Valdez: Citizen rule

In the spring of 1898, Valdez's citizen founders not only voted in and out of office their first Townsite Trustees in a matter of weeks, they made it clear that the citizens expected a prominent role in government. Rather than the representative form of government adopted by the US Constitution, the citizens opted for a more participatory form of government based upon the Miner's Meetings. Miners Meetings were a form of government developed during the California gold rush and later sanctioned by the supreme court. In Miner's Meetings every participant voted and helped to enforce the regulations.

During the spring, summer and fall of 1898, the Valdez citizens expected the Townsite Committee to propose regulations to them which they then could modify and vote upon at Citizen's Meetings. The citizens retained the right to make financial decisions and to dispense justice.

In mass assemblies, the citizens soon passed ordinances giving women the right to own property, requiring sanitation and garbage disposal, prohibiting shooting within 800 yards of the townsite, and protecting the town's drinking water. They changed the Townsite Committee's proposed voter requirement from 30 days residency to two weeks and refused to pass an ordinance setting a uniform punishment for those convicted of violations. It was a heady time for citizens seeking to establish a new town and government on the Alaskan frontier.

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© Copyright 1998 Nancy Lethcoe and Virtual Valdez. This page is a Valdez Gold Rush site.