William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
New Regime
for a Booming Town
1903–1904

“A SPLENDID BODY OF BUSINESSMEN”

For all the congratulatory talk about having removed the water system from politics, it never altogether escaped the controversies and power struggles centered in City Hall. Although Democrat Meredith Snyder became mayor again at the end of 1902 with a plurality of 2,700 after winning every precinct in the city, the majority of city officers and councilmen remained Republican. In selecting the new five-member board of water commissioners, Snyder reflected this balance by choosing two Republicans, one Democrat who voted Republican, and two Democrats. During this board's tenure, the Los Angeles water system would be revolutionized. All the players were assembled—heroes, villains, and simple walk-ons—for a drama that would play out in the decade ahead. The city council's reaction to the mayor's selections for membership in these new organizations reflected the growing power of white, conservative Anglo-Americans who trusted businessmen, feared labor, and equated progress with economic growth and patriotism. Their epitome became General Harrison Gray Otis, whose voice would grow louder and stronger in the decade ahead. Mayor Snyder's choices for the reorganized five-member water commission received full council approval, demonstrating its unabashed faith in capitalists and a disregard for engineer James C. Kays's suggestion that a well-paid superintendent, auditor, and engineer named by the mayor would manage the waterworks far better than a commission of businessmen. For the department now

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