VICE COMMISSION BEGINS
First Session Is Flooded with Petitions as to Manner of Moral Cleaning of the
IS ECONOMIC ISSUE ALSO.
Citizen Says Dives Prevent Industrial Expansion; Question of Segregation.
The Chicago vice commission held its first session yesterday and took up the big problem of raising the moral conditions of the city.
At the outset came a flood of petitions urging the abolition of vice centers and generally opposing the policy of "segregation."
Here is the essential question to be determined: Segregation of vice or an attempt to wipe out vicious elements from all parts of the city.
The commission reached no decision regarding this huge problem. It will ask all petitioners to appear before it in person and tell all they know about the conditions they complain of.
Among the petititioners was Percival Steele, attorney to the Fort Dearborn building, owner of west side realty, who in an address before the Cook county realty board at its weekly luncheon earlier in the day told his auditors that the stamping out of vice in Chicago was an imminent economic as well as a moral issue. He said unequal taxation aids vice.
Firmly Oppose Segregation
Some members of the vice commission urged that the commission refuse to recognize that a vicious element has any place in the social economy of a city, and they are opposed firmly to segregation as a solution on the theory that it would give the vicious a legal status to which they are not entitled. It is the contention of these persons that the commission should take it stand for the eradication and expulsion of vice in all its forms.
Other members believe that vice must be recognized and that it should be so curbed and set about by guards as to protect the unwary and uninitiated. It has been learned, however, that the question of policy is so delicate that leaders of the commission have circumvented its discussion as much as possible, and are hold it off until all investigations now being undertaken are completed and all testimony is in.
Petitions from Many Sources
The societies which presented petitions to the commission were: The Presbyterian Ministerial association, the Chicago Law and Order league, the Illinois Vigilance association, the Midnight mission, the Congregational Ministersí union of Chicago, the Young Peopleís Civic league, the churches and Womanís club of Austin, the West Side Business Menís association, Percival Steele.
"It was decided to write to petitioners to give the commission the benefit of all information they possess, and to give any suggestions for remedies for the settlement of existing problems," said Dean Walter T. Sumner, chairman for the commission. "It was decided also that no action would be taken toward the settlement of any question concerning policy until our investigations were completed and conferences could be held.
Invites All to be Heard.
"The commission is anxious that every citizen or organization interested in the problems with which we deal shall be heard, and it invites them to appear before us and express their views. That is virtually all the was done at the meeting today."
Mr. Steeleís petition was presented in behalf of some of the property owners of the west side, who desire to have the vicious element that now infest a large area in the Desplaines street district segregated and driven away from the river, so that the property may be developed industrially. Mr. Steele will be asked to appear before a subcommittee of the commission.
Taxation Blocks West Side Reform
The ultimate obliteration of vice from the west side, said Percival Steele in his earlier address to the Cook county realty board, is almost blocked by a distorted system of taxation. He said the assessments on industrial improvements are unjustly higher than the assessments on immediately adjacent property devoted to vice, although the latter required much more police and fire protection from the taxing powers.
He referred to the suppression of vice along Wabash avenue to Twenty-second street and the increased value since the proper along that and contiguous streets for industrial purposes.
He said the existence of vicious resorts scattered over a large area of the west side vitiates that entire area and blocks the natural expansion of the business interests of the crowded downtown districts into that direction.
He praised the present city administration in connection with the reclaiming of Wabash avenue and then said:
"This step, considered from a real estate standpoint, has not only restored normal values and created a healthy condition along this important street, but likewise has had an important bearing on values in Michigan avenue."
Vice and Industry Face to Face
Regarding the west side he said:
"We have an example of the irreconcilable discordance in real estate values in that section of the west side which is largely a levee district, where properties devoted to vice purposes, affording extraordinary returns to their owners, are scattered over a wide area. While these sites are urgently needed for commercial and industrial purposes, owing to their disproportionate income earning powers, there naturally exists a wide breach between prospective buyer and holder. The difference is irreconcilable and will remain so just so long as the bid is based upon the legitimate earning value of the front foot, and the offer on the illegitimate earning value of the front door.
"That this disproportion between the earning power invariably low assessed improvements devoted to vice purposes, and the higher assessed substantial improvements devoted to legitimate industrial uses, exercises more than a physical injury in retarding growth, arresting development, and contributing to incoherence requires no substantiation by me.
"The presence of vice elements in an industrial area is hardly less injurious to adjoining real estate value than in a residence district once the character of these vice elements becomes clearly apparent."