Councilman D. Michael Collins would be the first to admit he is not Mr. Charisma. He isn’t big on “the vision thing,” either. He reminds me of Mayor Tom Menino of Boston — not a smooth or always a coherent talker, but a good nuts-and bolts guy.
Mr. Collins even looks a little like Mr. Menino.
Mr. Collins is a cop, an ex-cop (27 years), but that’s a core of who he is: a straight-up guy who sees himself as the good guy in most scenarios.
Mr. Collins, also an ex-Marine, ducks no issue. He is both blunt and encylopedic.
He says he would fire police Chief Derrick Diggs, the current mayor’s close ally and perhaps the second most most powerful person at Government Center.
Mr. Collins calls the mayor’s administration “arrogant and incompetent.”
He asks, logically, how the mayor can brag about a $5 million surplus and the deputy mayor can then call the surplus “small.” Mr. Collins says he wants some of that money for union givebacks, which is politically smart. You could also ask, as several candidates for City Council already have, why some of that money could not be used to give kids with nothing to do some work, maybe in the parks, in the summer.
Mr. Collins, an ex-head of the patrolman’s union, has a very specific proposal on public safety: He wants to hire 40 new police officers, per year, for four consecutive years.
He also wants to reduce the number of command officers. He says there is a 1-to-3 ratio of command officers to patrol officers, which he calls “totally insane.”
Mr. Collins says he would change the management of all of city government. He says he would clean house and make city government more efficient — and he would be looking, in detail, at “best practices” in other cities.
I believe him. As a councilman, he’s done his homework, and then some — sometimes emerging as a leader, sometimes as a gadfly. He doesn't seem to have cronies and hangers-on, waiting to be handed a job — a good and a bad sign.
Mr. Collins says two things are key to any city: trust in government and the soundness of the public education system. Mr. Collins says his city government will listen and be competent. I have a friend who is in an extended battle with the city and county who says that, to her surprise, Mr. Collins is the only person who has listened to her and really tried to help her. But I see little evidence that he has much understanding of the schools, or what teachers face every day.
And here, perhaps, is the hint of a fatal flaw: lack of empathy. How would Mr. Collins relate to the black or Hispanic communities? I'm not sure.
Mr. Collins’ other problem is money. He has very little for his campaign so far and is not planning to run TV ads in the primary.
He is a solid, serious, righteous, and sometimes self-righteous, guy. He deserves the sort of consideration he will probably not get unless either Joe McNamara or Anita Lopez self-destruct.
Without money, he probably doesn’t get past the primary.
And without empathy, he’d be another distant mayor.
Mayor Menino has empathy.
Keith C. Burris is associate editor of The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.