Loading...
SLOJX TRUSTEE MTGSAN LUIS OBISPO TRUSTEE MEETING Anyone wanting to know what is happening in City government can simply use the City Channel and watch Council meetings. Not so in the early days of the then-Town of San Luis Obispo. In fact, there was an issue of just were the meetings met! Let’s (at least in our imagination) attend two meetings while the leaders reviewed local issues. First, some background information. Official minutes are preserved from May 4, 1870 although there were meetings before that date with Charles H. Johnson as president. The five Trustees elected for a year selected their own president, were members of usually two of three committees: Land, Finance, and Streets and operated with few resources. They received a dollar a year for their efforts. There was no Town Hall so meetings were held in various places. Other elected or appointed officers were a Clerk, Marshal, Assessor (Town taxes were in addition to those of the State and County), Recorder, Treasurer and Tax Collector…which eventually became part of the Marshal’s duties. Let’s see what’s on the May fourth agenda. The newly elected Trustees are all present: Henry Francis, Dr. William W. Hays, Lazare Landeker, Horatio B. Palmer and John J. Simmler. Dr. Hays is selected as president and members receive committee assignments. Charles W. Dana is appointed Clerk, George W. Barnes Marshal, W. J. Marcus Treasurer, and R. H. Coate Recorder. In June, S. A. Pollard is elected Assessor. All Trustees were established community members. Dr. Hays deserves his own article as he was a major influence on health care in the area; Simmler’s name repeatedly appeared in local history, and he was the post master from 1874 to 1890; Landeker was a businessman and bookkeeper, and Francis was in the livery business. Two petitions for Town lots are received. If they are approved, the Trustees will issue deeds after receiving the fee ranging from $5. to $20. Several Ordinances are either amended or renumbered. Some license fees are set: five dollars for an “opera or concert performance,” or for any collection of animals for “public amusement,” as well as “slight of hand” exhibitions. With that, the meeting was adjourned until May 16 with no mention as to when the meeting started (later meetings usually began at 7 or 8 pm). There was never a noted adjournment time. During their term, these Trustees attended 23 meetings while no meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum. The voters approved as all were reelected for another year. Elections brought leaders to duty while the increased population brought more tasks. The major issues between 1870 and 1876 are: granting lots to residents, opening streets (funded in part by those making requests), multiple orders for surveys, building bridges across the San Luis Creek as businesses and buildings increase, passing Ordinances and resolutions to promote law and order as well as seeking ways to increase revenue. Fires are increasingly discussed as more wooden buildings present more opportunity for the “Fiend” to destroy the emerging community. Bills are discussed: either ordered paid, referred to a Committee, “allowed” for less that requested, delayed until there was money in the Treasury or simply “rejected.” A truly historic meeting occurred on February 8, 1871 when the Trustees allocated $690.82 to buy the Town (almost 600 acres) from the Federal government. Incorporation did not automatically confer ownership of municipal land. It was a most satisfying action as now ownership of property within the Town limits was assured by legal title. For the last year of Trustee stewardship, there are 35 meetings, four adjourned for lack of a quorum and only two when all members were present…yet the Town conducted its business. Having taken office on May 6, 1875, William L. Beebe was President with members Chauncey H. Phillips, L. Landeker, Dr. W. W. Hays, and Robert R. Harris. Except for Beebe, all had previously served on the Board. Appointments now included a Town Attorney and night watchman. Jacob Bump was retained in the latter job while R. C. Bouldin served the former. Beebe came to San Luis in 1850 as a merchant and served on the first Board of Supervisors and then as County Judge. Phillips wore many hats and became a successful land entrepreneur as well as opening the first bank in the County with Horatio M. Warden. Landeker was murdered in San Bernardino in 1879; Dr. Hays promoted and served on the first Board of Health. R. R. Harris was a surveyor and perennial candidate for public office. The last meeting was held on Wednesday April 26, 1876. The Trustees had received a petition to extend Beach and Marsh Streets but any decision was postponed as they knew State legislation would “materially change “ existing laws. Indeed, by then, Governor Irwin had already signed the city incorporation act. Reports from the Marshal and Treasurer are received and “filed.” Bouldin received $50. for his services for the month. The night watchman and Marshal are also paid. The meeting adjourned “sine die” (no future date set) and thus ended the official life of the Town of San Luis Obispo…only to be reborn as a City with a Common Council at the May first meeting. The Minutes provide little insight into a politician’s life while the newspapers concerned themselves with issues. Unlike today, there are few printed opinions about official performances although Trustee Harris was encouraged to attend meetings as he rarely was listed as present during his three terms in office. Civic service was in addition to duties usually in some sort of business or trade. Those who had opinions were not hard pressed to find a Trustee. The Town was small and the various social clubs and saloons found Trustees and residents in ready contact. For all their lack of experience, the men who governed laid the foundation for our City. They deserve to be remembered during and beyond this Sesquicentennial year.