The December 19, 1888 issue of the Ann Arbor Courier reported very little about the upcoming Christmas holiday. The front page is its usual mix of classified ads and short essays. This week, however, the titles of the little ditties are rather melancholy: A Memory of My Mother, There Is No Death, and Separation are three of the titles. I’m in a relatively good mood today, and so I didn’t read them lest I ruin the Happy!

The only real mentions of Christmas are in the classified ads, mostly to tell us of the sales they are having. The big news!!!!!! revolved around changing the city charter. The Friday before publication, Mayor Beakes attended the Business Men’s Association to discuss the proposed changes. Those present were favorably impressed, reported the Courier. Apparently, the old charter just had to go. Some of the changes are as follows:

Mayor ~

  • The office would be “raised in dignity and importance and relieved of drudgery”.(Fun fact: drudgery can be defined as “donkey work”)
  • The mayor would be the presiding officer of the council, but only vote in the case of a tie.
  • He would appoint all city officers except street commissioner (for reasons noted below) but council would have to confirm all appointments.
  • He would appoint the city marshal, the city treasurer, policemen (all of them?!?!) and all persons to boards and commissions.

The pay for the mayor was suggested at $200, an idea with which the Courier vehemently disagreed. The paper opined that the honor of serving as mayor was enough, and offering a $200 salary was an “inducement for a class of men not desired as mayors“.

City Clerk ~

  • The officer of “Recorder” would be abolished and the new title for the job would be “City Clerk”. He would be the chief officer of the city, given an office in city hall and would be required to be there during business hours.
  • He would be the clerk of all city committees and boards, the Sealer of Weights and Measures, and “general utility man in all city affairs.”
  • Further, the clerk must “know all of the city’s business and be ready to show it upon a moment’s notice”.

The job would take about 10-12 hours per day, 7 days per week. The salary would be $800 but could go up to $900.

The Courier immediately realized the problem with this–who the hell would work that hard for so little money (even by 1888’s standards?!) The county clerk did “no more work” than what was proposed for the city clerk job; however, the county clerk made between $2,000-$2,500 per year. The paper invited readers to look at their friends and wonder who among them would take such a job for the pay proposed.

Aldermen ~

  • Alderman jobs would pretty much stay the same, except that the “drudgery is taken from them” and given to other officials.
  • Thus, it will be more of an honor to be an alderman and they will have “fewer kickers to contend with”.

Other interesting things ~

  • The city attorney would continue to earn $300 per year, which was “cheap enough”, per the Courier.
  • New commissions and offices were the Street Commissioner, who would be appointed by the Board of Public Works and, speaking of the Board of Public Works, they were created too! A Board of Fire Commissioners was also created. They were responsible for issuing building permits and inspecting buildings.

The Common Council met two days before the paper was published and approved most of the changes plus one noted addition: the title of “marshal” was changed to “chief of police”.

There are lots of other shenanigans going on at the meeting, to wit:

  • J.H. Nickels (yes, the meat market owner and relative of Tom Nickels who built Nickels Arcade) showed up to explain “in reference to the barn in the rear of his premises” (that’s all it says, folks)
  • The mayor and city attorney were instructed to meet with the prosecuting attorney regarding criminal charges against Albert Sorg, the former city treasurer. (What the hell?!?! What’s up with this???)
  • Z.P. King “made an extended speech” and then resigned as city attorney (Whaaaaaaat????)
  • Alderman Allmendinger moved that the case against the students who were arrested during a democratic club meeting either be dismissed or else charges should be brought against ALL the people who were throwing stones or otherwise engaging in disorderly conduct. His motion was shot down, 6-3.
  • The next night, the council got together again to elect a new city attorney. On the fourth ballot, they elected Thomas Kearney.

I can’t imagine what 1888 Common Council Live Tweeters would have had to say about all of this!! Our laptops would have been on fire!

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