Thursday, January 10, 2013

Detroit's Democrats Haven't Changed All That Much

The story of Detroit's Republican Mayor Hazen Pingree (Mayor from 1889–1897) is quite an illuminating one.

The Detroit News: Hazen Pingree: Quite possibly Detroit's finest mayor

Note that the man who is considered Detroit's finest mayor took office over a hundred years ago and you begin to see the problem.

Detroit's problems remain much the same as they did then:

Mayors did not run Detroit at that time; the city was controlled by a "corrupt political machine, in the hands of a small group of men," as city historian George Catlin described it. The nomination of 32 aldermen was dictated by this machine; some of the characters nominated were capable, but many "were notorious for past political malfeasances and corrupt practices."

Detroit was politically a city of Democrats, but despite their lock on the ethnic wards, differences in nationalities, especially Germans and Irish, kept the council in a state of war. A large number were German saloon owners and bartenders, led by President John Chris Jacob. "Boss Jacob" was a cynical and tough-minded ward boss. His German accent was heavy and his language profane. If someone threatened to cast an adverse vote he would drown them out with his booming voice, physically intimidate them or make up some parliamentary rule to send everyone to a rule book and stall the process.


Graft and corrupt contractors resulted in the sewer scandal of 1890. Pingree took a group of aldermen down into the sewers where he showed them concrete as soft as mush, bricks falling from the wall at a touch, crumbling mortar, mud and effluence pouring through the walls.

Detroit's corrupt Democrats sure haven't changed much in over a hundred years. Instead of the Augean Stables, Detroit has the Augean Sewers.

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