Page images


Looking into the history of most of our large cities, we find that, as a rule, the public officials have not yet demonstrated to the entire satisfaction of the people that they discharge fully all the duties adready imposed upon them by municipal ownership or control. The people continually cry out against the management of our charitable institutions, inefficiency of the police force and the lax enforcement of criminal law, impure water, lack of proper inspection of food, factories, fire escapes, theaters and fire traps, fire department, dangerous streets and defective sidewalks, yellow fever and filthy packing plants. If the necessities are not managed satisfactorily, how will it be when all the utilities are added to the list, with all their ramifications and perplexing questions? But it is said that civil service will cure many of these defects and make the wheels of the governmental machine revolve as smoothly and regularly as the earth upon its axis. Civil service cannot change the prejudices, passions and natural characteristics of men any more than it can change the fundamental principles of our economy upon which the whole fabric of our government rests, and the enforcement of civil service will depend upon the men in control, who are seldom within the classes that come under the rules, so that we eventually come back to the position that even with civil service on the statutes, its success or failure may lie in the keeping of the politician.

The adoption of the principle of municipal ownership and operation would be a long stride toward socialism or communism, as said hy an eminent Bishop, a system which would operate successfully in but two places—“heaven and among the savages.” It must be conceded that the progress made in this country in the last fifty years has never been equalled by any other nation in the world. We have thus advanced under an economic form of government where every individual is a sovereign and not a subject, and has the right to pursue his lawful ambitions freely, untrammelled by governmental competition. Under these conditions we have developed a wonderful people, and let it not


be forgotten that in order to develop the nation, you must first develop the man. The inventive genius of the American people is as rest!ess as the tides of the ocean and we must not say that we have reached the acme of our advancement, but we are bound to assume that we will go onward and forward to a higher and better civilization, unless our ambitions are dwarfed by a centralized paternal government.

If the application of these fundamental principles to the conditions in this country has elevated us to such a high plane, would it be good judgment to now abandon them and pursue a different theory of ownership, which, if carried to its legitiinate conclusion, will result in taking away from the substantial men of our country the great incentive of private ownership, rob them of their ambitions, destroy to a great extent their individuality and individual initiative, make them dependent upon a government job for a living, minimize local self-government and strengthen and enlarge the ever increasing powers of the government at Washington which in time might become oppressive? The canker which eats into and destroys free government is so insidious and apparently harmless in its incipiency as not to alarm or arouse the active opposition of the common people until the structure begins to crumble and decay, and it behooves every loyal citizen to watch the signs of the times and heed the signal lights along the traction lines of life, whether they be red lights of anarchy or the soft blue alluring lights of communism, and if he shall become so indifferent as to take passage upon one of the rubber tired trains, run

on time (secuured by mortgage), brakes operated by air (hot), drawn by imagination and managed by angels, he may glide down the gentle grade in a somnolent happy condition until he runs into the Grand Central station of socialism, where every passenger must first deliver his pocket-book and baggage check to the station master and surrender his individual liberty to the crowd before he can pass through the gates to the promised land.

PRESIDENT PAGE: It has been announced that previous to

[ocr errors]


the close of this discussion by Mr. Darrow, the subject shall be open for discussion by members of the Association. We shall be very much pleased to have any suggestions upon either side of the question.

MR. WILLARD: I assume that there are twenty or thirty men waiting to speak, and while some of them are thinking of what they will say, I would like to make one or two suggestions. I have been studying the elevators in the office buildings and public buildings of this city for about twenty years; I have seen the City Hall elevators and the Court House elevators under democratie administrations and under republican administrations, and I think it is safe to say, and I think that any lawyer here will agree with me, that there has not been a consecutive six inonths either in the City Hall or in the Court House where elevator service would have been tolerated, not in a first class nor in a second class, but in a third class privately conducted and owned office building in Chicago. Now, if municipal or public ownership is not adequate for the proper management of the elevator cars, how are we likely to anticipate what we should have if we had the municipal ownership and control and management of the street cars of our city? I believe that New York City recently has gained control, ownership and management of various ferry boats, perhaps one of the principal municipal ownership experiments in this country, and my understanding is that the Staten Island ferry boats, so I was informed by a New York man, I speak subject to correction, require three times as many men to run them as similar ferry boats required under private management and ownership.

