Francis Kanning Mott (January 21, 1866 – December 16, 1958) was Mayor from 1905-1915, notable for building the heck out of Oakland (such as the current City Hall, Oakland Auditorium (later renamed to Kaiser Convention Center) many public schools, and Mosswood Park, among other things); for accommodating the SF earthquake refugees so deftly that reportedly more than half of them later moved here; and for finally prying the hated Carpentier’s bony fingers off of Oakland’s valuable waterfront (something desired for 50 years).

Early Life

As a young man, Mott worked for Western Union Telegraph Company as a clerk and then the first telephone operator in Oakland. He was active in several businesses and created a proto-Chamber of Commerce. Mott was President of the Frank K. Mott Company.

Public Office

Mott when elected to president of Council, 18969Mott believed that businessmen should be involved in politics and the shaping of the city. He joined the City Council in 1895 by appointment by Mayor Pardee. He was elected again in 1896, and although nominated again in 1897, he returned to business. In 1899 he went back to City Council and represented the First Ward until elected mayor in 1905. 2

In 1907, he was appointed a director of the Security Bank and Trust of Oakland.

He became involved in real estate and was a popular and Progressive (capital P not lower case. Today he'd be called a pro-business "good government" type) mayor who "initiated civil service jobs" and "secured adoption of a new city charter." 3 Perhaps motivated by his business interests, Mott wanted Oakland to be recognized nationally, so he improved fire and police departments, public works, parks, and more.

During his time in public life, he was nominated by the Republicans, but he was endorsed by the Municipal league and the Democrats, as well as that of the Union Labor party. When running for re-election for mayor in 1911, Mott ran against Thomas Booth, a Socialist in the primaries. Neither won a plurality and there was another election in May. 1 Mott won.

Mott wrote a book, A Review of Municipal Activities in the City of Oakland, California 1905-1915.

Recall Attempt

Mott survived the city's first recall election, initiated by the Socialists and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, known as the 'Wobblies'), on August 5, 1912. The vote was 17,110 (or 17,139) in favor of keeping Mott in office, and 10,850 (or 10,846) against. 7,9

The City Charter had recently been changed regarding recalls of elected officials. Bay Area Socialists were upset because Oakland police had broken up a meeting at Hamilton Hall, and prevented them from meeting in the street. 12 The IWW was upset because a ferry full of workers coming from San Francisco to Oakland had been met at the docks, detained, and put on a ferry back to San Francisco. The mayor of Berkeley, J. Stitt Wilson (himself a Socialist) roundly criticized the Oakland authorities, and may have suggested the idea, though he denied it. 13

Seven reasons were given for the recall by the Socialists:

  1. Charges of misuse of the waterfront for fifty years and that it hag been turned over to corporate interests.
  2. That contracts for work on the new city hall, amounting to $500,000, have been illegally let.
  3. That personal property taxes have been collected at the rate of 60 per cent in excess of the lawful rate.
  4. That money in the hands of the City Treasurer has been unlawfully deposited.
  5. That the city charter and the whole principle of the commission form of government have been nullified "by abrogating the power of the Commissioner of Public Works to make appointments appointments in his own department and by placing the control of the department of the public works in the commissioners as a whole."
  6. That the police department has been used at public expense for the protection of corporate interests and has imported "thugs and gun men" to act as strike-breakers.
  7. That the police have forcibly prevented the right of free speech and public assembly.

A recall could be started with the signatures from more than 15% of the number who voted in the last mayoral election. 8 The Oakland Tribune ran an editorial calling Wilson a 'busybody' and suggesting that Berkeley recall him—at least to Berkeley. 10 Ironically, Berkeley was in the midst of its own recall election of school board members. 11

Initially the Socialists planned to recall the entire administration, but later they decided to focus on Mayor Mott, Fred C. Turner, and William J. Baccus. Commissioners Harry S. Anderson and John Forrest (a union candidate) would not be part of the recall. The focus would also be less on the free speech issue and more on the administration being unfriendly to labor. 14

Links and References

  1. "Mott and Booth Are Victors in Oakland's Mayoralty Fight." San Francisco Chronicle: April 19, 1911
  2. "Frank Kanning Mott." Western Edition Notables of the West, Vol 1. New York: International News Service, 1913
  3. Blackford, Mansel G. The Lost Dream: Business and City Planning on the Pacific Coast, 1890-1920. Ohio State University Press, 1993
  4. Ritter, Jonathan. The American Civic Center: Urban Ideals and Compromise on the Ground. ProQuest, 2007
  5. Alameda County: The Eden of the Pacific. Tribune Publishing Co: 1898
  6. "NAMED PRESIDENT OF OAKLAND'S COUNCIL." San Francisco Chronicle: Apr 7, 1896
  7. Frank K. Mott on Wikipedia
  8. Recall of Officials is Aim Oakland Tribune March 11, 1912 (p2)
  9. Oakland Finds Recall Rules Need Changes San Francisco Call August 7, 1912
  10. Berkeley's Busybody Mayor Oakland Tribune March 11, 1912
  11. Many Sign Petitions to Recall Directors Oakland Tribune February 22, 1912
  12. Will Meet to Start Recall Oakland Tribune March 7, 1912
  13. Wilson Denies He Fathered Recall Oakland Tribune March 13, 1912
  14. Mott, Turner and Baccus in Recall Oakland Tribune March 18, 1912