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Myron B. Williams
First Wisconsin Legislature convened from June 5, 1848 to August 21, 1848 in regular session. Members of the Assembly and Senate were elected after an election on February 1, 1848 that ratified the proposed state constitution. Myron B. Williams member of Senate from Jefferson County.
pre 1849, Myron Williams, Watertown Justice of Peace, weddings [D/JCGS 929.3-Jeff-W75m]
May 13, 1861
Watertown Democrat, 05 23 1861
The edict of the sovereign electors of the City of Watertown, as proclaimed through the ballot box at the recent city election, has committed to our care the important trust of the administration of the government of the city for the current year. The evidence of public confidence thus manifested, should furnish a strong motive to each of our minds, to bring to the performance of the work before us, an honest purpose and a fixed determination to demonstrate by a prompt, efficient and faithful discharge of every duty, that such confidence has not been injudiciously reposed.
By voluntary [voluntarily] accepting, and entering upon the duties of our respective offices, we virtually contract on our part, that the interests of the city shall be carefully guarded by us, and its government judiciously, economically and faithfully administered. We can exonerate ourselves from the just imputation of infidelity to our voluntary binding obligations, only by a punctual attendance upon the stated meetings of the Common Council, and an early, careful, judicious dispatch of the various matters which may engage its attention, or be referred to its business committees.
Let personal prejudices and private animosities be forgotten, and self interest be merged in a controlling desire to promote the general good.
The fact that I had the honor fill the office to which I have been recently re-elected, during the past year, and that at the commencement of my last term I communicated to the Council an elaborate exposition of my views upon those subjects of general interest which must at all times claim the attention of this body, will, I trust, relieve me from entering upon a detailed examination of many of those questions at the present time — for in doing so I could only repeat much that I then expressed. I hope, therefore, that I shall be excused for inviting the careful attention of the Common Council to the measures then suggested, and the course of policy therein urged in relation to the grading and improvement of streets, the building and repairing of bridges, the city gas lights, and provisions for and encouragement of the fire department. These are all subjects of great importance and interest to the city and should receive their full share of your attention. But in your deliberations upon these and all other subjects, not only the propriety but the absolute necessity of practicing the most rigid economy in all our city expenditures will force itself upon your consideration.
The law providing for the levy and collection of taxes requires that a new assessment shall be made of the entire property of the city, personal and real, during the current year. The certainty of a prompt and complete collection of the taxes levied for various purposes within the city, depends upon the manner in which the assessors perform their important duties. The assessment rolls should present a perfect list of all the property within the city boundaries—no piece of property should be doubly assessed—and each description should be brief, definite and complete.
If this is done, the desire to provide against the accumulation of valid tax titles upon the real estate of the city will prove an effectual remedy against the return of large delinquent tax lists.
A matter of such vital importance to the interests of the city cannot escape the careful consideration of the Common Council, whose province it will be to originate and mature some measure for the proper and definite description upon the assessment rolls of all the real estate within the city. The necessity of such a measure is demonstrated by applications, heretofore made to this body by purchasers at tax sales, asking to be relieved from tax certificates and tax deeds which were void on account of the uncertain and indefinite description of the lands intended to be conveyed, as well as by the accumulation of tax certificates in the Treasury in cases were real estate owners have neglected to pay their taxes for the reason that their lands were so imperfectly described upon the assessment rolls, that tax-titles issued thereon would be void for uncertainty. It is hereby respectfully recommended that such action be taken by the Common Council as will authorize the assessors to call to their aid the services of the Surveyor to assist in making a complete description of such real estate as they would otherwise be unable to describe definitely.
Our City Charter was so amended, during the last session of the Legislature, that hereafter the real estate in the city upon which the taxes are not paid, shall be returned by the City Treasurer to the Treasurers of the counties in which the same are located, and by them sold, tax certificates issued, and tax deeds finally executed in accordance with the law regulating the return and sale of lands for taxes in the several towns in the state. It is believed that this amendment will prove a salutary aid in the prompt collection of our city and ward taxes.
