Special of the week; Issue 10-1969
NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week. This is the fourth of seven half hour radio documentary programs on Metropolitan Government prepared for broadcast by the capital city is broadcast station in Detroit. WJ are the producer and the writer is Oscar for net WJR New York was the title for this series. Is there a better way. Everything is run out of some bureau in Washington and what a bunch of bureaucrats know about what's going on. Well every time the federal bureaucracy. It's just and not only is it hard to pronounce it's impossible to digest because IRS F.A. only a CAIR NLRB OIO SBA responded. One could drown in a sea of alphabet soup of agencies and statistics astronomical figures and all the endless reading tapes done in the paralysis that sets in. Is there a better way. This is the fourth in a series of reports on local government seeking answers to the
question is there a better way. We've talked about regional thinking urbanization of the flight from the city and local government reorganisation. Let's talk now about growing federalism. The name Washington is invoked wherever the urban crisis is discussed. Few solutions are offered to problems of the city that don't start and end with the federal government. Why is this. Why can't the cities or urban areas solve their own problems. Well the usual answer is that the federal government has all the money. But why is that. Seriously we have three levels of government local state and federal. Why has it grown top heavy. It's easier to denounce federal bureaucracy than to explain why it has developed. Political scientists do not necessarily agree on the question of growing federalism and what brought it about. But MIT Professor Alan Altshuler outlines what he considers the four main reasons.
First the Federalist trust. Which was a product of a very brief period in American politics of reaction to the legislative supremacy to the weakness of of executives and government generally that had. Characterized the revolutionary and immediate post revolutionary period. It was in reaction to that that in 1787 our Constitution was developed in the Washington Adams became president of the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. All the trends in American politics was in the other direction and the direction of fragmentation of weakening American government weakening American executives. But the Federalist Constitution was extremely difficult to a man and the result is that we were left with a potentially very strong executive which has come into his own in the 20th century and with a political system that has no provision for referenda. So one does not have to go directly to the people to have them vote on particular issues and a log rolling can thrive in the legislature.
Second national government of course is responsible for national defense and it is in performing the national defense function that loyalties are solidified. In the nation. Also of course the national tax base was built up during wartime. If one considers the extraordinary difficulty that would exist in American politics had we tried to build up the tax base from what it was in the 20s and 30s to what it has been in the 40s 50s and 60s in the absence of wartime pressures one can see the importance of war in making the federal government be the seeming fount. Unlimited resources that it has often appeared to be in the last decade or two. And of course the prestige of the president is very closely related to his wartime leadership status. Third responsibility of the national government. For general prosperity. And again there have been enormous increment in the status and power of American government in times
of crisis. And fourth and finally the national government is extremely visible. It attracts national attention and the best talent available to government in the nation for obvious reasons there are other reasons of course as well by the national government has grown in power far more than state local governments in the 20th century but I think these are the most important. When raising objections to growing federalism the slogan government closest to the people governs best is often heard. Professor on Schuller is of the opinion that there is such a thing as government too close to the people the forces of democracy and 19th century and early 20th century America. Created a situation in which local government was put so close to the people that strong leadership became virtually impossible in the system unless there was a political machine. That is government was fragmented power was fragmented. There was provision for almost all important decisions to
be taken by referenda. Provisions for recall for local for initiative on the part of the people and legislation and so on and so forth. When you create a situation like this the only way in which enough power can be put together to do anything is to. Have a political machine but when you have political machines they tend to be unsympathetic to the kinds of values which planning symbolizes in America they are hostile to intellectual ism they're hostile to broad policy political machines on the whole are oriented toward ad hoc law grueling kinds of action. The growth of the middle class in America has largely destroyed the political machines as they used to function. They symbolized a particular political culture. The parties are also extremely weak. At the local level there's a strong desire. On the part of the American people almost everywhere it appears for local nonpartisanship. And when there are parties for primaries and of course primaries have the effect of breaking up political parties fragmenting them by making it impossible
for anybody to dictate nominations because everybody just goes to the public there's every prospective candidate goes to the public for nominations so the result is that even when we have political parties they are essentially symbolic rather than genuine mechanisms for holding politicians together and for mobilizing them in the service of political costs and expression by President Harry Truman comes to mind. The buck stops here. The point is that governments at lower levels can pass the buck. It's easier to let Washington raise the money. They're not so close to the people and citizens themselves can escape local problems. Crises have very different affect local affects locally. Than they have nationally. The reason for this is that citizens can escape local crises. Scott Greer has coined the term the community of limited liability and that's exactly what American localities are. You have a limited commitment to them if their problems become overwhelming. You pick up and leave them.
