« AnteriorContinuar »
"It's all a stupid business, those stores. They irritate the men, and would not be kept a day if the company did not make a lot of money out of them.” Much worse than this is the occasional bar at which the miners are expected to drink. An owner of one of these said to the writer, "There is some objection to this kind of public house, but I keep it on moral and humane grounds. If they come here to drink, they are under some sort of control and restraint. If they went where they liked, to all sorts of saloons, they would waste more and their families would suffer in consequence.” Admitting some measure of truth in this, one sees, nevertheless, a very hopeless state of medievalism in such an attitude of mind. It is no business of this mine owner where they drink or where they buy, and every extra day they live in American atmosphere the miners will see more clearly what impudence it is to expect good behavior under such treatment.
But the “public house, the company store and the company doctor" (this last an undoubted good) are not mentioned here because they are not of very primary importance. They are important only as showing the attitude of mind on the part of many of the employers, which makes it so difficult to hope for reforms through their willing coöperation.
With one breath of Robert Owen's spirit, at least something could be done of an educational character which would slowly tend to modify the conditions which, to the end of time, will be full of peril in democratic society so long as they exist. In the long run, even the expense side might be less. Police are expensive and $30,000 per week for soldiers is not economy. And yet these are the bills that will continue to be paid, probably in an increasing ratio, until the masters, who have shown power and skill enough to bring order out of chaos in the case of their merchandize, give also some fair share of that mastery to the human side of the problem—to the conditions of a decent existence among the men and the families of those who do their work.
JOHN GRAHAM BROOKS. Cambridge, Mass.
The Charities Chapter of the Greater New York Charter. According to the last State census, the population of the territory comprised within the limits of Greater New York constituted 45% of the total population of the State. The same territory supported, according to the last report of the State Board of Charities, 57% of
the total pauper population of the State. The total number of inmates of almshouses within the limits of Greater New York on October 1, 1896, was 7,921, while the inmates of the remaining almshouses of the State numbered only 5,945. No States in the Union, except Pennsylvania and New York, had as many paupers in 1890, as Greater New York will have on the first of January next. Nothing that concerns the welfare of these nearly eight thousand men, women, and little children, should be without interest to any New Yorker.
The present administration of public charity in the Greater New York territory may be thus summarized:
In New York City there is a Department of Public Charities, at the head of which there are three commissioners receiving a salary of $5,000 per year each. This department maintains three reception hospitals for the sick and wounded, three great general hospitals for the care and treatment of the sick, an almshouse, which is a group of refuges and hospitals, an infants' hospital, a series of hospitals for children, and a group of institutions for the epileptic, feeble-minded and idiotic.
In Brooklyn there is a Board of Charities and Correction, consisting of three salaried members, who have under their jurisdiction the County almshouse, the Nursery for Children, the County hospital and also the County Penitentiary.
In Richmond County a Superintendent of the Poor, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, has charge of the County Poorhouse, and there is one Overseer of the Poor in each of the five towns in the county, charged with the temporary relief of the poor in their respective towns.
Queens County includes six towns and Long Island City. Long Island City, the towns of Jamaica, Flushing and Newtown, and a part of the town of Hempstead, are to be included in Greater New York. In Queens County there are three county superintendents of the poor and also a keeper of the county poorhouse on Barnum Island. Long Island City has one overseer of the poor; the town of Jamaica has one; Flushing, two; Newtown, two; and Hempstead, two.
All of the 24 offices above mentioned are to be abolished throughout Greater New York on the 31st day of December, and in their place is to be one Department of Public Charities, which will have charge of all the above mentioned institutions, except the Kings County Penitentiary, which is to be transferred to the Department of Correction of New York City.
