Page images

persist in refusing to confirm the awards. The lowest but unsuccessful bidder, in a competition during this present week, was the Breckinridge Asphalt Company, upon their own specifications, the same as had been found to be satisfactory, under a two years' test of about 40,000 yards laid in Louisville, under a former administration more favorable to competition. The discrimination complained of was the arbitrary requirement that the wearing surface mixture shall contain 50 per cent. of German Rock asphalt from Verwöhle, and a binder of asphaltic cement controlled by the Trinidad Company. The Breckinridge Company could also point to eleven or twelve miles of their pavements laid in Buffalo, which have proved satisfactory, after the practical test of from six to eight years' use, and with but a trifling expense for repairs. I understand, however, that the local company in Buffalo which laid these pavements has recently been bought out by the Trinidad monopoly.

By far the most thorough and costly asphalt investigation, in the interests of competition in street paving, was that conducted in 1894 by the Citizens' Municipal League and the Trades League of Philadelphia jointly. This included elaborate chemical tests as well as a careful inquiry into practical tests of pavements in use, to establish the relative merits of Trinidad Pitch Lake and Bermudez Lake asphalts. The Bermudez was demonstrated to be superior. The result was that the Philadelphia specifications, which had hitherto been restricted to the use of Trinidad Lake asphalt, were made to include the Bermudez. It had already been adopted in some and soon received recognition in a number of other cities. The result of the investigation in Philadelphia and the favorable reports from Bermudez as phalt pavements in use, brought fortune to the owners. Not many moons waxed and waned before the Bermudez Company sold out to the Trinidad Company (as I have been informed) for $300,000, the latter company assuming all the other's contracts and guaranties.

One can see by the experiences in the few cities, which I have briefly outlined, the variety of phases presented by this question, the large amount of expert knowledge necessary to fully comprehend them, and the great power and alertness with which

the asphalt monopoly acts on all sides to keep itself master of the municipal situation. Similar litigation, controversies, and investigations were induced by official discrimination in asphalt specifications in New York City, Brooklyn, Rochester, Syracuse, New Haven, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, and many other cities. In each case much labor and expense ceuld have been saved if the knowledge and experience already gained in other cities could have been available.

Now, then, to come back to the proposition of this resolution, the object of the proposed Committee is, quoting a passage from Mr. Horace E. Deming's most admirable address of yesterday, although referring to another matter, “to prevent the unnecessary duplication of work by forming a sort of clearinghouse for the exchange of information.” If such a committee were to collect and keep in some convenient form and place, for the benefit of our affiliated Leagues, every magazine article or treatise by asphalt experts, every publication of testimony used in court cases, every lawyer's brief, or other matter germane to this question; if they were also to prepare a concise history, or compendium of the asphalt pavement question, with possibly recommendations as to methods of procedure for promoting competition, it would, I am sure, result in great benefit to city property-holders everywhere, and also furnish valuable aid to the many Councilmen and other city officials who are earnestly desirous of doing their duty to their constituents in this matter.

The resolution, which was duly seconded, was adopted.
MR. HARTWELL: I desire to present the following resolution:

Resolved, That the thanks of the National Municipal League be tendered to the Governor and Mayor, the Commercial Club and the Woman's Club, and to the citizens of Indianapolis, for the exceedingly cordial and hospitable manner in which they haue entertained the League and promoted its work.

The resolution, which was duly seconded, was unanimously adopted.

MR. DEMING: I desire on the part of the Committee, to whom you have re-entrusted this work, to make an urgent request to every delegate to this meeting, and through them to every member of our League, and to every person present, that

they will do us the very great favor of securing copies of the report and the criticisms already made, and will send to Mr. Woodruff their comments, suggestions and criticisms. Let us try to make this Program, when we submit it for action at the next meeting of the League, as great a Program as the united intelligence of the constituent members of this League can make it. Don't leave it to a few men to do all the work, and leave to yourself the delightful task of simply finding fault.

THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Charles Richardson will present a paper on “Municipal Franchises.”

Mr. Richardson then read a paper on Municipal Franchises.” (See pages 94 to 100.)

THE CHAIRMAN : The discussion of Mr. Richardson's paper will be opened by the Hon. Samuel M. Jones, Mayor of Toledo, Ohio.

