United States. Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany / A program to foster citizen participation in government and politics in Germany
2. Local government, pp. 9-11 PDF (2.1 MB)
operation with the Radio Branch, Information Services Division. Particular attention will be paid to the development of radio forums on current questions of public interests. (8) Films No special film program has been developed. 2. LOCAL GOVERNMENT A. PROBLEM A sound local government system contributes to democracy in two ways. (1) The individual citizen's concern with public affairs is limited unless he feels that public prob- lems affect him personally, and that he can some- how influence their solution. This is most easily done at the local level of government, which so closely affects his daily life. - (2) Local autonomy is a safeguard against over- centralization of power with its resulting author- itarian tendencies. Local autonomy and the citizen's right to partici- pate in local government never approached in Germany the development in the United States, although it had a strong basis in parts of Germany prior to World War I. The centralist tendencies of the Weimar Republic impaired it and it dis- appeared under the Nazis. As a general rule, the ordinary citizen does not participate actively in local government. In some communities officials and local councils discourage such participation and take active measures to prevent it. Where citizens are encouraged to partici- pate, it is the result of a democratic attitude of individual officials and not a matter of an estab- lished system or of legal right. While the constitutions in the U.S. Zone Laender, and German practice in the past, recognize the authority of local governments to manage their own affairs, in practice the state ministries inter- fere. The situation is further complicated by the German practice of delegating the administration of state laws to individual local officials (rather than to the local government entity), who for that purpose are considered to be state officials and subject to the detailed direction of the state min- isters. This creates a divided loyalty and in prac- tice impairs the local official's independence in performing his local duties. B. OBJECTIVES To support German leaders who encourage citizens to study their local governments and who seek: (1) to establish the right and practice of partici- pation by citizens in local government, and (2) to further local autonomy. As illustration, citizen participation might include a system of public hearings by local councils or of- ficials before policy is determined, and access of citizens to public records and generally to in- formation upon public action taken or proposed. Citizens might participate directly in local gov- ernment where appropriate, as, for example, through parents' committees in connection with the schools or through local school boards with effective 9 administrative responsibility. Generally, the devel- opment of! a closer relationship between and re- sponsibility of local legislators and officials to local voters is desirable and may be promoted by elec- tion by popular vote, by name and not by party list. As to local autonomy, it might extend to all mat- ters which can be effectively undertaken or control- led at the local level, the state retaining only general supervision and the right to enforce compliance with the law. To carry this out the local legislative body ought to have authority over local executive and administrative officials and the power to take remedial action where such officials refuse to carry out legislative determinations. State functions might be delegated to the local government as a whole rather than to an individual official. Local in- dependence will remain weak until tax resources are redistributed so that local governments control the bulk of their own revenues through authority to levy and collect the necessary taxes. C. PROGRESS TO MAY 1950 The establishment of a considerable number of citizens' and community associations was noted un- der the preceding discussion dealing with Citizen Participation. These associations and local forums have interested themselves to a considerable extent in local government. Where local officials have been receptive, they have been successful. Where local officials have been hostile they have generally been unsuccessful because the law supports the officials or because the citizens do not know how to enforce such rights as they have. Citizens have been barred from council meetings and denied access to public records, information has been refused to the press, and citizens have been threatened with criminal prosecution when they attempted to assert their rights or to carry out a civic improvement on their own initiative. Occasionally, however, citizen groups have been successful in overriding official opposition. It is fairly evident that the will exists to participate in local affairs, but practical methods to effectuate it must still be devised. A local government school was established in Wuerttemberg-Baden in 1949. An expert from the British Zone was loaned to assist in the initiation of this project. This school holds repeated sessions of one week each for members of local government councils (not for officials) to orient them on their rights and responsibilities and effective methods of work. This school will be continued in 1950, and Bavaria and Hesse will establish similar schools. The constitutions of the U.S. Laender provide for local autonomy but these constitutional provisions appear not to have been fully implemented by law nor to be observed in practice by the state min- istries. The "Deutscher Staedtetag" developed a draft municipal law and discussed it with the Land Min- istries of the Interior and communal associations. OMGUS views on local government were circulated to the same groups. A law incorporating many desirable features and eliminating past limitations on local autonomy has been introduced and has considerable support in the Bavarian Landtag, al- though so far the Ministries have blocked its passage. Other Laender have also prepared legis- lation, but it is not very satisfactory, nor does there seem to be much public support in Hesse or Wuert- temberg-Baden.
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