OPINION | Dear GMAC

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In March of 2009 Rosemary William’s home in South Minneapolis went into foreclosure due to predatory lending and an adjustable rate mortgage. Rosemary attempted to enter into negotiations with who she was told was the owner of her mortgage, GMAC Financial. On September 11 2009, GMAC requested Minneapolis police officers to forcibly remove Rosemary and her family from the home on the block she had lived on for over fifty years. The family was preparing for her grandsons second birthday party.  On September 20th 2009, as my family prepared for my youngest son’s first birthday at our home three blocks from Rosemary’s home, I drove by her house for the first time since the eviction. I noticed the metal boards on the windows and the security guard posted outside. I was prompted to write this letter to GMAC.

Dear GMAC,

I am delighted to find that we have a new neighbor! I’m afraid that you haven’t gotten a warm welcome to our small South Minneapolis neighborhood. I wanted to make sure to personally welcome you properly.

First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Kori Hennessy and I live just a few blocks away from you with my husband and our two young sons. I would love to have you over for coffee some time to meet the family… but, oh no, that’s right, you don’t care much for children, do you? I heard that the woman living in your property was planning a birthday party for her grandson in YOUR house! How inconsiderate of her! I know how much noise young children can make, and boy, are they messy!

I was happy to hear that you had the gumption to engage the local police department in throwing that woman out of her, I mean, your house. What we could really use around here is a little tension between the residents and the police department; we just haven’t had enough of it over the years. Makes life a little more exciting when you’re not sure whose side the police are on.

Well, maybe I’ll take a walk over to your house. I’ll bring some wine. We’ll have a chat, get to know each other. You can tell me about yourself, like what brings you to
Central Neighborhood? Do you have roots here? I hear the woman who lived in the house before you lived here for 50 plus years, but her time was up. She should have known better about those adjustable rate mortgages. I mean come on, only suckers fall for that! She can’t expect a BAIL OUT, right GMAC Financial?

Hey, wait a minute, are you related to General Motors….

So I’ll stop by. I’ll tell you a little about our neighborhood, I’ll show you how you can fit in. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but the décor of your home has been offending some people. We have a certain aesthetic we aspire to here, and you are going against convention. Take my block for instance. Many of the homes have boarded windows, but they are boarded with plain, unpretentious wood. Not that shiny military type stuff you have. The wood is much more inviting than metal. You see, the wood allows for easy access. You know, the drug dealers and prostitutes need a place to go! I thought that you realized this because other homes you own are decorated with the wood, allowing people to come and go freely. Last summer, in the darkness that flooded my corner, as we were surrounded by boarded homes, I enjoyed the nightly guessing game that accompanies this décor. Was that a drug dealer, or just a harmless addict entering that vacant house? Or was it a thief looking for copper? Did the bank turn off the gas? Should I call the police? Will they show up? Is my baby safer in his room, or mine? What if the people using the house get in a fight? What direction might the gunfire come from? And on and on and on…the metal just takes all the fun out of it!

And I noticed that you have a security guard out front. How fantastic! So I assume you won’t mind if the rest of us use him? The police are sometimes busy, you know, sometimes they need to use a dozen or so uniforms to remove an elderly person from a home they are squatting in.  I totally understand that priority; I mean imagine someone expecting to stay in a home paid for with someone else’s money, we aren’t a society that wills just BAIL SOMEONE OUT! I mean, come on! But even so, it makes it a little tuff on the rest of us when we need the police for other things (note the drug dealers mentioned above). In any case, thank you for the extra protection!

I’m afraid that I might be giving the impression that we don’t love our vacant homes here in Central Neighborhood. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We even have an initiative that was started last year in cooperation with the police department. It’s called “adopt a vacant home.” Residents are able to lovingly care for a bank owned home. So, in addition to their own home maintenance, jobs and family responsibilities, residence have the opportunity to provide lawn care and security services to bank owned homes, for free! I would have told you about this service before you hired your security guard, it could have saved you a few bucks. So don’t bother with a lawn service, none of the other vacant homes do!

Also, please don’t be offended if, as we stop to pick up the trash littered outside your house, we don’t tilt our head in a friendly nod. We don’t mean to be rude, please understand, we’re just tired. After a long day at work, children to care for, aging parents and grandparents to care for, lawns to be mowed, streets to be cleaned and neighborhood meeting to attend, we are too tired to do anything but worry. Worry about the safety of our children as they wait for the school bus on these empty streets. Worry about the prostitution and drugs infesting the boarded house next door. Worry that the police will not be quick enough to respond to our cries for help. Worry that our mother, or grandmother will be the next victim of foreclosure. Worry that our neighborhood is dying, suffering slowly with the hammer of each nail into a boarded window.

So welcome to the neighborhood GMAC Financial. We’re so glad that despite your twelve billion dollars in bail out money and $900,000 bonuses, you have chosen a house in little Central Neighborhood worth $90,000 to be your home. I was getting awfully tired of that boring, hard working old woman Rosemary anyway. Maybe Bill Muir will stop by in his private jet for a cup of coffee some time, I sure have few thoughts I could share with him!

Yours Truly,

Kori Hennessy, Resident