This article appeared in “Men’s Welfare” Volume 1 #2 October 1904, pages 67-72
Dayton’s Most Urgent Needs.
Planks of a Platform on Which Every Honest Citizen, Without Reference to Parties, Should Stand
1. The first requisite of any American city is a clean and honest municipal government. Those of our people who are readers of “McClure’s Magazine” are perfectly familiar with the condition of affairs existing at present in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, St.Louis and other cities which have been brought into the glare of publicity and prominence by the well-written and authoritative articles contained in that magazine each month. The statements made are almost beyond credit to non-residents, and even the citizens of these enterprising American cities were themselves loath to believe the statements and facts which were brought out not only in the newspapers, etc., but were proved in the courts. High public officials were found guilty of various kinds of misdemeanors and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in addition to fines. These trials developed the fact that in every case where the boodling and grafting condition seems to be only local, even State and National officials were behind the various deals, covering their dirty work by hiding behind the local politicians and boodlers.
Is Dayton different?
The question that now confronts us is whether such an investigation as has been conducted in the cities mentioned above would not develop the same deplorable condition of affairs existing in our own city. This, however, we are loath even to think about without believing that this condition does exist here.
It is of little use for us to state what Dayton needs most to make it a modern and thriving city, inasmuch as anything to be done toward city improvements must have the sanction of the politicians and boodlers who have the city in their grasp. If any ordinances introduced do not have their sanction, or in any way do not benefit them or their henchmen, such measures will not receive any consideration or attention, but will be sidetracked or handicapped until they finally pass into legislative oblivion. If, however, the measures introduced are of a meaningless nature, there is some prospect of their being passed after long delay, but not before they are closely scrutinized as to their likelihood of inconveniencing in any way the boodlers’ and grafters’ hold on the city.
Citizens Should Unite.
Does this condition confront the city of Dayton? If so, the first duty of all law-abiding, honest, citizens, without regard to party affiliations, is to unite in a common cause against such reckless trafficking in statues, and laws and elect such men as will serve the interest of the people as a whole and not work for the benefit of a few.
This has been done in a number of large cities, especially in Chicago, where the boodlers and grafters had held the city by the throat for years. No measures for the improvement of streets, alleys or parks, no street car franchises could pass the city council without the ring securing their price. What was the outcome? The people stood it as long as they could and then rose en masse and drove the scoundrels out, electing in their places honest, faithful citizens, irrespective of party affiliations. Since that time there has been no cause for complaint along this line, but it is absolutely necessary that the people remain alert and watchful at all times or the grafters will again be in control.
Eliminate Party Politics.
Our people can judge for themselves whether this condition exists here and whether we are ready for a general cleaning up. Some will say “yes” and others “no” but would it not be advisable to eliminate parties and politics from all municipal elections and elect only those men whose interest is for the city alone?
If, however, we are well governed and grafting and boodling do not exist here, then the city’s needs as outlined here can and should be brought to the attention of the proper officials and proper action taken thereon.
2. One of the most important questions before us today is the school question. Our school population is increasing at such a rate that the present school buildings do not furnish necessary accommodations for the pupils. Not only that, but it is stated that no more buildings can be erected, as the school board has not sufficient funds to conduct the schools already instituted. This is a very serious condition and one which should receive our consideration at once. It has been our boast for years that we have an excellent school board, and that it was doing remarkably well with the little money available. We would suggest to the board members that if the present tax levy is not sufficient—and experience and time have proved that it is not—then it should be increased to such a figure as will take care of all emergencies and future demands.
We do not wish to criticise any of the city officials, least of all the school board. But anyone who is at all familiar with the conditions existing at present in the Steele high school must feel that the money invested in that building was recklessly spent. The building, far from being beautiful, is not even attractive. It is a fire-trap, and even now, as large as it seems to be, it cannot accommodate all the pupils. It is only a question of a short time when another high school will have to be erected, and when that time arrives the subject should be given full and careful consideration and the proper kind of a building erected in the most suitable location.
Dayton Far Behind.
Dayton is far behind many American cities in regard to manual training schools. This is due not to the lack of desire, however, but principally to the lack of money for their maintenance. These schools can be built and maintained at a very low cost as compared to the benefit to be derived from them. It may be policy for our school board to visit some of the places in the East where manual training is considered the most essential part of the pupil’s education. Brooklyn, New York, Brookline, Mass., and Worcester, Mass., and other places in the East could be visited with advantage. And the investigation would certainly lead to many new features being put in operation here. There are a number of things, such as domestic economy, health culture, cooking, sewing, stenography and bookkeeping, which should be taught in the schools to those who desire them in addition to their regular studies.
