This afternoon I went to see Dave Meslin’s Fourth Wall exhibit, a gallery of ideas on improving civic engagement in Toronto, drawn from other cities around the world and our own history.
One of the most fantastic historical tidbits comes from the no-longer-extant Bureau of Municipal Research, a non-partisan organization that researched and produced reports about various city issues. This little pamphlet is from 1921. Mez has scans (page 1, page 2), but I wanted to transcribe it for accessibility’s sake.
Effective Citizen Co-Operation
What Is Everybody’s Business Should Be Each Body’s Business
Issued by the
Bureau of Municipal Research
189 1/2 Church Street, Toronto.
Telephone: Main 3620
Bulletin No. 84, January 7, 1921
Will 1921 Be A New Year In Civic Administration
Will It Be the Same Old Year With a New Number?
Would the adoption of some of the following New Year’s Resolutions Make for More Effective Civic Administration?
For a Member of Council or Board of Education
- I will not speak on any subject unless I know something about it, and I will learn something about any subject on which I should speak.
- When I have said all I have to say of value on any subject I will stop talking.
- I will always confine myself to the subject on which I am speaking, and will not resort to personalities, no matter what the provocation, nor talk to the gallery, nor conceal my real sentiments in order to retain votes.
- I will keep my mind on the work in hand rather than keep my ear to the ground for tremors of dissatisfaction from interested quarters.
- I will vote on every measure that comes before the Council or Board, if necessary requesting the postponement of the vote until any required information may be obtained. I will not retire to the members’ room on the approach of a vote which I should like to avoid for personal or political reasons.
- In all my statements to constituents and colleagues, my yea shall be yea, and my nay, nay.
- I will treat the funds of the city as trust funds, and shall not suffer any of them to be appropriated, without vigorous protest, for objects not in the general public interest, no matter what the effect on my political fortunes may be.
- In dealing with the annual estimates, I will consider the best interests of the city as a whole, and will not resort to log-rolling, overt or tacit, and I will consider carefully the recommendations and statements of the official financial advisers of the city.
- Except in cases where the public interest requires it, I will protest against the conduct of any public business in private, either through the holding of private meetings or surreptitious meetings of cliques or factions to decide upon a course of action to be taken in public.
- I will speak and vote this year at the risk of it being my last year in Council or on the Board.
- I will not vote to upset the recommendations of any department head until such department head has been given every opportunity to defend his recommendation and, in my judgment, has failed to do so satisfactorily. Neither will I consent to any action being taken on matters requiring technical advice until such advice has been requested and obtained from the departments concerned.
For a Citizen
- During 1921 I will occasionally drop a note of commendation, commiseration or condemnation to my representatives in Council or on the Board of Education.
- I will not regard the interests of my ward above the interests of my city, and will not bring pressure on aldermen or trustees to secure special treatment for my ward or locality which would not be a benefit to the city as a whole.
- I will not ask Council to suspend by-laws for my personal advantage when it would involve a disadvantage to the city as a whole, nor will I support others in asking for such special treatment.
- In determining my actions as a citizen, I will obtain all the information possible, and then make up my own mind without outside dictation, on the ground that I shall be one of those who suffer in case of a mistake.
- I will study the estimates of the city as they pass through the various stages of amendment and adoption.
- I will try to do as much thinking about civic expenditures to which I contribute as about my private expenditures for services not paid for through the tax rate.
- I will not condone the brow-beating or contemptuous treatment of civic officials, while trying to protect the city’s interests, by any of my elected representatives, even if I may think such officials are mistaken.
- I will allow the results of my observations to affect my course when the times for nomination and election come around at the close of the year.
- I will be a citizen during 1921, not a parasite or mollusk, or piece of blotting paper.
Do you think the current City Council has been living up to these New Year’s resolutions? Would they agree to be bound by them in 2012? And how well are we doing at the whole mollusk thing?