MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRATIC IDEALS 79
the popular view with reference to the administration of the city's executive departments is moving toward the standards which have proved so successful in the management of great corporate enter- prises. This means that the people are prepared to accept the same administrative standards in municipal affairs as those which prevail in the business world. The recent proposal to give to the police commissioner of New York a term of ten years, or possibly a life tenure, would have been received with scorn and indignation fifty years ago. Today it is regarded by many as the best means of securing an efficient administration of this service.
Similarly, the increasing limitations on the powers of the municipal council are not due to any decline in the character of its membership, but rather to a growing appreciation of the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of enforcing responsibility against a large assembly. The repeated failure of the effort to enforce such responsibility is accountable for the steady decline of popular interest in the work of the council.
It is a significant fact that, even in those cities in which years of effort have finally secured an improvement in the character of the men serving in the local legislative body, the improvement in the administrative service is in no sense commensurate with the amount of effort thus expended. The vital interest of the citizens is in strengthening the administrative service rather than the legislative body. The gradual appreciation of this fact has led to the transference of what were formerly regarded as legislative functions to administrative officers. Although the movement is by no means uniform, the general trend of institutional development in this country is to reduce the power of the council to a control over finances, and by means of constitutional and statutory limita- tions to set definite limits even to this control. The council is gradually assuming the position of an organ of government whose function is to prevent the extravagant or unwise expenditure of public funds. It is thus rapidly becoming a negative factor in our municipal system. To an increasing extent the American people are looking to the executive, not only for the execution, but also for the planning of municipal improvements. Even the freedom of discussion in the council is being subjected to statutory limita-