A Tale of Two Commissioners


One of the defining reasons that I’m seeking to become the next Shelby County Commissioner of District 2 is my passion for working with good people to do good work.

Two of those good people are Commissioner Steve Mulroy and Commissioner Henri E. Brooks, but by saying good work I naively define a process which is far more complicated.

Here’s the situation. There’s this housing developer named Mr. Harold Buehler who has been building houses for two decades. If you’ve never seen one of Mr. Buehler’s rental properties I can quickly surmise that you've neither live nor work in the South Memphis community. His two story, what we sarcastically call “the Mason,” are littered all over. Many homeowners in these communities don't like them. They’re basically the same floor plan build over and over again throughout the area, and they don't blend into the community as well as many would like. While Buehler has grown in wealth, homeowners have seen their neighborhoods steadily decline in value.

Now by no means am I blaming Buehler as the main reason for the decline of housing in the inner-city, in fact he is not one of, but THE sole large scale developer of housing in this community. He has provided shelter for hundreds upon hundreds of residents. The complaint of many community leaders is that he is nothing more than a carpetbagger; benefiting from the poor state of the community and enriching himself.

Buehler has sought from the Shelby County Commission a resolution approving the transfer of titles of one hundred forty parcels of Homestead Program property in the North Memphis community with the intention of building rental houses. Commissioner Mulroy seeing the number of residents living in substandard housing and not wanting the loss of millions of dollars in development money from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) has spearheaded this effort. From Mulroy’s perspective there is a need for affordable rental property and Buehler is the only developer in the game.


At Monday’s commission meeting I listened as some nonprofit developers spoke against the proposed transfer of property. Like the lawyer he is Mulroy posed one question to each of those in opposition, “How many houses have you build?” The response was one or two in the past ten years. His point was well made. If they couldn’t step up to the plate and build these houses then who else would?


On the opposing side is Commissioner Brooks. She made no bones about the fact that she feels Buehler is a slum lord and the thought of giving him 140 parcels of land was tantamount to treason against the community by the other Commissioners. She hammered at each nonprofit housing developer that supported Buehler. “Will you also benefit from this deal if Buehler receives these properties?” Brooks would ask. The reply was, “Yes.” Brooks saw this as simply rewarding someone who has poorly served one community by giving him the opportunity to poorly serve another community.


The truth is there are some people who will never be homeowners. Due to lack of money, poor credit or simply no desire there will be those who will need affordable rental homes. To this point I’m in total agreement with Commissioner Mulroy. Buehler is a capitalist. His mission is to make a profit. What is needed are ways to insure developers don't renege on their promises after they have received what they asked for and after everyone has moved on to other issues. There needs to be greater focus on home ownership assistance and efforts to prevent communities from being flipped from owners to renters.


Commissioner Brooks’ lack of trust is understood and sincerely appreciated. This is probable not the best plan we can give to this North Memphis community, but for those needing homes NOW I'm not sure we can wait for a better one.


Seeing Commissioner Brooks and Commissioner Mulroy on opposite sides of this issue makes it important to remember that from their point of view they are both trying to do what they feel is best for these North Memphis residents. I know this and I want you to know this as well.


As I said in the beginning there are rarely easy answers. We find ourselves wrestling between logic and our gut feelings. In my opinion the land transfer will more than likely pass. What we must do is make certain that the residents of North Memphis are protected and that those who operate in these communities are strictly regulated. We owe these citizens nothing less.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

A lot of this is political payback. David Upton, the Buehler "consultant," was the one who convinced all serious candidates in the Democratic primary in District 5 to leave, which cleared the field for the previously unknown Steve Mulroy. Upton then funneled money to knock off perennial candidate Joe Cooper and the Republican.

Mulroy is smart and skilled enough to fashion his questions accordingly and is using those skills to clear the field for Buehler and enrich Upton.

For his part, Upton is basically in the back pockets of the County's development interests. He was the biggest promoter of Jay Bailey for Democratic Chair, which would have placed a development ally in that position. He has consistently used his connections to support his sponsors and help himself.

Anonymous said...

Community Development Council that represents most of the nonprofit developers in Shelby County voted against Behler and his slum houses.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:47 that true and also the former democratic chair Keith Norman is looking at running against Mulroy. Mulroy needs Buehler's money if he plans on beating Norman.

Anonymous said...

welcome back Mister Milton!

If they want to build some houses they need to let them do it because we need some houses. People don't have a place to stay and when they fixed up Lemoyne gardens they didn't let most of us back. Somebody should get in trouble for that. They don't care what happen to people. So if they want to build houses they should let them.

Anonymous said...

Reginald, saw you on television talking about the land being given to the developer. You did a good job.

Anonymous said...