This is at least true of the. More affluent segments of the population those who cannot leave them those who are least able to escape. Undesirable urban developments are also those who are least sympathetic to the values represented by planning. That is the lower middle classes the working classes in many of our big cities who are threatened by negro migrations into their areas. I'm not particularly sympathetic to intellectual values. They're primarily concerned with preserving their own homogeneous neighborhoods and of course the rich are not less concerned or very much less concerned with that particular value. But it's easy for them to achieve it by simply moving elsewhere rather than staying and fighting and being violent about University of Michigan political scientist Arthur Brummagem sees an increasingly greater role for the federal government and local problems. I think that is pretty obvious where we're going what we're we're doing
is we're saying more and more and we've been saying it for many years now that the national government has to help solve the basic problems of the inner city for instance. National Commission of Inquiry on civil disorders mentions of I acted at the national government could couldn't probably should pay 90 percent of all welfare costs. We've got urban Reno we've gone public housing we've gone to so-called poverty program. We are constantly in a model cities program we're constantly turning to national governments and you have got to redress the balance because you have this a Perrier tax system with a progressive income tax. And so all my my you thought at the moment would be that long before we see federations and recapture the whole of metropolitan areas we're going to be moving more and
more into national support of welfare programs health programs educational programs and whatnot that give greater assistance to the central cities I don't see how we get away from that. Professor Brown the judge is sympathetic to the idea of the federal government taking full responsibility for certain functions that traditionally have come under local jurisdiction. Why. I think in our modern economy that. The problem of the people at the poverty level is a national problem and we have got to have increasing national support. I'm quite intrigued with the idea that at some point along the line the federal government might in effect say well welfare is and is a national problem and we're going to take care of 90 percent or 95 percent of the Christ. Although the administration might be left to the states and to the counties and the city counties
but that is of course it one. One approach that the federal government takes some major function like education or welfare and give all out support to that. Now one of the advantages of that I suppose from the point of view of the political scientist is that as you you you can't escape from national taxation. There's one argument that goes this way. Either the local governments will have to get together in some kind of metropolitan Federation or else greater federalism. I really I really see no great prospect that at the moment all fall of the Federation super governments and metropolitan areas you can go back over the record in the United States since about 1910 1920 particularly in the 1920s and you can see one effort after another made
some kind of federation. All the way from the original attempt and Pittsburgh in the late 20s down to the attempt to create a federated district in St. Louis and in the late 50s and you're going to go back to the record and see that there is a record of failure it's only occasionally that you crave through with something like the Dade County experiment so that I think there is so much political resistance to super governments that my my estimate is that we're going to go on the start of the National Grand National loan and increasingly so. And. We we have to take the consequences of that which is a federal taxation federal bureaucracy developing federal 30
relations even to upgrade it. And we have at the present time the federal government as it became more and more involved in the problems of the city it has provided the principal push toward regional organizations trying to apportion federal grants to an endless string of small municipalities is not only a big job but often wasteful if the projects are not coordinated among communities at the local level almost in self-defense there is movement toward regional organization. And some see this as the last hope for local government. Here is the executive director of the southeast Michigan Council of Governments Robert Turner. There are many people who would like to scrap the whole system eliminate the institutions as we know them today and start afresh. We don't believe that this is necessary. We believe that which we have is perfectly capable of addressing itself to the condition as we find it and to solving the problems but we
recognize we must do it jointly in a concerted effort. We are convinced that local government must remain strong. If we are to saw the urban problems. We have to do it on a partnership basis with the federal government with the state government with the private sector. But if we remain strong in this planet we will maintain the principle of local self-determination. We will be able to see to it that the government which provides most of the services which is involved in program execution is that government which is closest to the people and that's the way we want it. I believe that the Council of Government concept is the last chance that local government has in this country to remain strong or to be
