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The electric lighting of the Common, Public Garden, and parks has been undertaken on the underground system; the city paying for and owning the distributing system, except the lamps, which are owned and cared for by the company, as in the case of overhead wiring.
The streets and parks of the city are now lighted by 2,368 electric arc lights, of 2,000 candle-power (commercial) each, by 7,440 gas-lamps, each supplied with four-foot burners, and by 2,761 naphtha-lamps; and the estimated cost of maintaining the department upon this basis, which involves twice the number of electric lights in use four years ago and a complete substitution of naphtha for oil, is only $12,165.571 more than was expended during the year 1890.2
Expended in 1890, $557,492.63; estimate for 1895-6, $569,658.20.
2 For the details and results of the contest for cheaper gas in 1893 see various messages sent to the City Council of that year, particularly those of January 1 (inaugural), January 30, February 13. February 27, March 1, May 18, and November 9, 1893; also printed testimony taken before the Legislative Committee on Investigation, the argument made on behalf of the city, reprinted separately, and chapter 474 of the Acts of 1893. The Commission appointed under the provisions of this act found the value of the property of the Bay State Gas Co. to be $1,500,000 in excess of the capital stock of $500,000. The company accepted the decision, issued $1,500,000 of new stock, and surrendered as cancelled the note of $4,500,000 by the date fixed in the act. In this way the nominal capitalization of the company was reduced from $5,000,000 to $2,000,000.
PROTECTION AGAINST FIRE.
SECTION 1. Building Laws. A new Building Law had long been considered a necessity, and radical changes were recommended by a special commission appointed in 1890, in a report submitted in 1891, too late for action that year. In 1892 the matter was taken up, and a law involving still more radical changes, drafted in coöperation with the Boston Board of Underwriters, was passed by the Legislature of that year. This law (Stat. 1892, chap. 419), which it has since been found necessary to amend only in minor details, marks an immense improvement upon all former Building Laws in operation in this city, both in respect to the character of the restrictions imposed to secure better construction, and to the manner of enforcing the law. The requirements of the Building Law of 1885, as well as those of its predecessors, were far behind the age, and resulted in the erection of a class of buildings which has literally created a conflagration district in this city. The law was also defective in omitting to provide any efficient means of enforcement. The new law has given, I think, general satisfaction, will need amendments only in minor particulars, and should in the course of time result in the rebuilding of this city according to sound methods of construction. The "Board of Appeal" established under the authority of the law of 1892 has been of great service in securing an intelligent and firm construction of the law.
SECTION 2. Fire Department. Associations have been formed for the purpose of securing from the State Legislature, by means of political influence and intimidation, those unreasonable privileges which the Commissioners have been unwilling to concede. The Fire Department has been the
victim of political agitation both at the City Hall and at the State House, in the supposed interest of the firemen. The department is also extremely costly, and there appears to be no end to its demands for increased appropriations, both for current expenses and for buildings and equipment.
As already stated to the City Council, I believe that better results, financial and administrative, can be obtained by placing the Fire Department in the hands of a single commissioner, at an adequate salary.
SECTION 3. Overhead Wires. After failing for three successive years to induce the Legislature to give the city authority to compel the electric light and other companies maintaining wires in and across the public streets to put them underground, an appeal to the Legislature of 1894 was successful, and the authority given by chapter 454 of the acts of that year is now being exercised with good results by the new Commissioner of Wires.
RELIEF OF THE POOR.
This work, except so much of it as relates to paupers entitled to permanent support under the general settlement laws of the Commonwealth (see chapter 12), is in charge of the Overseers of the Poor in the City of Boston, consisting of twelve members, four of whom are appointed each year by the Mayor. This corporation has the right to receive trust funds, the income of which is applicable to the purposes designated by the several donors; and the amount of such funds now in its hands is about $375,000.
The Board also receives an annual appropriation from the City Government, averaging about $110,000, which is used for the relief of those entitled to public assistance under the statutes of the Commonwealth, who are not inmates of the Public Institutions.
The manner in which the duties of this Board particularly during the serious crisis of the winter of 1893-4 have been discharged by its members, who receive no compensation, and yet are obliged to devote a very large amount of time and labor to the duties of their office, deserves the highest commendation.
It is sometimes assumed that the city can expend any amount of money which it sees fit for the purpose of furnishing relief in the form of work or alms to the poor and destitute; but this is not the law. Municipal corporations in this Commonwealth are permitted only to expend the public moneys for the relief of such persons as are entitled to it under the provisions of the pauper statutes (P. S., ch. 84), and to the limited extent allowed by chapter 374 of the Acts of 1874. This latter statute authorizes the city to expend an amount not exceeding one fifteen-hundredth of one per cent. of the valuation for the year for such charitable
purposes as the City Council may designate. The amount of the appropriation possible under this law is only about six thousand dollars; and while the city is not limited in the amount that can be appropriated for the use of the Overseers of the Poor, the appropriations can only be expended by that Board for the relief of those entitled to it by law. The appropriations granted to this Board cannot be used, any more than those given to other departments, in miscellaneous charity, or for the purpose of furnishing employ
During the distress which prevailed in this city in the winter of 1893-4 efforts were made through appeals to the humanity and charitable disposition of the members of the City Government, by threats of personal violence, and by every species of political intimidation, to induce the city officials to strain the law or to connive at its evasion, and to disburse a part of the public funds raised by taxation or loan, either directly to those who stood in need of aid, or through the indirect process of creating work for the unemployed.
A considerable portion of my inaugural address last year was devoted to this subject and to the proper means of meeting an emergency which every charitable person was forced to recognize.1 I stated my conviction that "the main reliance of every community in emergencies like the present must be the generosity and public spirit of its individual citizens," and that there was no doubt that the people of this city would respond then, as in the past, to all urgent and well-considered appeals in behalf of poverty and want. This confidence was not mistaken; the emergency was met and overcome; and what threatened to be a season of unusual hardship and severity happily passed away without the suffering and distress which so many of us were led to fear. This result was accomplished by the voluntary and individual action of the charitable people of this city, acting partly through their churches, partly through the various
1 See also Inaugural Address of Mayor Cobb, 1875.