The Government of Metropolitan Areas in the United States

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

CHAPTER XVIII
THE FEDERATED CITY

Under the "federal" form of metropolitan government the constituent municipalities are not completely merged but continue to exist as separate entities exercising a degree of local control within their boundaries. To this form of organization the term "federated region" or "federated city" has been applied because of the rough analogy to national federations or federated states.

The term, of course, is not scientifically accurate and has nothing to do with the question of sovereignty. It suggests, however, a distribution of powers between the whole and the parts, which is the basic idea underlying this newer form of metropolitan organization. While it is difficult to define the border line between federated and centralized metropolitan governments, New York City is generally considered to be not of the federated type since no legislative discretion is vested in any borough or local agency. Although the five boroughs enjoy a limited degree of administrative autonomy, the central government remains as the sole source of legislative authority. On the other hand, the distinguishing feature of the plans with which this chapter is concerned is the division of legislative discretion between the central government and the localities, together with the survival of a considerable amount of administrative autonomy in the constituent parts. By the same tokens the administrative decentralization applied to Greater Berlin in 1920 does not make the enlarged city a federation, since legislative discretion remains exclusively with the central government.

The establishment of a "federated city" was discussed in Boston in 1894. It was proposed but rejected in Alameda County, California, ( Oakland and vicinity) in 1922, and in Pittsburgh in 1929. It is today a subject of practical interest in St. Louis, Cleveland, and Boston. It is a concession to the deep-rooted desire for local independence in the suburbs, offered as a compromise to those who oppose the complete extinction of their local governments. It also provides a means of escape from threatened state

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