William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
The Investigation, br /> 1912

A SEA OF TROUBLES

If 1909 can be reckoned as the year when everything went right during the building of the aqueduct, 1912 should be remembered as the one when everything went wrong: the year when Mulholland's old dream of keeping the city's water affairs out of politics was shattered in the bitter aftermath of the Times bombing and the deeply divisive 1911 mayoral campaign. Given the amount of sniping and insinuation aimed at the aqueduct during the campaign of 1911, Mulholland and the aqueduct advisory board probably had no choice but to request an investigation, even though the process opened a Pandora's box from which flew a cloud of spiteful and cantankerous imps. No absurdist drama by Ionesco surpasses the aqueduct investigation board's gyrations, from its preliminary skirmishes to its final conclusion that, although it found no significant fault or malfeasance on the aqueduct project, opportunities for graft did exist, and if more time (and money) had been granted, it might have unearthed something.

After the Socialists demanded that the aqueduct investigation board (hereafter, AIB) have five members, with two Socialists to reflect the party's share of the vote in the previous election, the council opted for a panel of three engineers. The angered Socialists made good their threat to submit the matter as an initiative measure in a special election at the end of May. Until May, when the voters finally approved by a margin of 867 votes an investigation along the lines the Socialists proposed, little was accomplished other than raising hackles and spreading innuendo.

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