Page images

and then proceeeded to issue mortgages on this plant for four million dollars. Those bonds were nearly all sold, and our Philadelphia friends got well salted with them, too, I understand. Upon these nine million dollars the Company set out to make some sort of an interest, and whenever we asked that this or that be done, this great sum was pointed out as requiring an income, rendering this or that impossible.

That is the situation in this city to-day, with this additional fact: In 1894, inasmuch as sooner or later this franchise would come to an end, our city government put up the privilege for sale. There was one bidder, known as “The City Company,” and in 1894 the privilege to take effect after the present company went out, was sold to the City Company. What happened? In 1896 the Indiana Legislature proposed to pass rather repressive legislation concerning the present company. I don't say who it was that instigated that legislation; but the new and the old companies got together, and it was found that if the old company bought out the new company it was thougbt that everytbing would be smooth sailing. I do not say that if the new company sold out the pressure in the Legislature would be withdrawn; but I have my opinion about that. The fact is that the new company, which kad not paid 2 dollar to anyone, except lawyer's fees, and had never been in possession, made a bargain, by which it was to receive five hundred thousand dollars for its franchise. There is no doubt about that at all. There was a report, which I think was true, that the new company raised the price one hundred thousand dollars; that was the straw which broke the company's back, and the sale did not take place. When I see what benefit would be obtained for the city, I range myself on the side of the public ownership of municipal franchises.

We have here a beautiful city. When the resolution was passed thanking us for entertaining you, I accepted it at par. Our city has fine broad streets, modern pavements, a monument up there on the Circle which has cost a half million of dollars; we are proud of all these things, and I do not intend to disparage the city. We are going to make the city more beautiful in the future than it is to-day. We live under a modern charter. It is not quite so strict in some of its provisions as the Model Charter. I want to show you what can be done under a modern charter.

There are two things to be considered. One is the character of the men we put into our city offices; the other is the lack of safeguards to hamper the men when we happen to get a bad man in. These two things stand in the way of the extension of the franchises. When we were here in this room considering the propriety of asking the Legislature to make provision for a Park Board and to make provision for a Waterworks Board, I heard the Mayor of this city say, “I don't suppose any of you will believe me, but I think both these boards should be out of politics." If the Park Board should be out of politics, why should not tbe Street Commissioners' office be out of politics? Why should not the Board of Public Works be out of politics? I should like to ask the

Mayor where he draws the line between having these two new hoards out of politics and the boards which have for years been in politics?

Of course his remark is an admission that the other boards are in politics, and I should also like to ask why it is necessary to be a Bryan Silver Democrat to get a place in the engineer's office?

I will illustrate the position which I take, that we must make provisicn to get honorable men, and make provisions that will hamper those that are not honorable. The merit system here can be established in every department of the city, and can be kicked out by a simple resolution. That was done under this modern charter. That is no rash statement. When I say that Mr. Foulke superintended the drawing of the whole system, when I say that it was enforced and had tremendous possibilities for the benefit of this city, and yet the present Mayor kicked it out by a single resolution, you can see what can be done under a modern charter. That was done under our modern charter. What is the result? From the day that was done to this the appointments of this city have been made simply at the will of the Mayor.

I am going to give you a few of the hundreds of instances that I could give. We have a surgeon that examines the men for the Police and Fire Departments. Sometimes they are pronounced pot fit to pass, yet when the Mayor wills it they do pass, and are quartered upon this city in its Police and Fire Departments.

The Mayor of this city is a hotelkeeper. He keeps a good hotel and will take good care of you if you go down there. You will not be robbed; your jewelry and money will not be taken from your rooms; you will be perfectly safe, and he will not neglect one of the duties of an honest gentleman. Yet I should like to know how a man's character is made up when he can take such a position as a private gentleman, and then quarter upon this city men whom the surgeon has said are not fit to be firemen or policemen ?

I want to say here that I am not making an attack upon anybody; I am showing what can be done to build up a party machine, and therefore I maintain that until that is settled, until we can put a stop to such work as that, it is useless talk of buying waterworks and lighting plants, or that sort of thing. All the citizens of Indianapolis know that the Fire Department became totally disorganized, the discipline was gone, and the only man who had any weight there was the Mayor. We all know that the fire insurance rates were raised on this account. Every one in this city knows that a long line of drunken policemen have marched before the Board of Safety to be dismissed or reprimanded or their faults glossed over.

Let me tell you some more things. We had at the head of our City Hospital a man entirely fitted for the place; we had as clerk of the Board of Public Works and as clerk of the Board of Public Safety two gentlemen who could not be surpassed for these positions. Yet what has happened to these three gentlemen ? They were dismissed. Why, do you suppose? Did they get drunk? Oh, no. Did they steal? Oh,

no. Were they incompetent? No; that was not the reason. They were simply Gold Democrats; that is all there was of it.

No one need to talk to me about buying the waterworks of this city when we are likely to get a Mayor who will play upon us such tricks as that. I say to you again, if you go to the Mayor's hotel you are perfectly safe; but I should like to ask the Mayor how it is that he justifies himself for this act-than which no public officer could do a more dishonorable one?

