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Haller cites experience, advocacy
Incumbent faces challenger in District 4
October 4, 2007

By Lee Hammel TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Reprinted from the Worcester Telegram article

WORCESTER— The way Barbara G. Haller sees it, the District 4 City Council election campaign is about experience versus rhetoric.

And Ms. Haller has experience not only in being the three-term incumbent, but in defeating her challenger, Lynne Simonds, in two elections. Ms. Haller won by 271 votes two years ago, and by 649 votes in 1973, when Ms. Simonds ran a write-in campaign.

She said, “I have a record of accomplishment that has moved the district forward,” a district that she calls the most vibrant in the city. Retired three years ago from National Grid (formerly New England Electric) as supervisor of meter testing, the electrical engineer promised to continue being a full-time city councilor.

 

The first accomplishment she lists is successful advocacy for saving community policing when budget times were tough this year. Ms. Haller said she is also particularly proud of the work she has done to get the city administration to crack down on “persistent problem properties,” whether in Housing Court for code violations or criminal court for drug violations.

Asserting that District 4 has more neighborhood organizations than any other district in the city, she said she played an important role in the formation and support of such neighborhood associations as East Highland Area, Elm Park-Lincoln Estates, and Chandler Business Association. She prides herself on being a founding member of Worcester Lead Action Collaborative, which is channeling $3.8 million into reducing the risk of lead poisoning in the city’s children.

Ms. Haller said three of the five Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas that channel federal funds into improving neighborhoods in the city are in District 4.

A VISTA volunteer 40 years ago, Ms. Haller, 58, takes credit for playing a leadership role in the debate in the city over services for homeless people. A member of the City Manager’s Task Force on Homelessness as well as chairwoman of the City Council’s Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, Ms. Haller said parts of District 4 have too many such services.

Of the debate over where such services should be, she said, “It doesn’t bother me that it’s not pretty. I think these are issues that people have very strong feelings about and need to be able to express those feelings on all sides of the issue.”

Ms. Haller said, “I’m not anti-social services. I’m anti-unmanaged social services industry, an industry that allows for neighborhoods to be overwhelmed, whether by siting of social services or by the people who have failed in their programs.”

She called for implementing the entire 2005 report of the Mayor’s Social Service Task Force, of which she was a member. The task force called upon social service agencies to voluntarily adhere to siting guidelines, for the state to develop a mandatory requirement for the agencies to do so, and for the city to establish a liaison to ensure that the agencies adhere to that.

Ms. Haller advocates for “managed local control for social service sitings, programs and accountability: Are they producing the effect we need to have them produce? It is not happening now.”

But Ms. Haller said, “I am pleased there appears to be some good progress at the PIP shelter since SMOC took over.” While the People in Peril homelessness shelter is “an obsolete model,” she said, the census there is falling and South Middlesex Opportunity Council seems to be “moving toward their commitment to close the shelter.”

The three-term councilor is a big fan of City Manager Michael V. O’Brien, and she and Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty gave him the highest marks of the 11 councilors in his annual evaluation this year.

Ms. Haller said there was never a fiscal crisis in the city government this year, but only “open and transparent government” in which residents saw the councilors get to work solving the potential $21 million deficit of which Mr. O’Brien warned them late last year.

She said the requirement that she and the majority of the council approved for retired city employees to give up city health insurance, in favor of Medicare, “was a reform that needed to be done.”

Ms. Haller, who is about to become a grandmother for the second time, said she has voted for the lowest residential tax rate all five times she had the opportunity.

She said if it were necessary to avoid “a downward spiral” of cutting community policing or a fire recruit class, she would vote to raise taxes instead, but added, “I’m very pleased we didn’t have to.”

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