Friday, April 23, 2010

Three slates to run in the Toronto Humane Society elections

I haven't written about the Toronto Humane Society in a while because even though a lot has happened in the last few weeks, it's mostly been about politics. Similar to many others I know, there were times when I was more than ready, and in fact looking forward to, wiping my hands of this whole human stained mess. I'm not going to go into the details but if you watch any season of Survivor, you'll get the emotional gist of it.

Really I just want to sit in the backyard with Stella and Rocky and enjoy the sparkling weather. It has been most fine these past few days.

So, this one post then and then back to the lawn chairs.

A quick summary of the election situation as far as I understand it: Bob Hambley of the old board and cohort of Tim Trow will be running again with a hand picked slate of supposed heavy hitters. It's being touted that Hambley's got the support of a thousand, out of 3000, THS members already. Who knows if that's true but it wouldn't surprise me. It's not like the members have been given another obvious choice yet. All they know is that Hambley isn't Trow and Hambley has a plan.

Because all other board member potentials think Hambley has a full slate of fifteen candidates under his control (think of it as a political party with Hambley as prime minister wannabe), they also think that the only way to compete with Hambley is to form slates themselves. Though a lot less democratic, this is probably true. The power of the group will trump fragmented individuals.

It was no surprise then that ART, the Association for the Reform of the THS, decided they needed to form a slate as well and if their slate had been an undemocratically hand picked and assigned slate, like I'm sure Hambley's was, then right now I'd be eating potato chips and watching the tulips open.

Instead, several nights ago, the members of ART held open elections to select a slate to challenge Hambley. Along with several ART members, around two dozen (?) unaffiliated, concerned individuals had also entered themselves into the elections.

I was impressed by the resulting candidates chosen. For the first time in several weeks, I'm more hopeful than not that the THS may soon be run by a group of competent, compassionate individuals.

I'll just call them the Reform slate for now as it's not really an ART slate anymore. There are ART members on the team but there are several new faces as well and most importantly, the animal welfare advocates have now got a strong presence - which is as it should be. That's not to minimize the importance of the "business/professional" candidates on the slate. Their resumes are impressive (all bios will be posted up in the next few days) and it's utterly important to have people on board who have the experience and knowledge to run a multi-million dollar charity like the THS.

I'd say the slate is well balanced and we'll have to see how the personal and political dynamics play out over the next few weeks. Hopefully, they will gel as a team as they start to work with one another.

A third slate has also been formed out of mostly THS volunteers and they get a big congratulations for being the newest yet first group to publish a website with their credentials and vision statement. RAIN (Representing Animals in Need) has a clear goal of turning Toronto into a no-kill community with the THS playing a major role in that evolution.

Aside from the well-written and hearfelt candidate bios, much of the information on the RAIN website comes from Nathan Winograd's (he of no-kill fame) writings. While it makes sense not to reinvent the wheel, it would be nice to see some more THS/Toronto specific details. I'm sure they'll be working on that so I'm looking forward to updates.

Yes, I'm hopeful but that doesn't mean any of these people get a free ride. I'm going to be looking for several things:

1. A platform with a strong and enlightened animal welfare component. Ideally, this will include some indication as to how the slate intends to achieve that goal. Full disclosure: I had a small hand in drafting the Reform slate platform so I'm already kinda happy with it but work still needs to go into working out some of the details.

2. A committment to the platform. Words on paper need to be put into action. I want to know that the slate has the force of will, expertise and cohesion to achieve the ambitious goals of the platform.

3. Hard working individual board members. No duds please. Anyone thinking a THS board seat is just a resume decoration or a party conversation piece needs to think again. We all love animals. That's not good enough. Slate members have got to pull their weight and more when it comes to doing the hard work.

4. Strategies for rebuilding the structure of the THS organization. The THS is in shambles from its governance to its management to its staffing and volunteering. People make the THS work. There needs to be some major effort put into investing in people before the THS will flourish.

Of course, these are just my concerns. The real question is how will the THS membership decide? Has the membership become more aware of the situation at the THS than it has been for the last ten years? They really need to wake up and pay attention. But will they?

It is the way with charities that they are dependent on the good will of their members to allow them to continue the work they say they are doing but all this is for naught if the membership doesn't know or care about the work being done on their behalf. As well intentioned as most of the candidates are, this election is more about the mechanics of convincing the membership to support one slate or another than it is actually about good animal welfare protocols and the ability to see them through. That's unfortunate but I suppose that's why it's called politics.

The hope is that this time round, the most capable slate with the best animal welfare vision can get through to the membership and garner their support. The hope is that this time round, those in the THS membership who care deeply about the animals and who keep themselves well informed of the events at the THS, will be able to help the rest of the membership understand just what is at stake here.

Here's some inspiration:

Summit - Nathan Winograd from PetRescue on Vimeo.

You may need to use the password "nathan" to watch this video. This video was previously posted but removed and now it's here again so if you think you've seen this somewhere before and already know what the video's about, it's not because you're psychic or Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day" (though you might be. Who am I to say?).


Social Mange said...

Good post. I am looking forward to seeing the Reform slate, I understand they have some terrific candidates.

Anonymous said...

Great overview, Fred!

THS may now be able to turn the corner.

Lil'Mac said...

It's important to note, I think, that people don't have to vote in an entire slate. If you feel there are wonderful candidates from more than one slate, you are still free to vote for the individuals you like best. Being on a slate, from what I understand, simply means being grouped together on the ballot. The voting will still be for 15 individuals.

Fran Coughlin said...

I recently met many of the people running on the 3rd slate. I left knowing, were this slate of people to be elected, the THS would be in intelligent, capable, committed and dedicated hands.

I attended a meeting they put together because of concern for THS, I came out with hope, and a prayer on my lips that this group of people would indeed be elected.

Social Mange said...

The Reform platform is up, as are its candidates' bios.