THE CITY MANAGER AND HIS RESPONSIBILITIES

THE CITY MANAGER AND HIS RESPONSIBILITIES

In centralized government there is, and should be a decided demarkation between the legislative and the administrative functions of the government as directed by the actions of the Commission. The manager is responsible for the organization under him, for the carrying out of the administrative duties that he may assign to that organization. The manager acts with his commission just as any executive acts with his board of directors. It may be rightly asked, what is the reason for the Commission-Manager form of government? It is the outcome of a desire to centralize responsibility; to allow simplicity; to establish efficiency and economy; to provide business methods; to have prompt and effective action; to allow the employment of experts when needed; to have the commissioners represent the whole city and not the separate wards; to interest a higher type of man in municipal service; to abolish politics from the administrative end of the government; and finally, not depend on the ballot to select trained men for particular functions of government. My interest in municipal government has been short, most of my experience having been in the construction and operation of public utilities, and upon assuming the duties of city manager, I discovered that the occupant is in a position of great responsibility, and at first, confusion. He is confronted with the principles of law, health, police, parks, finance, playgrounds, public amusements, sanitation, streets, and even to the burying of the dead. For the successful and efficient administration of these departments he is held responsible; and his ability is iurther guaranteed the community he serves by his furnishing a heavy bond. The act of the legislature creating the commission-manager form of government in Rock Hill separates the legislative and judicial functions from the executive end and the manager has exclusive power of appointment of all administrative officers. In the selection of these heads of departments politics has absolutely no part. They were chosen solely on merit, with special regard to their training and experience in their particular field of work. A word as to the commission, as elected in Rock Hill. Three business men comprise this commission, because the commission-manager form of government is a business man’s organization. They are elected at large, the office of one Commissioner expiring each year. They arc entitled to offer for re-election. This was the case this year at the expiration of the one-year Commissioner’s term. He stood for re-election and secured a three-fold majority. After each election the Commissioners vote among themselves for the office of Mayor for the ensuing year. Centralized government naturally tends towards’ further centralization, and in a municipality of the size of Rock Hill the manager is the buyer for the city. Commenting on this, I feel that a central city purchasing agency, whether in a commission-manager city or’ not, should be welcomed by the “Knights of the Grip.” Marked advance has been made, in my judgment, in the class and calibre of the salesmen on the road. They are usually technically trained, and have had factory experience’ for several years before entering upon their road duties. They know their business thoroughly, and know human nature. A central city purchasing department should assist him in dispatching his work, thereby saving both the city with whom he deals and his employer lost action. In Rock Hill the city manager does all of the buying, and approves all bills for payment. Centralized purchasing is illustrative of centralized government, being void of duplication and needless waste. It is the duty of the city manager to detect discord and to either correct the cause or remove it, and to see that co-operation is maintained between the various departments under his control, so that in the end maximum service will be received for every dollar spent. In this connection, I daresay that there is hardly a superintendent of water or sewers present who has not witnessed the. construction of a street, by one department of his city interested only in street building, which, when preparing the plans for the street improvement, failed entirely to consider the needs of the water or sewer department. After the contract for streets was signed and the work commenced, the superintendent of water or sewers would see the necessity of mains or sewers; would inform the city authorities of the necessity of placing these underground services in advance of the street work, and would be informed that there was no money reserved for his needs, and that he should have been present when the melon was cut. As a matter of fact he had no way of knowing that the improvements were to be made, as he had nothing in common with the street department, and therefore was not consulted. The street goes in, and under some following administration the blunder is discovered and the street is then destroyed for the reception of the other services. It is the duty of the city manager to pass on these matters. Again it is worth mentioning here, with so many of my fellow water works and sewer street destroyers present, it would pay them, as it has me, to view all departments of their city in conjunction with his Work, so that he might be more inclined to obey the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” By this I mean that it is hard for a water works man to appreciate the street superintendents’ position at a time when all of his customers are yelling for water at the same time; and vice versa, when the street superintendent is ploughing up service connections with a traction engine, and putting a ten ton roller over the water man’s valves. A condition of this kind leads to confusion and disorder. The duty of the city manager is to eliminate this, he being equally interested in both. A further duty of the city manager is that of city planning. Theoretically, I think that this association will agree with the speaker that a definite working plan of a city is as essential to the economical and syymmctrical development of a city as a definite, detailed working plan of a water w’orks plant, sewerage system or skyscraper is to the development of such enterprises. It has aKvays been my desire to be considered practical, and until I had worked under the commission-manager government for a year and a half, I had always considered the theory of city planning impossible and impractical, and I still think that the plans can only be carried out under some manner of centralized business government. The act of the legislature of South Carolina creating the office of city manager, known as section 31 of Act 453, reads as follows: “Under the commission form of government with a city manager, the council shall as early after their election as possible, employ a male person of sound discretion, and good moral character not of their number, at such salary and upon such terms as they may find advisable, and who shall have general supervision, management and control, of all departments of the city; subject to such rules and regulations as may be provided by said council, and to hold office only so long as his services are satisfactory to said council.” In short, the duty of the city manager is that of chairman of all of the separate departments of the administrative end of the city government. For the success of the commission-manager form of government, it is the duty of the commissioners to ilia: -.taint the manager in the position to which they have called on him to serve. And it is the duty of the manager to occupy that position. This can be easily accomplished when there is a mutual desire on the part of both to accomplish this end. Centralized authority does not correct all of the faults of municipal government. Quoting from Mr. Brvan: “I recognize that the most important things of life lie outside of the realms of government and that more depends on what the individual docs for himself than upon what the government does, or can do, for him; men can be miserable under the best government, and they can be happy under the worst government. The duties of the commission and of their manager are to strive to give to the people the kind of government they deserve and desire.

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