Hazen Pingree began a platform for urban reform during his time as the mayor of Detroit, which was from from 1890 to 1897. Pingree’s goal was to reform Detroit and the way that companies interact with the citizens of the city and the city itself. Pingree wanted to make the city better for the people who lived in it, and was always looking out for the best interests of the citizens. The type of reform that Pingree wanted to impose could be done through making laws and regulations, at the local level, that improved the lives of the individuals within his community. He was always willing to listen to what the people of Detroit wanted and do his very best to make sure that their needs were met, even if it meant making a sacrifice for himself.
According to Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State, Pingree “constantly battled for the common man against all vested interests, which won him the love of the people and the hatred of his conservative supporters, especially Senator McMillan” (pg. 126). Pingree would go above and beyond to help the citizens of Detroit, including actions such as suggesting municipal ownership of utilities when companies refused to lower their rates, urging negotiation when companies went on strike instead of calling in the state militia to break up the strikes, and set up a city-owned transit system when railroad companies refused to lower their rates (Rubenstein & Ziewacz, 2014). In this day and age, politicians always talk about how they want to be “for the people” but often their actions don’t match up and they tend to follow their own ideals instead of siding with the majority. Pingree “talked the talk” about being for the people, and his actions also proved that he can “walk the walk” when it came to helping the majority of people in Detroit.
During the Depression of 1893, Pingree had encouraged the wealthier individuals of Detroit to help the poor families so they could eat – but the wealthy Detroiters said no. So, instead of letting the poor families of Detroit starve, Pingree sold his prize horse at auction and gave the money to a program to help the poor. He also gave the poor individuals of Detroit empty lots to plant seeds so they could grow vegetable gardens and have food to eat. This type of action shows that he was always willing to personally engage in his citizens well-being and to create the positive social reform that he wanted to see. These types of actions aren’t something we see often in politics today, where many politicians will notice a problem and send in other individuals to help instead of sacrificing their own time and resources.
Pingree eventually became governor of Michigan and stated that he would remain mayor of Detroit while serving as governor. However, this wasn’t allowed due to conflict of interest and therefore he gave up his title as mayor of Detroit in order to remain governor of Michigan. Pingree’s personal take on social reform is not something we often see in politics today. In a society such as ours, when things aren’t running optimally, it should be the responsibility of the government to solve these issues with reform policies based on what the majority of people want. I think that we, as citizens, do our best to help society when we are able, but with the help of the government we are much more likely to be successful because they can create rules and regulations that need to be followed in order to reach the common goal.
Rubenstein, B.A., & Ziewacz, L.E. (2014) Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State (5th ed.). Wiley.