Three things I consider wins that happened during the TCHC Board of Director's virtual meeting on April 27th, 2020 (all of which I highlighted in my deputation submission) -
1) there is an extensive audit happening with respect to the sprinkler systems in our buildings
2) a - the $300,000 contingencies have been removed from the two projects that were already receiving additional money through change order requests
2) b - the city councillors are seeking a history of change order requests for those sites (Honestly, this is NOT the result of a valid tendering process. Contractors appear to be underbidding to get the initial contract. Then they continuously come back to BIFAC (Building Investment, Finance and Audit Committee) or the Board of Directors requesting more money. In some cases I would even argue that TCHC doesn't properly identify the scope of work up front.)
3) a - there was not an Emergency Executive Committee created (the proposal didn't even include the COO Sheila Penny. How can you have a legitimate executive committee without the COO's contribution?)
3) b - the attempt to turn over complete responsibility to the President and CEO Kevin Marshman was denied. He is not the Mayor of TCHC town.
Unfortunately, they didn't get around to talking about implementing the Rubin Thomlinson recommendations. You can read a few of the concerns I have in my deputation to the TCHC Board of Directors.
(Would it really have killed them to take a moment and reassure TCHC tenants that they were doing everything they could to prevent an outbreak of COVID 19 in our buildings?)
Yes it has been a while since I have submitted these notes to the Governance, Communications, Human Resources, and Compensation Committee at Toronto Community Housing Corporation. I even spoke at that meeting giving a very personal perspective of the deputation process. I stated that I felt it should not, in any way shape or form, have limitations applied.
The following is the portion of my written submission that dealt specifically with TCHC trying to restrict the deputation policy -
"I'm sure members of this committee would understand if I felt I was suffering from a case of whiplash when it comes to the spoken belief that the Deputation Process is hampered by the layout of the boardroom with possible relocation of meetings to a more hospitable environment. (Board and Committee members backs are as likely to face the deputants as not.) The visual field of many public viewers of the Board/Committee meetings is obstructed by a column. Unlike deputations to City Council, or to city committees, able- bodied deputants are expected to stand. All this from an organization that still occasionally uses the term tenant-centric.)
When it comes to the attachment to this Public Agenda Item I am very curious about the thought processes that allowed you to begin a survey with "I believe that the Deputations Policy (the “Policy”) effectively achieves its stated purpose of enhancing TCHC’s commitment to ensuring that tenants and staff have input on decisions that directly affect them."
Then end up with a whole section on "Limiting Availability of Deputations" Many of the points in this category seem like a personal attack. One that definitely seems to be designed for the way I methodically scour through meeting materials and come up with relevant deputation material is "J. Limiting the number of matters, at a single meeting, about which an individual can depute." Is it really my fault that this organization seems to have more holes in their policy and practices than Swiss Cheese? Where would you prefer my deputations regarding issues at TCHC begin? The Auditor Generals Office, the Ombudspersons Office, the Mayors Office, City Councillors Offices, CBC, The Sun, or Toronto dot com? I don't just come here to complain. I don't want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. So should you.
Let's face it. This isn't my job. "Directors of TCHC’s Board (“Directors”) are under a fiduciary duty to TCHC to carry out the duties of their office honestly and in good faith, in the best interests of TCHC, and with the care, diligence, and skill of a reasonably prudent person."
I was told once by Kevin Marshman that TCHC is a pretty big ship to be turning around. Well maybe if we were all rowing in the same direction that would be helpful. Otherwise, if you put exhaustive limits on deputations you are leaving many of the tenants without oars. Thereby substantially decreasing the possibility that we could prevent the captain from charting the wrong course in the first place."
At that previous Governance, Communication, Human Resources, and Compensation Committee meeting (56 min - 58 min) I deputed about how difficult it is for me personally to depute. "To be here and to think that there is any notion of limiting deputations is negating everything that I do here. This is not easy for me by any stretch of the imagination ... If I didn't feel I had to do this do you think I would come here and do it? ... Everything in me is telling me to run [away]."
That was followed up the notion of this being "excess bureaucracy" by board member John Campbell. With Councillor Paula Fletcher acknowledging that "we are not spending time on the right things". Therefore it should come as no surprise that the item was actually withdrawn from the agenda. "The committee confirmed that having considered the current Deputation Policy it has determined that no amendments are required to this policy at this time."
