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Barbara's Response to Questions from Real Solutions
August 20, 2007

To: Real Solutions
85 William Street
Worcester, MA 01609

1. I find this question to be a bit degrading. I have learned that identifying people in this manner often serves to separate. Using an adjective with the noun often has the effect of focusing on the adjective rather than the subject of the sentence. For instance, I no longer refer to a person with a disability as a disabled person, but rather as a person with a disability. I understand that this cannot be a hard and fast rule (for example, youth) however in this case I find your choice of "poor people" to be in bad form.

I assume that the question is asking what experience I have working with people of limited income. The answer is "plenty." The most obvious connections:

· District 4 Councilor since 2002
· present board member of Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC)
· active member of several organizations prior to my election (Main South CDC, Worcester Common Ground, Beacon-Brightly, YMCA)
· former owner of a business in District 4
· current resident of District 4
· former VISTA volunteer in inner-city Chicago in 1968
· personal low income 1968-1980

The common thread is these connections is recognizing that improvements in quality of life is needed and achievable, clearly identifying unmet needs, putting together a strategic plan to address those needs, and knocking down barriers to progress as they arise. Access to education, jobs, adequate housing, health care, child care, transportation are reoccurring needs in a context of personal responsibility and achievement and societal resources and barriers.

City government must balance needs with resources. As I speak with people throughout District 4 I find people who feel that small businesses are underserved, that families of moderate income are underserved, that persons with disabilities are underserved, that our youth are underserved, that persons over 65 years of age are underserved, that our parks are underserved, that institutions are underappreciated, and on and on. I believe that this is all true. We do not have the revenue or staff to meet all needs at all times.

believe that, in general, it is a mistake for underserved populations to feel they are victims of discrimination or scorn. I believe that it is in peoples' best interests to find empowerment for change. I have worked with the people of District 4 (and beyond) to teach how to access city government resources and how to work to improve both access and resources.

2. Despite RealSolutions opening statement about "changing the climate of hostility towards the poor in our city" it is my experience that our city is quite supporting to people of limited income. As a city councilor I do not experience "hostility towards the poor" - quite the contrary. The city realizes that increasing the quality of life for residents is key to Worcester's success and has taken many steps to relieve the effects of poverty and to provide opportunity for increased income and/or access to lower cost basic household needs. RealSolutions does no good in portraying the city as anti-poor, in fact it does harm in its attempts to polarize our city into haves and have-nots.

Housing costs are clearly a serious stress on many households; two or more family incomes with two or more jobs are increasingly needed to meet household income needs, especially those households earning minimum wage or near minimum wage or large households needing 3or more bedrooms.

As a neighborhood activist and as the District 4 City Councilor, I have advocated for community development corporations (Main South CDC, Worcester Common Ground, now quiet Canal District CDC) and local housing developers (Worcester Community Housing Corp, South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corp, Whittier Terrace Corp, Winn Management, Worcester Housing Authority, and prior to my election, ZU Development) to develop housing for low to moderate income households.

I have supported community health care regardless of income and insurance (Family Health Center, Helen A Bowditch Community Health Center, school based health centers). I have supported food pantries, and after school programs, summer jobs, ESOL, and other efforts to provide support for families as their stretch their limited dollars. On the state level I have advocated for increasing the minimum wage and universal health care. I support the new Technical High School and its commitment to community education. I have worked with our District 4 higher educational institutions (Becker, WPI, Clark, College of the Holy Cross) for access to resources to the neighborhoods.

We all need to continue to advocate for these things.

3a. I support the recommendations of the Mayor's Task Force on the Siting of Social Service Programs. I believe that if the recommendations are implemented that the city, its neighborhoods, and the people served through group homes would all benefit. The report embraces a fair share, distributed and accountable system of providing group homes.

Presently District 4 has the vast majority of programs - large and small, well managed and not. I believe that the present system of siting supports social service ghettoization to the detriment of District 4 and the clients of the various social service programs. We can do much better and I continue to advocate for such.

3b. The Federal Fair Housing Act and the Massachusetts Dover Amendment provide for the rights of people within identified protected status to live where they choose.

4. In the 60's urban blight was largely met with urban renewal programs that in reality amounted to urban removal. Today, this is much less so. Neighborhood activism, federal and state requirements, local zoning requirements, and good public practice offer much more protection to vulnerable populations when economic development works to bring change to traditionally low income areas.

In District 4, much of the new housing has been done in vacant building and empty lots with little impact on surrounding rents. Much of this new housing is affordable to low to moderate income households. New businesses have largely been small scale, owned and operated by local people.

More development is needed in District 4 - to bring jobs, disposable income, to increase pressure for better transportation and city services, and to reduce blight. I welcome economic development to our city and see it as a means for improving the quality of life for all of our citizens.

Barbara G. Haller
Moving forward together.

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