By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Mr. Avan Campbell owns his condo in the Garden Walk Complex. Paid for in full with hard-earned money. His property taxes up to date. He pays his utility bill. Now he stands to see it mowed to the ground by city bulldozers or closed for so long that more deterioration will set in. Either way he along with other homeowners of Garden Walk will be just ripe for the vultures to swoop up the property without Campbell or other homeowners being compensated for even one cent!
The Memphis condominium complex stands to be demolished for what? A $30,000 MLGW water bill. We wrote about this last month when the Garden Walk Complex had its water supply cut off because of the $30,000 bill. The water portion of the utility bill is supposed to be taken care of by the manager of the complex; however, something went awry when a centralized water pipe became damaged and was not fixed. Now as we reported earlier, Mr. Campbell’s daughter, Shakeena Campbell, contacted Councilman Myron Lowery over the matter, because tenants have had no water since January 2013.* Even when Ms. Campbell on behalf of her father tried to see what was going on with the water, MLGW denied her access as well as other tenants because their names were not on the water bill; yet, MLGW is fully aware that this central pipe is for each and every individual condo. MLGW certainly has no problem sending each and every tenant a monthly utility bill for electricity and gas.
In addition, each and every tenant is subject to paying his or her own property taxes.
Councilman Lowery called for an investigation. On April 16, the City Council MLGW committee met and there seemingly was some solution to the problem that would make it possible for the complex to pay off the bill in installments and for homeowners to receive individual water bills by placing a single meter on each unit.
Any happy ending fell apart on May 8 when Shakeena Campbell received a phone call from MLGW representative, Mark Baskin, telling her that MLGW would neither accept installments nor full payment and would, in fact, make no arrangements for homeowners to get to a point of restoring water. (Again, more details are in previous editorial*).
Now let’s go back to the April 18th court hearing in which Judge Larry Potter changes his mind on tenants and MLGW trying to work problems out. Prior to this the Good Judge had seen fit to try to evict the homeowners for the water bill ‘before’ giving them another court date in which they could plead their case. The eviction action was delayed because Lowery called for an investigation.
At the April 18th hearing, it seemed the judge started to warm up to tenants finding some type of solution then he decides that he himself would go out to Garden Walk to inspect the place but only after a representative from the District Attorney General Office steps up to the bench to speak to him. Makes you want to go, “mmmmm.”
Thus, he did on April 22 taking along with him a Memphis Division of Public Works Code Enforcement Department representative and a Health Department representative. However, there was no representative for the homeowners while this inspection was going on. Shakeena Campbell later reported that her father said the Good Judge told him that he shouldn’t waste his money on the water bill or try to fix what needed fixing on his condo.
Now, remember Avan Campbell owns outright his home; and one has to wonder that if the judge had been told that his mortgage-free home would be demolished for a water bill, if he could accept it without any hope of compensation.
The next court hearing is scheduled for May 21, 2013. Keep this date in mind. Let’s continue.
As stated earlier, on May 8 Shakeena Campbell received a phone call from MLGW representative Mark Baskin. Campbell followed up his phone call by sending an email to Councilman Lowery in which she states: “He [Baskin] stated that Mr. [Jerry] Collins said that there were legal issues that he did not want to overstep anyone. I further voiced to him that MLGW was denying the citizens of Memphis the rights that they have. He [Baskin] further insisted that they would no longer take payments and was sorry stating don’t shoot the messenger and that he was only doing what he was told to do.”
When Lowery asked MLGW to respond to Campbell’s memo, MLGW president Collins got back to him with the following: “…MLGW is happy to help the residents as I previously stated. However we have been advised by a court representative that irregardless (sic) of whether or not they have water service the judge is likely to order the complex demolished because of larger issues. I just don’t want the customers to spend their good money today and then have the complex torn down or ordered closed in the near future. A rock and a hard place.”
Okay, take a deeper breath and take in this Jerry Collins memo. This memo was written on May 8, 2013. The court date is scheduled for May 21, 2013. Got that?
Now during all these court hearings, there has yet to be an MLGW representative present and/or called to testify. And MLGW has yet had to be named as a party to anything. In fact, MLGW has all the benefits of being the invisible man without being there. Why is this? Why has not the Good Judge called in MLGW to render testimony, opinions, or anything? But then again, maybe he just wants to keep his lights on. Yet—now this is a big YET—Collins knows WHAT the judge’s decision is going to be on May 8th before judge rules on May 21st. Now how would Collins know the decision? Now remember this is the same judge who was gong-ho to evict homeowners for an MLGW water bill before they could be heard. Then now there are these “larger issues” and MLGW has “been advised by a court representative” that the “judge is likely to order the complex demolished because of larger issues.” A “court representative” can advise MLGW but MLGW has yet to make an appearance in court. MLGW did not even let Shakeena Campbell on behalf of her father examine Garden Walk’s water bill or any other tenant because the tenants did not have their names on the water bill. Also, no one has yet to explain and/or define what these “larger issues” are.
Now what time is it? Set up time.
Okay, let’s lean back. Now again what time is it? Set up time. When one looks closely one can see that there are various real estate and property development companies that already have a piece of Garden Walk property action. Documentation will show that they are: White Owl Family Trust, Federal Way, WA 98023; J & P Philip Properties LLC, Medford, OR 97501; Memphis Investment Homes LLC, Memphis 38128; Equity Trust Co., San Jose, CA 95120; Garrett Land Development Co. LLC, Memphis 38103; Giffnock Properties LLC, Memphis TN 38118; and Home Enterprises LP, Memphis 38134.
Does one think these real estate and land development entities will not receive compensation for their stakes in Garden Walk? If so, there is this Bridge in Brooklyn for sale.
Of course, there is this little tiny teensy weenie issue known as “Due Process” which the Good Judge seemingly has ignored. Now the last time we looked this “Due Process” clause was part of the Constitution. That in itself may give this case a federal component. And who knows maybe the larger issue of denying water to property-paying-home-owning citizens as a means to make them abandon their homes and/or be evicted is up for scrutiny. That certainly could be a civil rights violation.
And still one has to wonder why on May 8 specifically a “court representative” has already advised MLGW on how the judge will rule on May 21. Gee whiz, a “court representative” can come to MLGW, but MLGW can’t come to the court. Must be nice.
Yes, it must be nice to live in a city where the Ku Klux Klan’s freedom of speech rights are protected with thousands upon thousands of dollars in police escorts and MATA buses can be used anytime it feels the whim to come into Memphis to espouse its hate speeches for African American and Jewish citizens; but Mr. Campbell and the Garden Walk homeowners have yet to receive Due Process for their property rights.
*This editorial and the previous editorial are on the Editorial and Memphis lanes and blog on the Black Information Highway at www.blackinformationhighway.com