William H. Edwards was elected to City Council (during the "Commissioner" period) in 1915 and 1919.


William Harry Edwards served as Commissioner of Revenue and Finance under the commissioner system of government. He was elected in 1915 at the same time as Mayor John L Davie and fellow Commissioner Francis F Jackson. Edwards and Jackson had been endorsed by Davie who argued that he needed City Council on his side in order to be effective. 3 When the three moved in to office, they made a lot of changes including axing Police Chief Walter J. Petersen and replacing him with William F Woods. Davie et al fired 7 department heads in total. 2

In 1916, Edwards was tasked with creating a new budget. He was hoping to turn it in by July 25, 1916, even though the charter only required that it be turned in before the last Monday in August but it turned out to be more complicated than initially thought. Somewhere between the election and budget time, Davie and Edwards had become the last members of the trio of allies. Jackson, William Baccus and Harry Anderson all had bigger budgets. The word on the street was that Edwards was hoping that Jackson would get recalled and would be replaced by Davie with a new ally who would not demand tax increases.5 In mid-August, Edwards' budget proposal came out: he proposed a tax rate increase of 5 cents to $1.90 and over one million dollars in cuts to various departments. Without his cuts, the tax rates would rise to $2.60. The department heads were very upset at this budget proposal. Proposed cuts to public safety, run by Jackson, (police, fire, etc) were $181,000. Money was kept in the budget for dredging. Jackson rushed home from vacation in San Diego to be at the City Council meeting where the budget would be discussed. 6

Anderson, Baccus and Jackson came back later in August with a new budget proposal that would increase the tax rate to $1.88, lower than that proposed by Edwards. This budget cut departments controlled by Davie, Edwards and their appointees and gave more appropriations to departments controlled by Anderson, Baccus and Jackson. They proposed to keep the taxes down by increasing revenue from "other than the usual sources." 7

It's not clear if the budget was resolved in 1916. In 1917, a budget was passed (3-2) with a tax rate of $1.69. This time Jackson and Fred F Morse voted against it. 8 (Sound familiar?)

In 1919, Edwards also made the news for his budget planning. Because of prohibition, Oakland was losing revenue. He proposed taxing people by occupation. The list of occupations is quite extensive. 12taxed occupations.pdf

At some point in 1916, Chief Petersen had been restored to his position, Woods not having lasted very long. Petersen and fell under Commissioner Jackson and things weren't going so well and things got kind of ugly. A new alliance developed with Jackson and ? on one side and Edwards, Baccus and Anderson on the other. 9 A proposal was made for Edwards and Jackson to switch roles: Edwards would be come the Commissioner of Public Health and Safety and Jackson would take over Edwards' role. This idea was held over as Jackson was facing a grand jury investigation. 10

It didn't get much better politically for Edwards who was also involved in two failed recall attempts. At one point he and Mayor Davie denied having ever having been involved in an alliance with Commissioner Frederick Soderberg who accused them of slighting him politically, and at another point Edwards accused Davie of war profiteering.

In 1916, Edwards was involved in attempt to hold a recall election by the Chauffeurs' Union who wanted to recall Mayor John L. Davie, Commissioners Baccus (who was also involved in a recall attempt in 1912) and Anderson. 4

In 1917, a group formed to oust Mayor Davie from office. They sought to remove Davie from office for violating the trust of the people. Edwards was allegedly incompetent. 11Not clear if this went anywhere.

In 1920, Soderberg, Morse and Edwards were the subject of another recall. Soderberg was the primary target and Morse and Edwards were backup candidates for removal. Unsurprisingly, the reason given was forming a "combination in political bickering detrimental to the city of Oakland." 13 The recall was ruled out because many of the petitions weren't properly signed.

Edwards lived at 820 54th Street. 1

Other Positions in Government

  • 1915 Board of Education

Links and References

  1. Polk-Husted Directory. 1916.
  2. "MAYOR SWINGS OFFICIAL AX IN OAKLAND: Seven Heads of Departments Removed at Incoming of Davie Administration SCHOOL BOARD CHANGES Woods Supplants Petersen as Police Chief--Morf Named for City Attorney." San Francisco Chronicle: July 2, 1915.
  3. "DAVIE IS CHOSEN OAKLAND MAYOR OVER BILGER: W. H. Edwards and Dr. F. F. Jackson Are Elected City Commissioners." San Francisco Chronicle: May 12, 1915.
  4. "OAKLAND RECALL ISSUE IN TANGLE: As Chauffeurs' Union Drops Matter, Others Present Verified Signatures." San Francisco Chronicle: Apr 16, 1916.
  5. "OAKLAND TRIES TO CUT TAX RATE: Situation in Council May Be Changed by Jackson Recall Election." San Francisco Chronicle: July 16, 1916.
  6. "BUDGET WAR IS IMPENDING IN TRANSBAY CITY: Commissioner of Revenue and Finance Trims Allowances of Oakland Officials HE SETS $1.90 TAX RATE Edwards Makes Reductions of $1,038,654; Numerous Protests Are Heard." San Francisco Chronicle: Aug 15, 1916.
  7. "TAX RATE OF $1.88 PROPOSED FOR OAKLAND: Budget With Increased Appropriations of $103,472 to Go to Council Monday." San Francisco Chronicle: Aug 27, 1916.
  8. "CITY COUNCIL FIXES NEW TAX RATE AT $1.69." San Francisco Chronicle: Aug 22, 1917.
  9. "CHIEF PETERSEN IS SUSTAINED BY COMMISSIONERS: New Alignment in Council Revealed by the Vote." San Francisco Chronicle: Dec 13, 1916.
  10. "OAKLAND POLICE ROW MAY CAUSE A DEADLOCK: Council Will Not Act Until the Accused Commissioner Has Faced Grand Jury." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 9, 1917.
  11. "SECRET MEETING PLANS CAMPAIGN AGAINST DAVIE: Commissioner Edwards Also Said to Be Slated for Removal From Office." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 24, 1917.
  12. "News of Interest From East Bay Communities: TAX PROPOSED ON BUSINESS BY ORDINANCE ." San Francisco Chronicle: Nov 30, 1919.
  13. "RECALL NOTICE FILED AGAINST OAKLAND MEN." San Francisco Chronicle: Apr 11, 1920.