Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Health of Our Children

In a previous article titled “Exploiting A Tragedy” dated Sunday, 29 May 2016 I concluded my assessment of the motives behind the “Window Safety Guards” project with the following paragraphs:

How valid is The Board’s argument that “…the Corporation is expected to take reasonable steps to protect life safety?In my next article I will explain how this legally valid expectation is selectively applied, especially when you see children exposed to second and third hand smoking in the playgrounds near the tennis court, from smokers who gather inside the gazebo and spew the poisons of their smoke in the immediate surroundings, and despite the fact that several times during the last five years submissions were made to install cameras, decision makers were so worried about the well being of the children in our complex that they categorically refused to install any cameras because it undermines “The sense of community” in the complex. 

For some strange reasons the cameras (more than 40) installed in all the common areas of the complex enhance “the sense of community”, only the one badly needed camera to safeguard the health of our children ruins this vaguely defined sense of community. Remember what happened last year. Our garbage room received a camera, because it was costing The Board some $3.000 a year to get rid of large objects left behind by irresponsible unit owners. So The Board invested approximately $4.000 in a camera and a magnetic reading card to go after unit owners who abuse the system, but installing a camera to go after smokers who ruin the health of our children is out of question.

An incident that took place inside the gazebo near the tennis court propelled me to write the following email (dated 6/6/2016) to The Senior Property Manager of the complex:

Dear Madam,

I am sure you read the report of your security team related to the incident of Thursday June 02, 2016.
Approximately 8.20pm three male individuals, in their early to mid 20s went into the gazebo located near the tennis court, opened a bottle of booze (that I am absolutely convinced you will classify as a bottle of plain water, after all in the past you have defended Hookah smokers by arguing that it is the innocent inhalation of steam) and shared the content. Boozing was followed by smoking, and one individual in dark jeans and a red T Shirt stepped out of the gazebo and urinated on a tree.

…  I can no longer stand by and pretend there is nothing wrong with this ugly picture. One scientific report after another is cautioning smokers about the tragic consequences of “third hand smoking” (THD), a phenomenon as dangerous as second hand smoke exposure, especially to the health of the most vulnerable members of our complex-the children who play almost daily, especially when the weather is good, inside the gazebo and outside of it. For too many children in the complex it is the only playground they have.

For your information, second hand smoke is the smoke that is exhaled by smokers and that is released by burning cigarettes. Third hand smoke is the chemical residues that cling to objects and surfaces long after smoking stops. But once the surfaces are touched or someone sits on the benches of the gazebo, the chemicals seep into the body, and undermine seriously the health of the person exposed to it.
So our vulnerable children are exposed regularly to third hand smoking when playing, and human urine when they bounce balls that hit the trees and they have to pick up the ball and throw it to the adults that have brought them to the playground. Also, many adult residents are sitting regularly under the same trees exposed to human urine to read a book or to just relax.

You have shown an exceptional interest in preventing the accidental death of any child visiting a unit located in our complex [name removed], by spearheading the efforts to install window latches at the cost of thousands of dollars per building. I don’t think a person like you will support boozing, urinating, and smoking activities that will pave the way for a slow death to all the children who play inside or in the vicinity of the gazebo, not even under the traditional lame excuse that we have to overlook certain illegal activities to maintain a “strong sense of community”- a notion that no Board member has ever managed to define or explain what it entails.

…Let me know what are the steps that you are willing to take to neutralize the problem… 

In the afternoon of June 06, 2016 The Senior Property Manager emailed the following reply:

Thank you for your email.  You are right, Management does not support boozing, urinating, and smoking activities in the vicinity of the gazebo.

As you may appreciate, being an agent of The Complex [name removed], Management works only within an approved spending allowance.  Installation of a surveillance camera near the gazebo, as you have previously requested, would exceed our spending allowance.  Therefore, this matter will be revisited at the next JMC [not the real name] meeting.

In the interim, we have instructed Security to patrol the area regularly and to enforce The Complex’s [name removed] Rules, as necessary.  We encourage you to continue reporting any such incidents to the Security Team [name changed] at 416-416-4160 [not a real phone #] and the Patrol Guard will be sent to investigate.

Kind regards,

One crucial point readers need to remember is the accidental discovery by a superintendent of a window latch in the recycling room of a building. “Accidental Discovery” means that the expenses involved in the replacement of the missing latches were not part of the fiscal year’s budget. The Senior Property Manager and all the other decision makers did not have any difficulty to go beyond the “Spending Allowance” allocated to a specific fiscal year, to spend thousands of dollars to replace missing window latches, and comply with the legal and moral obligation that “...the Corporation is expected to take reasonable steps to protect life and safety.” 
Only when it comes to protecting the health of our children exposed to second and third hand smoking, in a playground where no smoker should be present in the first place, the Senior Property Manager and the JMC [not the real name] have “Spending Allowance” problems, and no camera can be installed to deter smokers and other unit owners engaging in illegal activities from seeking refuge in the most isolated area of the complex (the gazebo near the tennis court), motivated by the hope that no unit owner will interrupt their entitlement to use and abuse the common elements of the complex.

Whether the surveillance camera issue was revisited during the June monthly meeting of The JMC, or failed to make it to the agenda of the meeting, I cannot speculate or express an opinion. But without any hesitation I can confirm that, if it was revisited The Senior Property Manager did not convey to me any details about the end result of reviewing the use of a camera as a deterrent. I can also confirm that decision makers are using two different standards to comply with the need to protect "life and safety". The first one designed to protect visiting children from falling out of windows that do not have safety latches, and obviously money/budget is not an object/issue. The second one reserved for children who live within the complex and use playgrounds polluted by third hand smoking and other illegal activities, and obviously money invested in installing a surveillance camera to deter illegal activities is a serious budget issue. To give you a sense of perspective, installing a camera will cost between $3.000-$4.000, the total budget of the complex is approximately $6.000.000.

How important and valuable is the health of our children to the decision makers of the complex???
You shape your own verdict.

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