For two years a committee of twenty appointed by the National Civic Federation has been investigating the question of municipal ownership at home and abroad. They conclude that the four leading public utilities, gas, water, electric light and power, and street railways, the only ones they investigated, cannot be suitably regulated by competition. "Legalized and regulated monopoly," whether under public or private ownership, is necessary. Of the sort of industry suitable for public ownership, they say in the first place, "Undertakings in which the sanitary motive enters largely should be operated by the public," since it is dangerous to allow any one to make a profit out of a public utility which affects the health of the citizens. In the second place they would restrict municipal ownership to revenue producing industries involving the public health, safety, or transportation, or the permanent occupation of public streets or grounds, and the public operation of these utilities must not consider merely the profit to be made. The Commission believes that franchises should be granted for only a limited time, with the provision that the public may buy them out at a fair valuation, and recommends that municipalities be given the right to vote on the question of public ownership at any time. The Commission believes in the widest publicity of the accounts of public service corporations, and that they should issue new capital only with the permission of public authority. It recommends the "sliding scale," in use in the gas company in Boston, by which, when dividends increase, prices have to be lowered. In order to isolate municipal undertakings from politics the Commission recommends that the municipality an executive manager, who shall hold his position during good behavior; that personal favoritism be kept out of the management; and that the finances of the undertaking be separated from those of the rest of the city. The municipally owned business should be as distinct from the rest of the city government as is the privately owned.

The new four-million-dollar Union Station and Terminal in Washington, D. C., was opened Oct. 27, when the Pittsburg express over the Baltimore and Ohio pulled in. The occasion attracted a large crowd, but was devoid of ceremony. The station faces the Capitol and is within a few minutes' walk of it. It is owned jointly by the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. It will be used by all the roads entering Washington.

November 9, 1907

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