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For the fiscal year 1911 the Capital Traction Co., for example, paid taxes on real estate at an assessed valuation of $898,081. In this company's report to Congress for the year ending December 31, 1911, the totaỈ cost of the road and equipment, including real estate, was reported to be $17,381,032 and the total of its capital stock and funded debt $17,639,500. In this respect Washington fares no worse than other cities which are governed by corrupt political machines in alliance with predatory corporations. Here, as in other cities, tax dodging will continue until the people acquire real political power through the initiative, referendum, and recall.
3. The service rendered is in many cases inadequate, and in other instances involves a positive menace to life. The overcrowding of street cars is one of the most common grievances. To collect full fare from a passenger who is compelled to stand is an arbitrary exercise of power.
Several lives have been lost in this city by the escape of carbonmonoxide gas, a component of the cheap water gas supplied by the Washington gas monopoly. A few years ago the matter was investigated by Congress, but nothing was done to protect the people of this city. It has been stated by a daily newspaper of Washington that “the failure to get results was due to the fact that the gas monopoly misrepresented conditions, misled Congress, and created the utterly unjustified impression that a safe gas could only be provided at greatly increased cost.” The people of this city should have the
. power to protect themselves against such dangerous conditions.
4. The residents of the District, from whom these private corporations derive their revenues, should have the power to control the corporations by means of a public-utilities commission, and the commission itself should be under popular control and be officially responsible to the people of the District. The proposed commission should be empowered to make a physical valuation of the publicutility systems, so that the people of the city may no longer be taxed to pay dividends on water securities, and should be empowered to fix such rates and to enforce such standards of service as will secure justice to the people as well as to the corporations.
During the first and second sessions of the Sixty-second Congress no less than three bills were introduced to provide a public-utilities commission for the District of Columbia. “All three of these bills failed to be enacted into law. It has been publicly charged by citizens of good standing and reputation that they were defeated through the influence of certain corporate interests, who are planning a gigantic merger of our public-utilities corporations under outside control-a merger which would involve the injection into these corporations of still larger quantities of water-on which the people would be required in the future to pay interest and dividends. The very fact that such a merger is contemplated emphasizes the necessity for a public-utilities commission which will protect the rights of the people.
5. The stocks of one of our local corporations have recently been so manipulated as to secure enormous profits for the insiders at the expense of the investing public. It is said on good authority that the sensational advance which recently occurred in the price of this stock was engineered by a group of the directors of the road, who had inside information regarding the proposed merger. Such scandalous manipulations and“ gambling in prices” would be impossible if our local corporations were properly controlled by a public-utilities commission.
Extortionate rates, tax dodging, inadequate service, neglect of public safety, stock watering, stock gambling, and the blocking of necessary legislation—those are some of the charges made against our privately owned corporations. The people of the District will remain powerless to right such wrongs until they regain control over their city government.
Municipal progress.—In other cities, where the people actually rule, progressive measures are being adopted for the benefit of the people, including more suitable systems of taxation, municipal ownership of lighting and transportation systems, the establishment of municipal markets, ice plants, and coal yards. In this city the special interests are so strongly intrenched that plans for municipal betterment are hopeless unless they promise increased profits, rents, and dividends for the privileged few.
From the viewpoint of the general welfare the water power at Great Falls, within a few miles of this city, should be brought under municipal ownership and utilized to lower the cost of lighting our public streets and buildings, and for other purposes, but we fully realize that under present conditions a project of this kind must contend against the combined opposition of our local gas and electric monopolies. The common welfare of the many is sacrified for the special interest of the few.
The people of the District are in accord with the people of the States in their desire that Washington shall become in every respect the model city of the Nation, the city healthful, the city efficient, and the city beautiful. But this ideal can never be realized in any genuine or worthy way except under just economic conditions, which will allow the services, the advantages, and the beauty of the city to be shared and enjoyed by all.
Police protection. Within the past few months the city has been shocked and terrified by several brutal assaults on women. Citizens' associations and other organizations, as well as the chief of police, have been demanding increased police protection. If the question could be submitted to a referendum vote, the people of the city would vote overwhelmingly for larger appropriations for police purposes, even if required to meet the increased expense by heavier taxes on District property. But the people of the city have no control over congressional legislation, and they are helpless until Congress sees fit to take action. Under a modern and democratic system of municipal government, the people of the city would be free to adopt without delay such measures as were felt to be necessary for public safety and security.
Efficiency and apathy. With few exceptions, our District officials are honest and efficient. Some of them are men of exceptional ability. But they are not in close touch with the people and they are not always responsive to popular sentiment. Our system of local government lacks the spirit and soul of democracy. The people, knowing that their city government is beyond their control, naturally take but little interest in its operations. Autocracy and bureaucracy have pro duced their natural result in civic apathy, indifference, and inertia.
Among the people of this city there is a high average of intelligence and character. If they were permitted to elect and control their city officials, and to determine municipal politics by means of the initiative and referendum, the result here, as in other cities, would be a general revival of public spirit and of popular interest in municipal problems. Washington, the Nation's Capital, can never become the model city of a great and free Republic until democracy and efficiency have been combined in its local government.
Comparison with other forms of municipal government.—Those who are opposed to municipal self-government for the District of Columbia point to the misrule and corruption which have disgraced other American cities where the people enjoy the right of suffrage and go through the form of voting. In point of fact, these cities have been badly governed, not because the people vote but because the will of the people has been thwarted and defeated by corrupt alliances between the political party machines and the franchiseseeking corporations and other predatory interests.