Then, to only have my efforts followed up by a previous TCHC tenant board member who obviously never dialed in to the Governance, Communication, Human Resources, and Compensation Committee mention "Tenant issues are fragmented between board committees. This is not a new occurrence .... I don't know if members on this committee follow what is happening on other committees. But, I made it my life mission to do that because I often find that tenant issues are often being addressed at committees other than this one [Tenant Services Committee (1:41;40 - 1;45;15] … On the Governance Committee they were addressing the issue of the Deputation Policy. Kudos to Darragh for moving this forward. But again tenants are the largest stake holder … I do appreciate that there will be a fulsome tenant consultation"
If that is the previous board members "life's work" she needs to go back to the drawing board.
As much as the previous board member has been deputing recently at TCHC board and committee meetings it would be important that they come prepared. I simply can't understand how a previous tenant board member would be happy with limiting tenant deputations.
There is a great deal of restructuring with respect to staff at TCHC. It's about time that tenants restructure how we do advocacy. I don't mean your TCHC approved tenant engagement restructuring either. When I was involved in the consultations for the new tenant engagement system I found it interested that as many times as I mentioned "advocate" as a tenant role along side tenant volunteer, tenant leader, and tenant rep, is as many times as it was ignored.
It's really unfortunate that the insider (the previous tenant board member) who has ten years experience sitting on the TCHC Board of Directors doesn't work collaboratively with other tenants that wish to make an impact within the second largest social housing provider in North America. At the very least we could start synchronizing our messages.
The wait is over!
Tickets for Toronto Taste 2020 are now ON SALE!
Second Harvest's annual culinary extravaganza will take place on Sunday, June 14th, 2020. We are back at Evergreen Brick Works and we can't wait to start sharing all the exciting things we have planned for you. With some of Toronto's best restaurants, beverage purveyors, and entertainers, we promise that this will be the "Food Event of the Year."
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Toronto Taste and to celebrate, we are doing something we've never done before. We are offering early bird tickets!
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TCHC - Toronto Community Housing Corporation
BIFAC - Business Investment Finance and Audit Committee
The following is a brief summary of my deputations to TCHC's BIFAC meeting on November 20th, 2019. The day after that meeting I felt compelled to address a lack of insight from both Sue Ann Levy and Catherine Wilkinson based on a Toronto Sun article that appeared the day of the meeting.
Did Catherine Wilkinson make any deputations yesterday to BIFAC?
I may have missed them as I needed sleep after I spent Tuesday night writing up five!
These are the topics I sent written deputations by six am.
1) A fire safety plan/program that involves tenant fire safety ambassadors that could be trained in fire prevention/safety and WHMIS that could do a monthly building tour with their super to identify problem areas. I also noted the possibility of creating an award system similar to AA/NA chips for buildings that go without any false alarms or fires for a specific period of time.
2) The possibility of an external audit process to monitor contractors. Currently all audit functions at TCHC are internal. I have reason to believe that some TCHC contractors on the vendors list are doing poor quality work simply to make more work for themselves in the future. (I even sidelined Sheila Penny at one the Restructuring Consultations hoping she'd be willing to open up the last ten years worth of Procurement Awards. Everyone knows that if you really want to know if an organization is making healthy financial decisions you have to [actually] follow the money.)
3) Everyone is familiar with not only the air conditioners falling out of windows (kudos to Catherine) but what about the potential danger identified in the news lately about lead contaminated tap water throughout Toronto schools and daycares. Well there was a mention on one of the reports about water mains. So I decided to follow up to question if TCHC tests our tap water on a regular basis and if so should they not post the results in our buildings or issue alternative water advisories for all tenants?
4) One report presented to BIFAC mentioned "Aligning with RGI changes announced by the province." I asked when would tenants be notified of these "changes" to how our rent will be calculated?
5) Then there was a contract amendment request. I don't know about you but I would dearly love to see an itemized list of the difference between the $12M Information Technology System (Basic) - (original quote) versus the over four and a half times the original amount approved $55M ITS (Premium Edition) - (final amount approved). I even asked about the assurance that this new tech won't be outdated in a day, month, or year. As well as the learning curve for the staff.
