Sunday, February 19, 2012

State Regulations Have Long Driven City Actions: The City Jail in 1937 (39)

(UCD Special Collections)

I recently ran across a Davis historical tidbit that reminded me that current Davis government angst over state regulation of such matters as redevelopment, water quality, and public schools is hardly new.

Instead, the state “mandate” has long been, perhaps, a major driver of local government.

The tidbit reminding me of this is a 1937 letter from a state agency to Mayor Covell informing the City that its jail is “unfit for human habitation” and should be replaced.

1. Aside from the role of the state seen here, we are learning that the fabled “old boy” government that reigned in Davis from incorporation to after WWII seemed content with tolerating a brutally primitive detention facility in the town.  

2. This pressure from the state also suggests a different perspective on the construction of what is now called “the old city hall” at 3rd and F streets. The impetus to construct it may have come in good part from state pressure to build a new jail (which was in fact a portion of the new city hall).

If we did not know about this pressure from the state, we might think that civic pride, town boosterism, or such prompted building a city hall. But this letter tells us that there were perhaps less of those kinds of carrots than of the sticks wielded by the state.