Citizens' Association of Chicago.

Annual report of the Citizens' Association of Chicago online

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who have so patiently and perseveringly followed up these
miscreants to conviction in the face of every difficulty and
embarrassment known to criminal law practice. Whatever
may be the ultimate result of the proceedings subsequent to
conviction, those theretofore taken have given, not the final,
but the most telling, blow to such frauds and to all election
frauds in this city ever delivered up to the time of its occur-
rence.

Following closely upon the conclusion of the first trial of
these offenders occurred the Municipal Election of April, and
at a meeting of citizens it was deemed advisable to pursue
the same course with regard t© it that was found so effective
and beneficial in the Presidential contest. A committee was
formed for the purpose and their operations undoubtedly
checked, although they could not entirely prevent election
frauds. The final result is claimed to be in doubt, and can
perhaps only be determined at the end of a legal contest which
is now in progress.

As an Association, we are interested in these reformatory
movements, so far as they are non-partisan in their character;
but there is such a constant pressure to bring such operations
within the scope of party affiliations that it was deemed best
by citizens particularly interested in the subject to or-
ganize the committees referred to, independently, so that
their action, when it came within the range of what is called



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" Practical Politics," might be unembarrassed by the conser-
vatism which has always distinguished this Association. We
cannot but rejoice at the success of the efforts made to purify
the elections, but we have a sphere of operations peculiarly
our own, which is large enough to engage our present atten-
tion without interfering with that of active politicians; we
allude to them, mainly, as illustrative of the accuracy of our
predictions and because they are the logical outcome of the
efforts we have unceasingly exerted in the direction of reform
since our organization in 1874.

Among the relics of the Presidential Election, which were
brought out for our investigation, was the payment for ser-
vices of those known as the

TIN STAR CONSTABLES,

a large number of men who were appointed by the County
Board to perform police service at the polls on the day of
election; by carefully sifting out the facts and bringing the
law to bear upon them, and by persistent effort a reduction
in the proposed payment was made by which a very con-
siderable sum was saved to the county.

A flagrant attempt to tamper with public property was the
proposition to lease the

ABSTRACT BOOKS,

the most valuable of which have been compiled with so much
care and expense, and which are the only records of real
estate transfers and chain of title which, of right, belong to
. the public. An injunction issued, at our instance, was, after a
long and tedious litigation, sustained in its material points, and
what we consider a public calamity averted. Besides the
present results the principle was settled, that the power of
the County Board over the public property is limited in a de-
gree not heretofore understood. The collateral value and im-
portance of these proceedings has been exemplified in the re-



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cent action of real estate dealers; the contemplated amend-
ment of the methods of obtaining abstracts and reducing them
to a complete and harmonious system, is one of the results, and
the possession of these books by the county is an important
factor therein. It is hoped that our members will appreciate
the importance of the peremptory action taken in this matter.

The County Board submitted to the vote of the people, at
the Judicial Election in June, the question whether they
would authorize a

LOAN OF $1,000,000

for additional buildings for the insane asylum, and some other
alleged needs of the county; but an investigation brought out
the fact that these additions were not needed at the present
time, and that all the requirements of the county for such
buildings could be met by the annual appropriation of a sum
not much greater than the interest on the bonds would be: a
spirited representation of these facts to the people through
the press produced the effect desired — an overwhelming defeat
of the project at the polls.

A very considerable portion of our time during the early
part of the year was taken up with preparing and bringing
before the

LBGISLATURB

the various measures enumerated in our last Annual Report;
but it was found, not long after that body had assembled, that
owing to the delay in organizing the House of Representa-
tives and to political complications growing out of the elec-
tion of the United States Senator, but little beneficial legisla-
tion of a nature suited to our local wants could be had; we,
nevertheless, persisted in bringing our measures to the atten-
tion of the assembly, and succeeded in laying the foundation
for the future consideration of plans of great importance,
among which are those for the main drainage of the district



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of Cook County which surrounds Chicago, and the Civil Ser-
vice Reform project for this State, to vvrhich our committees
have devoted so much time and attention. The bill with re-
gard to the

