Local Politics

Local politics were spirited but rarely bitterly partisan, as Republicans continued to hold city offices. The active participation of the Ann Arbor Citizens Council in local issues furthered the city's tradition of responsible government. In general the council's deliberate actions on city ordinances and appropriations provoked little controversy. The institution of parking meters in 1937 was an exception, however.

No one denied that lack of parking forced motorists to circle the block endlessly and reduced business. But opponents argued that the meters could not create additional parking space. Despite vigorous opposition and Mayor Walter C. Sadler's veto, the city council authorized the seemingly exorbitant sum of $15,000 to purchase Ann Arbor's first parking meters. By the end of the decade, their existence was accepted, and the revenues from the meters were used to improve off-street parking for business employees.

During the last three years of the decade Ann Arbor's attention was increasingly drawn beyond local issues. In January 1937 its National Guard unit boarded the train to assist in the unprecedented Flint sit-down strike. With the peaceful settlement of that strike, new hope fueled labor union activity. Although an ensuing wave of sit-down strikes exasperated communities across the nation, labor unions, aided by the Wagner Labor Act, gained a new place in American industry.

Ann Arbor participated in this trend on August 3, 1937, when two-thirds of the 300 workers at the American Broach Company sat down inside the plant. The persuasive intervention of Mayor Sadler, together with an injunction in the hands of Sheriff Jacob B. Andre, removed the strikers to the street. There they maintained a picket until, on the third day, County Prosecutor Albert J. Rapp (wearing a white straw hat) notified the strikers that negotiations between the company and the UAW in Governor Frank Murphy's office had reached an agreement. The strikers moved to a nearby church and peacefully accepted the company's promise to initiate collective bargaining.

International crises also appeared in the headlines. Fighting in Spain and China and the growing power of Hitler and Mussolini threatened American isolation. Debates over neutrality, preparedness, and munitions makers' profits rang out from the Michigan Daily. The rest of the town, however, noted each new development and hoped that the country could avoid the horrors of war without sacrificing the ideals of democracy.

More than ever, at the end of the decade the town's future was inextricably linked to the fate of the nation. With airplanes landing near State Street, with the new streamlined Mercury train whizzing between Detroit and Chicago in four hours, and with two-lane highways penetrating the city, Ann Arbor could not escape being involved in World War II to a greater extent than it had been affected by the Great Depression.