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to establish, change or re-establish the grade of any boulevard or parkway, and to require any railway upon or across such boulevard or parkway to be brought to the grade so established, changed, or re-established. No change shall be made in the grade of any street upon which any park land abuts, unless the Board of Park ('ommissioners shall approve of such change or grade.”
On petition, the owners of a majority of the front feet of lots fronting upon a parkway. boulevard, road or avenue, or a part of one, the board is authorized to recommend to the commission regulations of building lines and limitations upon the use that may be made of abutting lands.
Special assessments paid by the owners of abutting land, irrespective of improvements, is the usual method of financing the paving of streets in Tennessee cities."
PROBLEMS OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT.1
Just as the functions of the states have become of increasingly less importance as the federal government has grown in power and influence,” and cities have grown to overshadowing proportions, so the local rural subdivisions of the states-espe. cially counties—have relatively lost ground as population has tended city-ward and ease of communication, together with improved ideas of administration, have centralized at the state capitols the control of more and more of the functions that formerly were delegated to county and minor local governments. The growth of cities and the necessary jurisdiction of county officers over municipal areas, possessing separate and in some respects conflicting governmental agencies, has tremendously complicated the whole problem. Developed from colonial continuation of English usages the county has, indeed, become in
297. Diminishing Importance of the County.
See Acts of 1905. 278. Arnold v. Knorrille, 115 Tenn., 195,
General References: County Government, Vol. XLVII of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (May, 1913); Fairlie, Jno. A., Local Government in Counties, Touns and Villages ; Urdahl, T. K., The Fee System in the United States.
20n this point see vacy and Gannaway, comparative Free Gorernment, pp. 310-314.
many respects an anacronism under modern political and social conditions. Loss of prestige on the part of the county and its failure to continue prominently in the mind of the people has inevitably spelled decadence and has made local administration of the present what a well-known writer has aptly termed the county jungle."
There were, in 1910,4 2,942 counties in the United States, ranging in size from New York county with 2,762,522 inhabi-in Counties. tants and Cook County, Illinois, with 2,405,2:33, to Cochran County, Texas, with sixty-five inhabitants. A few of them were co-terminus with great cities, whilst a large proportion contained no community of as many as 1,000 people. Inevitably very great differences in county government are found accompanying such diverse conditions, but they are less striking than the uniformity that prevails, generally speaking, throughout the great sections of the country in which the characteristic types of county government have developed. In New England, where the population tended to congregate in small, compact communities, often distinctly separated by natural boundaries or unsettled country, local affairs were naturally left to the voters of each community, who could easily meet in a body and determine matters directly. Consequently the individual towns rather than the counties became the essential local units and the latter were given few governmental functions aside from the administration of justice. In the South, on the other hand, the people lived on scattered plantations, the aristocratic owners of which constituted the influential class politically. Roadbuilding, poor relief and other functions of the northern town were attended to by the planters themselves. There were few distinct local communities and the representative county board became the organ for such governmental acts as were not performed by the state.
In the middle states the counties became divided into townships-local subdivisions less distinct and with fewer functions than the towns. The township system stands intermediate be
SR. S. Childs.
*Thirteenth Census. The figures include the Louisiana parishes which may be thought of as the counties of that state. The name county is invariably used elsewhere.
"Since divided into two counties. Containing Chicago.
tween the New England towns and the southern counties. Township and purely county administration of local government spread westward through roughly parallel areas, but prairie townships, distinguished not by social arrangements but by surveyor's lines never assumed the importance that they possessed in the East. Throughout the far West, where population is still sparse, the county is the most important unit of local government.
Constitution-makers have been bountiful in their notice of counties and lesser subdivisions of the state. The existence of these subdivisions they have for the most part taken for granted; consequently the provisions in the constitutions are of a limiting rather than of a constructive character. Nevertheless, because the constitutions have recognized and regulated certain kinds of county government, the courts have held that they are the constitutional forms of government and cannot be super seded by statute.
In all the states except Georgia and Rhode Island’ the chief governmental organ is the county board, commission or court, varying in membership from three or five to a score or more and invested with such functions and powers as the legislature has seen fit to bestow upon it within the constitutionally prescribed limits. Among these limitations is the inability of the legislature to delegate its power of legislating. Except, however, for a few very brief directions concerning organization, and the number of members, the structure and composition of the boards are left undetermined.
