14 ⋆Second Round: Relief, Public Works, and Tear Gas

IN the eight months between the close of the lame-duck session of March, 1931 and the opening of the Seventy-second Congress in December, the depression worsened, and LaGuardia rushed from one issue to the next, his anger mounting as he saw on the streets of his own district increasing evidences of human suffering.1

Despite Hoover's plea for voluntary action by business in retaining employment at predepression levels, the Brooklyn Edison Company in May of 1931 discharged 1,600 employees, and LaGuardia moved to the attack. He wrote to Lieutenant-Governor Herbert Lehman ( Roosevelt was out of Albany) asking that the state act to secure reinstatement of the laid-off men and a lowering of utility rates. Pointing to a $57,000,000 dividend paid by the Brooklyn Edison Company and its affiliates in 1930, a 20 per cent increase over 1929 payments, he told Lehman: "These semi- public companies, enjoying franchises from the State giving them a monopoly in the service which they sell, should not be per-

____________________
1
It was particularly in such times of great tension that he was susceptible to outbursts of rash behavior which added neither friends nor victories to his cause. Shortly after his return to New York in the spring of 1931, a letter from a veterans organization sent him headlong into conflict with General Frank T. Hines of the Veterans Administration over alleged petty graft at V.A. hospitals in New York. After an exchange of heated letters from LaGuardia and mild replies from Hines, the issue petered out ( LaGuardia to Hines, March 30, 1931; LaGuardia to Limpus, April 2, 1931, LaG. Papers).

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