In connection with the above amendment to our city charter, it is proper to notice, that requiring the vote for all appropriations of money by the Common Council to be taken by ayes and noes and entered upon the journal, and that abolishing the office of police justice of the city.
Since my last annual communication to the Common Council, the $7,000.00 in city improvement bonds which were deposited in the Jefferson County Bank, as collateral security for the payment of a loan of money obtained from said bank, have been released by the payment of said loan, and cancelled by order of, and in presence of this body. Of the original issue of improvement bonds, amounting to $50,000.00, there is now only $20,000.00 outstanding and uncancelled.
The Legislature of the state, at its recent session enacted a special law empowering the city to compound its large railroad bonded debt by such a compromise as we might be able to effect with the bondholders, to issue new five percent city bonds for such an amount as may be agreed upon between the city and the bond holders, not exceeding a maximum thereon fixed, payable twenty years from date, and exchange the same for our present outstanding railroad bonds.
No argument is necessary to prove that this is a subject of paramount importance to the city. Experience has taught us this, and there is a manifest desire on the part of our citizens to make any sacrifice within the limit of their ability to satisfactorily arrange these bonds.
It is true that the city has never received any value for these bonds, that the railroad companies, by fraudulently obtaining and negotiating them, and then violating their plighted faith to save the city from loss or liability thereon, have practiced upon the city a system of espionage and plunder which releases us from all just and moral obligations to provide for their payment.
But it is also true that present holders have paid real value for them, and doubtless in many instances a larger figure than we can now possibly offer for them. They, too, were not parties to the original fraud of which we complain, and ought not, in justice, to lose their entire investment. If, then, a willingness to accomplish an amicable adjustment of this indebtedness is manifested upon both sides, the city paying a part of that for which she has never received any value, and the bond holders sacrificing a part of the amount which they have paid for these securities ; it is hoped and believed, that both parties may, by the aid of this law, be relived from present embarrassment.
The financial policy pursued by the Common Council during the last year is entitled to your careful consideration, and is worthy of your constant imitation.
I cannot speak in too favorable terms of the uniform desire manifested by the members of that body, to carry into successful operation the recommendations which I had the honor to submit in my last annual message. In the present condition of our city treasury the most extravagant results then anticipated are fully realized.
At the commencement of the last fiscal year, although the state school money to which the city was entitled as its distributive share of the income of the school fund had been paid over to our city treasurer, and no part of the outstanding indebtedness of the city had been paid during the preceding year, except the interest for one year thereon; yet the whole amount of money then in the city treasury belonging to all funds was only $707.95.
As a plain proposition it will be apparent that had the public school money been received from the state before the first day of April last, as it was the proceeding year, and had no part of the outstanding city indebtedness been paid from the city treasury during the last year, except one year's interest thereon, the current, expenses of the city would have been limited by its resources, if there was remaining in the city treasury at the commencement of the present fiscal year, the said sum of $707.95.
The city taxes for the last year were a trifle less than they were the year before, and the Common Council could not have been charged with extravagance in the administration of the city government if they left as much money in the city treasury at the close of the year as they found in it at the commencement.
But the report of the committee appointed to settle with the late city treasurer shows that the public money from the state had not found its way into the city treasury at the commencement of the present fiscal year, which, by a recent amendment made to the law will not be distributed by the state superintendent until near the close of the present month; the late city treasurer, Henry Bertram, paid during the year a note held by the Jefferson County Bank, given by the city improvement commissioners, amounting, principal and interest, to the sum of $4,146.99; also the salary of city officers for their services during the preceeding year, the sum of $450.00; costs and attorney's fees which accrued during the preceeding year, the sum of $179.80; for gas bills which remained unpaid at the commencement of the year, the sum of $481.50; and there remained in the city treasury on the first day of April, A. D. 1861, the sum of $3,000.65.
