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.)
I'll make this short and sweet. These are the consequences for me not supporting the top five corporations on the Greenpeace polluters list.
Nestle can produce a bit of a challenge to everyone. Myself included. If the general population stopped using Nestle products all together the impact would be far greater than simply avoiding their bottled water products.
It's far easier for me to stay out of Tim Horton's locations as I'm not like 99.99% of the population that are hopelessly addicted to coffee. I never acquired a liking for the bitter liquid. To some people's surprise I have more of a sweet tooth than a bitter streak.
Their creamy chocolate chills, on the other hand, may provide a bit of a challenge. But I'm willing to sacrifice them until such a time as Tim Horton's does the right thing for the environment by providing a refillable 22 ounce cup to fit their large size cold drinks. All their refillable containers focus on hot beverages only.
In my opinion Starbucks is too pricey. So, that's not even a temptation.
McDonalds is only for the French fries. My body tells me I don't really need them anyway. Trying to avoid Coca-Cola products may prove difficult to some. But I have acquired a taste for tap water and fresh fruit home made smoothies. So my adjustment phase would be remarkably shorter than most.
Otherwise, for these corporate giants to have deadlines of five or ten years to implement significant changes to product packaging is simply not good enough when many see the damages done now as irreversible within that five to ten year period.
In the photo above are Scott Fraser, President, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, Tanya Mruck, Executive Director, MLSE Foundation, Nichola Bynoe community resident, and Julio Rigores from Toronto Community Housing Corporation
A week ago today I received a media advisory from Toronto Community Housing indicating there would be a press conference/photo-op the following day at 40 Gordonridge. In attendance would be representatives from the community, staff from TCHC, MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) and Canadian Tires Jumpstart Foundation. Apparently, they were hosting a ground breaking ceremony for a new multi-sport court.
I figured I'd ride my bike over early enough to get a prime spot for photos among the mainstream media that were invited. Only to find out I was one of two photographers in attendance. The other photographer worked for MLSE.
That was a bit of a shock to me. But maybe it shouldn't have been.
Mainstream media seems to be focussed on tearing down institutions by providing lopsided often inaccurate soundbites and calling that news coverage. Enough about them.
I'm more than happy to attend a media event about a good news story in TCHC. I wish there were more of them.
The new multisport court will give over 1000 youth the opportunity to play sports including basketball, table tennis, track and skateboarding in a safe place acting as an athletic hub for youth in the Gordonridge community.
Maybe they would be so kind as to call me back if they decide to have a ribbon cutting ceremony. At that point may I suggest they include the city of Toronto Mayor John Tory, and the Toronto Community Housing CEO Kevin Marshman if they really want that mainstream media coverage.
Below: Nichola Bynoe Community Resident speaking about who will benefit from this new project.
Despite the rain on September 28th, 2019 the participants at the SickKids GetLoud event raised $2.2 million that will go towards the $1.3 billion fundraising campaign to build a new Sick Kids hospital.
My favourite part of the day was when one of the youngsters provided tips on how to maximize your fundraising efforts. The main piece of advice was to not provide change if you are hosting a bake sale or operating a lemonade stand.
Otherwise, there was great free barbeque, great activities, and great musical performances by the Mini Pop Kids, Dwayne Gretzky, and Serena Ryder with Noemie (in the photo above).
On September 23, 2019 there was a press conference at the head office of Toronto Community Housing Corporation. All the mainstream media was in attendance. Then there was me. I'm not sure how many more of these they are going to allow me to actively criticize before they rescind my invitation. For now, I will enjoy the privilege.
Among those standing in support of the message from left to right are City Councillor Ana Bailão, Mayor John Tory, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing Steve Clark, and TCHC CEO Kevin Marshman. I said "standing in support of" because we didn't hear a single word from City Councillor Ana Bailão.
For the record, we may begin with the Ontario government's press release itself. There is one sentence in it that concerned me most. "Starting today, housing providers have the discretion to turn away prospective tenants who have been evicted from community housing for … illegal activities and who pose a threat to the community."
Now, when the notions around tenant safety are discretionary, and neither the Ontario government, nor, TCHC have an implementation plan, there is no real effort to keep the criminal element out of community housing.
In addition, people that apply for TCHC technically have to fill out an application form at Housing Connections. That is a similar system of warehousing applicants as what would be available at a temporary staffing agency. In other words, the most effective way to eliminate the return of criminals into community housing (preventing them from applying in the first place) is not a feasible option. All tenant application procedures have been outsourced.
Now, if the Ontario government (aka Doug Ford) really wanted to seriously make systemic changes, that would directly impact the ability of criminals to return to live in community housing across the province, they would grant more funding to Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board in order to expedite the decisions that lead to evictions.
There also needs to be an overview of what the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board considers evidence in the event of an application to evict a tenant. To require another tenant within community housing to testify (in writing or in person) to the level that a neighbours behaviour is impacting their enjoyment of their unit comes with the very real risk that the OLTB won't evict the criminal after the first, second, or even, the third appearance in front of the tribunal.
Objective forms of evidence like audio recordings and photos need to be admissible to TCHC, as well as, the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. Otherwise, TCHC doesn't take a tenants concerns seriously enough. Thereby allowing TCHC to avoid any form of enforcement action whether that be simply tracking all police/security incident reports with respect to a specific unit or submitting the paperwork for an eviction application.
Lets face it. A large percentage of those persons causing issues in TCHC are not officially on a lease. Further limiting the effectiveness of a criminal ban. On site security would be the most efficient way to ensure that many involved in criminal and/or anti-social activities are kept out of Toronto Community Housing. But that option is only available for when a community is in dire straits. TCHC doesn't seem to think much in terms of risk prevention.
Mayor John Tory's claim sounds promising - "Discretion allows Toronto Community Housing ... to exercise that judgement. They are the closest to the building. They are closest to what is going on in the building. They are closest to what the person may have done and when they did it in the past."
Leaving these decisions up to community housing "service managers" because they are closer to the individuals and incidents that occurred previously within a community seems ideal. But it can be problematic in communities like mine. After all, TCHC recently announced publicly, that they have fired several operating unit managers. Mine included.
There was a brief mention at this press conference about the Ontario government improving how Rent Geared to Income calculations would be changed for tenants in community housing. How they would be simplified. No details were given.
I find it highly unlikely they would go ahead with my recommendation of instituting a one time, above the OLTB guidelines increase in rent to reflect the Maximum Shelter Allowance that persons on social assistance would be entitled to if they were renting from private landlords.
Honestly, I want to know how many decades ago the Rent Geared to Income amounts were set and what the amounts would be worth in today's dollars? Then again I have the same questions about the woefully inadequate Maximum Shelter Allowance granted to OW and ODSP recipients. All questions for another day.
It shouldn't come as any surprise then, that I would declare the whole Ontario Making Community Housing Safer press conference as a non event. Despite the mainstream medias creative editing there was nothing to see here. No real change.