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Paris City Hall

The American columnist Charles Carrol Fulton, visited Paris in the summer of 1873. In a series of letters for The Baltimore American he faithfully reported his impressions. With a transparent enthusiasm, he described the beauty and amenities of Paris and his admiration for the efficient way in which the city was run:

It may be of interest to our City Fathers to know in what way the means for carrying on the expensive city government of Paris are obtained. Everything that is brought into Paris in the shape of food for sale must pay an octroi, or entrance duty, at the gates of the city, or, if by boats, at the wharf before it is landed. The receipts from this source last year amounted to 102,286,000 francs, or $20,448,000; market dues, $2,000,000; weights and measures, $21,020; supply of water, 1,028,000; slaughter houses, $600,000; rents of stands in the public ways, 90,060; dues on burials, $140,000; sales of lands in cemeteries, $139,000; taxes for pawing, lighting, etc., $2,100,000; trade-licenses, $3,500,000; dog tax $90,000; sale of night-soil, $132,000: total receipts, $39,556,410.

Among the items of expenditure are, interest of debt and sinking-fund, $9,214,000; expenses of collections, salaries etc., $1,689,000; primary institutions, $1,100,000; public worship, $36,000; national guard and military service, $576,300; repairs of public buildings, $ 346,000; assistance to the poor, including hospitals, $4,469,200; promenades and works of art, $653,340; public schools, 123,200; public festivals, $152,000; the police department, $3,124,000; new public works, $4,924,000; lighting streets, $783,416,000.

One of the public buildings, victims of fire during the Commune uprising in 1871, the Hotel de Ville was fully restored in 1882.

It will thus be seen that, notwithstanding the tribulations through which Paris has passed [the Siege of Paris by the Prussian army and the Commune uprising in 1871], she spent last year nearly $5,000,000 on new public improvements, whilst the receipts exceeded the whole expenses of the city by nearly $150,000. Poor Baltimore, with its “rings” and political hunkers, spends literally nothing on public improvements, and runs deeper in debt every year (*). The city government of Paris is a model for the world, and if we must continue to keep the incompetents in control, do send them over here to learn something.

(*) It is sad that not much has been learned in budget-balancing, both in the US and the EU, since this article was written.

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