Thursday, June 21, 2018

June 21, 1894 -- Joseph Medill Speaks of Municipal Reform

Joseph Medill
June 21, 1894 – At a meeting of the Civic Federation, held at the Auditorium building, Joseph Medill, former Mayor of Chicago and owner of the Chicago Daily Tribune, addresses the group on a variety of topics.  Medill offers six “reforms” that he believes need to be instituted to “eventuate in valuable reforms of the municipal government and conduce to the welfare and happiness of the citizens.”  They are: (1) Make the Mayor ineligible to reelection at the expiration of his term.  A term, and out a term; (2) Establish a municipal service system on the lines of the Federal civil service system; (3) The police should be completely divorced from partisan politics. To insure this the police officers would be taken from both parties as nearly equal as practicable to start the system … No policeman should be dismissed from the force except for good cause.  His political leanings ought not to be considered … A partisan police force is only half a force.  It may be likened to a nuisance – an abomination; (4) The same rules for selection and qualification should be observed in appointing members of the Fire Department; (5) All clerks and accountants also should be selected by competitive examination on qualifications; the tests to be similar to those of the United States civil service; (6) All inspectors of work, of machines, and of material should be chosen for their expert knowledge, honesty, and capability, and be dismissed for lack of them in discharging their duties.”  Of the six reforms, Medill considers the first to be the most important.  “The Mayor must be freed from the reelection temptation,” he states. “He must be emancipated from the control of the ward politicians and scheming contracts and men with ‘pulls’. He must be protected from the malign influence of the ‘walking delegates’ of bummer politics and place in a position where he can serve the people courageously and faithfully and let his future reputation rest on the excellence of the discharge of his duties as Mayor.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 22, 1894]

June 21, 1956 – The Chicago Plan Commission approves a 15 million-dollar plan that will eliminate the two 90-degree turns on the south approach to the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River.  Engineering consultant Ralph Burke was commissioned in 1955 to undertake the engineering studies that would allow the project to move forward.  The main features of the plan he recommends include:  (1) filling in a portion of the lake about 200 feet from the shoreline so that a system of ramps will move traffic from Michigan Avenue at Oak Street onto Lake Shore Drive without an intersection; (2) Ramps will also be created for both Ohio and Ontario Streets at Lake Shore Drive, again through the use of Lake Michigan fill between the shore and the proposed water filtration plant north of Navy Pier with Ohio and Ontario becoming one-way streets east of Michigan Avenue; (3) Wacker Drive east of Michigan Avenue will be extended and double-decked between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive; (4) On and off ramps will be created to replace the intersections of Lake Shore Drive at Monroe, Jackson and Balbo; and (5) a “trestle structure” [Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1956] will be built to carry Lake Shore Drive to the east of the Naval armory, a building and dock space just to the southeast of Randolph Street.  In the black and white photo above the old Naval armory building is outlined in red.  The recent photo shows the roads as they got built with the site of the old Naval Armory in red. The old “T-intersections” at Ohio, Ontario, Randolph, Jackson and Balbo all remain.    

June 21, 1926 – The City Council Committee on Railway Terminals receives the official estimate for the cost of straightening the Chicago River between Eighteenth Street and Polk.  The total comes to $9,852,062.  Close to $8,000,000 of that sum will be paid by the railroads.  This will be a huge project, but once the finances are in place the entire operation will take just one year to complete.  Seven railroads are involved, with property being sold between the railroads so that their yards might be consolidated and aligned with the street grid, a movement that will open up acres of property for development in the south Loop east of the river.  The above photo gives a good idea of the massive nature of the project.  For more information on this massive project you can go to this feature in Connecting the Windy City.

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