It seems to me what the world wants and needs is efficiency; that we cannot expect that efficiency of management to come from municipal ownership. It was said by the gentleman who opened this discussion that a man will work cheaper for the government than for private companies. But the government, neither state nor city, is willing to pay for ordinary positions what the same man can receive in private employ. I was


reading this noon a letter from man in the government service in Philadelphia, one of the most attractive positions. He was going to give it up because there was no future in the way of salary in government service. Ile has repeatedly refused, as understand it, higher salaries in private positions.

In our departments in Washington it is understood that the man who gets into the department gets into a habit of rut and routine, and individual initiative is not encouraged.

The gentleman in opening the discussion referred to municipal ownership as likely to grow out in untried territory, implying that private ownership would be a good deal slower. My impression is that those who have given study to the question generally will agree with me that the initiative of individual ownership is very much more likely to take a chance, very much more likely to go out into untried territory and create for itself new business, new opportunities, build up new suburbs, where the city owned line would say, we cannot take chances; what was good enough two years ago or four years ago or eight years ago is good enough for the present management. There are many other ideas that occur to me, but I must not take any more of your time. (Applause.)

Mr. ROGERS, of Chicago: Those who believe the fullness of time has come for municipal ownership should, in airing their views, never ignore the national characteristics of our cosmopolitan country

What meets success in Timbuctoo may see only disaster in China, France, Germany England, Ireland, Scotland. The reverse may be not illogical. To declare war a people's idiosyncrasies is to liken

to that German who thought he had the grip: “Der doctor comes and he says I haf no grip, dot I vos just a ledle crazy ; und he told me to sit in der middle of der parlor and joost viggle my fingers at der window where de sun comes in in der morning ven it isn't raining; und den to prove dot I vos crazy he charged me tu dollars."

Public ownership in European cities implies fare regu




ܕ ܕ

[ocr errors]

ܕ ܕ

lated by distance, or “zone"-as 1 1-5 cents for 1 1-16 miles,

”. 2 2-5 cents for 2 1-8 miles, etc. That of itself would necessitate a revolution in our money system. A few cities give a sort of commutation meal ticket scale of rates to laboring people with wages under $300 a year, and providing that they shall ride during meal hours. Four and one-half miles is the longest distance they may ride. The number of passengers is limited, and the car speed is from a third to a half less than ours. Limit our passengers or speed, and conductor and motorman would get mobbed, the passengers taking possession and running merrily on. though it means running over a dozen persons to—“get there.” Our cars kill more people in a month than all Europe's in a year. That is evidence of our national spirit!

“Oh, that's politics !” is the embarrassing experience of doing business in the city halls; and on political days the offices are closed. Get municipal ownership and enlarge the obnoxious conditions. The politicians would want to stop the cars for election days. Pat had just “come over,” and meeting his old friend Dennis, he lost no time in relating his experiences in this blessed land of Roosevelt and Bryan. “Thim are moighty smart min on thim strate cars,” said Pat. “I got on one of thim and pretty quick he called out 'McCarthy'; and Mr. McCarthy he stood up and got off. At the nixt corner he said ‘Powell’, and Mr. Powell gets off, and he keeps right on doing that. Sez I to meself, he is mighty smart, begorra, ef he can find out me

And would yez believe me, at the next corner he said 'McAlister,' and so there was nothing left for me to do but get off, too." Contrast the working intelligence of the present day conductor, motorman or gripman with that of his probable successor under municipal ownership.

The wage of city employes exceeds that of private enterprise employes, and the city employe might find himself unable to hold the same position in a private concern. What of the night if we had municipal ownership and, accordingly, so many, many more employes? Water plants employ but few men. A

[ocr errors]

own name.

« PreviousContinue »