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The recommendations made in my communication to you one year ago, in reference to a better and purer water supply, has taken practical shape, with assurance of an early realization of the fruits of your wise action in the premises. A portion of the otherwise destitute hill district has been supplied with water during the year, with good promise of further extension of mains during the coming summer.
The construction of wooden buildings, in violation of law, during the year, has been a great source of annoyance, and owing to their vast numbers, when we take into account those also legalized by special ordinance, all of which, we are constrained to say, imperil the safety of many portions of our City by fire. Large numbers of these wooden structures are run up so quickly and quietly, often designedly so, as to defy the energy and watchfulness of a single ordinance officer to prevent or keep pace with. Many are legalized by Councils, perhaps, without a knowledge that the buildings are already up and occupied. Already I have recommended to your honorable bodies the establishment of an arbitrary “Fire Line," which subject, I am happy to know, you have already referred to an appropriate committee for their action. At the proper time I will beg to submit a “Fire Line," a " Provisional one,” and a “Fire Line Absolute,” which I am now preparing for consideration, which I hope will settle this much-vexed and perplexing question.
Several attempts have been happily made, without success, the past year, to pass a new ordinance regulating amusement licenses. The present one works smoothly and well, and, excepting in one or two minor particulars, might be deemed nearly perfect. Should opportunity offer, the imperfections alluded to will be pointed out, and a substitute proposed for your approval.
WESTERN PENITENTIARY GROUNDS.
I feel it my duty to call your attention to an effort to have the State Legislature consent to the appropriation of the Penitentiary Grounds to the Western University. A bill will be presented at the present session with this purpose in view. That this effort will be persistent and powerful we cannot doubt. Without thus early expressing any views of my own, I think the whole matter should be fully considered, at the proper time, by your honorable bodies, and such prompt action taken as shall be for the public interest.
In view of the approach of the building season, I again invite your consideration to the expediency and necessity of a Building Inspector. No city of half the pretentions of this is so dependent, and at the mercy of ignorant or penurious builders and owners, who often jeopardize their own, unwittingly, as well as the property and lives of their neighbors. This department, if established, is capable of being made self-supporting, and I believe would meet the approval of the largest proportion of our citizens.
The aggressiveness of some of the corporations, whose existence within the city limits depended, originally, upon your generosity in granting them “ rights of way” and “ other privileges,” deserves your attention. Grant many of them
“inch” and they take an "ell.” A franchise once obtained, to some, seems a warrant for the taking of liberties never contemplated nor warranted by the original contract. The rights of the people and the City must be guarded, and must not be ruthlessly stricken down or abridged without compensation, and without due forms of law. Valuable franchises, otherwise “gifts” from the people for private gain, have and are frequently sought by corporations.
I beg to repeat what I have on a former occasion already said, these “ franchises,” really “gifts,” if at all admissible, should be confined to the letter of the contract, and should be productive of corresponding and material benefits to the City or our citizens. Beyond doubt the City is fairly entitled to a permanent yearly income, proportioned to the true value of every franchise granted and involving a permanent occupancy of our thoroughfares or wharves, and thus indirectly benefiting the citizen taxpayer to that extent.
Your attention is invited to the necessity of an ordinance for the suppression and regulation of disorderly houses and houses of ill-fame, which is now in your Police Committee. The power vested by the charter in Councils to legislate upon this subject is undoubted by me, and has the full sanction of your learned City Solicitor. The good order and decency of our City demands its approval at your hands, and its enforcement by your Chief Executive. The contiguity of this to our sister city, Pittsburgh, and the enforcement of the same law there, tends much to drive these undesirable violators of law and right to this side of the river for refuge. As a question of self-defense, it is our only means to protect purity and right and good order within the bounds of our limits, and I feel assured will have your sanction.
PUBLIC WEIGH SCALES.
Private interest would be much promoted by adopting a general system of Weigh Scales, and the public would support any reasonable outlay attendant thereon. The poor, especially, would be protected from the gross and daily frauds of designing second-hand coal dealers, and the wants and interchange of our large and growing manufacturing establishments would be better accommodated without any serious cost to the city. These public scales should be in sufficient numbers, and located at such suitable points, not on the streets, to afford the fullest accommodation, and all be under the care and control of Councils and sworn officers, the receipts to be paid in full to the City Treasury. The fees for weighing to be rated from time to time to produce only the least sum compatible with the outlay.
THIRD WARD SQUARE.
Councils are the custodians of a large and valuable piece of ground, now lying useless, known as the Third Ward Square. This property was dedicated for public uses as long ago as the memory of the oldest inhabitant runneth. Would not the present be a favorable time to improve and utilize it? and do not the wants of the City warrant its improvement ?
These questions I submit to you, merely suggesting whether or no a judicious investment, covering the entire area, would not provide the City with all the room she would need for her own officers, Council Chambers and Assembly Room for public use, and enable us to provide for the accommodation of the Post Office, Revenue Department, etc., and adapting the entire lower story for commercial purposes, which would, no doubt, be eagerly sought at paying rates.
The subject is worthy of investigation, and could, I believe, be made the source of prolific revenue to the City, as well as the improvement of a large square now lying waste.
This time last year a fearful epidemic of small-pox was in our midst. Nearly, if not quite, 200 cases then existed within the City limits. We are happy to record a very low percentage of deaths in consequence. Judicious and skillful treatment of the sick, and a somewhat general vaccination of the well, the latter, perhaps, the most potent factor producing this result. Not one case, up to this date, has occurred within our limits, which fact must reässure us that no epidemic is likely to visit us this winter.
The general prosperity of our City was somewhat interrupted by the strike for a brief time during the year. The average business has been reported as entirely satisfactory. We note with pleasure the erection of an unusually large number of manufactories, shops and dwellings. Many of the former have been projected upon a large scale, and completed, are now in successful operation. Numerous dwellings of magnificent proportions, besides hundreds of smaller and of more unpretentious claims, all going to make up a great addition to our aggregate wealth, and adding to our rapidlyincreasing population.
In conclusion, I desire to renew my best wishes to your honorable meinbers of Councils, as well as to all City officials, presaging for the future a continuance of good feeling, at least, until our official intercourse shall have closed.
L. PETERSON, JR.,