The New Year (1907) found the city in a stronger position than it had been at any time since the beginning of the fight. Immediately after the United States Supreme Court decision in the Central avenue case, the Municipal Traction Company and the Cleveland Electric entered into a thirty-day truce, each side agreeing not to resort to litigation while the truce was operative, the Concon to be permitted to run without interruption on Central and Quincy avenues and the Threefer to be unmolested in operating from its western terminal up to and around the Public Square.
On the twelfth day of January, then, the first three-cent-fare car ran to the Public Square. It had taken two and a half years to get the grant for that car to run to the Square, and nearly four and a half years from the time the grant was made for it to wade its way through injunctions to that point. This shows Privilege’s power to delay anything which is against its interest, and illustrates the persistence of our movement to hold on under all difficulties. The agreement permitting the opening of the line to the Square was carried out as soon as it was made, and before the public had a chance to be informed of it.
The appearance of three-cent cars on the East side of the viaduct was a signal for enthusiastic demonstrations by pedestrians and car riders. Women waved their handkerchiefs towards it as if it were a personal friend and ever so many humorous incidents occurred on the cars. Everybody seemed happy and friendly and everything seemed to point to a peaceful settlement and a speedy victory.
Enough has been told in detail to show how the fight waged. It is not necessary to follow each of the low-fare companies in the matter of the grants made to them, nor into the courts to trace the trail of each injunction. The people of Cleveland had been patient, law-abiding and long-suffering to a remarkable degree, and when the old company and the Municipal Traction Company, pursuant to the request of the former and a resolution of the city council, commenced to negotiate a settlement there was general satisfaction.
Before the truce was six days old it developed that the Concon was violating it by going after property owners’ consents and revocations on Rhodes and Denison avenues, but when President du Pont called the attention of President Andrews to this the latter ordered all consent operations stopped. It was hoped that settlement would come by means of the holding company plan – that the Cleveland Electric would lease its lines to the Municipal Traction Company, which was in position to take them over at a just rental value and to continue the operation of all cars in the interest of the community. These negotiations were conducted by Presidents Andrews and Du Pont. They continued through January, through February and on until late in March. Every few days the newspapers would announce that a final settlement was about to be reached, and then again that negotiations had been broken off. At last on March 25 each side presented a statement to the city council. They had been unable to agree upon the valuation of the Cleveland Electric property. The figures presented were as follows:
|Total physical and franchise values
|Added one-ninth, per agreement
|Funded and unfunded debt deducted
|Stock value, per share, this valuation
DU PONT’S VALUATION.
|Total physical and franchise values
|Added one-ninth, per agreement
|Outstanding stock, per share
|Redeemable in suggested plan
Far apart as these figures were I did not feel that they precluded a settlement. One of the daily newspapers asked me to sum up the situation and this is what I said:
“You ask me to sum up for you’re the street railway situation as it exists today.
To begin with let us eliminate one or two things that may be in the public mind through misapprehension.
Mr. Andrews has not offered to lease his road on a basis of $105 per share.
Mr. du Pont has not offered to lease on a basis of $49.61.
Mr. Andrews had said that he can figure out a value of $105 per share, but we are not informed what are the factors or processes in his calculation.
Mr. du Pont says that he can figure out $49.61 per share, and that that figure is a cold, hard trading figure, containing only about 21 per cent. good will or bonus-for-peace factor. Let du Pont tell how he arrived at his figures.
The situation to-day then is: How far ought Andrews to come down, and how far ought du Pont to come up?
If each man will give his processes as to each disputed item, these disputes ought to be settled singly and without great trouble. That is what the council is now trying to get at. Progress along such lines means progress toward a complete, satisfactory and comprehensive settlement. I believe that the Cleveland Electric Railway Company, as well as others concerned, desire such a settlement.
Now let us proceed carefully, without undue delay, and also without undue haste. The public interest – for the first time in years – is not suffering by reasonable delay. We have lowered fares all over the city, and each of the two companies, one a public one and one a private one, is vying with the other to earn and keep public favor. So there is no public clamor for a settlement to be marred by haste, though we all agree that not a minute of unnecessary delay should be tolerated. The sooner the three-cent rate comes to everybody the better.
There is one danger just now. It will be to the advantage of certain interests to start a hullaballoo over some side issue to that the main point may be obscured. This is the old tactics and we can expect it again. This time the side issue will be as to rates of fare in the suburbs. Let us meet that, settle it and dispose of it so that we can give our undivided attention to the main question.