As far as I am concerned Catherine and Sue Ann went for the easy out on this new article. Especially given that Catherine used to sit on the board. As someone who has served such a lengthy time on the board I would have expected more insight. My bad. It's okay. If they want to keep taking the easy stuff. I'll deal with the more complex.
All proceeds support International Justice Mission Canada
in its quest to eliminate human trafficking and slavery
Thursday, November 7, 2019 – 5:30 p.m.
The Grand Salon, 20 Toronto St., Toronto
On Thursday, November 7, 2019 , Nourish Hope will host a special fundraising event in Toronto for International Justice Mission Canada (IJM), a non-profit organization whose goal is to end human trafficking and slavery in our lifetime.
This special evening will feature a reception and dinner program featuring keynote speaker Anu George Canjanathoppil, Executive Director of IJM Canada. The evening will also feature a powerful Oculus Virtual Reality exhibit that will allow guests the opportunity to witness and understand the process involved in an IJM human trafficking rescue.
Nourish Hope 2019 will take place at The Grand Salon, 20 Toronto Street, Toronto ; the evening, hosted by TV personalities Pauline Chan and Karen Johnson, will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a dinner program from 6:00-9:00 p.m. with some very special guests.
The event is sold out but you can still DONATE to a worthy cause.
On Saturday October 19th, 2019 there was a mural unveiling at 3847 Lawrence Ave E. The TCHC building is 13 stories tall. (Units on the 13th floor would be listed as 1401, 1402, 1403 ... because of superstitions about the number 13.)
With the mural starting at the top of the second floor that makes this mural eleven stories tall. Not the 14 stories everyone kept stating during the press conference. So if 11 stories was the record for the tallest mural in Scarborough kudos to the creators.
Maybe its just me but I found it difficult to see as the sun was beating down heavily on the other side of the building. That radiatin glare got me thinking about what it must look like at night. My reaction was pretty immediate. Before the official event even started I had spoken to several TCHC staff, city officials, and the artists about adding flood lights from the top corners so people could see it.
There is no sense putting art on the wall if you're not going to have it properly lit. Any gallery owner or museum curator would tell you that much. By the end of the press conference I was assured that funding for flood lighting would be provided.
That's not the only issue I had while I was on site. There was the fact that if you look up at the balconies of the "14 story" building it was pretty clear they could have used a scraping and a fresh coat of paint.
Then I got to wondering about how long the brick façade would hold. Many TCHC buildings (mine included) are getting cladding because the bricks have a tendency to come loose. I even contemplated whether or not the artist sprayed a clear acrylic over the entire piece to weatherproof it. Leading to the conclusion that the artwork liking won't last as long as it took for the process from initial concept, through funding applications and community consultations, to the official unveiling.
I really didn't mean for this article to have such a negative spin. All the VIP's sounded so positive at the press conference. Not that the mainstream media would know, They never even showed up. I thought for sure that if Mayor John Tory attended an event I'd have more competition jockeying for sightlines for both my stills and my video. That's not the case. It seems that any event cloaked in the armour of a good news TCHC story doesn't interest the "press". They are just after the bad news … Like flies to shit.
Click here for full video coverage of the 3847 Lawrence Ave E mural unveiling press conference. Speakers included Mayor John Tory, Councillor Ainslie, TCHC Board Member Linda Johnson, and the lead artist Amir Akbari.
Toronto-based FEATURETTE, electric pop duo (singer Lexie Jay & drummer Jon Fedorsen) released their new single "Don’t Know Me Without You" last month via all streaming services. "Don’t Know Me Without You" fuels the strong electric vibe that FEATURETTE has worked hard to create, while also incorporating their dynamic lyrics and ear-catching synth sound.
They were kind enough to meet up for a few pics last night before the Rethink Breast Cancer benefit concert at The Rec Room. The most shocking thing I had learned wasn't whether or not Featurette were the main feature in each others lives off stage.
During our conversation I had mentioned that I passed Yonge & Dundas Square earlier that evening on my bike. There was a McDonald's pop-up that had just finished handing out 1600 free Big Macs! Lexi floored me when she told me she never had one before. There are millions of people on this planet that can honestly say they wouldn't know who they were without McDonald's.
Unlike slabs of beef between cardboard carbs there are a "Million Things" that indicate Featurette will become a recommended daily portion in auditory diets. They released their new video on October 10th, 2019. I can assure you, based on what I've seen and heard, people will be saying "Don't Know Me Without You" about this dynamic duo.
