“And they ate”

Reform is a multidimensional thing.

I write to amplify Alderman Farrell. In a lame-duck session of the outgoing Board of Aldermen, “Happy” moved that the following poem appear in the minutes.

Councilmanic Appetites
By Clarence Wilson

New Note — The City Council spent $28,500 for meals during the last year.

The councilmen sat in the restaurant chairs
And they ate, and they ate, and they ate
Steaks, Fish and lobster and some oyster stew,
The best in the house with bluepoints real blue,
While the waiters were waiting for them to get through,
And they ate, and they ate, and they ate.

They gobbled down food, both expensive and rare,
And they ate, and they ate, and they ate;
And twenty-eight thousand the taxpayers paid,
On city finances they made quite a raid.
We’d like to have figures on the tonnage they weighed,
As they ate, and they ate, and they ate.

New Note — The Plan E Council will cost the City $56,000 alone, for salaries – we worked for nothing.

“So We Ate!”

So we ate and we ate and we ate and we ate.
What harm! They’ve been eating for years!
We ate no more than our fore-colleagues ate!
It’s the prices that drives you to tears!
But some like to relate how we ate and we ate!
Well, thanks be to God we were able!
If we had the thing to do over again,
We’d eat ’em all under the table!

– Alderman Happy Farrell.

Happy’s poem is clearly a swipe at the successful movement to root out “corruption.” In November 1947, by a two-to-one margin, a coalition of disaffected Democrats and the Republican Party managed to reform Worcester’s government. At the time, regular Democrats like Happy would have called this a Yankee Republican power grab. After a century of rule by industrialists, the working class had finally won its own right to eat ’em all under the table. And here was “reform” to beat it back down.

Sometime around 1970, political science began to critique a construct it calls “Progressive reform.” (But see.) Reform was middle-class stuff on a good day, with predictable effects on the usual suspects. The solutions are obvious: custom-drawn districts, every election on the same day, even the partisan lever!

Got it? Let’s resume the history lesson.

On May 12, 1949, every veto player in Happy’s “machine” agreed to tell Congress: repeal Taft-Hartley. The first PR election would be held that November.

Taft-Hartley had become law in 1947.

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