DOES THE CHICAGO TUNNEL COMPANY'S
ORDINANCE MEAN JUST WHAT IT SAYS?
BY N. D. COCHRAN
In their argument before the Council Committee on Oil, Gas and
Electric Light both Attorney Dan Schuyler and Attorney Ralph M. Shaw,
representing the Chicago Tunnel Co., and the bondholders of that com
pany respectively, pounded hard on the idea that the courts would stand
for a forfeiture of the company's plant. '
Show says the law is: "Equity abhors a forfeiture."
Yet when the promoters who got the telephone franchise for the
original company, the Illinois Telephone & Telegraph Co., made their
agreement with Council, the following paragraphs were made part of that
"It shall be expressly the condition of this grant that if the Illinois
Telephone & Telegraph Company, or any of its successors, or assigns,
shall either sell out or enter into any agreement with, any existing tele
phone company, or any of its successors or assigns, doing business in the
city of Chicago, which agreement would tend to make competition inop
erative, this ordinance shall become null and void, and the plant of said
company, together with the conduits, wires and poles then in the streets
belonging to said company, shall be forfeited to the city."
"If the said Illinois Tunnel Company, its successors and assigns, shall
fail to construct, equip and install a telephone system, under the terms of
said ordinance of February 20th1899, adequate for the service of twenty
thousand (20,000) subscribers prior to June 1, 1911, or if, at 'any time
AFTER said June 1, 1911, the said Illinois Tunnel Company, its successors
and assigns, shall not have in operation or shall cease to operate a tele
phone system SERVING twenty thousand (20,000) bona-fide subscribers,
then, and in each such case, said Illinois Tunnel Company, its successors
and assigns, SHALL FORFEIT TO SAID CITY, OR ANY LICENSEE OR
GRANTEE OF SAID CITY, ALL RIGHTS ACQUIRED UNDER THE SAID
ORDINANCE OF FEBRUARY 20, 1899, TOGETHER WITH ITS PLANT
AND EQUIPMENT TO SAID CITY, OR TO ANY LICENSEE OR GRAN
TEE OF SAID CITY."
Both parties to that agreement, the City and the Company, understood
the meaning of those paragraphs. If any legal representatives of either
City or Company knew, or thought he knew, that those paragraphs were
illegal and pure bunk, then he dehberatelyattempted tox deceive the coun
cil and the people of Chicago. O yes, therejare judges who might be per
suaded to "abhor a forfeiture." And they, might think they were entirely
honest about it
But in the face of such plain language as I have quoted from, the
franchise ordinance, the average man will have mighty little respect for
the law if the courts should hold to a secret interpretation instead of the
plain wording, of the ordinance.
But council isn't bound by the opinions of the lawyers hired by the
Chicago Tunnel Company or its bondholders. Neither is Council bound
by the opinion of the Corporation Counsel, if he should happen to squint
at the law through the same smoked glasses as the attorneys for the com
pany and its bondholders.
The plain duty of Council is to fight for an jnterpretation of the word
ing of that ordinance which protects the rights of the people of Chicago.
There is always the chance that a judge may be found who believes
(WKWFWI' '1 PP IP J i ' i;
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