More Public Parks
3. We should have more public parks, where the people might listen to musical entertainments, etc., on holidays, Sundays, and evenings.
4. More attention should be given to the improvement of lawns, yards and streets and the children in the public schools should be instructed and encouraged in the planting of flowers and vegetables and making window boxes.
5. While there is very little complaint about the paving of streets, yet they are allowed to get in a very deplorable condition from lack of attention and repairs, and are not cleaned in a manner satisfactory to citizens.
Drinking Fountains Needed.
6. More drinking water fountains should be installed throughout the city, where both man and beast could be satisfied. While there are a few fountains at present located throughout the city, yet they do not receive any attention after being installed. They are allowed to become nuisances instead of benefits. The water is allowed to form in pools around the fountains so that it is almost impossible for people to get within reach of the fountains. Hardly any one of these fountains has drinking utensils. As these fountains are conducted at present they are worthless.
7. Either a viaduct or subway should be built from the east end of the city to the Union Station for railroad facilities, so as to eliminate the chance of accidents at grade crossings, especially at Third and Fifth streets.
8. The old hydraulic race in Riverdale should be filled up and made into either a boulevard or park.
Modern Building Laws.
9. The city council should adopt modern rules and regulations covering the erection of all houses and buildings. No permits should be issued for residence houses unless the same are to be erected on modern and sanitary methods; that is, at least to have pure “holly” water in the house, thus doing away with the use of well water, which is a menace to health at all times. No business blocks should be erected unless the same are entirely modern; that is, fireproof, provided with fire escapes, and all electric wires, pipes, etc., brought in underground and insulated and concreted according to the latest improved methods and regulations.
Abandon Miami Canal
10. Abandon the Miami and Erie Canal as a waterway and either lease it to some railroad company for a satisfactory money consideration, or else transform it into a boulevard or driveway.
11. A new bridge should be erected across the Miami River at Apple Street, or even farther south, so as to afford accommodations to the people in the southern and southwestern portions of the city.
12. Have a roadway built from Edgemont south to the Calvary Cemetery so as to afford a shorter route to the cemetery.
Beautify the River
13. One essential thing in all cities is a beautiful river and river front. Since the old Steele dam has been washed away there is now no place where the people can go boating and bathing. A dam could either be built below the Washington Street bridge, thus filling up the old cesspools in summer and making a wide and deep expanse of water from this point to above the Main Street bridge, or else the river could be dredged and the channel widened, which would tend to bring the same results. If this is done, the levee can be improved by shrubbery, plants, etc. Everything possible should be done to make the river front the most beautiful and attractive part of the city.
14. The most urgent necessity is a large auditorium with a seating capacity of at least 5,000. Otherwise Dayton is not well prepared to take care of conventions, meetings, etc. This is a matter which should receive prompt and full consideration and some means devised for the erection of such a building.
Baths and Playgrounds.
15. The installation of public baths for all the people, following the plan of management conducted by the city of Brookline, Mass.
16. Locate in suitable places throughout the city playgrounds for the children, where they can enjoy themselves without conflicting with the police regulations, and where they will be kept out off the streets and out of danger.
17. The enforcement of the city ordinance in reference to property owners keeping the weeds cut down in vacant lots.
18. The city council should pass an ordinance for the removal of all unsightly billboards. Billboards detract from the good appearance of any city.
New Bridge Necessary
19. A new bridge should be built over the Miami River at Washington Street. The present bridge is in such a bad condition that two street cars are not allowed on the bridge at one time. Consequently traffic is poor and delays long, as no trailers can be attached to the main cars, thus compelling citizens to wait on the street corners in all kinds of weather for cars, as the single cars are usually crowded to the utmost, making it impossible to secure standing room at times.
20. Pass an ordinance compelling all telegraph, electric light, and telephone wires to be put underground, and forbid the reckless stringing of wires overhead.
21. It should be made a positive rule that there should be no change in school books for at least five years after the same have been adopted. This changing of school books each year is a very unsatisfactory method for the scholars and an expensive one for the parents as well.
22. The city should own and control the gas and electric light plant as well as its water works.
Honesty in Franchise Letting
23. Careful attention should be given to the letting of franchises. No franchise should be given for a longer period that twenty-five years, and the city should receive a satisfactory consideration for such franchise.
While it has been the intention to bring forcibly to the attention of the readers of this article certain matters, yet we feel sure there are a great many other things which the city needs and which should be done. We believe that if the recommendations and suggestions above were carried out, the changed conditions would be in such contrast with those existing at present that the people would be made anxious for greater work and improvements along these various lines.