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Inaugural Interview with City Councilor Sal LaMattina – Part 1

This is the first in a series of articles from an interview with District 1 City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina following this week’s inauguration. Councilor LaMattina is beginning his second term representing the North End/Waterfront neighborhood as well as East Boston, Charlestown and parts of Beacon Hill & Downtown.

District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina at City Hall
District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina at City Hall

As he begins his second full term, District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina knows what he wants to accomplish. While the City Council will take on a wide-range of issues, LaMattina is most focused on “taking care of the neighborhoods.”  In our interview, LaMattina always turned the conversation back to the neighborhood streets and providing basic city services. Acknowledging the criticism that he avoids the spotlight on some larger city-wide issues debated in the City Council, LaMattina is very comfortable putting almost all of his efforts into the local communities that make up District 1.

District1MapThe North End gets more than its share of media attention, but it is a distant third in terms of population as part of District 1, following the larger East Boston and Charlestown communities. Councilor LaMattina recognizes “the challenge in a district that includes the richest and the poorest within the city.” An interesting geographic distinction is seen on the map to the left where LaMattina’s district includes almost all the waterfront communities surrounding Boston Harbor. Still, the North End benefits from its fabled reputation, historic attractions, tourists, changing residential profile, famous restaurants and shops. The media loves to focus on the North End as recently shown by the extensive TV and print coverage of the latest assault near the Nazzaro Center, while more serious crimes in other areas go largely uncovered.

LaMattina reiterated his excitement in starting a new term and said he is looking forward to “hearing from the people in the community and letting them know they have a voice at City Hall.” As a lifelong resident of East Boston where he lives with his wife and daughter, LaMattina has been in public service for most of his adult life. In the mid-1980s, he worked for the Crossroads Family Shelter in East Boston, helping homeless families find housing before taking a position in the Mayor Flynn’s office as the neighborhood liaison for both the North End and East Boston. In 1999, he left the mayor’s office to become an assistant director for the Central Artery Team. In 2006, he was elected to the City Council to represent District 1.

As Councilor LaMattina’s seniority increases in the City Council, he remains a supporter of Mayor Tom Menino and has developed significant allies including Councilor Mike Ross, who represents adjoining neighborhoods in Beacon Hill and Back Bay. After Councilor Ross was re-elected as President of the City Council, LaMattina said, “Mike Ross and I have worked closely together since I joined the Council because our districts are so close and share many issues in common.  His counsel and friendship have meant a lot to me and I look forward to another great year together.”

On the State level, a strong partnership appears to be developing between LaMattina and State Representative, Aaron Michlewitz, who is also a North End resident. They intend to seek City and State funding to improve a congested Hanover Street.

In the last term, Ross and LaMattina formed the Problem Properties Task Force bringing neighborhood leaders and city agencies together to address quality of life, student and trash issues in Boston’s dense communities. Both councilors are pleased with the progress of the task force and plan to increase its effectiveness over the next term.

Crime and Public Safety

After last week’s assault in the courtyard outside the Nazzaro Center, LaMattina was busy coordinating with the police as well as fielding media and constituent calls. “It especially concerns me if this latest sexual assault is the same person responsible for previous attacks, but so far the police do not believe that is the case. North End residents, especially woman, need to be aware of their surroundings.”

LaMattina will once again ask his brother, a martial arts expert, to lead a self-defense course in the North End. He has also asked the Police Commissioner to have more police patrols in the North End, especially walking on the streets. While he takes all crime seriously, he did note that a women was found in a bag in East Boston recently, a far more severe crime incident that received less attention by the media than the attempted assault in the North End. He reiterated that the North End continues to be one of the safest neighborhoods in Boston.

Trash and Rats

The Councilor has been most visible in the North End on the issue of trash and rodent control. “We have to address it. Household trash is on the streets for 42 hours per week which is unsightly and feeding the rats.” He has proposed changing the timeframe for residents to put out their trash only in the morning from 6am-9am, rather than the night before. Currently, residents can put out their trash starting at 5pm the night before pickup until 7am the next morning, three times per week. The Councilor will continue to work with NEWRA’s Clean Streets committee to gather neighborhood support and feedback.

He is also asking businesses to help by using containers rather than just bags and recycling their bottles. “We all need to work together on this issue.” A major sticking point appears to be the City’s contract with its trash hauler and the cost involved in a later starting time for pickups.

Regarding rat baiting and trapping, “The City is spending more time on the North End than any other neighborhood on this issue and have recently found some rat hotspots,” according to LaMattina. He expects residents will start to see meaningful improvements, although it will be impossible to get rid of the rats completely.

One-hundred year old sewers are a big cause of the rat problem and the Councilor is working with Boston Water & Sewer to start the process of replacing sewer lines as soon as this year. “The sewer work won’t be pretty, but we need to do it.”

LaMattina knows he has two years to work on the rat and trash issue and will make it a focus of his second term.

Future articles in this series will discuss where Councilor LaMattina stands on neighborhood schools, various development proposals, late night revelry, business & economic initiatives, technology, alcohol licenses, LNG tankers, the Greenway parks, balancing the neighborhoods in his district and a new initiative to improve Hanover Street.