Chronicling community action, revolutionary and revealing thought

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Did You Know...?

A Black History Month primer:-
That Malcom X's mother was from Grenada? And his parents met in Montreal? At a Marcus Garvey-related convention? And his mother's family settled in Canada?

Suspicious minds remembering the US invasion of Grenada in 1983 and theorizing about a "Grenada connection", start your engines...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Followup: The Little Parkdale organisation that could Goes to city hall...!

It's been a while, but a lot of stuff has happened In Real Life(tm).

Here's the proceedings of what went on with our meeting the brass in City Hall to address housing conditions in Parkdale...

At the head of the table was Pamela Coburn, a blonde short-haired woman who seemed very friendly. She's at the helm of things. At her right hand (literally) at the head of the table was a Mayor's office woman, also blonde, with a ponytail; as the meeting went on, she woud be the type of person I was expecting to meet with. Some others there: Joe, who was one of the executives present, working in the invetsigations unit; Frank; and Shaun Goetz-Gadon.

As the meeting began, Pamela started by stating it's been a year since the proposal for the bad landlord website. The tech budget's been approved, "council has coughed up the money", and the web site should be live by spring '05. "When it goes live it won't necessarily be everything, but it will be a start," according to Frank. Apparently it will be using a "point forward system."

Different municipalities have different regulations about what they disclose, according to Pamela.

Our delegation started to chime in, starting wth Bart, who said there was "Overwhelming evidence that if the system isn't changed, the protocols (don't work)/"not worth anything"

At Pamela's urging, Bart said that the protocols indeed do not capture the breadth of the situation, and that they do not work.

Apparently one problem is the licensing of buildings (McGuinty's approval is needed...)

Bart asked what else was the holdback, and added that there needs to be a more pro-active system.

Pamela said that they're not changing the legislation, but the regulation. She also let us know that Ralph Walton is their contact at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and started listing off challenges that they came across, citing "resources to maintain standards", audit creation/recreation/maintenance, ("what a building audit looks like"), how they're "starting to prepare literature", and "you can only do what you can do with the people that you have".

Some lamentation on the way current things work, as if it were beyond their control, went on (I believe it was Pamela who said, "They (landlords) get taken to court and the tickets are $300-$400, and they get a $50 fine"). Morag York's husband spoke up. Speaking simply and humbly, he nevertheless presented pertinently incisive questions: "Well landlords know it's cheaper to pay the fine instead of repairing buildings, so what are you going to do to rectify that?" Pamela said that the adding to the cost of their licensing fee depending on their track record was being proposed.

Charging licensing fees so the landlord passes the cost to the tenant? "Yeah," Bart tells me, "but it won't be a large amount anyway."

We also talked of the lack of capital improvement to start repairs.

Mary spoke up. One thing I like about Mary is her systematic, thorough approach to things. Starting off with a 'we've listened to what you have to say, here's now our input', she started off with a comprehensive response, inlcuding a suggestion to giving us more involvement in the process to push things, and keeping us informed, so we're not just coming back next year and asking you, "What have you done?" A question that also came up was, how to help speed up the process in City Council? Tenancy issues are not a priority in City Council, always on the back-burner...

Mary said "Basic quality of life, that's a standard, UN, whatever, so it's a priority, so you can take a little off everythig until you get what you need..."

The aformentioned woman to Pamela's right spoke up, with the closed, "Everything's fine, we don't need your opinions" attitude I was expecting from practically everyone who'd be present... "Council's concerned with what's happening in their wards" - they're "very active in addressing local issues."

Things are not being done on a case-by-case basis.

Sarah Huffman and Ralph are involved in Licensing in the province. There's also talks of putting a plan in place- a feasability plan. An AMCTO meeting was held a couple of days ago; the discussion is they want a consultation for the proposal municipality reviews when it will be "aggressive"

A sentiment was aired: the more you bundle with this issue, the more it takes. Extricate it, and have it move on its own track.

They were asked, if the province gives the green light, how long will it be running?

There was talk as well of what will be done pre and post regulation changes.

Morag asked, "What are you gong to do in the meantime? While you wait (for it to pass)? To help people?"
(So we get results now... so we don't get mumbo-jumbo as excuses, like, "It's being considered... wait...")

Pamela also talked of a comprehensive plan of progressive landlord compliance when they get fines to failure to comply. The way the Provinical Offences Act is now, a Legislative ticket for anything is a maximum of $500 - and if the landlord gets multiple ones, the judge can roll them into one fine. The worst buildings get an order, there's a time period for them to comply, and the landlord gets a time to appeal ("I don't think that people should be denied the right to appeal...")

What about a time limit for appeal to comply time? I wondered.

The one question I asked, that caused a bit of a stir, in regards that it's a common sense one, was, "Why is the fine for maintaining a hovel the same thing/lumped in the same legislation as... smoking..?" (!?!)

"We'd like a meeting with some of the politicians..." Bart told them.

According to Pamela, we'll be provided with a list of buildings in Parkdale in audit, their progress; and something about us being able to go to Property Standards Committee.

We also talked with them about making sure landlords who have outstanding work orders (and bad buildings) are not eligible for the Rent Supplement Program.

Frank talked of problems faced:
Legislative hurdles;
Political will;
And judges who don't appreciate the problem.
(phbbbt. I think there's probably some unspoken understanding/greased palms...)

Bart: "Instead of wasting money trying to change judges' minds, the City can go in and do the repairs and charge it to the landlord. That's a faster way to do it."

Thus endeth my notes.

On the way down, we noted that they were friendlier than we'd expected, with one person in particular: Goetz-Gadon. Apparently he'd taken on duties in regards to these issues in his job capacity in the past: my first skeptical reaction, however, was that he was going to play the "good cop" thing. One other person in our group sort of echoed my sentiment, commenting that he was smooth. And probably too much so.

As is with everything facilitating positive change, we'll see.

Anything's here's vague/unclear, give me a yell, and I'll clarify it up...