It is estimated that the school money, when received from the State, will amount to the sum of $1,500.00. If we add that together with the several sums above enumerated and paid during the year, to the amount remaining in the City Treasury at the end of the year, and deduct from such amount the interest on the note of the Jefferson County Bank for one year, as paid the preceding year, and the balance on the salary of City officers for last year, remaining unpaid on the 1st of April, A. D., 1861, and the sum of $707.95, the sum remaining in the treasury April 1st, 1860, in the aggregate amounting to the sum of $1,327.40, it will be seen that our city treasury, for the year ending April 1st, 1861, yielded the sum of $8,531.54, or, in other words, that by a judicious, prudent, and economical administration of the city government for the last year, the city treasury produced the sum of $8,531.54, which is more than it did the preceding
This improved condition of the city finances has been accomplished by exchanging the large amount of tax certificates in the city treasury into money, and by practicing the most rigid economy in all our city expenditures.
On the 1st day of April, 1860, the tax certificates which had accumulated in the city treasury during the preceding four years, amounted to the sum of $8,015.59; the tax sales of 1861, which took place in the month of March last, made a large addition to this amount; the necessity of converting these tax certificates into money became so apparent to the Common Council that a resolution was adopted authorizing the City Treasurer to sell them to resident purchasers for their face, exclusive of the accumulated interest. By this stroke of policy, the total amount of certificates remaining in the city treasury on the 1st day of April, 1861, was reduced to the sum of $4.432.54 and about $5,500.00 added to the general and ward funds.
The whole amount of city orders issued during the year last past, upon the general and ward funds, is $5,578.57; deduct from this amount the sum of $481.60, issued for gas bills for the preceding year; the sum of $450.00 issued to city officers, the balance due upon their salaries for the preceding year; the sum of $179.80 issued for costs of litigation and fees of attorneys, which had accrued during the preceding year; and the sum of $2,089.85, issued to the Jefferson County Bank, in part payment of a note held by said bank against the city, all of which sums are included in the above amount; and then add thereto the sum of $235.05, the balance due officers of the city upon their salaries for the last year, which had not been fully paid on the 1st of April, 1861; and the sum $340.40, the amount of interest paid to the Jefferson County Bank, as interest during the preceding year; and we have the sum of $3,048.67 as the amount of orders issued for the total ordinary expenses of the city government for the year ending April 1st, 1861, against the sum of $4,595.03, city orders issued for the same purposes during the preceding year—a balance of $1,646.41, in favor of the last fiscal year, thus demonstrating the correctness of the opinion expressed in my last annual message, that the sum of one thousand dollars could be saved from the ordinary expenses of the preceding year, without endangering the privileges or safety of our citizens, or impairing the efficiency of our city government.
As we enter upon the discharge of the public duties we have voluntarily assumed as members of the present Common Council, we find the finances of the city restored to a healthy condition, its credit established upon a sound basis, with a sufficient amount of money in the city treasury belonging to each of the separate funds, except the license fund, to meet the public exigencies. If we can direct the management of the city government the present year as successfully and economically as it was managed during the last year, we shall entirely dispense with the credit system, and leave to our successors in office a treasury prepared to honor promptly and at par all drafts made upon it for ordinary purposes, until the next periodical collection of our city taxes.
The fund derived from our city licenses has, during the past year, been found entirely inadequate to meet the objects for which it has been set apart, that of paying the interest upon our outstanding City Improvement bonds. This fund is now overdrawn, and deficient to the amount of $1187.74, which deficiency has necessarily been supplied by drafts upon the city general fund.
It is hereby respectfully recommended that the committee on licenses immediately ascertain and report the names of those whose licenses have expired; and that they adopt such measures as will secure the prompt application for new licenses, and the early payment into the city treasury of the amount charged therefor, by those who come within the provision of our license law.
I would also submit for your careful consideration, the propriety of either increasing the rates to be paid for licenses within the city, so as to make that fund equal to the drafts that will necessarily be made upon it, or that the fund be dispensed with altogether, and all licenses be paid into, and the interest upon our City Improvement bonds be paid out of, the city general fund. This plan would lessen the number of funds in the treasury, and with the early disappearance, under the present law, of the tax certificate account, would render the duties of the City Treasurer less complicated and difficult.
