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Q&A: New state rep Collins jumps into debate over schools, libraries

Posted by Cara Bayles  December 20, 2010 06:44 PM

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Next month, Nick Collins will be sworn as state representative for the Fourth District, after beating three other Democratic contenders in the primary and a Republican rival in the general election. Your Town caught up with Collins to ask what he views as the key issues facing the district, which includes South Boston and a portion of Dorchester.

nickcollins.jpg
Globe file photo
Nick Collins
Q. You won the primary more than a month ago now. What have you been up to since then?

A. Some issues that developed in the last throes of the campaign carried through November, and those were relative to the school debate based on the proposal put forth by Superintendent Johnson.

In the beginning, the school district was going to close the Roger Clap (Elementary in Dorchester), which is a very small school, well-liked by the parents that send their children there. We saw an opportunity—we being some of the elected officials and the parents—to ask the administration to take a second look at the school, and we kept the pressure up during the school meetings. I think after a second look they saw the opportunity to utilize what's great about the Boston Public Schools: the Roger Clap has a very involved parental organization, it's a very involved school that serves children with disabilities, and a lot of the children are within walking distance. We had some success in keeping it open.

The other is the libraries, which isn't over yet. A meeting at the Washington Village library (in South Boston) was very well attended. So we hope to keep the pressure up and have success with keeping that library open.

Q. It seems like you're going around the district a lot and hearing folks concerns.

A. Yes, not just this campaign, but for several years now. I think I have a pretty good beat on what's going on in the neighborhood from public safety issues to concerns around small businesses and the concerns of seniors.

Q. What are some of the recurring themes you've heard at those meetings?

A. There was a mandatory session for newly elected representatives up at UMass Amherst, it's called the legislative academy … and I was up there during a meeting on public safety in South Boston. There was some general concern about attention being paid on this side of the district, given the economic development coming down the pipeline here. We have an expanded police district, which for the past year now has included Columbia Point, not just South Boston, but also the Polish Triangle and Newmarket Square. It's a big district to cover. But our community is looking for the kind of attention we deserve. In this kind of economy, that issue tends to pick up more, so it's definitely a time that you want to be on top of it.

I had talked during the campaign about a daytime (police) drug unit. I'm not sure where the city's at with that right now. I wanted to make sure we had a serious discussion about that. ...

I intend to pull together some of the state authorities, the MBTA, the state police, to talk about what they can do to improve the situation, because it's not just the city, everybody's got to work in tandem. There are things that happen at the train station, happen on the beach, that happen on the streets. I think a coordinated effort is the best approach.

Q. You have a political background -- you used to work for state Senator Jack Hart. Do you think that experience will help you as a new legislator?

A. When I was in Senator Hart's office, I did some legislative support work, but one of my main focuses was constituent services. Some reps outside of the city may not have the same kind of attention to constituent services, but we'd get calls all the time. I mean, the phone was always ringing off the hood. So, it's important to make sure you're being very attentive to constituents, that's going to be number one, so there's that level of contact. But there's maintaining that representative government people are looking for, while at the same time, trying to develop relationships up in the State House. I'll have to do more listening than talking, that's for sure. But having that balance will be critical to providing the kind of service that the people of the Fourth Suffolk deserve.

Q. Will you refile any legislation from your predecessor, Brian Wallace, that didn't make it this year?

A. There's one specifically I intend to file: The parental-notification bill that requires hospitals to notify the parents of minors when they overdose, even up to 21 years old. That was one I was really supportive of, that I would like to file again.

Q. Any new legislation you'll propose?

A. I haven't finalized anything, but there's some consumer-friendly banking legislation, you know, economic development stuff. There's some public safety ideas, that's going to be a focus in this session for me. ... I can't comment on anything specific, I'm still trying to check on some of what may have been proposed in the past. I'm working with some folks on fine-tuning what exactly I'd like to file.

As for the committee I'm looking to get on—Economic Development and Emerging Technologies—that's very relevant to the district with the emerging waterfront, with the Newmarket Square as an industrial district, as well as the Marine Industrial District and the expansion of the convention center, as well the mayor's vision for the innovation district on the waterfront, which I'm very excited about. That's relevant to the district, as well as Public Safety, which is another committee I'd like to be on. With everything good and bad that comes along with living in a city, being on top of public safety issues is going to be a top priority of mine. Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and Veterans Affairs as well. I don't think I'm going to be able to get on all of them, but I'll be requesting all these, and we'll see what happens, hopefully the leadership will take me in.

Q. Why did you decide to run for office?

A. It's a very historic and ever-evolving district, so I thought the position needed somebody with the positive energy and the body of experiences to represent that. I appreciate the history of this area, and I appreciate how it's always ever evolving, and the different populations that live not just in South Boston but in the parts of Dorchester and Roxbury. I'm pretty well set in terms of understanding where they're coming from. I went to college, I'm from the city, I've done some work for the government, I've done some work for the private sector. There are a lot of people from different walks of life living here. We've got a pretty diverse neighborhood.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com

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