Team Haverhill will co-sponsor, along with The Eagle-Tribune and a new Haverhill chapter of the League of Women Voters, a mayoral candidates’ forum to be held on the evening of September 10 in City Hall auditorium.

The four declared candidates — Jim Rurak, Sally Cerasuolo-O’Rorke, Red Slavit and incumbent Jim Fiorentini — will be asked to address questions about Haverhill’s future at this event, to which the public is invited. The forum, which will run from 6:30 to 9 p.m, will also be aired live on Haverhill Community Television.

To further its work as an independent, nonpartisan, citizen action group, Team Haverhill decided in February to promote discussion of city finances as one of its top priorities.

“The stakes are high in this mayoral election,” says Team Haverhill co-Chairwoman Alice Mann. “Our city has great possibilities, but those are only pipe dreams without a solid financial plan that makes sense to our citizens. Stop-gap measures won’t do it. We’ll be asking candidates to lay out a strategy for funding the essentials of a vibrant, livable city over the long term.”

By co-sponsoring the mayoral forums and spotlighting candidates’ financial proposals, Team Haverhill hopes to stimulate voter interest and participation in this important election. “Financial policies aren’t glamorous, and they don’t make good sound bites,” Mann says. “But these decisions make or break our hopes for a better Haverhill.”

Financial vitality has been part of Team Haverhill’s vision for the city since the group was launched in the fall of 2005. With the support of the Greater Haverhill Foundation and Atkinson Associates, an Atlanta-based community planning firm, Team Haverhill conducted more than a dozen citizen focus groups, drawn from a wide spectrum of Haverhill residents. Frequently expressed hopes were brought together in a “community vision,” complete with color drawings of the vital and livable city Haverhill could become with strong citizen support.

Several features of Team Haverhill’s vision, including a recreational loop along both sides of the river, have already elicited broad public interest and discussion. Team Haverhill has also partnered with LEAP Haverhill! over the past two years to launch a downtown mural project that will unveil its first six panels this fall.

In other initiatives, Team Haverhill has helped secure state funding for the recent Urban River Visions planning project; urged the creation of an official Downtown Task Force, which is now completing a downtown master plan; partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a winter tree-lighting project that was an immediate hit with residents; and collaborated with the library staff to launch a historic-house signage project that was quickly oversubscribed.

“Right now, we have a terrific opportunity,” Mann says. “Over the past two years, conversations about the city’s future have been hosted by three different groups — Team Haverhill, Urban River Visions, and the city’s Downtown Task Force — each of which has issued a proposed plan.

“While there are differences, it’s the common goals that really stand out, like creating the river loop, improving safety and cleanliness, clustering more specialty shops, restaurants and culture venues in the heart of downtown, and requiring designs that highlight Haverhill’s unique character.

“In the next two years, we need strong mayoral leadership to under-gird these hopes with a solid financial strategy.”

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