HOTSEAT- Psych! Haskins analyzes Council run

Barbara Haskins

Barbara Haskins deals every day with dysfunctional and unbalanced people. So when she read about the city's last budget, she decided to apply her psychiatric skills to local government and run for City Council.

What particularly got her attention was the city's decision to spend $1 million on an ambulance and staff to improve Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad response times– rather than contribute to the 40-year-old volunteer organization. 

"I was shocked there was no incremental approach to this," she says. "I only had what was available in the paper. That didn't justify a whole new program."

Hearing that the city "has $9.9 million in excess revenue" also sends her on the political warpath. 

"Why isn't that 'excessive taxation'?" she asks. "Why isn't it that they overtaxed? Government bodies have the idea it's their money. But it's taxpayers' dollars."

Galvanized, she's launched a campaign as an independent... sort of. So far, she has a blog, but she's waiting for the summer doldrums to end to officially announce her campaign. And she's carrying around a bag full of newspaper clippings to get up to speed on the issues.

City Council candidates are not often heard to declare, "I enjoy being around people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder because there's an earthy realism." Of course, she is a psychiatrist at Western State Hospital in Staunton. "To the extent you can help them and restore them to sanity– that's a wonderful thing." 

Says Haskins, "I love the brain and the mind and their interface. Where does the brain stop and the mind start?"

Could be a winning skill set for success in local government. But Haskins isn't worried about that. "It not important to me if I'm elected," she says. "It's important that certain issues get discussed, front and center."

Age: 55

Why here? The scale of life here promotes sanity, and the assets of our area are fabulous. I grew up in a military family and moved a fair amount, so I find it very comforting to know I have spent almost half my life here.

What's worst about living here? Figuring out how we can pay for ourselves to be Charlottesville. The rate of increase in taxes is non-sustainable. We love what we have here, but I think it is time for a sober look at our spending. 

Favorite hangout? The area between CHS and McIntire Park. It's a great place to go with my dogs.

Most overrated virtue? For myself, what others may see as being hard working, from the inside might be setting the bar too high, too often.  

People would be surprised to know: I adore ballroom dancing. I have a black belt in karate– from another stage in my life.

What would you change about yourself? All the substantive changes I would make require a time machine. In the present, I'd like to upgrade my dancing skills.

Proudest accomplishment? Providing care to hearing and deaf people with mental illness for 20 years. I've been fortunate enough to work in a variety of settings over the last two decades. Because I sign, I have consulted to deaf people all over the state. When people are suffering from serious brain and emotional problems, it's a privilege to be able to help them get their lives back on track as much as possible.

People find most annoying about you: Being impatient could make their short lists.

Whom do you admire? Kevin Lynch has done an admirable job on City Council– it appears he thinks critically and creatively. I admire many of the psych aides at the hospital, as they give 110 percent to very needy and woebegone souls, and they do it with lots of love for very little money.

Favorite book? Joy Luck Club.  I love how the tragedies in the lives of the mothers reverberate forward and shape the lives of the daughters. Each mother-daughter dyad engages in a dance of trying to come to grips with ancient hurts and losses, without knowing what it is they are doing, of course. It is a very elegant and poignant portrayal of some very basic human issues.

Subject that causes you to rant? City Council unilaterally and unexpectedly setting aside a million dollars to start a new ambulance program. The "data" to support that decision do not add up, and I think this really shortchanges taxpayers, and is not the way to work with wonderful CARS.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? The Internet is pretty amazing.

Biggest 21st-century creep out? National governments still behaving badly disgusts but does not surprise me.  

What do you drive? A diesel Jetta

In your car CD player right now: Homemade CD of ballroom music. And I fall back on XM radio.

Next journey? Louisville, Kentucky, for the National Ballroom Dancing Championships

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I've dodged a lot of bullets.

Regret: I wish I had gone to a college smaller than the University of Michigan– a lot smaller.

Favorite comfort food: Fruit parfait from Whole Foods

Always in your refrigerator: Milk for coffee

Must-see TV: Reality-type elimination dance programs. And if I'm up late, Colbert Report and Mind of Mencia

Favorite cartoon: Rocky & Bullwinkle

Describe a perfect day. High-pressure, blue-sky day in summer or fall. Drink coffee while reading the paper on the patio. Walk my dogs. Bicycle around, enjoying various city or county neighborhoods. Have a swim. Practice dancing. Then cook dinner for friends and eat outside on the patio. And while this is all happening, someone miraculously organizes all the piles of things in the house which I ignored to do those other things.

Walter Mitty fantasy:  To find myself in charge of a large {corrupt} governmental body, as we see in an Eddie Murphy movie, or in Dave. The theme in such movies is that an everyday person with enough common sense and integrity can stop the hijacking of government for insiders' purposes. I just re-watched Dave, and loved the part where he calls in his buddy Charles Grodin, an accountant, to help him find millions to cut from the federal budget.  

Who'd play you in the movie? Barbara Hershey

Most embarrassing moment?  [censored]

Best advice you ever got? There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Favorite bumper sticker? None come to mind. Usually I just wonder how long before the owner wishes it weren't there.

Note: This story appeared in the August 23 edition of the Hook bearing the photographs of another person. It is shown here with the correct pictures and will be republished in the August 30 edition with these correct pictures.