A unique feature of this new Department of Public Charities is that each commissioner is given “administrative jurisdiction" over a certain territory, while the three act together as a board in framing general rules and regulations for the department as a whole, in preparing the annual budget to be submitted to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, in deciding as to the necessity of the erection or alteration of buildings anywhere in the department. The object which the Commission appears to have had in mind is to secure a centralized and direct individual responsibility in the immediate management of the institutions in the department, while securing at the same time for the department as a whole, the exercise of the judicial and conservative control which a board of several members is supposed to afford. The feature first mentioned, that of a centralized and individual responsibility, is in keeping with the general policy of the Greater New York Commission and undoubtedly meets with general approval. As to whether a board of three will give steadiness and caution, there may be a difference of opinion. Additional doubt is suggested by the very great disparity in the extent of the administrative responsibility of the three commissioners. The number of inmates of the public institutions which will be under the control of the three commissioners respectively is, according to the census of October 1, 1896, as follows: Commissioner for the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx 5,782
Brooklyn and Queens.... 2,015
7,921 Thus it is evident that as to the number of persons for whose care he will be directly responsible, and as to the extent of administrative experience, the Commissioner for the borough of Manhattan and the Bronx will far surpass the other two commissioners. In fact he will have charge of nearly three times as many persons as the other two commissioners together. And yet, the other two commissioners, directly responsible for less that one-third of the department, can overrule his action and determine his policy by such rules and regulations as they, forming a numerical majority of the board, may adopt.
The Commissioner for the borough of Richmond is to receive an annual salary of $2500, the other two commissioners salaries of $7500, per year each. It seems almost certain that the commissioner for the borough of Richmond, in view of his very limited
administrative responsibility and in view of the small salary, will neither be a person of large experience in business or administrative affairs nor an expert in the science and art of philanthropy. Yet in the Board, his power will be equal to that of the commissioner for the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, whose administrative responsibility, measured by the number of inmates under his care, will be nearly fifty times as great.
In the main the provisions of the new Charter relating to the administration of the various institutions in the Department of Public Charities, are a re-enactment of the Charities Chapter of the present Charter of New York City, with such changes as have been made necessary by the passage of later laws affecting the whole State.
The new Charter contains, however, several minor and yet important departures from the existing law. One of these is the express prohibition of the distribution of out-door relief, except to the adult blind. The distribution of money, groceries and fuel to people in their own homes, a prolific source of political corruption and wholesale pauperization of families, was discontinued in New York City in 1876, except as to the distribution of coal, by the failure of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to make any appropriation for this purpose. A special law passed at a later date authorized the department to make a distribution of money in uniform amounts to the adult blind. The wholesale distribution of out-door relief, however, could have been resumed at any time had the Board of Estimate and Apportionment seen fit to make an appropriation for the purpose. In Brooklyn, out-door relief was declared illegal and was discontinued in 1878. In the various towns of Richmond and Queens Counties, out-door relief has been distributed in small amounts up to the present time. Under the terms of the new Charter the distribution of any form of out-door relief, except to the adult blind, is expressly prohibited.
Another important gain is the insertion of the clause requiring each Commissioner of Charities to make provision for the temporary care of vagrant and indigent persons. The circumstances of all such persons must be investigated and those who are found upon investigation to be vagrants, are to be brought before magistrates pursuant to law. This admirable provision gives reasonable assurance that the excellent work initiated by the Department of Public Charities of New York City in 1896, in the establishment of the City Lodging House, will be continued and will become the
established policy of the Greater New York in its dealings with this problem. May there never be a return to the old disgraceful police station lodgings!
The provisions of the present Charter confer no authority upon the Charities Department concerning the payment of public funds to private institutions. This subject is of the utmost importance, since the city already contributes far more to private charitable institutions, mostly for the support of children, than it expends through its own department. Under the rules adopted by the State Board of Charities, pursuant to the Revised Constitution, the approval of the Commissioners of Charities is necessary before any private institution can draw any money from the public treasury for the support of any inmate. This provision, which has now been in force about a year and which has resulted in saving several hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city, has been embodied in substance in the new Charter. The Conference of Charities of the City of New York recommended that there should be a separate department to deal with all matters relating to children. The State Charities Aid Association suggested that if the plan of the Greater New York Commission of having three commissioners were to be adopted, one of the commissioners, instead of being assigned to the County of Richmond, should be placed in charge of all the work of the department in connection with private institutions, and should be called the Commissioner of Charitable Institutions. This plan would have avoided the present great disparity in extent of administrative responsibility—a disparity which is still further emphasized when we consider the number of children as to the propriety of whose support as public charges the commissioners must decide. The number of children who will be, to this limited extent, under the jurisdiction of each commissioner will be approximately as follows: Commissioner for the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx 15,800
Brooklyn and Queens 3,900
When destitute children are brought to magistrates for commitment to institutions, the Commissioner of Charities must be notified and must investigate the circumstances of the parents and report to the magistrate before the commitment is made. The commissioner also has power, after a hearing and for reasons to be stated in writing, to discontinue the payment of public money for any such