The condition of the City School fund is much more satisfactory than at the commencement of the last fiscal year. On the 1st day of April last, there was unexpended in that fund the sum of $679.45, which is sufficient to pay 30 percent of the expenses of the long school term that has just closed. The public school money from the State, as soon as received, will cover the balance of the expenses of said term, and leave a sufficient amount in the treasury to meet nearly all the expenses of the approaching summer term, and before the fall term closes, the taxes levied upon the assessment rolls of the present year will be so far collected as meet all the demands upon the fund.
Too much credit cannot be awarded to the late School Board for the prompt and efficient manner in which they have cooperated with the Common Council in their efforts to relieve the city treasury of its financial embarrassments.
The combined efforts of the Common Council and the Board of Education, and all other city officers, an effect an economical and prudent administration of the various departments of the city government, would be of little consequence were it not for the promptness, loyalty and cheerfulness which are exhibited by the great body of our taxpayers in responding to the demands made upon them to contribute to the expenses of the government. A large class of our citizens are unfortunately in very limited pecuniary circumstances, but they display the characteristics of true noblemen, by courageously contending with the reverses of fortune, and from the proceeds of their constant toil, patriotically dedicating their just proportion to the support of the government. The government furnishes protection to the persons and property of its citizens, and as a small return demands that the citizens shall regularly contribute to its maintenance and support. Most nobly do our citizens respond to this demand, and he who, after enjoying the protection afforded by a well regulated government, refuses to bear a hand in its maintenance, forfeits all claims to confidence and respect, and is justly regarded a burden to the state.
Although much good has been accomplished by our predecessors, yet there are further reforms left of us in carrying forward the work which they have so successfully commenced. No action was taken during the past year to examine and adjust the accounts of the old board of city improvement commissioners; this subject has been delayed and should engage your early attention.
The interests of this city as well as justice to the improvement commissioners require that a just and final settlement of their accounts and transactions should be made and laid before the public and placed on file in the office of the city clerk. In my communication to the Common Council at the commencement of my last term, I had the honor to direct their attention to this important subject and beg leave at this time to ask your careful consideration of the views then expressed.
At the last meeting of the Common Council account was presented and allowed appropriating the sum of $42.00 to inspectors and clerks of the recent elections held in the several wards of this city, from which it appeared that twenty-eight of the thirty five members of the boards of election in the several wards of the city were selected from the by-standers, as provided by law in case of the absence, of aldermen and supervisors of the wards. The aldermen of the different wards are ex-officio inspectors of election in respective wards, and unless, something specially prevents they should be as punctual in the performance of this as of any other official duty.
These small items of expenditure, each of which in itself appears unimportant, contribute largely to swell the aggregate amount of our annual city expenses. It is hoped that this simple suggestion will be sufficient to prevent a similar neglect of duty on the part of the aldermen of the city in the future.
No provision is made by the law providing for the organization of election boards for the payment of such members of the board, as are selected from the by-standers, and it becomes a question of importance whether the Common Council possesses the power to appropriate money for that purpose. Is it asking too touch that those electors of the city who are selected to fill the place of an alderman for a single day should render that service for the same compensation which the aldermen receive? If you and I devote our time and give our service a whole year without expense to the city, ought not any citizen, equally interested in the welfare of the city with ourselves, devote his time and give his services for one day only, upon the same terms? I am clearly of the opinion that the law does not contemplate an appropriation for this purpose, and I trust that a little reflection will convince every good citizen that justice and propriety render such expenditures inexpedient.
The salaries of the officers of the city are reduced perhaps to the lowest practicable figure, consonant with efficiency, capacity and fidelity in the officer, and the only opportunity for retrenchment in this department of the city finances left to us is to inquire whether some of our officers cannot safely be dispensed with. For two years last past the Common Council has exercised the power conferred by our city charter, by electing a city attorney. Most of the litigation in which the city is particularly interested involves matters of great importance to the city, in which cases it has been our uniform practice to provide for the employment of particular council, and their fees for services rendered have been allowed and paid out of the city treasury without any reference to the salary of the city attorney. Even the litigation which occurred between the superintendent of schools and the Common Council two years ago the coming summer and fall was not entrusted to the management of our city attorney. An account of $50, in favor of Messrs. Smith & Keyes of Madison, was paid but recently for services in that case. An appropriation to Messers. Enos & Hall of this city for legal services rendered the city, was also made during the last year; at the same time we have had a city attorney doing little or nothing for the city, at salary of one hundred and fifty dollars per year.