strong. Talk about reorganization of local government is far from being just academic in the face of almost unbelievable growth in the next few years something's gotta give. A new word us crept into our vocabulary megalopolis around Detroit the word is most often heard in connection with the doxy as a study of the area sponsored by Detroit Edison company Edison President George talks about it with the girls. We have no looking forward to the year 2000. We're going to be the heart of a Great Lakes megalopolis. Megalopolis reaching from Pittsburgh to Cleveland the little Detroit Chicago Milwaukee and perhaps up to the Twin Cities. At the present time this megalopolis is growing at a faster rate and each megalopolis from Boston to Washington and by the year 2000 will be exceeding in size Easter megalopolis this is a rather
terrifying. Prediction when you realize the problems that exist now in taking care of the people in it megalopolis How long do we have to plan for this mega Politan life. We only have about 25 years to plan now to avoid all mistakes made in development each megalopolis. So you start with the problems of Detroit. Expand there to the problems of the urban areas and then to the region 20000 square miles and then you get concerned about the Great Lakes megalopolis. And if it will have any development of this whole area. We also have another make up is developing from Chicago to through Fort here and Buffalo across the valley to the upper end of the megalopolis. And there's a third medical office developing from Chicago to St. fort here and up along a certain nice river trundle Montreal Quebec and the
cities in between this is a very strong development although So you see our concern in this area of development and as a company we're going to face up to these problems and do a share in solving these problems. It is perhaps not too surprising that people in government often become convinced that their particular level of government is the best suited to tackle the urban problems for instance. State Senator Robert Huber an opponent of the Council of Governments as it is presently constituted is convinced that the state government is the logical instrument. I think you should have strong state government. I can't think of a single thing that this southeastern Michigan Council of Government could do that the state legislature couldn't do. Now that's the problem to get a good working legislature at the state level. But I do think you must have inner cooperation. Certainly air pollution and water transmission and sewers transcend local boundaries.
You must have cooperation between local units of government between counties and even in metropolitan areas. I'm not fighting that principle and I don't know anybody who is. But I'm just saying that because you agree that you must work together doesn't mean that an arbitrary organization completely above the beyond the call of the people not responsible to the electorate in any way shape or form has unlimited powers. I just don't believe that it should. I think we must if we're going to protect the local units of government and see that they survive and they can survive and they do the best job because they are the closest to the people. I say that this must be maintained and the only way to do it is to build some restrictions into the unlimited authority that southeastern Michigan Council of Government has taken upon itself. If the state were to really tackle the urban problems in earnest where would the money come from.
I think we ought to have more massive federal funds coming back to the state from which they came originally instead of being used the way they are. And I think this is the only way we're going to stay solvent in this country is by making sure that the funds are re apportioned in the way that they are collected. Now I think that we can at the state level do an excellent job of running the state and solving the city problem. There's no reason in the world that we have to have some new Metro government to solve the problems the state legislature can do it we have. We have qualified people who serve up there and we can do a good job. But as you have pointed out and very aptly federal Bri ocracy which keeps growing and taking more and more things into itself has tried to make a poor cousin out of the state governments. And because they've tied up all the financing are the major source of revenues. They have been very successful in making poor cousins out of the states. And that's a shame because the poor cousins then really lose. I think we could have strong state government and do a good job. But we've got to make sure that we have our shares of the revenue instead of just giving it all of the swollen federal
bureaucracy. As I mentioned people in government almost invariably think that the agency with which they are involved or the level of government at which they serve is the most logical one to handle the problem. Although someone else may have to provide the money the chairman of the open county board of auditors as might be expected as an advocate of strong county government. My prime speech every time I get an opportunity to make one is that if you don't recognize that county government is here to stay and it's going to solve your problems on a regional basis for you inside the boundaries of your county then you are making a mistake because your next alternative is a large metro government because if if you don't solve the problem somebody is going to pick it up and solve it for you. And if the county isn't the agency that's going to do it and you don't admit that it is then you're showing your hands up in the air and 20 years from now you'll find out that you have a large metro government that the federal government and the state government said is necessary because you failed to do the job for the people
