Let there be (street) lights — Part 1
Downtown retailer B.B. Fowler attempted unsuccessfully to enlighten, pun intended, Glens Falls residents about the importance of increasing the budget for electricity for street lighting.
“One fact appears to be overlooked by many of the taxpayers of this village. It is hardly fair to compare the taxes of a few years ago with the taxes of today,” Fowler wrote in a letter to the editor of The Morning Star on March 15, 1889, responding to critics of the proposed $6,000 street lighting budget, the equivalent of $193,246 in 2022 dollars, which was up for a public referendum on March 20. “The village of Glens Falls has made rapid strides, both in population and wealth, and so long as it will grow, just so long will we be obliged to meet the demands, whether it be for more light, more water, or more sewer.”
On election day, voters rejected the street lighting spending proposition by a 442–375 vote.
Some attributed it to general dissatisfaction with village spending.
Six of nine spending propositions were rejected, and the Police Department appropriation passed by a narrow 421–405 vote.
Even the two fire department budgets, normally a mere formality, had more than 300 no votes each,
Voters rejected building a new police and fire building, a one-time special $500 fire department appropriation, a new iron fence and water supply at the Bay Road cemetery, and a fire alarm system.
Voters even rejected paying a resident $52.10 to compensate for damages to contents in a cellar when a village water pipe burst.
Others alleged that the outgoing village trustees did not do enough to champion the street-lighting budget.
It would appear that downtown street lights would be turned off as soon as what little was left in the street-lighting fund was spent.
“Glens Falls looked like a big black spot last night,” one village resident, speaking metaphorically, commented to a Morning Star reporter the morning after the vote. “And if that is the way it will look without street lights, it will be a dismal place indeed.”
The vote result brought out the sarcastic humor in Morning Star editors.
March 21 — “The Rochester Clothing Company will soon present their patrons nickel-plated pocket lanterns. These little containers would come in handy just about now, and everybody who has one could light their way.”
March 25 — “If Vegas, the beautiful evening star, would augment its brilliancy and then remain stationary till sunrise, we would have our streets well lighted.”
On a more serious note, “If anyone desires to know whether Glens Falls grows or not, let them take a walk in the suburbs and see the new buildings erected within two of three years,” The Morning Star editorialized on March 25.
A Glens Falls lawyer called for a community meeting to discuss amending the village charter to allow village trustees to appropriate funding for electricity for street lighting without a public referendum.
“If the trustees can appropriate money to improve the streets, why should they not be permitted to make an appropriation to light them?” the unnamed lawyer asked.
The lawyer also suggested electing village trustees on a ward system instead of an at-large system.
To be continued