Ever wonder how real estate developers got so rich?

When I met my ex-husband, Michael, in Indiana, we both had a house.  Mine was half burned down, poorly patched up, and cleverly covered up, it turned out.  It took four PhDs, including a rocket scientist, plus a dentist and his old, left-over steel I-beam to fix that one.  It was like a crash course in home inspections and home ownership and homeowner’s insurance.  I find that men who are handy and do real work are hot, and I love to work with them.


Why not just rent?  Because I had pet dogs until recently.  In retrospect, I am a long-term sufferer of PTSD even if I wasn’t diagnosed until it got so bad that I finally had a nervous breakdown.  Now there are lots of service dogs that are recognized as such.  In the past, it was much harder for me to keep dogs.  Nevertheless, I loved them all dearly and they helped me as I helped them. 

Over the more than 20 years we shared, Michael and I owned and worked on five houses together.  We also shared five different apartments in five different cities in two different countries.  I had to borrow the down payment from my father for the last house we bought in St. Paul when I moved there from Rochester.  I’m so grateful that I could pay him back before he died.  Michael was still working in Rochester and living in the house we had bought there.  Eventually, he found a job in the twin cities and we sold the house in Rochester at a significant loss. 

I will never forget the first day of my new job in the twin cities.  My new boss asked me where I was living.  When I told him where I had bought my house, he said I should not have done that because I may not be able to do the job to his specifications, in which case I would be fired.  In fact, he seemed quite sure that I would not measure up as there were several examples of others who hadn’t.  He thought I might lose the house if the job didn’t work out.  I told him that surely that job was not the only job in the whole twin cities area!

As my gift of writing became apparent, things only got worse for me.  Perhaps it was jealousy that attacked me.  It’s not that the greed and exploitation weren’t sufficient, but that jealousy seems a more accurate description as it is a form of hate.  I worked until I was hospitalized for the second time before I managed to quit. 


We bought the house after the old, sick guy died there after his wife died there before him.  The old man could not take care of his yard as evidenced by the overgrown trees, bushes, and weeds we spent years rehabilitating.  Indeed, the house was barely visible from the road it was so covered up with overgrown bushes full of mold and bird shit that were planted way too close to the foundation of the house.  Then there was the rotten awning and an enormous, rotting Russian olive tree threatening the whole structure.  That the old man had not make it downstairs for some time was obvious by the rodent infestation and dog stains.  Apparently, he wasn’t good about letting the dog out the back door anymore either.  The packets of artificial sweetener I found stuck behind the built-in revolving spice rack really solidified the realization that PhD-level scientists were now living in houses ruined by blue collar workers who assembled motor vehicles at the Ford plant beginning in 1925. 


They kept a shed adjacent to the house full of feed for geese.  It was a dream come true for rodents even long after the feeding of the geese finally ceased.   Still, we had already looked at 21 houses, and this was the best one by far.  We had to bid against two other couples for the right to buy the place at the peak of the housing market, but like I mentioned, we had already visited 21 houses that weren’t even worth working on. 

It truly is remarkable how many messages we leave behind, even unwittingly, for the astute observer. 


Another legacy of the Boomers is to sell condemned properties to anyone who can afford to tear down the old houses and build huge new houses covering the whole lot that are supposedly worth more money.  Sadly, to increase profits, some builders build new houses on rotten old foundations.  This means that the “new” house is already infested with the rot from the old house, including infectious agents like molds and bacteria that grow and spread all the time.  Nobody should have to live in such unhealthy conditions, especially not children.

Michael and I spent more than 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars renovating our property inside and out into a much healthier sanctuary.  We got used to the trains hauling the newly assembled Ford Rangers out of the neighboring plant via the railroad spur behind our backyard.  We endured severe and relentless increases in property taxes and huge levies for the school systems for things like one-time purchases of iPads for every student that year only. 


When the Ford plant finally ceased its operations in 2011, enormous industrial buildings were torn down and jack-hammering of concrete foundations and pads and parking lots pounded my head and triggered my PTSD all day long for years towards that inevitable nervous breakdown I suffered around the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.  Cleanup of the toxic waste that caused this Superfund site is still going on, yet has only scratched the surface. 


After all, Ford has been contaminating this site and the Mississippi River with toxic waste (like car paint) for 86 years!  They even housed a dump site, a landfill, next to the Mississippi River and stretching from Hidden Falls to the dam.  This is all not so far from the mouth of the mighty river, especially from the perspective of someone in Arkansas, for example. 


As many as 1800 auto workers were employed by the Ford Motor Co. manufacturing plant sitting on the bluff alongside the Mississippi River.

No one should have to live there.  What are the risks, especially for children and those who want to have children?  Cancers and tumors?  Autoimmune diseases like MS?  Deformities?  Executive function disorders?  Learning disabilities?  Thyroid disorders?


They are still hauling out toxic dirt by the truckload from the site.  Plus, there are buried drums of toxic waste.  How can they not be rusting out and leaching into the river by now?  Wasn’t that the plan all along – to get rich by exploiting natural resources, making a toxic mess, taking all the profits, and leaving the mess for others to bear the consequences of?


The problem is that these sorts of business practices have inevitably led to the principle of mutually-assured destruction, or MAD, or the Apocalypse.


Instead of finally cleaning up the mess and the precious river as best as it can be, the plan is to levy additional property taxes on current residents to provide $275 million in corporate subsidies to private developers to build 10-story high-rise buildings along the Mississippi River. 


The existing infrastructure cannot even support the current traffic load, let alone up to 10,000 new people on less than 135 acres, not even 0.2 square miles!  Ridiculous! 


The footings of the bridge over the river and into the neighborhood are getting washed out!


The city just wants to increase its property tax base without providing the necessary infrastructure! 


Ford is going to put a restriction on the sale of the land so it can’t be single-family homes, according to City Council member Chris Tolbert.  Why?  So people can’t dig there?

Tolbert crop

Nine percent green space is the maximum the city can require, also according to Tolbert.

I declare, by eminent domain, a transfer of this land from poor stewards to good stewards.  The river and the land should be cleaned up by the responsible parties. 

The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever (Psalms 37:29).