Prior to her bid for city council, Lori Winner, a registered nurse and fitness instructor, was largely known for the House of Shame, a Facebook page meant to bring attention to Pueblo properties that are abandoned, attractive to squatters and often bring down property values.
Winner grew up in Pueblo, but moved after high school. She returned with her husband in 2004, and has been a major local advocate since 2010, she said in a PULP interview last year. Now, she has made her way into local government as she hopes to help foster more positive change. Following is a conversation between Winner, who is the only new blood elected this election cycle and only woman who will sit on council, and PULP’s Kara Mason.
I’ve already been told by a fellow councilman that I should probably just be quiet and observe for a year. Then he also went on to tell me that I need to just put on my leather underwear because he knows I have them, and you know, toughen up.
You’re the only incoming council member that hasn’t been on council before. Are you worried about the lack of new blood?
I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it. If I was worried, I wouldn’t have run. However, it is interesting. I’ve already been told by a fellow councilman that I should probably just be quiet and observe for a year. Then he also went on to tell me that I need to just put on my leather underwear because he knows I have them, and you know, toughen up.
What was your reaction to that?
I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And then, I can’t really remember his reaction, but I think he’d gotten a little nervous. But I don’t plan on staying quiet. That’s exactly why people voted for me.
You wrote that there is this perceived “system” in Pueblo that has defeated the community in a Chieftain guest column this summer. What do you mean by that?
I think it’s not only from the council and the city manager but I also feel that it’s a culture with city employees.
Are you talking about the way they do things?
Yeah. A lot of people in the city – employees – feel the same way. The bar is set pretty low, and just to get to that bar to raise up a little bit is going to take a lot of political will.
Which I’m guessing doesn’t involve a year of being quiet.
Exactly. Or wearing leather underwear.
Do you think being on council will change how you operate House of Shame?
No, people are still contacting me on House of Shame. A lot of people think I’m the one out there taking these pictures, and I do occasionally, but it’s mostly neighbors. They send that information to me. It’s a good way of communication. I’m not going to stop communicating with my constituents that way.
You caught some flack for it during the forums. Other candidates seemed eager to point it out as being too negative on Pueblo.
The way the Shame came about over the years was that I sat on the Streetscape Advisory Committee, and that’s all about beautifying Pueblo and we’re all kind of in charge of the pocket parks you see all over the city. We contract the work on those. It doesn’t matter how much tax money you’re spending to make things beautiful, if you’re not enforcing code, you’re letting derelict properties go and allowing squatters to move in there and deal drugs.
Do you ever talk to the home owners of houses you’ve shamed?
Trash, weeds and junk cars are a pretty easy fix. And most people comply to those. So generally it’s your really derelict properties that we have issues with. And sure, there can be some owner-occupied derelict properties, but for the most part they’re vacant.
It would maybe just seem that these squatters are maybe angry?
No, they’re not really following the House of Shame.
Right, I guess they don’t even have running water, why would they have wifi?
They may have cell phones, but they really aren’t following the page.
During campaign season you said Pueblo needs PEDCO. Is the half-cent fund enough to foster economic development here?
You know, I was really surprised that PEDCO (the half-cent sales tax extension) passed. I did not think it was going to. I support PEDCO, but I do have a lot of questions for PEDCO.
Is it an obvious assumption that the blight is correlated to the economy?
No, blight doesn’t have anything to do with the economy.
No. No, I’ve been to some really poverty-stricken countries and you don’t have junk all over the yard.
So, what causes it?
I think it’s lack of code enforcement. Yeah.
Last question. If you could pick three words to describe Pueblo, what would they be?
Really? This kind of like a beauty pageant thing.
I’m always interested in what people have to say.
It’s cute. What would I say about Pueblo? I would say sunny, yummy – because the food here is fabulous. And I would say active. There’s this negative marketing. We put out bike lanes and there’s this whole population of people that says ‘nobody rides bikes here.’ I see lots of bikes, I’m on my bike a lot, and when I’m on the bike trails I’m never the only one on my bike. It’s a pretty active community.