The Government of Metropolitan Areas in the United States

By Paul Studenski; Frank H. Sommer et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE FUNCTIONING OF SPECIAL METROPOLITAN AUTHORITIES

A study of the results achieved by special metropolitan authorities may well begin by turning to the Boston metropolitan area. There special authorities have been employed for forty years and the forms of organization adopted have frequently been accepted as models elsewhere. The Boston area blazed the trail. Moreover, the special authorities there embodied certain unique features which should be described at the outset.

As stated in Chapter XIV, the present Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission is the outgrowth of the mergers of three commissions, viz., the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, the Metropolitan Water Supply Commission, and the Metropolitan Park Commission. The procedure today for initiating projects is the same as that prevailing before the mergers. A group of citizens desiring that some new service be undertaken may petition the legislature to authorize the commission to do the work, or if authority to execute the project already exists, the legislature may be asked to include the necessary funds in its appropriations to the commission. The task of the commission is to carry out the instructions of the legislature. Neither the governor nor the legislature is bound to seek the guidance of the commission in any matter or to act in accordance with its judgment.

The commission has no direct contact with the people. The commissioners are functionaries expected to take orders from the governor and the legislature and to furnish advice when requested. There have been forceful and uncompromising men among them, but these did not get along as well with the legislature as the more pliable men.

The several commissions established from time to time for the administration of sewerage, water supply and parks in Boston have efficiently executed the projects entrusted to them. Sanitary conditions in the region have been improved, the advantages of pure and cheap water extended to the suburbs, and one of the finest and most comprehensive metropolitan park systems in the

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