There are a number of interesting clauses specifying what the board shall do. For example mingled judicial and administrative "jurisdiction” is conferred upon the Arkansas county Court
299. Governing Board.
in all matters relating to county taxes, roads, bridges, ferries, paupers, bastardy, vagrants, the apprenticeship of minors, the disbursement of money for county purposes and in every other case that may be necessary to the internal improvement and local concerns of the respective counties.
7See Fairlie, op. cit., 75. The county is always the unit for the administration of justice.
Sometimes the number runs considerably higher. Erie County, New York, has a board of fifty-four supervisors.
The control of county finances is the most important function of the county board.
le, I., Ark., VII, 30; Tex., V, 18; W. Va., VIII, 22.
In West Virginia, besides such duties as may be prescribed by law, the county court is invested with the
superintendence and administration of the internal police and fiscal affairs of their counties, including establishment and regulation of roads, ways, bridges, public landing, ferries and mills, with authority to lay and disburse the county levies.*
The most lengthy and important of the constitutional regu
County lations of counties pertain to finances, especially indebtedness. Finances. Of these the most important prohibit debts in aid of private corporate or municipal enterprise, the requirement of a referendum to the electorate before the issuance of bondse and the limitation of amount of total indebtedness.? In this connection should be mentioned, also, clauses de
Fee System. signed to control the compensation of county officers—some of whom, paid by fees, have, in rapidly growing counties, received sums out of all proportion to services rendered. In several constitutions the requirement is that all fees in excess of the stated compensation shall be paid into the treasury and in some others compensation must be by definite salaries."
Taken as a whole the constitutional provisions concerning counties are simply an illustration of the increasing disposition of constitution-makers to detail limitations upon the action of the governments which they create. Such provisions possess qualities of prudence and caution inherent in this method of constitution-making, as well as the resulting inelasticity and the inability of the government to share the political and social
3Ark., VII, 28, 29.
$See Ariz., XXII, 17; Ark., XIX, 23; Colo., XIV, 15; Ida., XVIII, 7; Ill., X, 10, 11, 12; X. M., X, 1; Pa., V, 7, 13, XIV, 5. Also, Utah, XXI, 2; Wyo., XIV, 2.
See, e. g., Utah, XXI, 1. Colo., XX, 3, requires that the charter of the city and county of Denver shall state the compensation of every officer and that it shall be a stated salary.
The reductio ad absurdum of this tendency is seen in the Oklahoma article (XVII) of twenty-five finely-printed pages on counties, containing among other things separate paragraphs bounding and describing each of its seventy-five counties.
302. Reform Proposals.
303. Home Rule.
evolution of the time—an inability, however, frequently apparent, irrespective of constitutions, because of the apathy and inertia of the people. Little complaint need be made in the strictly rural portions of the states, but where population has grown and cities have sprung up, there has uniformly been a breakdown of county government.
Proposals for reform include two principal weapons of attack,—(1) to free the counties from legislative intermeddling and (2) to make county governments responsible—and efficient. Furthermore, where large cities overshadow the remainder of the county, the combination of municipal and county governments has been suggested.
The unfortunate results of separate legislation for individual localities, already mentioned in the discussion of home rule for cities, has led, in a few constitutions, to the requirement that the legislature shall establish "but one system of county government which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable.” In a third of the statest special and local legislation regụlating the affairs of counties is flatly forbidden and is in some others restricted. In Oklahomae the power of initiative and referendum is expressly reserved to the legal voters of every county was to all local legislation or action in the administration of county
government.” Such provisions obviously go but a short distance toward the solution of the home rule problem. A widely advocated remedial device is the adoption by the legislature of certain model forms of county government which cannot be changed by private act, and making them optional to the individual counties,” Going a step farther, California has inaugurated home rule for counties as well as for cities by permitting them to choose and adopt their own systems of government. Since county administration is, however, primarily a branch of state
28u pra, p. 297.
3Wording of Wis., IV. 23. See, also, e. g.. Cal., XI, 4; Fla., III, 24; Ga., XI, sec. III, 1; Ida., XVIII, 5; Wash., XI, 4.
te. g., Ind., IV, 22; Pa., III, 7: Tex., III, 56.
be. g., Ky., 60; N. J., IV, 7, 11 ; Utah, VI, 26, 11. See, on the other hand, Ga., XII, sec. I, 4.
See Gilbertson, H. S., The New York County System, American Political Science Review, VIII, 413 (426).
XI, 7 %. See also Md., XI-a.