Most of the articles in the 100-year history of this publication recount cities' and counties' successes in improving operations. However, the second edition of The American City, October 1909, features a clear and lengthy description of the waste that had spread through Boston's government from 1906 to 1907, during the mayoral term of John F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The waste was revealed in a 1,200-page report from consulting engineers hired to investigate what had "made the city of Boston the most expensive in the world and one of the least efficient." The article's author, Walter Snow, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, summarized the report, saying "inefficiency of service from the bottom of the ditch to the desk of the chief has become so firmly established as to be almost accepted as a condition of the conduct of municipal affairs."

According to the report, the source of the problem came from the powers the mayor and aldermen exercised in appointing department heads they expected to do their bidding and in removing the appointees if they did not follow orders. As a result, the department heads lacked technical qualifications, and employees had no incentive to perform efficiently themselves. In fact, the investigation found that many employees were paid to perform insignificant tasks. For example, "twice each day a certain timekeeper carried a book from the office to the job and back again, and did no more; hanging up rubber boots to dry was the only allotted duty of another; and seven weeks pay was drawn by a janitor while sojourning in Europe." In conclusion, the article states, "It is clear that the problem of inefficiency in municipal work, though fundamentally economic, is in reality political in both cause and effect, and that as such it must be considered."

Mayor "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald was defeated in the 1908 election but returned to serve as mayor again from 1910 to 1914.

"Out of $2,500,000 spent nominally for the construction of sewer and water works, half a million was paid for labor that was not actually performed, or twice as much as was wasted through excessively high prices for contracts and purchases.'

"Unnecessary work was undertaken, unnecessary men were engaged, pay rolls were swollen, all pretense of discipline was abandoned, and the highest wages were paid."

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