ADULTERATION OF FOOD

was another of the measures which we had prepared with
great care and attention to the needs of the mercantile com-
munity and the public; it was met in the legislature by a num-
ber of projects, all of which were too radical in their nature
to meet either popular or legislative favor, but the various
bills were consolidated and some of their main features em-
bodied in measures which never got a final hearing in either
house. The mistake seems to have been made by the com-
pilers of these extreme measures, that the public demands the
total abolition of all mixtures — or adulterations, if the term
may be used, in food; such is not, by any means, the case;
what is desired, is, that consumers may be protected in the
purchase of an article by sufficient safeguards against fraud,
$0 that they may not pay the price of a good article for a
poor one, and that no manufactured or compounded material
for food shall be sold, if injurious to the health. Modern
science and skill are daily bringing to light compounds, which
have no pretentions to absolute purity, but which are good
wholesome food, and to interdict the production of these
articles or prohibit their sale because they are not entirely
pure, except in cases where their components or some of them
are deleterious, would be as unwise and absurd as to attempt
to prescribe the formula for domestic bread, or the mode of
preparing coffee for the table. Mercantile butter, for instance,
is a wholesome article in Tnost instances, but there are differ-
ent grades of it, and there is no pretense that we know of,
that it is the pure unadulterated product of the cow. What
the public want to know is, what degree and kind of admix-
ture composes it — and so with many, if not most of commer-
cial edibles, condiments and confections. Future attempts at
legislation on this subject will, undoubtedly, be regulated
more by common sense than by extreme solicitude for par-



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ticular but comparatively insignificant interests, especially in
the light of experience gained in the State of New York,
where the stringent measures against manufactured butter
were found to be unconstitutional. Our laws with regard to
the inspection and destruction of injurious articles might, with
great advantage, be amplified, but such amendments must not
be embarrassed with attempts to break up legitimate trade.
The new law with regard to canned goods is a beneficial
enactment.

Convinced that attempts to obtain legislation on these mat-
ters of great though secondary importance would be futile,
we turned our principal attention to those of the first or vital
necessity — the election laws.

We are glad to record that the efforts so persistently made
by the members of both houses, in behalf of the purity of
elections were crowned with complete success. The law
legalizing and regulating

PRIMARY ELECTIONS,

was the result of a very general demand for such a measure,
and its provisions, if carried out by the respective political
parties, cannot but prove beneficial. They are, however, in
direct conflict with the present practice of politicians of what
is called the " machine " combination, and it may be found
difficult to reconcile their views with the proposed reform.

One of the most important of the three measures which
passed the legislature, is what is known as the " Curtiss" law,
an amendment to the existing electoral code, providing
amongst other things, for reducing the number of voters in
election precincts, and for greater convenience in the polling
places, prohibiting the use of saloons for holding elections,
requiring greater care in the canvassing and returns of the
votes, and prescribing penalties for neglect of duty on the
part of Town Supervisors and County Commissioners. This is
a very beneficial enactment, and will enable the voter to express



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his wishes without incurring so much delay and strife as he
has often been subjected to of late years.

But the great feature of the legislative session, outside of
the senatorial contest, was the passage of the

NEW ELECTION LAW

for cities, villages and incorporated towns. If found to be
constitutional and adopted by the people, and faithfully ad-
ministered, its effects will be those of a new charter and bill
oi rights to all the municipal corporations which adopt it.
Its features, if not already familiar to the public by the
knowledge obtained of them through the digest published,
md the discussion of its merits so thoroughly gone into, at
md about the time of its passage, and revived in full force by
the arguments brought out when the petition for its submis-
sion to the people was presented to the County Court, can be
readily ascertained by perusal of the law and the present dis-
cussion in the daily press. They are the same, mainly, as
those which have been practically tested in other large states,
modified and amended to suit our wants, and in accordance
with the most recent experience. When we recall to mind
the occurrences at the recent elections held in this city, the
outrages committed through fraudulent ballots and returns,
the theft of ballot-boxes, and the personal assaults to which
peaceable citizens have been subjected in the endeavor to
exercise their lawful right as electors, we are lost in wonder
at the submission of free and intelligent men, for so long a
time, to such an abominable system as our election laws pre-
sent to view. Let us promptly avail ourselves of the present
opportunity of throwing off, at once and forever, such terrible
oppression. The adoption of the new law will be the second
great blow struck at election frauds and corruption in this city.

Resolutions for a commission to revise the Criminal Code,
and for calling a Constitutional Convention, and the bill for
consolidating the three Chicago towns, failed to pass beyond
the first steps in legislation. Amendments to the Criminal



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I

Code were pressed with vigor and persistency, but failed of
passage except in the instance of " affidavit for continuance,"
and a few others of less importance.

The application for a

REVENUE COMMISSION

met with better success, and it has been formed under legisla-
tive authority, and will, we earnestly hope, make such recom-
mendations as will help us out of the many difficulties which
embarrass the assessment and collection of taxes.