the most affluent nation in the world is in a bind about finances. And nowhere is this more evident than in education particularly in the central cities and the superintendent of Detroit schools Dr. Norman Drucker welcomes the growing federal contribution to education. I do believe that. This is obviously coming in the future. That is he there are state wide or broader federal support of education. I do I will ever believe. And the last. Acts of Congress as far as Title 1 and Title to monies have proven to be that the old fear that with money there will come. Control is not necessarily so. In general I don't regard Washington as a foreign enemy. I think we have our way of influencing Washington as we have our way of influencing
our state legislatures. So that I believe that since it's recognized that local involvement is essential. To a child motivation and child participation that we can through discussion if we have the will to do so arrive at broader support which the people play locally in the long run it doesn't just come from the heavens but there will be broader support on a state basis and on a federal basis with local control still remaining as far as the operation of the school. Dr. Draxler expects more regional thinking to emerge from increased state and federal roles in education. And I think when the federal government or the state government provides these funds they will encourage regional planning as the history of the
past few years has shown. So I think we ought to get in there and plan first before somebody begins to plan for us. Dr. Drucker sincerely believes that the American system of public schools is at stake. We are one of the highest. States and the use of bonding money for school buildings. We do not plan on the regional basis but simply on a. Imaginary line that was drawn and we say this is this is the end of the line and here another school district starts. Let me put it this way. I think the classical read to support the notion that planning for the central city or the suburbs must be done on a metropolitan scale is the four lane highway
that turns into a cow path at the county line. Now that example can be multiplied in various ways and libraries and schools and other governmental agencies somewhere down the line it may be necessary to do some rethinking about what is local and what is federal responsibility. Are things like poverty and education local problems in the same sense or to the same degree as our say police and fire protection water supply garbage collection sewage disposal parks and playgrounds local streets off street parking transit systems. It could be argued that something like half the people on welfare in almost every city and half the ward patients and city hospitals came there from somewhere else. Also half the children in city schools came from somewhere else and will grow up to work somewhere else. We're not saying it should be done but if you took the burden of education off the property
tax it would make a tremendous difference. And then there are those who feel that the property tax itself needs to be reformed that the cities have not used it to good advantage. One such person is the mayor of Southfield James Clarkson urban renewal. Never word if it isn't made a companion with tax free for you must take seize land use to the press that you so that it can be accessible for production. Land in Detroit is monopolized your slum landlord is only the result of a poor taxation structure. It isn't because he isn't getting rent. You find some of your highest rents in some worst slum areas in Detroit. The land value is there but why should he be interested in improving that particular structure. If he's going to be taxed more anyway as long as he can get his rent for the slum land without having to bother about it he's going to
take that route. So my recommendation is to tax that land value and you tax it as high as you can it will do two things that we do is to price the land number one. Number two you'll get rid of your absentee landlord Mary Clarkson is not against private ownership of property but he feels that the total community contributes to making a piece of property valuable land is unique There's only so much of it land is not a product of the community. In the sense that they made it was there when we came here. But the value of that land is a product of the community and this belongs to the community to operate their government. And this is why self-field we've emphasized annual assessments of our land and it does two things. First of all it shifts the incidence of taxation from the homeowner and puts it more on that land value that is so great because of our commercial usage
of it. And it is also welcomed by the business people because it eliminates the necessity of having to tax their income. Everything is run out of some bureau in Washington. And what a bunch of bureaucrats know about what's going on. Well every time the federal government gets involved in anything it's just a lot of red tape and stuff. Today I'm sick and tired of tax dollars going to Washington just like throwing him down the drain. I say keep the money at home. I can't even get my congressman to answer my letter and what good would he do if I wrote my complaint to some government agency know what the trouble with Washington they waste time and spend. Growing federalism was the fourth in a series of special reports seeking answers to the question is there a better way. Subsequent reports will focus on regional government Sam cog or southeast Michigan
Council of Governments and metropolitan government. This is Oscar Frenette WJR new NPR's special of the week thanks the capital city is broadcast station in Detroit WJR for the recordings of these documentaries. This was part four of seven parts on Metropolitan Government. Is there a better way. This is NPR of the national educational radio network.
- Special of the week
- Issue 10-1969
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- APA: Special of the week; Issue 10-1969. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-vq2s918c