Wednesday, October 21, 2009

With Commission Meet Slated, Buehler Battle Heats Up

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 8:11 AM

Connie and Antonio Burks
  • Rick Maynard
  • Connie and Antonio Burks
As the Shelby County Commission prepared to meet in committee Wednesday for yet another session on whether to grant builder Harold Buehler title to 140 undeveloped lots in the inner city, the Buehler company launched its own P.R. offense, doing a show-and-tell at one location and picketing the home of a critical commission member at another.

On Monday, Buehler and aide David Upton arranged a press conference at the North Memphis Buehler-built home of Connie Burks, mother of former Tiger and Grizzlies star Antonio Burks. Both mother and son were present and praised Buehler as a landlord and as builder.

Still on crutches in the aftermath of his recent shooting, basketballer Burks stood by his mother and confirmed her sense of satisfaction from 10 years of living in a home in the Hyde Park Community. “I’m doing this for my mother,” he said, recounting how, upon turning pro, he had offered to buy her a brand-new house but had been refused because his mother enjoyed living where she was.

Connie Burks contrasted conditions in her present home with those in other areas where crime was rampant. Nobody had ever broken in her dwelling, she said, and landlord Buehler had kept the place maintained.

Buehler also talked to the media at the Burks home, acknowlecdging he owed approximately $1 million in back taxes, something he partly attributed to serious vandalism and thefts at several of his properties. In any case, he was on a pay-back plan and had paid over $726,000 in county taxes last year alone,he said.

The veteran builder also addressed criticism concerning his home designs by noting that he had changed his designs to make them consontant with county review committee standards.

On Tuesday, protesters in support of Buehler picketed a South Bluffs townhouse which is being rented by commissioner Henri Brooks, a vociferous critic of Buehler’s bid for the available lots under the state Homestead Act.

The picketers suggested that Brooks, herself a renter and at a relatively luxurious location after losing her South Parkway home to bankruptcy, should be more appreciative of Buehler and his renters.

That action would seem to guarantee more fireworks s the commission meets in committee Wednesday morning to reconsider Buehler’s petition, which was deferred at the regular commission meeting on Monday after Brooks pointed out that a provision of state law requiring posting of the lots’ availability had been overlooked.

Not only was Brooks expected to be newly vocal on Wednesday, but another commission critic, Mike Ritz, who had been absent on Monday, will also be present and will renew his own objections to awarding Buehler title to the lots. Both Brooks and Ritz have applied the term “slumlord” to Buehler, and Ritz, whose objections have also focused on the back-tax issue, has prepared a series of constraining amendments to the resolution, sponsored by commissioner Steve Mulroy, that would award Buehler title.

click to enlarge Buehler supporters outside Brooks home - JB
  • JB
  • Buehler supporters outside Brooks home

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