Fresh as we are from the scenes of confusion and discord
which characterized the recent session of our legislature, we
cannot but be grateful for the passage of the laws which we
have enumerated, and thankful that no legislation of a harm-
ful nature was accomplished. The general assembly of 1-885,
deserves our gratitude in a double sense — for what it did, and
for what it did not accomplish. The appropriation for the

MILITIA

was one of the measures which met with general approval,
and we are very glad to perceive that, year by year, this ex-
xreedingly important branch of the public service is gaining
favor throughout the state. We can add nothing to our
recommendations of former years in behalf of the Illinois
National Guard. Their efficiency has been brought to public
notice several times during the past year; such occurrences
as took place at the quarries, in Will County, should speak
loudly for them. They show what may be expected from
the troops, if by any chance they are called on for similar
service in our city; they prevented the destruction of life and
property bv their promptness and efficiency. All they ask,
at the present time, is public favor so that their ranks may be
kept full, and the assurances of moral support in their endea-
vors to fit themselves for any contingency that may arise.

These legislative duties did not distract our attention from
matters of immediate local importance, some of which have



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commanded a great deal of public interest, as for instance, the
subjects of

WATER SUPPLY, MAIN DRAINAGE AND SEWERAGE,

which are naturally grouped together for consideration*
There is, probably, no question of more vital importance
than the one embraced in this combination. We offered a
prize for the best treatise or essay on the subject, and received
several documents in response to our circular; but the judges^
after a careful examination, decided that none of them were
entitled to such preference as would constitute a claim to the
reward, although several were worthy of consideration. The
mass of information collected by this association in years past
has received little addition since our last publication, but the in-
exorable logic of facts has convinced the public that something-
must be done immediately for the relief of our water and drain-
age systems or that a calamity, at no distant date, is inevitable.
The heavy rains which were so frequent during the summer
may be considered as providential, because they were the
means of forcibly bringing to view our needs and the mode of
relief. Few can have forgotten the condition of the river and of
the water supplied from the lake for domestic purposes during
the first weeks of August. It seemed as though we had been
remanded to the days before the canal enlargement, with
thrice the amount of filth then afloat to emphasize the situa-
tion as exhibited in the intolerable condition of the atmosphere
near the river.

We undertook daily expeditions to the source of the trouble,
that never-failing nuisance, the

OGDEN DITCH,

and made examinations of the surrounding country to the
north and west of us; and by the assistance of the press, at
length, succeeded in getting a comprehension of the difficulty
by the city authorities. None too soon, they availed them-
selves of the appropriation of $6,000, made by the City
Council, for the purpose of stopping the flow of the Des-



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Plaines river into the Chicago river, where it neutralized the
action of the Bridgeport pumps, and owing to a high stage
of lake water at the time referred to, kept the foul city sewer-
age in the position of a stagnant cesspool. The work of
constructing the dam has proceeded so slowly that the benefits
expected from it have ,not yet been realized, but so soon as it
shall be completed across the head of the Ogden ditch, the
Bridgeport pumps, assisted by those at Fullerton avenue,
can clean the river of its impurities in a reasonable time.

With regard to the water supply, we have not changed our
views, as to the necessity of erecting Central Pumping Works
in the business part of the city and, as occasion shows the need,
of additions to our present facilities in other localities. We
cannot too strongly condemn the practice of allowing any
part of the city sewerage to pass into the lake, and we put
little faith in the statements that such a course can be pursued
without contaminating the water used for household purposes;
pumping from the river into the lake by the Fullerton avenue
pumps should not be allowed. The proper course of the
sewerage is to the southward through the canal or some
similar outlet, and when the facilities for sending it that way
are complete, there can be no better place to take pure water
from than the present crib. A tunnel or aqueduct, to a point
further down the lake, would be desirable if a larger district
than the city be included in the system, as will eventually be
the case.

But, always allowing for an honest difference of opinion
as to the best mode of securing the advantages sought, we
advocate the formation, as soon as possible, of a commission
of experienced, say eminent, engineers for the purpose of
examining and reporting upon the whole subject, with a view
to the adoption of some definite plan or system which shall
set the question at rest for a century — a plan which shall meet
the approbation and be adopted by the tax payers, and include
the probable needs of Chicago and its vicinity for the period
suggested. Such a commission was proposed by a very active
and competent member of the council, early in the year, but



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met with so much opposition from high officials that it was-
dropped. It has been revived, let us hope, under more favora-
ble conditions and with better information. We believe
that public sentiment demands this mode of procedure, and
will be satisfied with nothing less. We shall urge it until the
desired result is accomplished. The plan suggested by this
Association some years since and kept before the Legislature
and the people from time to time since its inception, for estab-
lishing a drainage district or municipality of an extent sufficient
to take in all the territory and its population which may be-
come urban in its character and a part of Chicago within a
century, is becoming better understood and more popular a&
the necessity for its institution becomes more apparent.

An exhaustive report on the whole subject by a committee
formed for the purpose, was published in all the daily papers
of August 28, and with addenda and maps will be sent to you
with this report.

