Rep. Birmingham charged that the taxicab situation could have been straightened out years ago by the police commissioner if he had wanted to, reported the Boston Herald (April 26, 1929, p. 7).
Birmingham asserted that the independent taxicab operators are insulted when they appeal to the commissioner and the only place they can go for relief is to the legislature. He said that a taxicab monopoly exists, and there is now an opportunity to end it.
The Democratic minority leader was commenting on a bill proposed by Rep. Joseph Finnegan that would abolish special or exclusive taxicab stands and make public stands free and open for all vehicles whose owners were licensed.
Finnegan’s bill was reported adversely by the House committee on cities, but Finnegan continued to fight for the bill. The House voted 158 to 46 April 25 to substitute Finnegan’s bill for the adverse committee report.
Finnegan argued that the Checker taxicab company had an unfair competitive position in having exclusive stands set aside for their taxis.
“This measure is not designed as an attack on the police commissioner. It merely says then when a taxi stand is set aside by the city it shall be opened to all licensed taxicabs, which would include special or exclusive stands in a policy of equal treatment for all. Provision is made for reasonable rules and regulations by the police commissioner,” he said during debate on the bill.
Finnegan charged that Charles Innes, a director of the Checker Taxi Company, was behind the opposition to his bill and the reason that the committee on cities issued an adverse report.
Rep. James Twohig of South Boston charged that police officials own Checker company stock and want to put the independent operators out of business.
Rep. Rupert Thompson of Newton, speaking for the committee on cities, said that a bill was passed setting up a Boston traffic commission, and the committee thought that the question of exclusive taxicab stands should be left to the commission to handle.
Rep. Richard Crockwell of Medford, chairman of the committee on cities, objected to Finnegan’s suggestion that Innes was the reason the committee reported adversely on his bill. “Mr. Innes had absolutely nothing to do with the report on this bill,” he said.
On petition of Samuel H. Borofsky and others, Rep. Birmingham filed a bill Dec. 23 that would regulate chain stores, the Springfield Republican reported (Dec. 24, 1930, p. 17).
Under the bill, individuals or corporations with more than one place of retail business would be required to serve notice of establishment of additional stores to the secretary of state and obtain licenses to do business.
The bill provided a scale of fees for licenses depending on the size of the city. A license for a town of fewer than 5,000 people would cost $750, while a license for a city of more than 500,000 people would cost $2,700.
Violators of the license provisions would be fined $100 or serve 60 days in jail, or both, for each violation. The penalties would be imposed on owners and operators.
Three-quarters of the fines collected would be given to municipalities, while one-quarter would go to the state.
Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of holding a preliminary primary to select candidates to run for mayor of Boston, during a Feb. 18 hearing of the House committee on cities, the Boston Globe reported (Feb. 18, 1930, p. 1, 21).
The committee was considering two bills, one to hold party primaries or preferential primaries in Boston elections and the other to give the Boston mayor the power to appoint the Police Commissioner instead of the governor.
“Party responsibility should be forced on the majority party. The Democrats of Boston are willing to shoulder the responsibility. I am willing to compromise on the preferential primary, but I speak in favor of the party system. We should have had a preliminary primary last year to learn the qualities of the candidates. There was a case where we had a man campaigning four years for the office and another comes in four weeks before election. If we had a preliminary primary system there would be not more candidates and an opportunity to select the best men,” Birmingham said.
The discussion turned to whether the Police Commissioner should be appointed by the Boston mayor instead of the governor. The debate reflected the broader issue of home rule for Boston.
“I honestly believe there is as much corruption in the Police Commissioner’s office as there is in any office in this State. I’m firmly persuaded to that extent,” said Birmingham.
“Place the Commissioner under the Mayor of Boston and we have a Finance Commission to investigate him. I question what will be accomplished by an investigation conducted by the Attorney General of the Garrett case. He is a Republican. This is an election year. The Republican party is not anxious to expose too much and, of course, to my mind, when one mentions the Garrett case it really means an investigation of Commissioner Wilson. If you want any State supervision over the Police Commissioner of Boston let the Civil Service Commissioner approve him, but let the Mayor appoint him,” said Birmingham.