By Lorraine Laurie, Green Island neighborhood activist
As a Green Island Neighborhood activist since 1981, I have seen Worcester City government move from 9 At- Large Councilors to 6 At- Large and 5 District Councilors. This was definitely a change for the better, at the neighborhood level and Citywide. The first District 4 City Councilor elected was Janice Nadeau. I had gotten to know Janice through Worcester Fair Share and her efforts to improve the quality of life in her own South Worcester neighborhood.
Janice brought her dedication and no nonsense way of handling neighborhood issues to her job serving the densely populated district. I remember Janice’s many trips and letters to the License Commission when residents felt that there were just too many bars on Millbury Street.
Then there were the years and years of Rt. 146 meetings and Janice was always there advocating for the area. She wouldn’t let the officials and engineers forget that the flooding issues in Green Island and under the Cambridge Street Bridge had to be addressed. Illness, however, forced Janice Nadeau to decide to retire and not seek re-election. The District 4 seat was now up for grabs.
Barbara Haller’s name had been mentioned as a possible successor to Janice. I had first heard of Barbara in articles about the Beacon/ Brightly Initiative. I then started seeing her at meetings involving crime prevention and neighborhood services and funding. Barbara Haller’s name appeared on the ballot at the next election and she was the successful winner of the District 4 seat.
Janice Nadeau was a tough act to follow. She had been noted for her hard work and long hours, exceptional constituent services and ability to speak up for and with her “neighbors.” It would be hard to fill her shoes. Barbara Haller did not attempt to fill Janice’s shoes. She brought her own. Having been involved in Beacon/ Brightly, Barbara had seen problems faced by most inner-city neighborhoods – neglected properties, vandalism, crime, drugs, litter, lack of jobs to name a few. Barbara Haller tackled these problems as a whole and also addressed each neighborhood’s particular issues individually.
At the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. meetings, Barbara has spoken about topics such as staffing in the Police Impact program, the Property Review Team and the Asian Long-Horn beetle problem. Since Crompton Park is an integral part of the Island neighborhood, it is a priority for the neighbors and their District Councilor. There had been a pool at Crompton Park for years and years. They used to refer to it as the “mud hole.” It was a fun place to go and an important part of growing up in the Island. This pool was succeeded by a “modern” pool in the early 1960’s. This pool faithfully served the neighborhood until the City decided to close all the City pools several years ago because they were deemed unsafe and there was lack of funds to repair or replace them.
At the August 6, 2008 Annual Meeting of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc., it was voted unanimously that Crompton Park should have a pool. Councilor Haller was in attendance at this meeting and she heard the message loud and clear. The City had not made any decisions yet regarding the pools. Hearings would be held and the Residents Group requested a meeting in the Island regarding their neighborhood pool. A hearing was held and residents gave testimony. When Councilor Haller attended the August 27, 2009 Annual Meeting of the Residents Group, she told the group that the City Council would vote on September 1 regarding replacing the Crompton Park pool. She was able to carry back to the Council the unanimous support of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. for the building of a new pool. There were no private pools close by – no colleges, no beaches, and no institutions or independently run non-profit clubs.
Councilor Barbara Haller carried the message of the Island residents and those of neighboring lower Vernon Hill to the Council floor and Crompton Park now has a super new pool. Thank you, Councilor Haller!
Over the last five years, especially since the demise of the Canal District Community Development Corporation (formerly known as the Green Island/Vernon Hill CDC), I have worked with Councilor Haller more and more. She is a regular participant at the Green Island/ Lafayette Place Crime Watch meetings. She was in attendance at the Crompton Park Master Plan meetings and even went house to house with me on the neighboring streets to drop off flyers about the meeting.
Just a few Sundays ago, she attended a meeting in regards to the recent flooding in the Island. She is currently working with the City Manager and the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Parks to set up a large meeting with residents and businesses to further discuss this issue and the City’s plan of action.
On a periodic basis, Councilor Haller and I ride around the Island and lower Vernon Hill checking for vacant and foreclosed houses, trash, graffiti, overgrown lots and illegal dumping. Councilor Barbara Haller is just a phone call or e-mail away. As a long time neighborhood activist, I can truly say working with Barbara Haller is a pleasure.