ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Walter Kehoe


Watertown Gazette, 05 09 1912

"The Worm Has Turned”


There was an interesting and heated session of the city council last Tuesday evening, all members being present excepting Aldermen Feisst and Nienow.  The fun began and "the worm turned” on Mayor Grube shortly after the following petition was presented, signed by Wm. Neitzel and 499 other citizens:


Honorable Mayor and Common Council, City of Watertown.


The undersigned, respectfully petition your honorable body to grant to Walter Kehoe of the Seventh Ward, Watertown, Wisconsin, a permit to sell popcorn and peanuts from a wagon at the corner of Third Street and Main Street in the city of Watertown upon the usual terms as provided in such cases.


Dated Watertown, Wisconsin, April 30, 1912.


The mayor stated that he had lately learned that it was illegal to grant a permit of this kind and asked the city attorney to explain the matter to the council.  The city attorney stated that the council or any officer of the city had no right to grant such permit, whereupon the mayor ordered that the petition be placed on file, and this too in the face of the fact that there is a city ordinance giving power to grant such a petition, and again in face of the fact that a similar privilege is now being enjoyed by a man from Beaver Dam, who would come under the Mayor's famous saying "a floater."  


How child-like and bland the mayor must have thought the council members were — some of them have been "stung" only recently by not using their own judgment and by being willing to coincide with everything others might desire — so the mayor received a broadside by the council voting unanimously against him.


Alderman Humphrey, seconded by Alderman Zipfel, moved that the petition be granted.  The mayor ruled the motion out of order.  Alderman Humphrey appealed from the ruling of the mayor and asked that the petitioners be given a hearing.  The appeal was carried, all members present voting in favor thereof.  Attorney Hill of Madison appeared and spoke in behalf of Mr. Kehoe and the petitioners.  After considerable discussion the mayor ordered that the petition be referred to the license committee, said committee to confer with the city attorney.  Alderman Humphrey again appealed from the action of the mayor and the appeal was sustained, Aldermen Kehr, Lutovsky and Scheblak voting "no."  Alderman Humphrey moved that the permit be granted.  After more discussion Alderman Kehr moved to refer the matter to the license and judiciary committee and accepted an amendment of Mr. Humphrey to substitute the grievance committee in place of the judiciary.  The motion as amended was carried and the matter referred to the committee on license and grievances.


Mr. Kehoe before presenting this petition waited on the mayor at the city hall and asked for the permit petitioned for last Tuesday evening, and he claims the mayor called him a runt and told him to go and soak his head.  In his message to the city council on the evening of April 16th, the mayor spoke of "croakerism" and repeatedly said "don't croak"!  Does anyone blame our citizens for "croaking" when they hear it charged that the mayor insults some of its best citizens?


Again in his message he said "if you have any 'kick' coming, go to the city hall," and he might have added “and be insulted.”  Well It appears now when you go to the city hall with a petition you must take along an attorney, and this Mr. Kehoe did last Tuesday evening, and his attorney, Mr. Hill, one of Madison's most eminent young attorneys, evidently paid Mr. Grube back in his "own ilk," for it is said he gave him the worst "tongue lashing" ever given a citizen of Watertown, second only to the famous "tongue lashing" the mayor gave the editors of The Gazette and Leader shortly before the last municipal election.  Mr. Hill said the language he used to Mr. Kehoe was unbecoming the mayor of a city and that he ought to be ashamed of himself.  Aldermen Humphrey, Zipfel, Kohn and Werner all took a hand in fighting for the rights of the petitioners, and fought a good cause.  This is the second time within two months that the right of petition of our people has been tried to be denied, and our citizens have become thoroughly aroused.


We hear more severe measures will follow the latter case than by which the former case was settled.  The humblest citizen in every community has rights that must be respected under the law, and if a city official thinks that he is greater than the people and when enjoying temporary power evidently forgets that "might does not make right," he must expect unpleasant sailing in his official capacity, and now that a majority of the official family of our city have decided to stand by the people, we look for better city government.  The Gazette is watching developments and not saying very much since the last election; it is expecting better things, some reasonable city legislation to correct some of the abuses complained of here — a "do something" moral policy, and if it is not brought about soon, it is said more mandamuses, more judges, more lawyers and possibly state officials will be brought to the rescue.



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