“MY CITY” Mayor Thomas J. Earley 1907–1911
Mayor William Waterhouse 1905–1907
the power to initiate desired legislation, to veto undesired legislation, and to recall or discharge unfaithful or incompetent city officials or employees. Having thus established themselves in this model and modern citadel of municipal democracy, the citizens of Pasadena were in a position to enjoy the legitimate benefits to be derived from natural monopolies—benefits which in various cities throughout the United States have, during the last half century, made scores of multimillionaires at the expense of the health of the citizens and the purity of municipal government. “The question of municipal ownership of a lighting plant was not an issue in my first campaign,” said ‘William Waterhouse, known to all Southern California as the father of municipal ownership in Pasadena, and who was elected mayor of the city in the spring of 1905; “but the issue at stake was the municipal ownership of the city’s water supply, and the entire administration, including the city council, was elected on a platform embodying this proposition. “Soon after assuming office, I became satisfied that the water question was not the only one demanding consideration. The city was paying an exorbitant price for the lighting of her streets and public buildings, and the service rendered was about as bad as could be imagined. I started an investigation and in a very short time accumulated evidence to prove that the city was being defrauded. …We were utterly unable to bring the corporation to terms, and we finally held up the lighting bills. The corporation brought suit to collect, and though the suits are still pending, the city has won in every court to date. …The threat of the private company to leave the city in darkness brought matters to a crisis. “I called the council together and submitted my plans to them;— with, the result that a resolution was introduced and passed,
submitting to a vote of the electors a proposition to vote a bond issue of $125,000 for the purpose of establishing a municipal lighting plant for Pasadena. “This action of the council was like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. It electrified the people and it brought into action at once all the deterrent force of the powerful electric company and its allied corporate interests. The battle was bitterly fought. Every newspaper in the city opposed municipal ownership. Within twenty-four hours after the introduction of the resolution in the council I received a call from the president of the lighting corporation, who advanced every argument, from ‘patriotism’ to the ‘interests of the poor widows and orphans’ who owned stock in his company, in a vain effort to convince me of the error of my way as a public official; to all of which I turned a deaf ear. “Finally the day of election dawned and the battle raged until the last vote was polled. When the votes were counted the city had won by the necessary twothirds majority and had just seven votes to spare. This victory, however, was but the beginning of the struggle. Suits were instituted by the private corporation, which are still pending, attacking the city’s right to engage in municipal lighting. The bonds were refused by every local financial institution and were finally purchased by private parties. Every obstruction that could be devised by a great corporation in dire distress was thrown in the way of the municipal undertaking. Necessary supplies were delayed, construction work impeded, and in the midst of the building of the plant the municipal election came on. The struggle was even more bitter than that over the bond issue. My opponent, though the candidate of the opponents of municipal ownership, ran upon a platform as zealous in its advocacy of municipal ownership as the one upon which I
stood. My defeat was accomplished by means and methods upon which it is unnecessary at this time to comment, but the significant and satisfactory feature of the election to me was, that, no difference who gained the day, the municipal ownership education of the people was complete, and with the Initiative, Referendum and Right of Recall in their hands, no administration would dare defeat the work so well begun.” “I was not a convert to municipal ownership when elected, though making my race for the office upon a platform demanding it,” confessed Mayor Thomas J. Earley, banker and capitalist, who succeeded Mayor Waterhouse, and who is the present mayor of Pasadena; “but I put myself in the position of a juror, who, having an opinion in the case, was nevertheless open to conviction and my nearly two years in office has absolutely convinced me that municipal ownership is not only a success but from every standpoint desirable.” “During my two years’ administration, we have held two bond elections, voting money to improve and complete our plant. That the issue is popular with the public is best evidenced by their vote. “The first two bond issues, plus $53,332, used from the city’s General Fund, enabled us to complete our plant and light the city in every department. We also found that we had considerable energy to spare and in answer to a general demand we entered the commercial field, as an experiment. So great was our success in this venture and so satisfactory to the public, that the latest bond issue for increasing our plant to care for all commercial business offered, carried by the astonishing vote of 7 to I. Yes, municipal ownership in Pasadena is a pronounced and an unqualified success.” The City of Pasadena also owned a 500-acre farm that utilized sewage and table-scraps to make fertilizer and grow crops to feed municipal departments.
"My City" tells the story of Pasadena’s City Beautiful Movement and the century that followed, exploring how this proven approach can be rev...