The History of the New York City Legislature

By Frederick Shaw | Go to book overview

10. THE NEW COUNCIL

Every city needs local legislation enacted by a local body clothed with ample legislative authority and locally elected by methods which make its members responsible and responsive to the local electorate.--HORACE DEMING1

THE NEW GOVERNMENT was not a radical reconstruction of the old. Seeking reforms principally within the existing framework, the Charter Revision Commission had retained the strong- mayor form and two deliberative bodies. In their disappointment, some reformers criticized the commission for merely "replacing the piston rings and getting some new tires for the same old car." Samuel Seabury regarded the new charter as only a "step, although a very short step," in the right direction.2

The commission's restraint was due partly to conviction, partly to strategy. "The notion that New York City's charter needs drastic reorganization is much exaggerated. There are one or two major operations that are called for," Commissioner McGoldrick had declared in 1932. "Some of the things that most need doing would, however, occasion bitter controversy."3 Anticipating an uphill battle, the commission had realized that moderate changes would arouse less opposition than revolutionary proposals.

The new charter seemed to augment the City Council's dignity and importance, lodging in it full legislative authority. With the Board of Estimate and Apportionment no longer a co

____________________
1
The Government of American Cities, p. 149.
2
Whitney and Cunningham, Charter Revision; Holmes to Thacher, December 16, 1935; New York Times, April 27, May 3, 1936.
3
McGoldrick, "Is the City Manager Plan Suitable for N. Y.?" Nat. Mun. Rev., XXI, 292.

-175-

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