I am particularly glad that following me this morning is the distinguished Governor of West Virginia. Your Excellency, I am particularly pleased that you are here, because it rather gives a background to what I think is the real crux of this and many other problems.
It is a rather strange thing, if you stop to think about it, that this Conference is sponsored by the Federal Government, officers of the Federal Government, called on invitation of the President himself. I believe, whether you know it or not, that back of the inspiration to do something along this line comes a recognition that the war emphasized particularly that one of the great strengths of this republic of ours lies in these great industrial communities. More munitions of war were turned out in the state that I come from than perhaps any other spot on the face of the globe. While we were considerably late in getting into the fracas, we demonstrated that the industrial communities of America were capable of producing the munitions of war. We were able to fulfill the plea of Winston Churchill for the tools, adequate and in tremendous quantities, and apparently all at once it has dawned on the Federal Government that anything that is done to aid these industrial communities is a good thing for the country.
I recently made a trip with a delegation of mayors from nine different States. We started in my home town, went to Des Moines, Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Ala.; Memphis, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Cincinnati. We did it for two or three purposes: First, to focus attention on this thing that is now nationally recognized, the importance of local government, and to perhaps strengthen the hands of the local officials, and, incidentally, to pick up a few items of information.
I know in a general way, as anyone does who has been long in local government, that all municipalities are in legislative straitjackets. There is no more democracy in the great communities of this great republic than there was in some of the countries that we defeated, and it is only a matter of degree in the various states. I though we were pretty bad in Michigan, but we were not nearly so bad off in Michigan as they are in Iowa.
One of our colleagues, when he got back home to Connecticut, found out that his State was perhaps worse than any he had been into. The great municipalities, starting with New York and going on down the line, are legislative captives, they are starving financially.
You say, “Do a job.” I have yet to hear a recommendation of the one thing that would make it possible to do the job. Some speaker this morning suggested appointing permanent fire prevention committees. We have them trained committees, uniformed committees, with equipment such as it is, who are on the job 24 hours a day. That is were the job is going to be done. Give us the money to engage the men so that inspections at not too long an interval can be made of every home and every building, where the trained eye of a firefighter will go in and point out what is wrong. Give us the finances to equip these men with the kind of equipment that they ought to have, and the job will be done.
I understand that in this audience are representatives of building and construction interests, fire insurance companies. I remember that the gentleman who spoke for fire marshals said something about the tax of $1.50 a thousand that was applied to fire insurance policies that went