Tag Archives: District 4 City Counilor Barbara Haller

Barbara Haller and Worcester’s trees

By Peggy Middaugh

District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller understands the many values of trees – from shade and beauty to cleaning the air and attracting wildlife – and she especially knows how important they are in District 4. Even though District 4 has been spared from the devastation created in other neighborhoods of the city by the Asian Longhorned Beetle, Barbara was the first City Councilor to show her financial support for the Worcester Tree Initiative and actively encouraged us to plant trees her district.

With her usual style of collaboration and moving things ahead, she contacted me soon after the Worcester Tree Initiative was established in 2009 with a mission: how and where do we get trees planted in District 4? With small yards and narrow sidewalks, are there any spaces left to plant them? So with a “tree focus”, she picked me up in her car and we drove around the district, looking for planting sites. And I must say we were surprised – there were lots of possible places for planting trees!

Next she met with the City Forester, Brian Breveleri to ask for his support to plant street trees in District 4. Most of the City’s replanting efforts at this point were focused in the northern part of the city, where thousands of trees had been cut down as the result of the Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation. But with the backing of City Councilor Haller, Brian was happy to put some resources into this neighborhood. As a result of her persistence and cooperative approach with the city, 250 street trees were planted in the Webster Square area of District 4 in the spring of 2011. Walk down Hitchcock, or Tirrell, or Stoneland streets and you can see the difference it’s made. Mill, Main, and Lucian streets have all been beneficiaries of the District 4 spring street tree planting.

And it’s not over: we’ve just been told that up to another 40 street trees will be planted along Main Street before the end of the season. That’s how collaboration works. And that’s how Barbara Haller makes things happen.

And then there are Beech Trees. They happen to be Barbara’s favorite, and an iconic tree in Worcester’s inner city neighborhoods. Big, beautiful, stately trees, they bring character and charm. In the fall of 2009 UMass Memorial Health Care, the owner of property leased by Family Health Center on Queen Street, had finalized plans to develop a parking lot on an open green space at the corner of Jaques and King Streets. A physician who worked at the Family Health Center brought to our attention that a magnificent healthy beech tree was located on the development site would be cut down to accommodate parking. It was late in the project process, and it wasn’t clear that anything could be done to stop the demise of the tree.

Enter Councilor Haller who loves Beech trees. Because of her existing positive working relationship with UMass Memorial President & CEO John O’Brien, she offered to contact him and advocate for saving the tree. President O’Brien responded positively. The development plans were redesigned around the tree. The parking lot was built and the Beech tree still stands, magnificent as ever.

My experience of working with Barbara is not only that she “gets it” with respect to the importance of trees in the community, but also that she’s built trust, credibility and respect with her colleagues, leaders, and residents of the neighborhoods in District 4 and that those characteristics make her a very effective Councilor for moving District 4 ahead – together!

Thank you, Barbara, for being a true tree hugger!

Peggy Middaugh is the former executive director of the Regional Environmental Council and is now spearheading The Worcester Tree Initiative.

Working with Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller is a pleasure!

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.

Responsible chicken ordinance perhaps coming to Worcester

By Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Halller

In the interest of full disclosure, I once raised chickens. In one case it was while living at a farm-school in Pettigrew, Arkansas, and in the other it was while raising my family in the town of Holland, MA. I love chickens. My kids love chickens. And I can’t wait to raise chickens once again.

Right now it is against the law to have chickens in Worcester. This means that if you go ahead and raise some and someone complains you will be ordered to get rid of them. It also means that if some city person comes to your home or a nearby neighbor for some other reason (noisy party, barking dog, wellness check, etc.) and the chickens are seen that you will be ordered to get rid of them.

The idea of making chickens legal in Worcester has been around for a long time. But nobody got serious about it till a couple of years ago. Kristi Chadwick contacted me and asked for me to help get an ordinance effort going. We now call her the Mother Hen. Kristi did mounds of research about other communities’ ordinance successes and failures. She crafted a draft ordinance, and revised it, and revised it, over and over, as we worked to come up with the best chicken ordinance ever. We wanted a Responsible Chicken Ordinance, one that could get enacted and that protected quality of life for chickens and neighbors.

For many of us, this is not about if we get a chicken ordinance, but rather when we get one. This is happening across the country as more citizens want to participate in growing and controlling their own food, increase quality of their food, reduce transportation pollutions, and educate their children about where food comes from. On top of this, many find this kind of grassroots agriculture as fun and healthy.

Los Angeles, Rogers AK, Key West, South Portland ME, Madison, New York City, Portland OR, Seattle and Spokane WA, San Antonio, Oakland and San Diego and San Francisco CA, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, and many, many more towns and cities now allow chickens. Providence passed her ordinance last fall.

Along the way, word got out about this effort and others joined in. My Clark intern in 2010, Lilly Denhardt, did some research. Mayor Joe O’Brien joined. Regional Environmental Council (REC) joined. Casey Starr joined. Joe Scully joined. Liz Sheehan Castro joined. Peggy Middaugh joined. By this spring, the effort definitely had momentum and it was time to move it into the Council process.

A group of us met with the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Dale Magee, and the Director of Public Health, Derek Brindisi, and went over the proposed ordinance, section by section, and listened to concerns raised. More revisions were made; the text was put in cleaner ordinance format.

Our ordinance allows for up to 5 chicken hens. No roosters, no slaughtering, no selling. Property owner’s permission is required. Backyards only. Annual license. City-approved coop. Outside only. At least twenty feet from neighbor’s house. Fenced enclosure.

Word continued to spread. More people joined in support. On June 14, 2011 Mayor O’Brien and I filed a council order requesting that the City Manager provide council with language similar to our draft ordinance which would allow for the keeping of chicken hens in Worcester. The request was sent to the Council’s Standing Committee of Public Health and Human Services for further discussion and recommendation. Councilor Phil Palmieri chairs this committee; the other two members are Councilor Konnie Lukes and myself.

The process is likely to be as follows: Councilor Palmieri schedules a hearing. Testimony is taken from the public, from city officials from Animal Control, Public Health, Planning Department (land use), and the Law Department. There may be more committee hearings scheduled, depending on the issues raised. At some point the committee will make a recommendation back to the full council: in favor, opposed, or in favor as amended by committee. Then the council will take a vote to support the committee’s recommendations or not. Six votes are needed. Members of the council could raise additional questions, could hold it for a week or forever. If we get the votes we need, the ordinance would be published for additional comments and then the final vote taken.

So, we have a way to go yet. But with strong advocacy and engagement we could have spring chicks 2012. (Rule is: Spring chicks, September eggs.) Hopefully we will soon answer the question “which came first.” For Worcester, many of us want the answer to be “the chicken.”

I believe that we have crafted a responsible and workable ordinance that will make Worcester a better place.