decentralization. I prefer to call it reallocation of government functions. The proposal is that each government function will be assigned to the lowest and smallest governmental entity qualified to perform it. Under this approach, basic government services, such as police patrolling, street cleaning, and parking and housing enforcement, will be overseen by a local administrator in charge of a district of about 100,000 people. Other services, such as those dealing with air and water pollution, would be administered on a regional basis. In between, city or county governments would perform those functions they are best capable of. The details of such a reorganization of city government are far too complex to deal with here. But essential to the proposal is the notion that the local administrator be elected by and be responsible to the voters whose streets he is supposed to keep clean and safe, that the existing civil service bureaucracies be eliminated, that their functions and personnel be reassigned to the appropriate level of government -local, city, county, or regional and that the elected administrator of each level of government be given substantially greater power over those he supervises than city officials now have over unionized civil servants, who also possess a fair amount of political power. Finally, the proposal envisages the creation of local district councils consisting of approximately eighty committeemen. These committeemen would each represent committeemen would be part-time city employees elected by their neighbors. They would act much as the old captain did; if there were a problem about a leaky roof or a dirty street, the committeeman would be the person to see. He would have direct access to the local administrator, as his predecessor the captain had to the leader_ Similar proposals have been made elsewhere. In Los Angeles, a similar recent proposal gives the committeeman the unwieldy but descriptive title of “neighborhoodman.” Since the committeeman would be an elected official, he would be far more sensitive to constituents’ problems than any remote unionized civil servant downtown. And if the committeeman was not more sensitive, he could hardly survive the next election. It is hoped that this reallocation of government functions will achieve a number of salutary effects: humanizing the presently impersonal jobs were attractive. They provided security and a step up the ladder. That is no longer true. To get people to work for it, the city must now compete with and attempt to match the private sector. As a result, the costs of city government have skyrocketed, and will continue to skyrocket sufficiently to absorb all that giant transfusion of federal aid to the cities that everyone calls for, and that is supposed to be on the way. Again, the solution is not to re-create a supply of cheap labor by having a nice little recession \(a solution the Nixon administration more and more appears to alternative work forces, not drawn from the existing high cost labor supply, seems essential. S0 MUCH FOR the causes of the crisis. What are the cures?
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