Garden Cities of To-morrow, by Ebenezer Howard

Chapter Six

Administration

‘The present evils of city life are temporary and remediable. The abolition of the slums, and the destruction of their virus, are as feasible as the drainage of a swamp, and the total dissipation of its miasmas. The conditions and circumstances that surround the lives of the masses of the people in modern cities can be so adjusted to their needs as to result in the highest development of the race, in body, in mind and in moral character. The so-called problems of the modern city are but the various phases of the one main question: How can the environment be most perfectly adapted to the welfare of urban populations? And science can meet and answer every one of these problems. The science of the modern city — of the ordering of the common concerns in dense population groups — draws upon many branches of theoretical and practical knowledge. It includes administrative science, statistical science, engineering and technological science, sanitary science, and educational, social and moral science. If one uses the term City Government in the large sense that makes it -inclusive of this entire ordering of the general affairs and interests of the community, and, further, if one grasps the idea that the cheerful and rational acceptance of urban life as a great social fact demands that the City Government should proceed to make such urban life conduce positively to the welfare of all the people whose lawful interests bring them together as denizens of great towns, he will understand the point of view from which this book had been written.’ — ALBERT SHAW, Municipal Government in Great Britain (1895).

I have in the fourth and fifth chapters dealt with the fund at the disposal of the Board of Management, and have endeavoured to show, and I believe with success, that the rate-rents collected by the trustees in their capacity of landlords of the towns will suffice: (1) to provide interest on the debentures with which the estate is purchased; (2) to provide a sinking fund which will at a comparatively early date leave the community free from the burden of interest on such debentures, and (3) to enable the Board of Management to carry on such undertakings as are elsewhere, for the most part, carried out by means of rates compulsorily levied.

A most important question now arises regarding the extent to which municipal enterprise is to be carried, and how far it is to supersede private enterprise. We have already by implication stated that the experiment advocated does not involve, as has been the case in so many social experiments — the complete municipalization of industry and the elimination of private enterprise. But what principle is to guide us in determining the line which shall separate municipal from private control and management? Mr. Joseph Chamberlain has said: ‘The true field for municipal activity is limited to those things which the community can do better than the individual.’ Precisely, but that is a truism, and does not carry us one whit further, for the very question at issue is as to what those things are which the community can do better than the individual; and when we seek for an answer to this question we find two directly conflicting views — the view of the socialist, who says: Every phase of wealth-production and distribution can be best performed by the community; and the view of the individualist, who contends these things are best left to the individual. But probably the true answer is to be found at neither extreme, is only to be gained by experiment, and will differ in different communities and at different periods. With a growing intelligence and honesty in municipal enterprise, with greater freedom from the control of the Central Government, it may be found — especially on municipally owned land — that the field of municipal activity may grow so as to embrace a very large area, and yet the municipality claim no rigid monopoly and the fullest rights of combination exist.

Bearing this in mind, the municipality of Garden City will, at the outset, exercise great caution, and not attempt too much. The difficulty of raising the necessary funds with which to carry on municipal undertakings would be greatly increased if the Board of Management attempted to do everything; and, in the prospectus to be ultimately issued, a clear statement will be made of what the Corporation undertakes to do with the moneys entrusted to it, and this will at first embrace little more than those things which experience has proved municipalities can perform better than individuals. Tenants, too, will, it is obvious, be far more ready to offer adequate ‘rate-rents’ if they are given distinctly to understand to what purpose those ‘rate-rents’ are to be devoted, and after those things are done, and done well, little difficulty will be placed in the way of further appropriate extensions of the field of municipal enterprise.

Our answer, then, to the question, what field is to be covered by municipal enterprise, is this. Its extent will be measured simply by the willingness of the tenants to pay rate-rents, and will grow in proportion as municipal work is done efficiently and honestly, or decline as it is done dishonestly or inefficiently. If, for example, the tenants find that a very small additional contribution, recently made in the shape of ‘rate-rent’, has enabled the authorities to provide an excellent supply of water for all purposes, and they are convinced that so good a result at so small a cost would not have been achieved through the agency of any private undertaking working for a profit, they will naturally be willing and even anxious that further hopeful-looking experiments in municipal work should be undertaken. The site of Garden City may, in this respect, be compared with Mr. and Mrs. Boffin’s famous apartment, which, the reader of Dickens will remember, was furnished at one end to suit the taste of Mrs. Boffin, who was ‘a dab at fashion’, while at the other end it was furnished to conform to the notions of solid comfort which so gratified Mr. Boffin, but with the mutual understanding between the parties that if Mr. B. should get by degrees to be ‘a high-flyer’ at fashion, then Mrs. B.’s carpet would gradually ‘come for’arder’, whilst if Mrs. B. should become ‘less of a dab at fashion’, Mrs. B.’s carpet would ‘go back’arder’. So, in Garden City, if the inhabitants become greater ‘dabs’ at co-operation, the municipality will ‘come for’arder’; if they become less ‘dabs’ at co-operation, the municipality will ‘go back’arder’; while the relative number of positions occupied by municipal workers and non-municipal workers at any period will very fairly reflect the skill and integrity of the public administration and the degree of value which is therefore associated with municipal effort.

