Mississauga Life — Early Spring 2015
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Introducing Karen Ras
Steve Pecar

New councillor feels right at home in city hall.

Karen Ras is where she wants to be.

As a newcomer to the council chambers at the City of Mississauga, it’s a safe bet to say that she has been working towards this moment all of her life. Now that it has arrived, she’s seizing the opportunity.

With an active resume in Mississauga through her work with Enersource, a stint as the chair of the Mississauga Board of Trade and serving as vice-chair for the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation, she has already positioned herself as someone in the know. When she took the seat as Ward 2 councillor last fall, she hit the ground running.

“So far, so good,” says Ras from the comfort of her home where the family pets—an older cat and a new puppy—have no problems making friends with a stranger.

Right from the get-go she has had to deal with matters such as the land use master plan for Sheridan Research Park; it was a ward issue, and one that she brought up during her campaign. She’s also had to tackle the city budget, an intimidating project on its own, but one she was prepared to handle. “Both of these issues are important ones, of course, for the ward and the city, but I like these challenges and I enjoy taking them on,” she says.

Sheridan Park Corporate Centre is a diverse research and technology hub that needs updating. Consequently the area is going through various zoning changes that Ras expects will revitalize it. “It really is a unique piece of land. It’s strategically located [north of the QEW, east of Erin Mills Parkway] and has a great history,” she says. “If we can manage this, we will be able to attract new companies to the area and create more high-paying skilled jobs.”

The budget deliberations allowed Ras some quick insight into the nitty-gritty of politics, both at the municipal and regional levels. She stresses that the process is not all about big-ticket items, but the small everyday costs that, combined, add up.

“People are skeptical about how their tax dollars are used, and they should be,” Ras says. “It’s our job as councillors to make sure that people understand how their money is being used and that it is being used wisely. It should be a continuous process. We have to make sure we are doing things efficiently and effectively, and whether we need to do them at all.”

As a rookie councillor, Ras knows not to underestimate how much there is to the job. Garbage pick-up, snow removal, traffic—these are day-to-day issues that take up a good chunk of a local politician’s time.

And that word, traffic, is on her mind, just as it is on most everyone’s mind these days. Getting from here to there and doing so efficiently and at reasonable speeds are at issue.

Ras believes that traffic is just not an east/west issue; studies reveal that people in Mississauga are heading in all directions at all times. As such, she acknowledges that public transit has to become a viable option for more people and that the grid system may just be the right way to go. “All roads don’t necessarily have to lead to Square One,” she says, in reference to the hub system currently in place that takes many public transit users through the city centre.

A problem-solver by nature, Ras says local government will give her plenty of opportunities to do just that. “When I was campaigning, people would ask, ‘Don’t you aspire to a higher level of government?’” she says. “But this is the highest level of government! The decisions we make at the municipal level affect us all every day. This is what I want to be doing.”

Indeed, it is where she wants to be.