First, ninety people ride in the city to every ten outside. Second, the people of Cleveland and their council are not the guardians of the suburbs.
Third, the suburbs, in times past, nearly all of them, against advice and protest, have, through their councils, made long-time grants to the Cleveland Electric railway.
Fourth, each dollar of revenue cut off from a long-time suburban grant must be made up in added generosity in grants by the city of Cleveland.
Now, then, this is what I propose, that three-cent fare in Cleveland for the benefit of the ninety must not be imperiled for the sake of the ten who have bargained and granted away their chances to make contracts for themselves.
If the suburban people made twenty-five years contracts they are bound just as the people and council of Cleveland are bound by existing franchise grants.
But the suburban people must be treated just as generously and fairly as possible. I should not expect to charge five cents if service could be rendered in a given suburb for four cents. I would not charge four if the service could be given at three or three and a half.
Let us have three-cent fare and universal transfers in the city, and, with open books, agree to serve each suburb at exact cost of service. Take this in its broadest sense when I say “at cost.” Let all the profit be made in the city at the three-cent fare, and simply charge the fare in the suburbs that will meet actual cost of operation and interest on physical property. Figure it just as closely as possible and have the books open to the people and officials of each suburb, so that they may know they are getting their service at cost – and that is relatively even cheaper than the cost to the people of Cleveland themselves. I think no honest man could ask more. Let us proceed to seek a fair, equitable settlement and let us not be sidetracked on a ten per cent. questions, so as to lose sight of the ninety per cent. question.
As to arbitration: I believe that is just what is going on now. The council is now sitting as a board of arbitration, seeking to learn what the exact differences are between Mr. du Pont and Mr. Andrews. If each of these men will be frank and free to explain his figures and processes, their differences will be brought out so plainly that adjustment will not be difficult. I think the arbitration now in process will meet all needs.”
All street railroad conferences had been public for a long time and these were generally well attended. When any new question came up there was always an increased attendance, and the council meetings following the report just referred to were in effect town meetings.
The special street railway committee of council presented a report recommending the holding company plan on a basis of sixty dollars a share for Concon stock, which report was adopted by council, April 2, by a vote of twenty-nine to one. On April 4, the Plain Dealer announced in large head lines, “Directors of Cleveland Electric Will Accept Offer of Council if Three-Cent Fare is Assured,” and said:
“The directors of the Cleveland Electric Railway Company, at a meeting at the Union Club yesterday afternoon, adopted a resolution covering all the points to be made in the reply of the company to the council offer of sixty dollars per share for Cleveland Electric stock on the holding company basis.
The communication is to be drawn up to-day and submitted to the board for final approval at another meeting . . . The communication will then be ready for council and it is expected that a special meeting will be called for Friday, when the reply of the company will be formally submitted. President Andrews refused to discuss the nature of the resolution … but on authority of a leading interest in the company it is stated that the reply will be an acceptance of the holding plan at the figure offered by the council committee. The acceptance will be in the form of a challenge to the mayor, and in such form that if the city accepts, it must either make good on the proposal to operate for three-cent fare within the city limits, and five-cent fare outside, of the property will revert to the Cleveland Electric shareholders under a seven-for-a-quarter twenty-five year franchise.”
Council met on Friday morning to receive the Company’s reply. In the meantime, on April 2, Mayor Dunne had been defeated for re-election in Chicago and his municipal ownership programme turned down. How much influence this had on the action of the directors of the Cleveland Electric we do not know, but it is certain that it gave them hope that what had been accomplished in Chicago might be accomplished in Cleveland. The whole community was interested in the negotiations and the lobby of the council chamber was crowded with eager spectators. I was presiding and called the meeting to order. City Solicitor Baker and City Clerk Witt sat back of me. President Andrews and his directors, most of whom were present, sat at my left. Back of these were the councilmen at their desks and back of the rail and crowding the gallery as many citizens as could squeeze in.