But the municipality of Garden City, besides setting its face against any attempt to embark upon too large a field of enterprise, will so frame its constitution that the responsibility for each branch of the municipal service will be thrown directly upon the officers of that branch and not be practically lost sight of because loosely thrown upon the larger central body — a plan which makes it difficult for the public to perceive where any leakage or friction may be taking place. The constitution is modelled upon that of a large and well-appointed business, which is divided into various departments, each department being expected to justify its own continued existence — its officers being selected, not so much for their knowledge of the business generally as for their special fitness for the work of their department.

THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT consists of:

(1) The Central Council.

(2) The Departments.

THE CENTRAL COUNCIL

In this council (or its nominees) are vested the rights and powers of the community as sole landlord of Garden City. Into its treasury are paid (after provision has been made for landlord’s rent and sinking fund) all rate-rents received from its tenants, as well as the profits derived from its various municipal undertakings, and these, we have seen, are amply sufficient to discharge all public burdens without any resort to the expedient of compulsory rates. The powers possessed by the Central Council are, it may be noticed in passing, more ample than those possessed by other municipal bodies, for whilst most of these enjoy only such powers as are expressly conferred on them by Acts of Parliament, the Central Council of Garden City exercises on behalf of the people those wider rights, powers and privileges which are enjoyed by landlords under the common law. The private owner of land can do with his land and with the revenue he derives from it what he pleases so long as he is not a nuisance to his neighbour; while, on the other hand, public bodies which acquire land or obtain power to levy rates by Acts of Parliament, can only use that land or spend those rates for such purposes as are expressly prescribed by those Acts. But Garden City is in a greatly superior position, for, by stepping as a quasi public body into the rights of a private landlord, it becomes at once clothed with far larger powers for carrying out the will of the people than are possessed by other local bodies, and thus solves to a large extent the problem of local self-government.

But the Central Council, though possessing these large powers, delegates many of them, for convenience of administration, to its various departments, retaining, however, responsibility for:

(1) The general plan on which the estate is laid out.

(2) The amount of money voted to each of the various spend.. ing departments, as schools, roads, parks, etc.

(3) Such measure of oversight and control of the departments as is necessary to preserve a general unity and harmony, but no more.

THE DEPARTMENTS

These are divided into various groups — for example:

(A) Public Control.

(B) Engineering.

(C) Social Purposes.

GROUP A, PUBLIC CONTROL

This group may consist of the following sub-groups:

Finance

                         

Assessment

Law

 

Inspection

Finance

Into this department are paid, after making provision for landlord’s rent and sinking fund, all rate-rents; and out of it the necessary sums for the various departments are voted by the Central Council.

Assessment

This department receives all applications from would-be tenants, and fixes the rate-rent to be paid — such rate-rents not, however, being fixed arbitrarily by the department, but upon the essential principle adopted by other Assessment Committees — the really determining factor being the rate-rent which an average tenant is found willing to pay. 1

Law

This department settles the terms and conditions under which leases shall be granted, and the nature of the covenants to be entered into by and with the Central Council.

Inspection

This department carries out such reasonable duties in relation to inspection as the municipality, in its capacity of landlord, may with the tenants of the municipality mutually agree upon.

GROUP B, ENGINEERING

This group may consist of the following departments — some of which would be later creations.

Roads

Parks and open spaces

Subways

Drainage

Sewers

Canals

Tramways

Irrigation

Municipal Railway

Water-supply

Public Buildings (other than schools)

Motive-power and Lighting

 

Messages

GROUP C, SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL

This group is also divided into various departments, dealing with:

Education

Libraries

Baths and Wash-houses

 

Music

Recreation

Election of Members of Board of Management

Members (who may be men or women) are elected by the rate-renters to serve on one or more departments, and the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the departments constitute the Central Council.

Under such a constitution it is believed that the community would have the readiest means of rightly estimating the work of its servants, and, at election times, would have clear and distinct issues brought before it. The candidates would not be expected to specify their views upon a hundred and one questions of municipal policy upon which they had no definite opinions, and which would probably not give rise within their term of office to the necessity for recording their votes, but would simply state their views as to some special question or group of questions, a sound opinion upon which would be of urgent importance to the electors, because immediately connected with the welfare of the town.

1 This individual is known to Assessment Committees under the name of the ‘hypothetical tenant’.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42