But municipal democracy is not a failure. Our American cities are being emancipated. The city boss is being dethroned. The people are learning that they can make their votes effective and can control their elected officials by means of the initiative, referendum, and recall. In Des Moines, Iowa, and other cities which have adopted a modern and democratic form of city government, machine rule, graft, and corruption have unquestionably been eliminated, and municipal administration has become not only highly efficient, but democratic and responsive to the popular will.
In each of those cities the people elect and control their mayor and commissioners. In Washington the appointed commissioners and other officials govern the people without their consent.
In these cities no franchise is binding until it is first indorsed by popular vote. In Washington the people have no voice in the granting of franchises to private corporations.
In those cities laws and ordinances are enacted subject to popular vote. In Washington there is no political machinery by which the people can express their approval or disapproval of proposed laws or ordinances.
In those cities the several departments of city government are clearly defined, and there is direct and undivided responsibility for each and every detail of city business. In Washington there is no distinct or definite division of responsibility among the three District Commissioners.
In those cities the people are optimistic and intensely interested in municipal affairs. In Washington the people are inert, despondent, and deficient in civic spirit.
THE RISING TIDE OF DEMOCRACY.
We are in the midst of a great political revolution which is relegating to the rear the old machine politics and the corrupt political bosses who took their orders from predatory wealth, and is bringing to the front a better type of progressive leaders who take their orders from the people and who study their interests. Several of the States are adopting new constitutions with all the modern devices of democ
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
racy. These constitutions grant complete home rule to cities, with power either to regulate or to acquire and operate their public utili. ties. One State after another is adopting the initiative, referendum, and recall. Nine States have extended the right f suffrage to women.
From the Pacific to the Atlantic a wave of political democracy is sweeping over the country. The voters are shaking off the grip of the machine politicians. The plain people are writing a new declaration of independence against the powers that prey:
." Shall the District government alone fail to respond to this nation. wide revival of the spirit of democracy? Here in the Nation's Capital, at the very heart of the Republic, where the democratic principles of Jefferson and Lincoln should be held in the highest honor, where there should be a system of city government which would serve as a model for all other American cities, shall the people remain disfranchised and taxed without representation? Shall the District of Columbia remain an island of autocracy and plutocracy in the midst of an ocean of ever-intensifying democracy? Shall the people of the District be forced to remain
under a form of government which is an absolute denial of the fundamental principles in defense of which our liberty-loving ancestors pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor?
It can no longer be claimed that the people of the District are satis. fied with their present condition of political servitude. On election day, November 5, 1912, the District Suffrage League conducted a
straw vote” at 56 polling places throughout the city. This vote was carefully supervised and the ballots fairly and honestly counted. On the crucial question, Should the people of the District of Columbia be allowed to vote! 944 voted "no," while 10,816, or 92 per cent, voted " yes. Such was the significant result of the first ballot which, in many years, the people of the District have had an opportunity to cast.
Among the residents of the District there has always been a strong sentiment in favor of municipal self-government and representation in Congress, but many of them have been led to believe that the present system is the only practical one. This erroneous belief has been sedulously cultivated by the organs and agents of the special interests whose power to exploit and plunder the people of the District would be endangered by a change in the form of government. By means of specious objections, gruesome warnings against imaginary dangers, and skillful evasion of the real issue every effort has been made to confuse the minds of the people and to discourage any general protest against the wrongs inherent in the present system.
But in spite of this long-continued policy of concealment and misrepresentation the stock objections to local self-government are losing their influence. An increasing number of the District people realize that there is no valid or sufficient reason for excluding the District people from the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
FOUR COMMON OBJECTIONS.
Four objections to District self-government are commonly urged. They are as follows:
1. It is alleged that the present system is the only practicable one, because the District belongs to the people of the United States and not to the local residents. But if the District is actually the property of the United States, why is the Federal Government compelled to pay enormous prices for land in the District which is needed for Federal buildings and other public purposes? In point of fact, the District is not owned by either the people of the United States or the people of the District. Under present conditions it is owned and controlled mainly by a local combination of landowners, real estate operators, bankers, and corporation magnates.
Under present conditions the people of the United States have very little voice in the government of the District. If a referendum vote could be taken on the subject, the American people would undoubtedly decide that Congress should at once restore to the people of the District the right of self-government in purely local affairs, which is enjoyed in every other American community, which was exercised by the people of the District for three-quarters of a century prior to 1874, and of which they were deprived without their consent.
2. It is alleged that District suffrage is impracticable because Government employees who live in Washington retain the right to vote in the States from which they have been appointed. This argument may have had some weight under the old spoils system, when there was a constant rotation of officeholders. But the basic principle of the present civil-service system is permanent tenure of office. Under this system Government employees come to Washington with their families to live. This is the city in which their children are reared. This is the city where they buy homes and pay taxes. This is the city in whose government they should be most deeply interested. This is the city where they should be not only permitted but required to vote on all municipal affairs. On national affairs they should be permitted to vote either in the District or, until the District may be admitted to the Union as a State, in the States where they have retained a political residence. It is not believed that there would be any great difficulty in framing a Federal statute by which this desirable reform could be realized. Distance and the resultant cost of transportation now prevent all but an inconsiderable percentage of Government employees from voting in the States in which they claim political residence. As in New Zealand, this difficulty, pending the admission of the District to statehood, might be met by permitting such voters to send their votes by mail to their former residences.
3. It is alleged that the people of the District should demand no change in the form of local government which might interfere in any way with what is called the half-and-half system” of taxation. On its face this argument is mercenary. It implies that the District will cheerfully submit to political servitude if the Nation will continue to pay one-half of its taxes. It implies that the District is willing to sell its political rights for a money consideration. For this unworthy and shameless argument the special interests of the District, who enjoy the lion's share of the local benefits of the half-and-half system,