The Cleveland Electric’s communication was handed to the city clerk to read, Secretary Davies of the Concon holding a copy of the statement and following it closely to see that the clerk read it correctly. A hasty glance over the document showed Witt its character. If, actually by the bitterest hatred, he had drawn up that statement himself he could scarcely have read it more effectively. It was not only a refusal of the city’s proposition and notice that the seven tickets for a quarter were to be immediately withdrawn and the old-five cent fare reestablished, but a most insulting attack on the mayor, the city council, and the friends and promoters of the low-fare movement. As Witt read on, page after page of the document, which made more than a page of newspaper copy when in type, he fairly “acted out” the insinuations, the cruel charges, the arrogant assumptions of the signers of that statement. He was getting angrier every minute, but kept himself well in hand, and when he had finished I asked the pleasure of the council. A member moved that the statement be received and time given to consider it. I said that the communication was a flat refusal to accept the proposition, referred to the charges against the mayor and the council, saying that we should be able to take care of these, and concluded by saying, “This question will not be settled by personal attacks, but for the benefit of the people,” and asked if others wished to talk. Peter Witt was demanding the floor, as a citizen, but Mr. Baker spoke first. He said in part:
” “I am speaking under strong feeling. It is not unusual for public officials to be insulted, yet it is not often that the board of directors of the greatest corporation in the city lends its presence to sanction the reading of a studied insult . . . . I want to say that the persecution had not been on the part of city officers. This company has bought dozens of houses and lots on streets to prevent the getting of consents by the low-fare company, not to protect Concon rights but to foster monopoly. I challenge anyone to show that this administration ever tried to take away one right of the Concon. All the obstructions, all the injunctions have come from the company. I cite one instance: For two years after the Central avenue franchise expired they enjoyed the use of the streets. For your disgruntled act I have only toleration. Your charges of persecution I throw back at you. You are the persecutors.”
Mr. Baker’s restraint, in spite of his emotion, my own calmness – for all through the reading of the Concon’s statement I had the feeling that the things it said might be about a man from Kamchatka or some place equally remote, but didn’t mean me – only added fuel to the flaming wrath of Peter Witt. By unanimous vote he was given the floor and as he rose, he turned to me and said, “Tom, I have deferred to your wish and your judgment on many occasions, but this morning I’m going to have my say. They are all here and I’m going to give it to them. If you don’t like it, you can go to hell.”
And then – and then – well I suppose it is safe assertion that no similar body of distinguished gentlemen and leading business men was ever treated to such a scoring as those men got that day. Witt not only denounced the policy and methods of the railway company, charging that in the past it had bribed councilmen, corrupted legislators, used dishonest judges, and for months had the City Hall watched by a private detective, but one by one he called the men present by name and shaking his finder at them declared the responsibility of each for the particular things of which he held that man to be guilty. By this time the lobby was ready to road its approval of Witt’s speech but was restrained by the desire to hear every word he uttered. The incident, dramatic, almost terrible in some of its aspects, was not without its funny side. When Witt assailed the first man, by name for instance, hurling out his, “You, —- —-,” and pointing his finger at him, the gentlemen thus accosted was so surprised the he slid down in his chair and doubled up as if he had suddenly received a stinging blow on top of his head.
Nobody, either then or afterwards, ever attempted to reply to that speech of Peter Witt. He closed by saying, “To grant your company a renewal of franchises would be to capitalize your past corruption that future generations might pay tribute thereon. You will never get a franchise renewal. Whether Tom Johnson be here as mayor or not, with the present temper of the people you will never be able to obtain another concession at the hands of this council. Public opinion will prevent it.”
Directly after the close of the meeting the Concon stopped selling seven tickets for a quarter and went back to the five-cent cash fare or eleven tickets for fifty cents.
These happenings occurred on Friday. Almost immediately the Cleveland Press addressed a letter to President Andrews and to me, asking us each to answer a question. The question put to me was whether I would recommend to the council that a guarantee of three-cent fare inside the city be included in the lease of the Cleveland Electric Railway, as proposed by Mr. Andrews. My answer was, “Yes,” and it was published on Monday. The question put to Mr. Andrews was whether if the city followed his suggestion and incorporated the three-cent fare guarantee he would lease his company on the holding plan at sixty dollars per share. His answer was, “No,” and it was published on Wednesday.
On the fifteenth of April Horace Andrews sent a communication to council saying that unless a purchaser approved by council took over the tracks and equipment of the Central and Quincy avenue lines before midnight on April 23, the company would proceed to tear up the tracks. This was a complete surprise and a week’s time was, of course, very short in which to handle so important a matter, but a council meeting was immediately called for ten a.m., April 16, and the Cleveland Railway Company requested to attend by an accredited delegate who should inform the council what the property it desired to sell consisted of, and what it considered a fair value for same. President Andrews’s astounding reply to the council’s communication sent in response to his own letter was as follows:
” “Replying to your request that we inform you as to what the property is that we are willing to dispose of in Central and Quincy avenues and what we consider its fair value, we beg to say that which we are willing to sell is the investment of this company in these streets. The question of its fair value we will take up with a proposed purchaser who makes a bona-fide application and gives reasonable assurance of his ability to purchase. As the city can, in no event, be a purchaser, we cannot see the propriety of taking up the negotiation for a sale of this property with the city council.”
