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The following report is published in conformity with a reso lution unanimously passed at the thirtieth convention of the association, in Washington, on Thursday, June 6, 1907, when it was
Resolved, That the report of the Committee on Public Policy be accepted and adopted by the association, and that it be printed for public distribution.
Appended to this report are the reports of the sub-committees made to the Committee on Public Policy.
While these reports of sub-committees have received the general approval of the full committee, only the individual members signing them are responsible for the specific terms in which they are expressed
E. W. BURDETT, Chairman.
REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC POLICY
This committee, which was new to the association last year, was reconstituted by the president shortly after the convention held at Atlantic City in June, 1906. Its membership was made up of representatives whose lighting interests were scattered from Massachusetts to Colorado, thus securing widely separated points of view. The committee chose Mr. W. H. Gardiner, of New York, its secretary, and he has rendered most efficient service.
The character and scope of the duties of the committee are not defined by any by-law or rule of the association, and are best indicated by its name.
The committee has assumed that any subject touching the general relations of the companies to their customers, their employees, the public or the public authorities--in short, whatever involves questions of external as distinguished from internal policy-is within the scope of its consideration.
The following sub-committees were accordingly appointed:
The membership of these various sub-committees was limited to two, to insure higher efficiency than a larger number residing at considerable distances from each other. The reports of all the sub-committees have, however, been from time to time submitted to, and fully considered by, the committee at large, and, so far as possible, have been put into such form as would command the acquiescence of all the members of the general committee.
The reports of the several sub-committees are hereto appended and a careful examination of each of them is invited.
The Committee on Rates and Methods of Charging has not submitted a separate report; but it conferred with the standing committee on rates and made some suggestions about the report of the latter committee, which were adopted.
In addition to the foregoing sub-committees, a special committee of three was appointed at the request of two member companies operating in the same city, to arbitrate the differences between them, with the result that after a considerable amount of consultation, examination of the plants, accounts, and so forth, of the respective parties, the committee succeeded in suggesting an arrangement to the mutual satisfaction of the two companies.
Particular attention is called to the mass of information collected and collated by the Committee on Industrial Insurance, Rewards and Pensions, which will be found of value to any corporation considering the advisability and practicability of the adoption of some plan for the uplifting of their employees and the bettering of their condition. The committee concurs in the suggestion of the sub-committee that wherever it is possible to adopt such plans, or similar plans to those described in the report, it is well to do so; and agree in the conclusion that the tendency with all such plans is to "lighten the burden of the employee, increase his efficiency, and safeguard the interests of the company by encouraging closer, deeper and more harmonious relations between the employee and the company which employs hini."
All the other reports of sub-committees are necessarily more or less general in their character, but the committee calls special attention to the report of the sub-committee on the London Sliding Scale as Applied to Electricity, and to the great practica! importance of the subject. The committee joins in urging "the very serious consideration of the application of this attractive theory to the business of the various companies interested as soon as a safe and satisfactory working basis for it can be established.” If the practical details in its application to electricity can be successfully worked out, there is little reason to doubt that the relation of the companies to their customers and the public will be very much improved, with distinct advantages to both.
Attention is also called to the practical suggestions of the sub-committee on Publicity and Popular Education, respecting different methods of exploiting various subjects of common interests to the companies, their customers and the public. In this connection it has recently been well said: “The American public is in the long run fair. It errs oftener from ignorance than from malice. It is sentimental in the highest degree, and can be led by prejudice or emotion to extremes. If it has put before it clearly all the facts, its sound common sense will come to the rescue, and sentimental reformers and schemers with axes to grind will go out of business; but until corporations present their side of the case aggressively and with absolute honesty the public will follow the lead of those who make a living by attacks upon all corporations indiscriminately."
Questions of Taxation and Franchises, which have occupied the attention of one of the sub-committees, are of great importance. We think there should be an agreement among the parties in interest upon some of the fundamental propositions which underlie these questions, particularly with respect to the subject of taxation. It should never be lost sight of that every form of taxation of public-service corporations is a tax upon the consumer. While these companies should, of course, pay into the public treasuries their full share in discharge of the general public burdens, whatever is exacted from them in the form of excises or taxes in excess of what others similarly situated are required to pay distinctly operates against reductions in charges for the service rendered or a limitation of the facilities furnished. In other words, if these public utilities must make special contributions to the public funds, it must necessarily be at the expense, in one form or another, of the particular members of the community who use their service. Inasmuch as this service is theoretically universal, in the sense of being available to all citizens desirous of using it, it should be furnished at the lowest figure practicable. The effort of every public-service corporation ought to be to increase its facilities and reduce its charges as rapidly as possible, and it should not be handicapped in doing so by exactions on the part of the public at large, which reduce the ability of the companies to do so by the amounts exacted. In other words, whatever contributions public service corporations make to the public, aside from their proportion of general taxes, should be made to those who use their service. If this simple but fundamental proposition were universally recognized, there