On Monday, October 14th, 2019 the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation hosted a Thanksgiving dinner that was prepared by Regent Park Catering. The Canadian sprint champion Andre De Grasse served up one of his personal favourites, jerked chicken, to some appreciative families at Daniels Spectrum. .
It was a pleasant surprise to see some TCHC peeps on hand serving food to families. TCHC CEO Kevin Marshman was in charge of the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. Well he should be used to multi-tasking by now. LOL
There were several concerns I had with the material presented at the Toronto Community Housing's Tenant Services Committee meeting on October 7th, 2019.
Now when you watch the video you may be wondering what I whispered to Catherine Wilkinson while she was discussing notifying tenants about staffing changes and having the opportunity to wish the soon to be removed staff member good luck.
Well, I mentioned that the superintendent's bulletin board may be an option. To which she said that she had a tenant's bulletin board.
Unfortunately, not all communities have them. I'm waiting on two for my building from the PB process.
So to be thinking in terms of her own community strikes me as myopic.
Besides, with all the time that Catherine Wilkinson spent on the board you would think she learned by now that not all resources are applied equally across TCHC. Kudos to her community for having tenant bulletin boards. Maybe during her time in the cushy seat she should have made sure all communities had them.
Otherwise, staffing changes could be released through a posting to individual communities via the superintendents bulletin board focusing on staffing changes that directly impact that community.
For a blanket release from TCHC regarding staffing changes ahead of a press release is, quiet honestly, above our pay grade. If, as Catherine Wilkinson claims, she had a good working relationship with these people, they may very well reach out to her personally without TCHC having to make any extraneous effort.
(During the meeting, at 52:05, Catherine Wilkinson handed off a note to Councillor Fletcher. Shouldn't all communications during the public session be public? So what did that note say?)
Another concern I had was when Anita Dressler mentioned a fellow tenants wish to post an election sign on their unit door.
Let's take this a step back for a moment. If I wanted to paint my apartment door a different colour TCHC would come along and paint it over the colour of all the other doors on my floor. So, to begin with, it's a cosmetic uniformity issue.
In addition, when we talk about "obstructions" in the hallway "is religious persecution going to be next? Do you want us to remove crosses? Or wreaths at Christmas time?"
Well, as a matter of fact, things like posters and wreaths are both fire safety issues. (Feel free to confirm with Toronto Fire.)
In addition, there are any number of persons living in TCHC treating the hallway like an extension of their units. I would prefer we simply remind people all personal items remain within their own unit. That way there is no confusion about what may or may not be placed in the hallways. If notification to the individual units to remove items from public space is not acknowledged, then maybe, implying that a tenant charge will be applied if TCHC staff have to remove said items, will prove to be more effective.
If, tenants are looking for an option for displaying a politicians poster, may I suggest a window and face the poster outwards. That has the added benefit of being more visible.
My final concern deals with Councillor Fletcher raising the ghost of tenant reps past. Instead of reinstating tenant reps maybe we can approach the idea of interim representation.
I am deeply disappointed (as all tenants should be) that no one mentioned during these outlandish statements that the tenant engagement system was being revamped for a multitude of reasons, a) that many communities didn't have any representation, b) the communities that did have representation resented the fact that the reps were not elected to their positions (they were simply holdovers who's terms were arbitrarily extended again and again), c) there was no training (therefore no transparency nor accountability), and d) there needed to be a space between tenant engagement models in order to assure the general tenant population that it wasn't going to be the same old same old.
Otherwise, TCHC already went to the expense of a five star thank you dinner where they distributing yet another batch of appreciation certificates.
Now, if you're looking for a solution, let me provide one. When the communities are meeting to decide about their new tenant engagement models do pop up elections for interim representation. This will give communities an opportunity to test run their new tenant engagement model.
This meeting has, yet again, proven my point. The TCHC board and committees are lacking in terms of general operational information. By no means do they appear to have the ability to provide logical solutions.
Thankfully, I micro-manage the organization from home.
No. I don't tell them what to do (as one tenant implied in a face to face conversation). I simply make what I believe are practical suggestions. What they do with those ideas is entirely up to them.
(FYI - This article is based on three emails that I sent out to members of the Tenant Services Committee and relevant TCHC staff persons. No worries. They already know what I think.)