Des Moines Adopts the Commission Form of Municipal Government
O'Connell, John Francis
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THE PROBLEM. The purpose of this work was to analyze the various factors that were involved in the adoption of the Commission Form of Government by the City of Des Moines, and to see if the Des Moines Plan was really a reform movement as its backers claimed or an attempt to establish a form of government more easily controlled by them. THE PROCEDURE. The first step, after achieving a fundamental understanding of the situation, was a careful study of all the newspapers published in Des Moines from January, 1905, to April, 1908. Next was a study of the personal papers of the prominent people involved, such as John MacVicar and Harvey Ingham. The third step of the project was the taking of a random sample of the names listed in the Des Moines City Directory in order to achieve a socio-economic breakdown of the city's voting precincts to help understand what type of people supported or opposed the plan. This was followed by a study of Journals of the House and Senate of the thirty-first and thirty-second General Assembly of Iowa to achieve an understanding of the legislature's motives in passing the Des Moines Plan. The last step was a study of the records of the Iowa Supreme Court involving the test case which questioned the constitutionality of the Des Moines Plan. CONCLUSION. The Des Moines Plan appeared to be an attempt on the part of the lawyers, editors, and some merchants of the city to establish a government, controlled by them, that was more acceptable to their moral standards and their business needs. The main reason for this appeared to be that they were resentful if not fearful of the amount of influence held by the middle and lower classes of the city, who opposed the Des Moines Plan, in the decision making process which the reformers felt led to corrupt and inefficient government.
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