It must be apparent to all that this office is a mere sinecure in which there are no equivalent services rendered for the salary paid, and that all the ordinary petty litigation in which the city may become involved can be properly conducted by attorneys employed for the purpose, for a tithe of the city attorney’s salary.
I therefore recommend-that the office of City Attorney remain vacant during the present year and to prevent the possibility of the question arising of the right of the present incumbent to hold over in case a new election is not held, I suggest the propriety of the adoption of a resolution by the Common Council declaring its express will on this subject.
In the recent settlement with the late City Treasurer, my attention was necessarily directed to the importance of furnishing a safe and convenient receptacle for keeping the valuable papers in that office. A large amount of money passes through the City Treasurer's hands and must necessarily remain for a longer or shorter time in his office; all city orders paid by him are retained until the same can be cancelled; and the tax certificates belonging to the city remain in the Treasury, as well as all assessment rolls and many other valuable papers. All these have heretofore been kept in a small open case, constructed entirely of wood, and in case of accidental fire, must necessarily be destroyed. As a judicious and economical investment, and as an act of justice to the Treasurer himself, it is suggested that a fire proof safe of moderate size and limited cost by purchased by the city for the office of the City Treasurer.
It cannot be expected that the Mayor, in his annual communication to the Common Council, will direct your attention to every subject that demands your consideration. I have endeavored to notice those important matters which occur to me as the greatest practical utility, and have imparted such information and made such recommendations in relation thereto as was contemplated by the City Charter, trusting that in all your transactions and appropriations you will be directed by an abiding sense that you are acting as the trustees of a sacred fund, collected from the hard earnings of your constituents, and that you are strictly accountable to them for the fruitful expenditure of every dollar.
New objects of the appropriation of money are pressing upon our consideration, consequently the obligation resting upon us to adopt the most rigid system of prudence and economy in our city finances are daily becoming more imposing. The sum of $250.00 has already been appropriated from the city treasury for the patriotic purpose of supporting those who may here enlist to vindicate their country’s honor and fight her battles, before they shall be mustered into service. More than one half of that sum has already been expended. If may erelong [soon] be necessary to add to that appropriation. However willing and anxious we may be to contribute in a public manner to this heroic object, it can only safely be done by carefully reforming the other abuses which have heretofore existed in the administration of our city government.
The present critical juncture in our national history, when domestic enemies, animated by a spirit of treason, are attempting to strike down our free institutions and take away our liberties, by stimulating a desire to aid in defending the right, is inducing patriots all over the land to provide themselves the means for this purpose, at the sacrifice of ease and comfort. The luxuries and superfluities of life are cheerfully dispensed with, and the solid, substantial, but plain and less costly necessaries are being substituted in their stead. Every other interest, public and private, is rendered conducive to the defense of the state. Let us imbibe largely of the spirit which every where animates the public mind, and not only in our private transactions but in our public acts, carefully guard against every expenditure from the city treasury unless demanded by the most imperative necessity. Though we may not be able to buckle on the soldiers armor and go forth to fight the battles of the country, yet we may, by our contributions, nerve his arm and animate his heart for the conflict.
Every dollar saved by us hereby reducing the amount of taxes necessary to be collected to replenish the city treasury, is left at the disposal of our own patriotic citizens, and will enable them more efficiently to cooperate with the National Government to resist rebellion and punish treason.
The strongest motives are presented on very hand, urging us to a prudent and judicious administration of the city government. Let us, by constant care and watchfulness, so manage its finances that the smallest possible amount of taxes necessary to secure an efficient administration of the city government will be imposed on our citizens, and we be able at the close of the present year to transmit to our successors in office a solvent treasury, stored with funds sufficient to defray all necessary current expenses.
Myron B. Williams
Watertown, May 13th