Fernando Wood: A Political Biography

By Jerome Mushkat | Go to book overview

SEVEN
The Southern Mayor

N EW Yorkers knew what to expect as Wood strode into office. Based on his last campaign speech, they anticipated mature initiatives to govern the city and ensure its prosperity. Despite these expectations, Wood faced two major limitations: his inability to separate his political liabilities from his vaunted executive leadership, and the difficulties of working with a hostile Common Council. Wood was predictable. His annual address was a manifesto of grievances against state control, wrapped in dreams for a better tomorrow. "Responsibility and power should go hand in hand," he reiterated. Until a new charter changed "the corrupt element in New York," the Model Mayor promised firm action "within the limited sphere assigned me."1

As before, Wood set a demanding schedule. Leaving his children under the care of his aged mother and four servants, he rented rooms near city hall and conducted official business from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. Wood then retired to a private chamber, often working late into the night. Out of this labor, he produced another blizzard of announcements, proposals, recommendations, and appointments.2

Starting with fiscal matters, Wood tried to fix his limited stamp on spending measures, and criticized items he considered extravagant, such as the Common Council's $250 grant for a portrait of former Mayor Tiemann and a resolution to insert a $150,000 item in the tax levy for a new county courthouse. Contracts already let must be enforced, he insisted. As to various municipal agencies, he criticized Commissioner Charles Devlin and the Croton Water Department for falling behind in street cleaning, snow removal, and laying uptown pipelines. Turning toward the board of supervisors, Wood charged that it combined "both executive and legislative powers to an extraordinary degree" without marked improvement in the quality of metropolitan life.3

Wood was too forceful to rest with negativism. As he told a supporter, if his fiscal improvements were unimplemented, the fault "will not lie in this office, but in

-98-

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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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