Maria Pezzano was the last person to register for the election to run in Ward 1, but she's in it, as they say, to win it. A life long Guelphite, Pezzano grew up surrounded by her tight-knit Italian-Canadian family. "There was always the aroma of fine foods cooking," she says. "The main ingredient was always love." Working her way through Sacred Heart School, St. James School and Bishop Macdonell High School, Pezzano made her way to Fanshawe College and then came back to Guelph to start her career as an artist 27 years ago. She's had studios on Wyndham St., and in the Trafalgar Building, but he current artistic works can be seen and bought at Studio Boutique at 77 Suffolk St. W. Since 2010, she's been involved in mobilizing and organizing The Ward Residents’ Association, a group of citizens that came together to offer input and influence in regards to the development on 5 Arthur St. S. So what would Pezzano do for Ward 1? Read her candidate questionnaire below to find out.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
My cousin Jim Furfaro confirmed to me that he was stepping down from being a Councillor for Ward 1 on August 27th. After studying the 4 candidates remaining I saw that 2 recently moved to Guelph, and 1 one incumbent says he gets things done, and having some history I ask really? The 4th is actually very active in the community. I decided that Ward 1 needs a councillor with an actual history in Ward 1. Someone with an established reputation, credibility with City Staff and in the community. Someone that cares about all of Ward 1, that is community driven not issue driven. Issues come and go, your community stays.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
Ward 1 is perhaps the most unique Ward in Guelph, and this is why. The range of citizens is remarkable. Neighbourhoods that host a wide range of demographics from low income families to high income families are just as important as each other and each have their own uniqueness to offer.
Concerns from new underdeveloped neighbourhoods, concerns from neglected lower income neighbourhoods, and concerns from a neighbourhood up on a hill each are important all so different.
We have strong city supported, community assets such as Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group, Brant Avenue Community Hub, and the Downtown Neighbouhood Group all address the different needs of their neighbourhoods. I want to emphasize how important they are.
We have a selection of parks that our residents can enjoy. We actually have two rivers, a connection with nature that extends the length of Ward 1. Soon a new Riverwalk along the Speed River will be another connection to nature, one that has eluded us for over 100 years. We have trials that take across the whole Ward 1.
There is an acceptance in Ward 1. You can have a vegetable garden or grow chickens in your backyard. We have community gardens, and there is room for more. Local market stands in the East End as well as our Wednesday downtown and Saturday’s Farmer’s market, we can go grocery shopping or go to a food boutique or you can go downtown and watch a movie either in splash pad or in an independent cinema.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
Despite the negative rhetoric I know our council is operating at an A level. We have businesses wanting to move here. We have development wanting to build here and newly built condominiums are selling at record rates. Jobs are on the increase.
4) Some people say that Guelph is over-taxed, others believe that our taxes are inline with a community our size; where do you stand on taxation in Guelph?
Guelph is not overtaxed. It is important that people receive value and quality for the taxes they pay. We must recognize the challenges faced by municipal governments as result of the downloading of responsibilities for service provision by the Provincial and Federal governments.
We must support lobbying efforts to increase Federal and Provincial financial support to municipalities, rather than increasing property taxes and fees to account for shortfalls.
5) Do you believe that Guelph has a spending problem? If yes, then please cite specific examples of areas and/or programs that you would cut to save money?
No I believe Guelph uses a responsible spending philosophy.
6) What’s the biggest priority for Guelph in terms of services needed? This could be something that’s provided by the government, ie: a library or rec centre, or it could be a commercial need, ie: a new grocery store in the east end.
Well actually, Ward1 does need a grocery store in the East End. IMICO lands need developed. The South End needs a Rec Centre.The Guelph Public Library on Baker St. is an exciting project. 5 partners share the expenses as a result it won’t be on the shoulders of the City of Guelph. Thousands of users will use downtown businesses as a direct result.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
There has to be more communication between the City and Guelph Transit and citizens. I sometimes use Guelph Transit. If I am lucky what is a 6 minute car ride will only be a 25 minute bus ride. I find the routes confusing as well how the platforms are numbered. I think more consultation with bus drivers have to been done. I like the hub idea but am not sure the buses are on the best schedules. I think they should also be on a 15min pick up schedule.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
I am always within the reach of my telephone and email and will respond with in 24 hours.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
I am very happy about this. There are people that do everything online so I hope to see a high percentage of online voting being done.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
I think the IMICO site is the next most important issue for Ward 1. It has been neglected and I know Councillor Furfaro had gained a great deal of traction on this topic. I hope to see it resolved and even use Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto as an inspiration combined with mixed use residential, commercial, and affordable housing. It will be a village in a neighbourhood.
We should be proud of our City. Guelph is the first city in North America to announce and pursue a long term plan for a citywide thermal energy network. The District Energy Strategic Plan is an essential step toward creating a reliable and sustainable economic future for Guelph
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
A positive progressive City Council, building on past success, open to citizen engagement, treating constituents as citizens and not tax payer$ are all components of a force for good. Taking part in feel good projects. I think the Market Square Splash Pad is an amazing asset for our downtown. People are always having fun in it. Either with children playing in the water, or people skating or even as an outside movie theatre.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?
The best place is my blog mariapezzanoforWard1.blogspot.ca they could follow me on twitter @pezzanoforward1 or on my facebook page mariapezzanoforward1