Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mayor Lachmund Snarls and Calls Opponent "A Great Big Noise"

At City Council yesterday, amity was the order of the day. The new Mayor said
"I'm excited for the opportunity to work together," [Mayor Anna Peterson] said. "We must come to this chamber to work together.

To citizens in attendance, Peterson said: "We cannot do this job alone. We need you here with us. We need you to volunteer on boards and commissions."
And, after being elected President of Council, her one-time opponent Councilor Chuck Bennett said
I'm really excited to be working with Anna. I think she's going to do a great job as mayor.
But a century ago, things weren't always so polite - as indeed they could still become today, though today's skirmishing seems to be done in the press, blogs, twitter, and youtube rather than in person at public meetings.

Still, there's nothing courtly about the antagonism in this August 1911 episode with Mayor Lachmund. The rhetoric is also funny. What journalist today would make classical references like "fidus achates" in a newspaper?!

(Ken Burns would like the baseball metaphors, though.)

"He is a great big noise; that is all."

Coming, as it did, from Mayor Lachmund, and being addressed to his lieutenant - Councilman Durbin - that remark caused the spectators in the council chamber last evening to prick up their ears with surprise because it marked the break between the mayor and his Fidus Achates and they had expected to find the two working together as they have always done heretofore.

But while the remark came as a surprise to the spectators it brought none of the elements of surprise to those who had had their ears to the ground for the past week, for they had heard Councilman Durbin remark that at this particular meeting of the council he was going to remark the motion calling for the construction of the Twelfth street bridge, one of the mayor's pet measures, clear out of existence. When those remarks reached the ears of the mayor he incidentally said that when it came to remarking on that question that he would have a few remarks to emit, and that when he got through he would hang Durbin's hide on the fence to dry, and he did, as did not even have a "look in" with the mayor last night.
Opposes Building of Bridge

The battle of words came when Durbin introduced a resolution asking for the reconsideration of a motion carried at a previous meeting of the council providing for the construction of the Twelfth street bridge. He recited in the resolution that it would take all the money in the bridge fund, $7,530.70, to build the bridge, and that in the opinion of a number of councilmen this money should not be put all in one bridge but be scattered among the districts in need of bridges.

Throws Down Gauntlet

When the resolution was introduced Durbin arose to speak in its behalf and Mayor Lachmund, calling Councilman Eldridge to the chair, took a seat on the floor. Just as he was leaving the mayoralty chair, Durbin shouted, "That is right; you are the man I am looking for" and then from then the fight was on - it was a battle royal.

Shuts Off Talk

Councilman Durbin had but barely got started delivering the nice little speech he had been preparing for days on the subject when some one move to table the resolution and some on [sic] else seconded the motion. Durbin proceeded to continue his talk, but a point of order was raised on the ground the motion was not debatable, and Chairman Eldridge ruled him out of order.

"Is the gag rule to be applied to me; am I not going to be given the privilege to talk?" shouted Durbin.

Chairman Eldridge advised him the motion ws [sic] not debatable but he immediately launched out again.

The mayor raised the same point of order again and the chair ruled with him.

Agin [sic] Durbin asked if he was not going to get a chance to talk.

"Not today, but tomorrow," answered the mayor.

Nothing to Talk on Now

The motion was then put to a vote with Durbin still standing and protesting against the gag rule. After it had carried he tried to continue his discourse and now he was confronted with the rule that he was barred from talking because there was nothign before the house to talk on.

But whether he had a subject or not he seemingly wanted to talk, and the mayor again objected, saying "you are talking to the walls now; there is nothing before the house."

Councilman Huckstein moved to grant Durbin the courtesy of the floor, but the mayor objected, and finding himself worsted on all sides, Durbin sat down; it was enough to make almost anyone sit down.

Then the Clash Came

The council went on with its business and Durbin sat silently by evidently looking for an opportunity to break in on the proceedings with a bridge talk.

The opportunity came when a motion was made that a committee be appointed to confer with the Salem, Falls City & Western Railroad company relative to the city co-operating with the company in building a double-decked bridge across the river, and he was on his feet in a minute.

In a general way he opposed the motion and then he drifted back to the motion that had been tabled.

The mayor called him to order, saying the river bridge was under discussion and no other, but the chair ruled against him, and the mayor excepted [?]. Durbin continued to roast - to send hot shots at the council for enforcing the gag rule on him. Finally he sat down and then Lachmund came to bat.
Mayor Airs Vocabulary

"Councilman Durbin is making a mountain out of a mole hill - he likes to hear the sound of his own voice," snarled the mayor.

"The pleasures of victory are momentary but the stings of defeat are everlasting. He is a grandstand player and talks of the councilman from the silk-stocking ward is but hot air - he is a great big noise, that is all; a darned good winner but a poor loser."

That settled it. The council passed the motion and the mayor named the committee and the council went on with its business.

The clash between the two was the first that has occurred since they entered upon the duties of their respective offices and it certainly was a merry one for a beginner.
(Top Image: Old City Hall, circa 1895
Middle Image: Frank Durbin, Sr (1899), Oregon State Library

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