A negro came to my office not long ago and asked me if I could not get back from the city twenty-four dollars. I asked him how he paid it, and he said: “I am a Republican. Now, in the Bryan campaign I was at work for the city, and I was promised that if I would vote for Bryan I should have work right along. I got $1.75 a day, and I was assessed twenty-five dollars, and I was hounded and dogged until I paid twenty. four of it, and then I voted for McKinley.” Now I say-and I am a taxpayer of this city, and I am free to confess a sore taxpayer-that if these employes who worked for $1.75 a day have twenty-five dollars to pay into a party treasury, they are getting twenty five dollars too much, and I want my taxes reduced. Why, they taxed teamsters twenty-five dollars and all the others in the same proportion. Are we to add street car companies and waterworks, with their vast armies of employes, while that systein can go on? I say no greater public service could be rendered if we could put our street car system under a system similar to the railway mail service. We could get better service and make a great saving of money. I should like to know why, just before the recent election, negro gangs were put upon the streets nominally to work? I should like to know why, after we had owned the parks quite a long time, it was found out just before election that they needed a great deal of attention, and hundreds of men were put to work in them? Just after election seventy-five men were dismissed, for incompetency the Park Commissioner said-and there you are.

I do not mean to make an attack on anyone. Indianapolis will take care of itself, and we will fight out our own battles. We have a beautiful city and we are going to make it more beautiful; but I do want to impress upon you this thing, which I have cepeated over and over again: No city can take in these municipal franchises and operate them itself until it has provided some way to stop these things. What is the result of all this? It builds up a personal and party machine, that is the result of it, and until we have devised some method by which that can be stopped it is useless to go on in that direction.

I will say for the Model Charter, that its civil service provisions are very much better than those of the Indianapolis Charter. If we had these provisions I think we could give these people a trial in the courts; but while our charter requires the merit system it is in such shape that we cannot do that. I will say further that while any honorable officer would consider it his duty to enforce that, it is almost impracticable to reach a failure to do so through the courts. My remedy for this is

tbe merit system put in such shape that violations of it can be reached by the courts. Then if we get a Mayor who is not honorable and who attempts to put his favorites into the places we can stop the pay. That is the safeguard.

As to the man himself, that, I will admit, is a hard nut to crack. In England they laugh at us for concentrating all the power in one man. There a board takes up its work, goes on and does it, and there is po scandal and no improper use of money. Take an American board and what does it do? Take an instance that occurred in our co'inty. Out upon the South Side of the city there was a plot of land containing about twenty acres belonging to an estate, and that property was oflered for sale at about ten thousand five hundred dollars. In one corner of the property was a house. I considered buying the property at the price named; and then looked round to find someone who would buy the house and a small tract of land around it. I thought that could be sold for about twenty-five hundred dollars. I could not find sich a buyer, and so did not take the property. The next I heard was that the property had been sold by the administrator of the estate. Then the buyer of the property turned round and sold the house and a little corner of the land to Marion county for seven thousand five hundred dollars; the county had been induced to buy it for a home for the children under the care of the Board of Children's Guardians. I had offered this house and the same land for twenty-five hundred dollars. The county spent money for fixing it-up; and after giving it a thorough trial the place had to be abandoned, and out at Irvington a Home was bought that is adapted to the purpose. The nearly ten thousand dollars invested in that place is so much waste-money. The Englishman upon his board would have been ashamed to have his name connected with such a transaction as that. He has a personal feeling; he would not want his children to know that he ever had anything to do with such a transaction as that. Our boards do not feel that way. They eat well, they sleep well, and, I have no doubt, they think they are good citizens.

Right there is the second great thing we have got to improve before we can hope to operate municipal franchises and get the good of them. We have got to make men understand that private honesty is public bonesty, and that there is no difference in the grade.

THE CHAIRMAN : The formal discussion will be closed by Dr. E. W. Bemis, of the Agricultural College, Manhattan, Kansas.

Dr. Bemis read the following paper :


There is so little to be said in the way of adverse criticism of the portions of the Municipal Program relating to franchises and of the

discussion of tbe same by Mr. Richardson, that comment and addition only are here attempted.

It will be noted that the proposed model State constitution would restrict municipal franchises to twenty-one years, provide for publicity and public audit of accounts of companies receiving these franchises, and prevent the alienation of any city property without the vote of four-fifths of the City Council. Cities may also provide in their franchises to secure all tangible assets belonging to lessees at the end of the franchise period.

In the model city charter it was further provided that cities “may acquire or construct, and may also operate on their account railroads or other means of transit or transportation, and methods for the production or transmission of heat, light or electricity, in any of their forms, by pipes, wires or other means." A city may also issue bonds without debt limit restrictions, if their bonds are for a revenueproducing business. A city may acquire property by the right of eminent domain.

The terms of the proposed franchise must be published a sufficient time before a grant is made, in order to admit of public discussion, and it is apparently contemplated that more than a majority of the Council must give their affirmative vote for a franchise. A tax on gross receipts to the city is also provided for, although the emphasis should be chiefly made upon the charges rather than upon the large city revenue. Thus will the social benefits of cheap light or transportation to suburbs be secured. A city of 25,000 people may also make its own charter and introduce therein further franchise provisions. The following provisions might well be suggester for embodiment in such a model charter, when finally adopted by a municipality. It is also believed that many of them might be included in a charter directly granted by the Legislature.

1. There should be a provision for a popular vote on (a) the granting of new franchises and (b) on the determination (c) whether an existing franchise should be purchased and operated by the people, and (c) whether, on the expiration of the franchise, there should be a renewal of public operation.

The proposed new charter for Minneapolis provided that no city franchise should be granted "unless the question of granting the same shall be first submitted to the qualified voters of such city, and adopted by a majority voting at such election on the question,” and it provided further for a vote of the people upon acquiring or constructing a plaut for any of the public purposes usually performed by undertakings known as city monopolies. The City Council was to decide whether to submit such propositions to the public. No municipal service plant once owned by the city could be sold or leased unless ratified by a two-thirds vote of all the people voting thereon at a city election.

In a vote taken in the Twenty-eighth ward of Philadelphia by The

« PreviousContinue »