Fernando Wood: A Political Biography

By Jerome Mushkat | Go to book overview

FOUR
The Model Mayor

M AYOR Wood was the very picture of a chief magistrate: tall and erect in bearing; urbane in manner; intelligent, forceful, and personable, with a commanding, authoritative presence. These traits became clear in his opening annual address. Some parts echoed previous mayors -- platitudes and promises flowed about construction of modern docks, efficient street cleaning, maintenance of public order, suppression of crime and vice, frugal government, enforcement of ordinances, public accountability of monies spent, and absolute impartiality in administering the law.

Where Wood diverged from predecessors was more important than where he was the same. Going directly to the fundamental issue, he termed the charter an "ill-shaped monster" which prevented any semblance of home rule. In fact, "so far as my duties are defined, I feel some embarrassment." The police department stood out as the worst example. Ostensibly "the head of the Police Department," the mayor lacked "the essential elements of authority, that of controlling the retention or removal of his own subordinates."1

Tinkering with the charter was fruitless. A thorough revision was the only remedy, grounded on home rule, structured along federal lines, with departments consolidated into a bureaucratic cabinet, topped by a strong executive who had "one-man power." Until then, Wood pledged bold leadership. "As I understand and comprehend my duties and prerogatives, they leave me no alternative, without dishonor, but to assume a general control over the whole City Government, so far as protecting its municipal interests."2

As for human needs, Wood shocked traditionalists by proving that he was unshackled either by the past or by distorted perceptions of the present. In a day when governments were indifferent toward protecting citizens from the hazards of the marketplace, he proposed the radical idea of having the city hire some temporarily unemployed laborers for public works. His quest for social justice ended with Locofocoism. "This is the time to remember the poor," the victims in a

-41-

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Fernando Wood: A Political Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • One - The Beginning 1
  • Two - Foundations 13
  • Three - First Victory 31
  • Four - The Model Mayor 41
  • Five - The Political Mayor 63
  • Six - The Southern Candidate 82
  • Seven - The Southern Mayor 98
  • Eight - The Politics of Loyalty 116
  • Nine - The Peace Democrat 133
  • Ten - Political Exile 152
  • Eleven - The Politics of Frustration 170
  • Twelve - Congressional Leader 190
  • Thirteen - An Uncertain Majority 221
  • Fourteen - The Man and His Career 243
  • ABBREVIATIONS USED IN NOTES 248
  • Notes 249
  • Bibliography 293
  • Index 313
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