There has, at times, been much annoyance from a recur-
rence of the abominable

STENCHES

which were so frequently the subject of our investigation a
few years since, but they have been suppressed to such an ex-
tent as not to have occasioned much complaint for some months
past. There is no excuse whatever for the existence of this
nuisance as far as the rendering and fertilizing establishments
arc concerned, especially in view of the most recent in-
ventions for drying by cold air, and improvements in other
apparatus, and when it is perceived, the obvious duty
of the observer is to make a prompt report to the Health.
Commissioner by using the telephone at the nearest
station; the peculiarity of this nuisance is that it is not ap-
parent at the place of production and has to be traced against
the wind from the point where the offensive gases strike the
ground. Several convictions of offenders against the law
regulating the establishments referred to have been procured
and the parties punished, but the offense itself can be speedily



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stopped if complaint is made at the time. In this connection
we will say that communications to the press are commend-
able, but unless they are first sent to the Health Office, with
full particulars, there is a loss of time which prevents their
proper investigation. Not so much progress as we could de-
sire has been made in the suppression of

SMOKE,

although the condition of affairs is better than it has been.
We arc of the opinion that if the city and county authorities
would pay more attention to the chimneys under their own
charge they would have a better case against private delin-
quents. We have had the matter under consideration and
hope to devise some means by which the public authorities
can be compelled to obey their own laws and ordinances.
We re-affirm the statements made in former reports that
smoke can be prevented to an extent sufficient to comply
with the law, without much expense, and without abandoning
the use of soft coal. We have given much, attention to the
practice of running

FAST TRAINS

through the city in defiance of the laws and ordinances on
the subject. A very decided improvement has taken place.
What is desired is perfect safety for the public at the cross-
ings, and if this can be obtained by gates and proper service
at the principal points the speed of trains might be increased to
a moderate extent. Some of the railroad companies show a dis-
position to do what is right, and the traveling public are desir-
ous of having their transit facilities operated with all the speed
consistent with safety. We shall continue our endeavors to
bring about a satisfactory solution of this important problem.
Nothing of particular importance has occurred in relation to

STREET RAILWAYS AND BRIDGES,

or the street traffic dependent so largely on them. We per-
ceive the bridge service is better than in former years, in con-



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sequence of complaints and representations we have made to
the Department of Public Works, which promptly investi-
gated and rectified them. As the principle of widening the
bridges and operating them by steam power has been adopted
by the city, we can only await the course of events. The
obstruction of traffic by street blockade is not as frequent as
formerly, owing, partly, to police regulation and partly to a
better understanding of mutual obligations by the drivers of
vehicles and others. We believe it cannot be doubted that an
improvement has taken place in respect to

STREET OBSTRUCTIONS,

by their abatement during the past year; and the same obser-
vation holds good with reference to the dangers incident to

FAST DRIVING.

Do not understand us as saying that the improvement is all
that can be desired ; on the contrary, so much remains to be
done, that what has been already accomplished may be
termed superficial, but events have demonstrated the correct-
ness of what we have repeatedly said, that if citizens
themselves would report delinquincies and offenses, either to
Police Headquarters or to our Secretary, they could, in most
cases, get satisfactory relief. We have yet to hear of an in-
stance where complaint was made to us, that the relief failed
to follow our investigations. In fast driving cases, if the
name or number on the vehicle or the name of the owners of
wagons or carriages can be sent to us we ckn act upon the
information, without disclosing the name of the informant.

The unwarrantable encroachment of Builders on the street
by piles of material has become a nuisance, for which we
are peeking a remedy. The manifest inefficiency of the

BUILDING LAW

becomes more apparent daily, and, as it seems impossible to
get proper and sufficient amendments passed by the Council,
we shall have to await an opportunity of getting a complete



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revision of the ordinance, suited to the requirements of
modem improvement and the enormous increase of building
operations.

The Committee on

TELEGRAPH WIRES AND POLES

have given their attention to the subject submitted to them.
The Companies are making some progress in putting wires
underground ; the undertaking is one of great magnitude and
one which cannot, advantageously, be hurried.

Many local matters of minor or temporary importance have
had our attention during the year, which we have treated, we
hope, to the satisfaction of our constituents; they include
sanitary and other investigations, not properly coming under
the purview of the City Authorities, and the inspection of in-
ventions or devices for sanitary improvements.

The practice of taking excessive

USURY

on small loans to poor people was brought very forcibly to^
our attention earl^ last winter, and a thorough examination of
the subject was made and a report thereon published. A
very considerable modification of these unlawful practices has
followed their exposure; we are prepared to advise and assist
worthy debtors in proper attempts to protect themselves
against imposition of this kind. Some means should be pro-



Online LibraryCitizens' Association of ChicagoAnnual report of the Citizens' Association of Chicago → online text (page 15 of 60)