Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Idaho Governor and Boise Developer John M. Haines [otd 01/01]

Idaho governor, and Boise developer and mayor, John Michener Haines was born January 1, 1863 on a farm east of Des Moines, Iowa. He received a solid education to about the age of twenty, including several years at Penn College (now William Penn University), located about 30 miles south of the family farm.
Governor John M. Haines. [French]

After a couple years as a bank clerk in Nebraska, Haines joined Walter E. Pierce [blog, January 9] and another partner to successfully develop real estate in southwest Kansas. However, the economy went sour there and, in late 1890, the partners moved to Boise. They were soon recognized as “the leading real-estate men of Idaho.”

Haines had been active in Republican Party politics in Kansas and continued that activity in Idaho. For awhile after January 1898, he served on the Boise city council and was elected mayor for a term starting in the spring of 1905.

During his time in office, the mayor managed a number of improvements for the city. Both the police and fire departments were enlarged and reorganized to improve their efficiencies. Officials also planned to pave more streets, or at least surface them with a better grade of crushed gravel.
Early in his term, the city received the bequest for a “Julia Davis Park” from her husband Thomas [blog, tomorrow]. Haines strongly supported the creation of a park, but funding was rejected in a special bond election. Although Haines received the Republican nomination for re-election as mayor “by acclamation,” he was defeated in a close vote.

Still, Haines remained active in politics and took office as Idaho Governor in January 1913. (He was the first to take the oath of office in the brand new capitol building). His messages to the legislature emphasized a methodical, “business-like” approach to government. He also sought action on a number of “social” issues, such as minimum ages for marriage, a one-year residency requirement for divorce, and so on.

In the political arena, the governor asked for many reforms, including the non-partisan election of judges, extension of terms for state officials from two to four years, and more. He also reminded legislators that they must make provision for the direct election of U. S. Senators (required by passage of the 17th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution).
Idaho Capitol Building, ca 1914. [Hawley]

Results from the legislature were mixed, but they did approve three of the governor’s most important suggestions: a Public Utilities Commission, State Board of Education, and Workmen’s Compensation Board. They also voted for non-partisan election of Supreme Court and District judges.

Feeling there was still work to be done, Haines ran hard for a second term. And, until late in the election cycle, he seemed a shoo-in.

Then an investigation uncovered a major embezzlement of funds by the state Treasurer and his deputy. The Treasurer was, and is, a separate elective office. More importantly, the governor – by law – had no control over operations in the Treasury Department. Still, as soon as the miscreant resigned, Haines, as allowed by law, appointed an acting Treasurer. The new man was in place even before the courts had sent the two embezzlers off to state prison.

The legal complexities of the situation apparently escaped most voters. Haines was decisively defeated by Democrat Moses Alexander [blog November 13], even though every other Republican candidate won in the state-level elections.

John M. Haines died from complications of Bright’s Disease, a kidney disorder, in the summer of 1917. He had proved to be a capable and effective public official, but seems to have lacked the “charisma” for long-term success in politics.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“[Haines News Items],” Idaho Statesman, Boise (November 1890 – June 1917).
Robert C. Sims, Hope A. Benedict (eds.), Idaho's Governors: Historical Essays on Their Administrations, Boise State University (1992).

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