[The following are excerpts from an April 2011 interview with former Councilman Ed Collins, edited by Joe Sack.]
Sack: Ed, can you talk to us a little bit about personal qualities that you think make a good city council member?
Collins: Sure, Joe. I think two of the things that affect it – they’re almost inane – but one is you have to have time.When I was running, I said that if I was working, I wouldn’t have been able to devote what I thought was necessary. Someone running against me said, “You know, the only thing that’s going for him is he doesn’t have a job.” Which was right. So I don’t know that people understand, and I do see you on TV, and sometimes that goes on till 12 and 1 a.m. The other thing – if you can’t add anything then shut up. What I do find, someone will say, “two plus two is four.” Okay. Then someone else has to say, “Yes, but five minus one is four.” That just takes away. That old saying: “Once you’ve made the sale, stop selling.”
Sack: Well, I would beg to differ with your adversary who said the only thing you had to offer was you didn’t have a job. Certainly time is important, but you brought to bear some of your own personal qualities that I think made you an effective council member. Besides just having time on your hands, what are the other things that make for a good member?
Collins: Obviously, the business of listening. And being able to compromise of course is very, very important. I think today you folks are dealing with situations that we didn’t, and I’m not sure how we would have handled them. And I think it goes back to say, “Well you don’t always get what you want, you give a little bit here, a little bit there.”
Sack: What years did you serve on the council, and what were some of the issues going on during that time?
Collins: 1992 to 1997, inclusive. A four-year term, and then it’s not normal, but one of our members had dropped out and so there was a two- year term that came up, so I served six years.Probably the biggest disappointment was that the police merger between Rye Brook and Rye did not take place. Now, I didn’t have much to do with it. In fact, it was mainly Mayor Dunn, but it would have saved an awful lot of money. The police raised the issue of safety. It had absolutely nothing to do with safety; it had to do with jobs. To keep a patrolman on his route for 24 hours, it takes 4.3 people. You’ve got three eight-hour shifts, you’ve got holidays, you’ve got vacations. So, if you could combine or eliminate one shift, we’re talking close to five people and I think you know what the arithmetic is.I don’t know if you remember, but the police came down from East Liverpool because they were afraid that you would merge Liverpool with East Liverpool. West Buffalo came down because they were afraid you might merge. They had signs that said “It’s not a Dunn deal.” So in today’s atmosphere, it might have gone through.
Sack: Can you remember some of the other people you served with that you remember fondly?
Collins: Dick Goldstein and I worked together on union contract issues. Jim Flick was a former cop, you know he put in 20 years. One good thing about Jim was, he knew a lot of background because he was born in Rye. Beth Griffin was on with us. Ellen Millberg. So, we had a very good group.When I think about one session, and I think it was the only one that the Mayor wasn’t there, and I was the acting Mayor. And they claimed that I ran the shortest session on record, and I think they measured it in nano-seconds. By the time I hit the gavel and brought it up, it was all over. So it shows you that we didn’t really have the issues that you folks do. Well we had issues, but they weren’t …
Sack: Can we bring you in to run our meetings? We could at least borrow that gavel that you used.
Collins: Yes, or whatever it was, yeah.
Sack: So, do you remember any funny stories from back in the day?
Collins: You know I can’t think of anything that you’d be rolling in the aisles over. We didn’t have anyone who showed up each time and caused a little bit of a rumpus. The issues – I think it was like when we allowed Adelaide Street to hold a block party. And there was a lot of discussion. We just didn’t give in. Sometimes it was 4-3.
Sack: What would you say to people in the community today who are thinking of maybe getting involved in public service? What kind of pep talk would you give to recruit them?
Collins: I think the plus is you learn a lot about the city. I think it gives you some sense of knowing what’s going on. You end up with I think an appreciation for the city employees, like the clerk Alice Conrad, I think when I was on. Who actually was a nun. I think that’s what she went back to.
Sack: So, aside from the pay, what would you say is the best part of the job?
Collins: I guess it’s again the satisfaction of knowing the city that you’re living in. To me, that was very important. I always felt that I ended up getting more than I gave, because there were so many things that I just wasn’t aware of. You know, such things make you think that this is a pretty nice community.