THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CALIFORNIA
With respect to the role of the government in the history of California, I mentioned in themes 1, 2 and 3 some aspects of it. As a reminder I would mention a few of them again:
-The enactment of the “Wright Irrigation Act” by the California’s legislature, which put limits to some Monopoly practices over water rights.
-The decision of the U.S. circuit court to outlaw the dumping of debris to the rivers, which practically banned hydraulic mining.
- The decision of the City of San Francisco to build a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley to provide water to the city, a project that was finally supported by the Federal government in opposition to the conservationists.
But there is more to this point in the history of the Golden State. For instance we have learned so far how the actions, or lack of them, by the Federal and the State governments, were key in the way California developed in the first decades after 1948. Even before that date, the decision to expand the Union towards California was a move by the Federal government that saw an opportunity to extend the U.S. towards the pacific. When this plan was not materialized by diplomatic means, the Federal government found a way to impose its plans on the Mexican government through the Mexican war (1).
In the 1960’s the Federal and State governments decided to fund and support the construction of a railroad in the hopes that it would open California up to the rest of the Union and would boost the economy of the State (2). In doing so, they created a powerful Monopoly that had major control over the economical and political life of the newborn State for a few decades (3).
Mulholland’s life was also connected with the actions of the Local Government of Los Angeles and the Federal Government. As a Superintendent for the Los Angeles water company and also as a chief engineer for the Bureau of Water and Works of Los Angeles, he would have to deal frequently with local authorities such as the mayor of the city, the city council, etc. In different occasions he would also had to appear in court to provide expert testimony in matters related to his work and its implications in the development of the city (4). Regarding the Los Angeles aqueduct project, one of the most important issues that Mulholland and the local government had to face was to obtain popular support to finance the project. In 1905 under the fear of water scarcity Angelinos approved an issue of bonds to start the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (5).
In 1906, after the farmers in Owens Valley had already opposed the diversion of “their” water to the city of Los Angeles, Mulholland would make his first trip to Washington D.C. to defend “his” project against the opposing interests. President Roosevelt listened to the arguments of all the parties involved in the dispute including the arguments from Mulholland explaining the project and its cost. In June 25, 1906 after hearing all arguments he took sides on the matter and decided to favor the city of Los Angeles and he noted that the interest of the settlers in Owens Valley “must unfortunately be disregarded in view of the infinitely greater interest to be served by putting water in Los Angeles” (6).
As it happened with the railroad, the government with its authority determined the winner in this battle and the future development of Los Angeles in detriment to the farmers in Owens Valley.
(1) California an Interpretive History by James Rawls & Walton Bean, p. 84-97
(2) California an Interpretive History by James Rawls & Walton Bean, p. 172 - 174
(3) California an Interpretive History by James Rawls & Walton Bean, p. 180 - 186
(4) “William Mulholland and the rise of Los Angeles” by Catherine Mulholland, p. 61-80
(5) California an Interpretive History by James Rawls & Walton Bean, p. 308
(6) “William Mulholland and the rise of Los Angeles” by Catherine Mulholland, p. 132-133
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