Sunday, June 23, 2013

From 1953: A Mayor Practices What He Preaches

The following article is from 60 years ago, published on June 21, 1953 in the New York Times. It was written by David Anderson.

Bailey was born in 1916 and died in 1982 (NY Times obituary). He moved to Middletown in 1946, served as Mayor from 1950 to 1952, and moved to Princeton in 1954. 

His biggest legacy was the destruction of the four-story city hall on Main Street, and replacement of a thriving Sicilian neighborhood on Center Street with Riverview Plaza, anchored by a Sears store (the current police station is on the site of Center Street, and its architecture echos that of the old city hall).

For more on the history of Bailey's downtown redevelopment, and the destruction of what Bailey called the "East Side slums," see Vijay Pinch's excellent Eye article from 2009.
Dr. Bailey Wears Path of Good Government From Campus to Connecticut City Hall
Dr. Stephen Kemp Bailey, Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University, hangs his cap and gown on a peg in the campus faculty room and strides down to the musty old brownstone Town Hall here, where he marches confidently into the Mayor's office, rolls up his sleeves and wastes no time at all putting into practice what he preaches.

The Mayor of Middletown, at 37 years of age, is only one of several successful characters rolled into the slender, energetic person of Stephen Bailey. There is, for instance, the distinguished Rhodes Scholar of 1937-39 who won a number of awards in the pursuit of political science. There is the young naval lieutenant who became chief of Balkan intelligence with the Office of Strategic Services. And the Government expert who served the Hoover Commission in Washington.

Mayor Bailey tries to play his role as he expects it ought to be, yet there are undertones of more than the average city father might bring to his job.

"I'm spending a lot of dough, there's no doubt about it," he said today. "There's been plenty of dirt swept under the rugs in the last twenty years."

The technician within Dr. or Mr. or Professor or Mayor Bailey, depending on who you are and the time of day, has recommended as part of the cleansing process three new schools, a revitalized park and playground program, a solution for the parking problem, a revision of the city's charter and more efficient financial planning.

He Can't Afford to Lose
Elected last October as a Democrat by a sizable plurality of 1,000 over a divided Republican opposition, the Mayor is in office for two years. This taste of politics does not mean that he will abandon the cloister for the clubhouse.

"I can't afford to lose, that's the trouble," he said, adding, "no dough."

City Hall experiences of the Mayor have opened the professor's eyes. In this community of 30,000, which is so typical of the nation at large that Dr. Bailey likes to refer to it as "Middletown, U.S.A.," the theory of government has been surprisingly useful in running the town. Furthermore, he testifies, "It is awful doggone useful in the field of ethics."

In the classroom up on the hill, Professor Bailey has been telling students that ethical behavior rules out absolutely the kickback or pay-up, the split and such doings. In practice, he lectures, you simply ought not to go in for it. But soon after assuming office he was advised that in the case of a certain purchase, say, a fire engine (although that industry is not involved), it had long been the custom for so-and-so to receive such-and-such.

"It seemed pretty darn easy for me to slip into the pattern," the Mayor recalled. "What I did was this. I told that fellow I'd raise the amount he wanted some other way. I'd no idea how, still it didn't matter, for he went away and has never come back."

Alumni Form An Honor Roll
Dr. Bailey concedes that when he first stepped forward in the mayoralty race, many people suspected he "must be some sort of wild-eyed guy" wh had wasted too much time hanging around Washington and traveling abroad. He believes he has allayed these fears.

The course he charted is not a new one. Woodrow Wilson was an instructor in government at Wesleyan University before he entered public life, the late Gov. James L. McConaughy of Connecticut was president of the university and former Gov. Wilbert Snow a professor of English.

G. Albert Hill, State Commissioner of Highways, was head of the Chemistry Department. Chief Justice Ernest Inglis of Connecticut and Justice Raymond E. Baldwin are both alumni and trustees of Wesleyan. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson is a native of Middletown.

It is clear that the present Mayor thinks as an expert and writes as a scholar, notwithstanding his interest in the folksy touch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like the ethical behavior this man espoused was a one time occurence. By all Middeltown politicians, including all mayors within recent memory. Would be nice to bring it back.