In the 70's the city bulldozed every abandoned building, and house in South Memphis. Everybody was so happy thinking that was a good thing. Then years went by and nothing was happening. The city had no plan. Areas in South Memphis looked like a desert. This is the same thing again but now they are building these buehler houses with no plan. It might look good because they are doing something but if they've got no plan this could come back to hurt all of us in North Memphis, just like what they did in South Memphis.

lilaruby said...

seems to me the lack of public notice is a MAJOR issue; Brian Kuhn seemed to agree. we will see

also just have a major problem with buehler's business model. what does HE have vested in doing right thing? he gets free land, is always behind on his taxes, doesn't repair properties, uses tax dollars to build the properties, gets tax credits? Gets rent subsidies for about half the properties.

A SWEET deal; just surprised no other developer has jumped on this.

we need a comprehensive development plan AND we need affordable housing. will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Anonymous said...

is this the same woman that woun't say the plege. she's a joke. What ever she against count me for it.

Anonymous said...

Does Buehler keep all the proceeds from the rent? Sweet deal - does that make it right?

Those houses should at least have back exits. There are people in those houses. I admit I would not like one of those homes in my neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

From: David Upton

Unlke the folks on this blog, I am responding to the comments and not afraid to list my name.

When you do not know the facts it is easy to criticise this deal. When you know the facts only an idiot would be against it.
We are in the greatest housing crisis since the great depression.

Estimates are that more than 30,000 people in Shelby County have lost their homes to foreclosure from preditory lending, adjustable rate mortgages, some just lost their jobs and homes. Where do you think these people are going to live? They need new affordable rental housing. There is more of a demand than ever before. Many of these people have jobs, and decent incomes. Many of these people may return to the inner- city if they can rent a nice home.

Right now these neighborhoods are half empty. There has been a 10-50% population decline in the inner city in the last 20 years.

The members of the CDC council that opposed Buehlers project have built few homes in the past 10 years. Most are in the dark about the fact that Mortgages are more scarce than ever before, yet the continue to spout this mantra that " We need more homeowners" Or "we need sustainable development". I can shopw you Buehler homes that were sold to Homebuyers 15 years ago that look great.

The Cooper Young CDC ventured west out of Cooper Young into the Seattle Street area. They have had a devil of a time selling those homes. Some are still empty. they deserve a gold medal for being bold but they should support other developers trying to do something as well.


The dumbest thing that critics are saying is "don't do anything until we have a comprehensive plan"

There are hundreds of plans. 20 year of plans. Thay all say that we need more affordable rental units.
44000 for rent and 33000 for sale.

We have 30,000 vacant lots and the County owns 3000. Anyone can step up and get a lot if they want one.

Buehler has paid over 1.77 million in taxes over the last 4 years. his original bill would have been 1.44 million if he had paid timely. The 18 % interest add up. The county is making a huge profit on half his taxes being paid late. In the end they will recieve over 2.8 mill in taxes fees and interest for a bill that would have been 1.44 mil.

We need these jobs and homes.

Anonymous said...

From: David Upton

Unlke the folks on this blog, I am responding to the comments and not afraid to list my name.

When you do not know the facts it is easy to criticise this deal. When you know the facts only an idiot would be against it.
We are in the greatest housing crisis since the great depression.

Estimates are that more than 30,000 people in Shelby County have lost their homes to foreclosure from preditory lending, adjustable rate mortgages, some just lost their jobs and homes. Where do you think these people are going to live? They need new affordable rental housing. There is more of a demand than ever before. Many of these people have jobs, and decent incomes. Many of these people may return to the inner- city if they can rent a nice home.

Right now these neighborhoods are half empty. There has been a 10-50% population decline in the inner city in the last 20 years.

The members of the CDC council that opposed Buehlers project have built few homes in the past 10 years. Most are in the dark about the fact that Mortgages are more scarce than ever before, yet the continue to spout this mantra that " We need more homeowners" Or "we need sustainable development". I can shopw you Buehler homes that were sold to Homebuyers 15 years ago that look great.

The Cooper Young CDC ventured west out of Cooper Young into the Seattle Street area. They have had a devil of a time selling those homes. Some are still empty. they deserve a gold medal for being bold but they should support other developers trying to do something as well.


The dumbest thing that critics are saying is "don't do anything until we have a comprehensive plan"

There are hundreds of plans. 20 year of plans. Thay all say that we need more affordable rental units.
44000 for rent and 33000 for sale.

We have 30,000 vacant lots and the County owns 3000. Anyone can step up and get a lot if they want one.

Buehler has paid over 1.77 million in taxes over the last 4 years. his original bill would have been 1.44 million if he had paid timely. The 18 % interest add up. The county is making a huge profit on half his taxes being paid late. In the end they will recieve over 2.8 mill in taxes fees and interest for a bill that would have been 1.44 mil.

We need these jobs and homes.

Anonymous said...

All anyone needs to do is tour South Memphis and witness how Buehler has scarred this area with his two story monstrosities. How has Buehler worked with nonprofits and community groups? He hasn’t. David your dirty tactics may have helped you win this victory for your master, but know this is just round one. We will be ready for you the next time. With every election you and people like you are losing your hold of the City Council and County Commission. The focus needs to be on helping CHDO’s. The work we do improves a community not destroy it. Soon we will put together a community plan and push slum lords like Buehler out for good.

Anonymous said...

nice idea<<<