His city, which had both a strict quarantine and a makeshift hospital at the Steel Company, suffered only about 100 casualties. More corrupt cities like Philadelphia, which failed to plan for or react to this calamity, dumped close to 13,000 bodies outside police stations and in trench graves.
Johnston, an engineer, believed in planning. He opposed private water sources. In fact, in his first message as Mayor, he explained why.
"The municipal problem is primarily and essentially one of human welfare," stated Johnston. "Every municipality is morally bound to furnish to its inhabitants an abundant supply of pure water, the purest air possible, and a well-drained soil (which means proper sewerage), street cleaning, garbage and refuse collection and disposal. Any other than these sanitary standards in a city will be considered, some day in America, as criminal negligence and sufficient cause for just punishment; since public health is a public duty."
At the time Johnston took office, Bethlehem had both a municipal water supply serving West Bethlehem and a private supply for the rest, furnished by The Bethlehem City Water Company. This private company gathered its water from the Lehigh River. It met state quality requirements of 1918. But according to Johnston, it was still contaminated by sulfur, sewage and manufacturing waste.
As Johnston points out, a private company is motivated more by profit than concern for a citizen's welfare.
One important difference between a privately owned and a municipally owned public water works is, that the former is considered in the light of an investment upon which the fixed interest and other charges must of necessity be earned at not less (let us assume) than the legal rate of interest. Hence the water company must consider extensions and improvement of plant and service in the light of probable returns on capital investment, otherwise bankruptcy might result; but a municipality, owning its own water works system, may elect at any time, on the score of public policy, to make extensions and betterments and distribute the cost by general taxation. The facilities and SERVICE ARE PARAMOUNT in the latter case, while in the former, they MAY be subordinate.Those words are as true today as they were in 1918. They demonstrate clearly that Allentown Mayor's short-sighted water privatization plan, is nothing short of what Johnston himself would call "criminal negligence."
In numerous power points, Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski essentially claims he has no choice but to privatize the Queen City's water and sewer. There are no other options, he argues. But that is simply untrue.
First, while demanding state protection for a pension mess caused by the state, Pawlowski could demand some help from Harrisburg while refusing to make the MMO payment until he gets it. If state legislators are so willing to create a gigantic NIZ to help out J.B. Reilly, perhaps they'd also be willing to help out the people they are actually supposed to represent.
Second, Pawlowski could send the pension portfolio to an outfit that actually can generate a higher annual return, instead of one of his campaign contributors. Even a small, 1.5% increase in pension performance can sometimes reduce the annual required payment (MMO) on a pension by as much as one-third.
And of course, there's always the possibility of doing a combination of small tax hikes and borrowing.
None of this three options has even been mentioned, probably because they would work. Besides, I thought the NIZ was supposed to "transform" Allentown. If that is so, why the hell does he need to privatize what Archibald Johnston regarded a moral imperative?
But what the hell did Johnston know? He just steered Bethlehem through a pandemic. He was never a Chicago community organizer.