Could anything better illustrate the company’s total disregard of the public interest than this communication? Were the people who daily used the lines in question, who were dependent upon them for service, not to be considered at all? Was it no part of the province of a city government to assist in maintaining car service on streets which had not been without it for forty years? Was this then a simple matter of buying and selling between private individuals, or between corporations which were unmindful of the patrons who made their very existence possible?
Mr. du Pont promptly sought an interview with Mr. Andrews. How satisfactory it was may be judged by the following extracts from his (du Pont’s), letter to the Cleveland Electric Directors:
” “The council at your request approved the Forest City Railway Company, as such purchaser and granted you permission to remove your property as requested in the event of a disagreement.
I, as the representative of the Forest City Railway Company, met Mr. Andrews, your representative, this afternoon to discuss the questions of property and price under the terms of your communication of April 15 to the council. Mr. Andrews, however, at once departed from the terms of that offer, and insisted upon an assurance of the ability of the Forest City Railway Company to pay an unnamed price for an unnamed property.
He vaguely expressed the willingness of your company to sell to the Forest City Railway Company property. He declined to negotiate as to price or even roughly to indicate what property was represented by your investment in Central and Quincy avenues until you should be satisfied of the financial ability of the Forest City Railway Company to pay.
I asked what form the assurance should take in order to satisfy you, but he declined to make any suggestion as to the form, amount or character of the assurance. In order that an attempt might be made to comply with this new and exceedingly indefinite condition I asked Mr. Andrews to say, not specifically or in dollars and cents but in a general way what items of property were to be sold, but he declined even roughly to indicate what property he had in mind or whether it included cars, carhouses, tracks, poles, and wires or any of them. I next asked Mr. Andrews to state a sum of money and guarantee of ability to pay which would be satisfactory to your board, but he declined to name any sum.
From the foregoing it appears that while your company has told the council of the city of Cleveland that it is willing to sell its investment in certain streets to a purchaser to be approved by the council, and the council has approved a purchaser, yet you decline to advise that purchaser either what the investment includes or what it is worth so that he may satisfy the requirement that you now make as to an assurance that the cash price will be paid.”
Mr. du Pont then offered to buy tracks, poles, trolley, span and feed wires in place on certain streets for the sum of $149,993.19 cash, to be paid April 23 at twelve o’clock at the Citizens Savings & Trust Company, upon delivery of a good negotiable title and a promise not the interfere with the operation o the road. The Concon rejected du Pont’s offer, naming $448,473 as its price, also giving no assurance that it would continue to respect the peace pact and not stop the operation of the Threefer to the Public Square. And so the war was on again, and presently the good old never-failing injunction reappeared.
The old company directly served notice on the Forest City that its operation from Fulton road, N.W., to and around the Public Square must cease, while the Low Fare Company was enjoined from operating cars on Euclid avenue between East Fourteenth and East Ninth streets. The Forest City cars continued their operations twenty-four hours after notice had been served, the peace pact having provided for a twenty-four hour notice to quit. At the end of the twenty-four hours the Forest City cars stopped running, but the service was not interrupted, the privilege of operating having been transferred to the Low Fare Company which had not yet been enjoined on this route, and which proceeded to operate its cars here. At one point the Forest City was ordered to remove a section of its track. Workmen proceeded to tear up the rails to the evident satisfaction of the old company’s representatives who were on the spot to see that the order was carried out. A messenger was sent scurrying over to the Cleveland Electric offices to reports that it was all right, the tracks were coming up. When the bearer of these glad tidings got back to the scene of action he rubbed his eyes and wondered whether he was asleep or awake, for the tracks instead of coming up were going down. As soon as the Forest City rails were removed the tracks was replaced by the Low Fare Company with rails of its own. The whole thing was accomplished in about two hours. That was once when the injunction mill didn’t grind fast enough.
At midnight on April 23, the Cleveland Electric discontinued its operations on Central and Quincy avenues, and both low-fare companies were enjoined from operating on the abandoned lines. This dog-in-the manger policy could have but one effect on any enlightened community and I used to marvel at the short-sightedness of Privilege in so flagrantly violating all democratic traditions.