By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Even after 20 years in politics, Maria Pearson still finds fulfillment in solving residents’ issues.
“I love it,” said Pearson. “It’s the face-to-face conversations (with residents) that I hope can make a difference.”
Pearson last week registered to run for another four-year term to represent Ward 10, the earliest she has done that. Usually she puts her name forward in June.
“People were asking me if I was going to run,” she said. “I kept tell them yes I am. My husband told me I should just get it over with.”
Pearson, 58, served for nine years on Stoney Creek council. Then in 2003 she outlasted five other candidates to win her Ward 10 seat. Pearson was handily reelected in 2006 and 2010 by hefty margins.
The veteran councillor is literally the city’s pothole politician. Over the years Pearson has become well known for fixing her ward’s streets, curbs, sidewalks and potholes.
In 2010, one of the issues going into the election was all councillors received money from provincial grants for capital projects. Some candidates called it a “slush” fund for incumbent politicians. Pearson used her $40,000 to build sidewalks along a few streets, including Frances Drive. She also took some criticism for having Margaret Avenue, where she lives, repaired. Pearson rejected criticisms of both projects, arguing they assisted the entire neighbourhood.
Four years later Pearson is still looking to get more streets improved in her ward, including Kilbourn Avenue and Pine Drive, the north side of the QEW, and hopefully Dewitt Road.
She is hoping the next term will see some work done on the massive Green Shores development proposal that was announced a few years ago. The roadwork has already been done on the property and the developers installed a breakwall.
She has also been shepherding a couple of controversial developments through the planning process, including a residential and commercial project on the north side of the QEW on former Ontario Realty Corporation land and another multi-residential development on Francis Drive.
“The projects are never ending,” she said.
She would also like to get more transit to her ward. Although there is limited bus service along Arvin Avenue for the employees of the large manufacturing businesses, Pearson, who a few years ago took the bus from city hall to Stoney Creek every day, would like to see transit along both sides of the QEW, as people start going to the new Gateway Arena, and as empty buildings start filling up along the South Service Road.
“My dream is to have service throughout that area,” she said.
One of council’s major accomplishments this term was in 2011 when politicians found a compromise solution for area-rating. It kept in place the idea that if an area doesn’t have services, such as transit, those residents wouldn’t have to pay for them. Even though it’s a leftover policy from amalgamation, it remained important for councillors to solve the issue that threatened to cause a serious divide among suburban and urban politicians.
“I’m happy how the process went,” she said.
When Mayor Bob Bratina unexpectedly introduced the amalgamated debate during his State of the City address recently, Pearson wasn’t pleased. It had the potential to create divisions among councillors.
“I didn’t appreciate that,” she said. “You don’t just throw up a sheet of numbers (in a research report by a Western University professor).”
Over her time on the amalgamated council, politicians have worked hard to make the governance work, she said.
“I’ve seen the evolution of how things have gone,” she said. “Look at all the programs we have. It’s not like money is being frivolously spent.”