William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
The Big Job Begins
1907

A NEW MAYOR AND ENGINEERING WORRIES

The year 1907 ushered in a new mayor and a political debate that did not subside until after the noisy and spirited springtime campaign for the passage of the $24 million Owens River bond issue. At the end of 1906 the mayoral campaign's four candidates had reflected the divisions within the city. Democrat Arthur G. Harper won by a slender margin after the Republicans, fearful of losing to one of the nonparty Progressive or Labor candidates, had thrown their support to him. Harper was allied to the city's old-guard political machine, with ties to Southern Pacific interests. A genial but pliant man, well connected to the town's wealthy families, Harper, along with his new administration, was feted at a banquet hosted by the reform-minded Municipal League on January 4.

With 200 of their 625 members in attendance, the municipal reformers created a formidable presence for the city's newly elected officials. One reporter likened them to the British in India “who invited the hill princes and their retinues to a grand powwow. There, ringed by troops of red coats with glittering bayonets, the guests were peaceably but forcefully made aware of the raj. ” After a few jocular words, Mayor Harper produced a paper from his coat and then tucked it back in, saying he had decided not to lay his plans before them at this time but promised “the best business administration I know how. ” When the Hon. Frank G. Tyrrell of the League next rose and grew eloquent on the need for municipal virtue, he turned directly to the mayor-elect. “Mr. Harper. It has been

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