Guest Column: Open letter to Mayor Doug Scott

July 1, 1993

Guest Column: Open letter to Mayor Doug Scott

By Lori Gustafson

Note: The following was originally submitted as a letter to Mayor Doug Scott, Community Development Director Jim Caruso and Fritz Jacob, publisher of the Rockford Register Star.

My name is Lori Gustafson. I have lived in Rockford, 40 of my last 45 years. I have $700,000 invested in the neighborhoods of Haight Village, Browns Hills, Signal Hill and Coronado Haskell.

On my agenda for today [March 31] I plan to continue my small-time efforts of changing over formerly misused properties of Rockford, into desirable residential units I market to prospective tenants with an appreciation for old properties in urban neighborhoods. In the past 20 years, I’ve spent many hours of many days dressed in grubby clothes doing grubby work to preserve Rockford’s historical homes. I’ve been guided by a memory of living in Rockford during its glory days of neighborhoods, neighborhood schools and a downtown center. Somehow I felt preserving the goodness I felt from these things would be appreciated by others and that one day, Rockford, could have and promote the vitality of urban neighborhood life again. Am I nuts?

I am angered and weakened by the March 30 Register Star promotion of Lutheran speaker Tony Campolo to motivationally inspire (“Christians as Change Agents in the World”) the people of Rockford, to empty their pockets for Habitat For Humanity. Who knows, maybe he’ll inspire do-gooder Christians to pick up hammers and give it their best shot at building quality housing in someone else’s neighborhood, certainly not their own. Do you guys feel that this current initiative is good for long-term development of Rockford?

Today I feel shot down in my efforts to preserve and promote quality residential living in downtown Rockford. Habitat For Humanity is moving closer to me daily, and I fear that Habitat For Humanity’s Community Redevelopment will devalue the property I’ve worked to improve… The Habitat For Humanity Mission Statement states that they also renovate houses. Can this arm of their operation be investigated as an alternative better approach to revitalization of Rockford’s neighborhoods?

Habitat For Humanity Mission Statement

Habitat For Humanity works in partnership with God and people everywhere, from all walks of life, to develop communities with God’s people in need by building and renovating houses, so that there are decent houses in decent communities in which God’s people can live and grow into all that God intended.

Again, I have invested much time and money into what I believed to be quality housing deserved of in Rockford. I have encouraged many taxpaying citizens to reside in my residential units downtown. I also provide quality housing for low-income, but you would not be able to tell from the looks outside or in who is subsidized and who is not. My residents of all income levels blend well as the low income are not branded differently.

Can you please tell me why it is good for Rockford, to accept and endorse the Habitat For Humanity developments?

Lori Gustafson is a local activist for neighborhood restoration.

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