Mr. Jones then presented the following paper :


Candor com pels me to say that the paper we have just listened to deals with the subject of municipal franchises from what is ordinarily regarded as a broad and liberal standpoint. The arguments, pro and cov, have been fairly stated and I Ņiscover no attempt to do anything other than to give fair consideration to the subject. With all due respect for the opinions that have been presented, I feel constrained to announce myself as being unalterably opposed to any grant of municipal franchise for any purpose whatever and I take this position as a matter of principle. I maintain that the idea of granting franchises to private individuals or corporations to minister to a city in social necessities is as wrong in scientific theory as it is mischievous and destructive of what is best in municipal life in practice. The whole idea of granting special privileges to a few people to make profit from all the rest of the people is undemocratic, and consequently is opposed to, and stands in the way of progress towards the realization of our loftiest and best ideals, the equality of all men before the law. As Sidney Webb says in his book on "Socialism in England:” “The individualist city alderman will walk along the municipal pavement, lit by municipal gas, and cleaned by municipal brooms, with municipal water, and seeing by the municipal clock on the municipal city hall that he is too early to meet his children coming from the municipal school and municipal gymnasium near by the municipal asylum and municipal hospital, will use the national telephone system to tell them not to walk through the municipal park to hear the municipal

band, but to come by the municipal street car around by the municipal lodging house, to meet him in the municipal reading room, close by the municipal art gallery, where he intends to consult some of the national handbooks in order to prepare bis next speech in favor of national ownership of railways and canals."

"Self-help, sir, individual self-help, that's what has made our city what it is." And so, as Mrs. Stetson says:

“We shut our eyes and call it night;

We grope and fall in seas of light.” I am unable to see why it is not just as reasonable to undertake to make a plan for providing individuals or corporations franchises to build and take care of the city streets and bridges, letting them collect their pay by the old-fashioned method of the tollgate, as to grant franchises to people to furnish us with light. I believe that plenty of individuals and corporations can be found who will agree to furnish this or any other social service cheaper than the city can do it through municipal ownership. They will agree to police our cities, they will agree to take care of our fires, they will agree to carry on our schools, to take care of our poor as they used to do in days gone by, and proclaim that they can save money for the taxpayer; and to my mind it is just as reasonable in these closing years of the nineteenth century for thoughtful men to set about devising a system of checks and balances that will compel corporations to do as they agree in the management of any one of these privileges as it is in the management of a street railway, an electric lighting plant, a water plant, or any other public interest of the city. There is no difference. The streets, the schools, the bridges, the fire department, the police department are pretty generally emancipated from the grasp of the money-getter. They have passed beyond his reach; they are now in the domain of municipally-owned and conducted things, where eventually we shall find all such things as waterworks, lighting plants, heating plants, telephones, telegraphs, messenger service, city directory, and, in fact, every form of public utility which can be operated by the people for the benefit of all of the people better than an individual or private corporation can serve them.

Private ownership of public franchises is a high crime against democracy. It is contrary to the spirit of republican institutions. It is a city granting a privilege to an individual to enrich hmself, usually at the expense of the classes least able to bear it, the poor people. The bard-earned nickel of the washerwoman and the toiler go to make up the profits of the street railway magnates. Let all those who share this sort of profit understand the source of their wealth. I want the ladies who wear sealskins and diamonds and the men who make gifts of this kind of money to universities, hospitals, missionary societies and churches, to be made aware of the source of their revenue.

In granting, in giving, or in selling a franchise of that kind, the city becomes a party to the crime, and to this crime against the common people of this country we can trace much of the misery, wretchedness and social distress of the present hour.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:-I am positive that our municipal program should speak in no uncertain tone on this subject. There is no ground for compromise. The principle of private ownership of public utilities is wrong, and no amount of patching, legislative or otherwise, can make it right. The fundamental idea of democracy is not that an individual shall be free to seek his own good or to pursue his own ends. The merit of the idea of democracy lies in the assumption that every man will sink his own interest in order to serve his fellowmen, and this is by the law of our very being, our only possible chance for permanent peace and happiness. And yet so very dimly is this principle understood to-day that it is the commonest kind of an occurrence to hear a man say that he “cannot afford to take public office,” that he is "too busy with his own affairs.” This assumption is a denial of democracy, and until, through a more perfect system of education, we shall come to understand that the city, State and nation has the first claim upon our affection and service, in peace as well as in war, and that for a man to say that he cannot afford to take public office is the rankest kind of treason to the State, we shall not begin to realize the glory of the possibilities that yet await our collective effort.

The Supreme Court of the State of Indiana has given us a most valuable and helpful lesson on this point. In the decision of Judge James McCabe, on the 10th of March, 1898, in the case of the State of Indiana against the Ohio Oil Company.

The State of Indiana sought to enforce the law prohibiting the waste of natural gas. The defendant company and certain individuals throughout the Indiana oil field found that they could not produce oil from certain parts of their lands without wasting natural gas in the process. They contested the law, urging that superlative right that individualism always puts forward, “the right of every man to conduct his own business in his own way," but the Court gave us a thoroughly democratic as well as a most Christian decision to the effect that no man or set of men had a right to carry on a business that was a menace to the interests of the people. It was in vain that the defendants plead that “their business would suffer." The Court pointed out very clearly that to permit them to enrich themselves would be to infict an irreparable injury upon the people of the State, and in this decision the Court speaks of natural gas as “the people's property” and “the property of the State.”

This assault upon the rights of the people was not due to the fact that the Ohio Oil Company is a large corporation. Even the Standard Oil Company itself is only an enlarged edition of our "popular idol," tbe successful business man. Individual oil operators of my personal

« PreviousContinue »