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Friday, April 3, 2009

Broward Courthouse Taskforce More Stacked Than Salma Hayek, Whom I Love

Friday April 3rd, 2009
1 a.m.

The Broward County Courthouse Taskforce is completely stacked
against both common sense and the interests of Broward taxpayers.
That point is made abundantly clear when you go to their webpage,
and you immediately notice that they have NOT changed it since
the day of their last meeting, Feb. 27th.

Now, less than 12 hours before the very LAST public meeting, on
Friday at 1 p.m. at the Courthouse, Room 1882, what do you see?
They STILL don't show the date and time of Friday's meeting on
their own webpage!

That's exactly the sort of outreach approach to Broward taxpayers
and citizens that make even moderate DLC Dems like me queasy
at the prospect of the Broward County Commission trying to "fix"
things.

My intuition, based on paying attention and what's happened in
the recent past, is that they will try to "fix it" so they can vote
for a new Courthouse WITHOUT the public ever getting to vote
on the issue.

To be perfectly honest, the unfair Taskforce is more STACKED
than Salma Hayek, whom I just love, as anyone who knows me
can tell you.
And yes, I already purchased the April issue of InStyle magazine
with her on the cover, but I usually buy it most months anyway.

(I've seen just about every film Salma's been in,
good, bad and banal, like the horrid film version
of The Wild Wild West.

As someone who was a huge fan of the original
and who can still recall most of the better episodes,
I thought from the moment I heard about it being
made into a film, in the right hands, a good cast
and a compelling story, could be a license to print
money, and ensured that it was just the first in
a very popular and profitable Wild Wild West series
of exciting films that combined American history
and adventure, not unlike the way the National
Treasure films with Nicolas Cage took off.
Just consider how much better WWW would've
been if Jeff Goldblum had been cast as Artemis
Gordon instead of IU grad Kevin Kline, with
Kline cast as Jim West instead of you know who,
whom I detest.)

If you know anything of Salma off-screen, you will know
that she is well-known for being a straight-shooter,
someone who tells the truth with both insight and spirit,
and who never blanches from being quite critical about
all aspects of the myriad problems of her native Mexico.
She doesn't try to sugarcoat it or whitewash it.
Yes, talent, looks and attitude!

Contrast that attitude, though, with the majority of the
elected city and county officials of Broward County,
who,collectively and individually since I returned to
South Florida five years ago, have never failed to at
least try to spin an issue of great public concern
to their own petty and parochial advantage, regardless
of the long-term consequences for Broward residents
and taxpayers for their folly.

Right below is an email that I wrote and emailed a
few days ago to Broward Comm. Suzanne Gunzburger,
who represents my part of the county, and to Comm.
Ken Keechl, so far as I can tell, just about the only
elected official in Broward who consistently has taken
the wise p.o.v. that building a new legal Taj Mahal for
the Broward legal community is NOT he only answer
to the current problems.

As it turns out, I didn't call them on Wednesday as I
planned because I decided that until I went to the
meeting myself on Friday, it would all just be
informed speculation.

After actually being there, though, having already
reviewed the documents and materials online and
knowing the facts, well, that's when some real
judgments can be made about both the Taskforce
in general and on the individual members in particular,
and whether they were up to the challenge, or took
the safe way out: tax and build.
--------------------------------
March 31, 2009

Dear Commissioners Gunzburger and Keechl:

I will try to reach you Wednesday afternoon from the
Orioles' last home spring training game in FTL, against
the Marlins, to discuss the Courthouse Taskforce.
As I note below in the comments I left on the Herald's
own website, from its very composition to the so-called
public outreach effort via webpage, it reflects VERY POORLY
on Broward County's elected leaders and so-called management.

Go to the website yourself and see what I see, and decide
if I'm wrong:

Yes, it really does say that the next meeting is February 27th,
which is the sort of thing I've come to routinely expect over the
past few years with Hallandale Beach's truly embarrassing wreck
of a website, which to cite but one quick example, STILL doesn't
list the name anywhere on the website of the man who became
the city's Public Works Director about seven weeks ago.
Really.

No name, no phone number, no email address.
That's HB City Hall's crazy idea of accountability and transparency,
but that's not something I'd expect with the County's website.
But there it is.

So, with less than 72 hours to go before the LAST scheduled
public meeting, when is the information from February's
meeting actually going to be available to the public,
and on the County's website?

I'm irate that the next Taskforce meeting at 1 p.m. on Friday
is the LAST public meeting, because having attended the
last public Broward County Charter Review Committee
meeting last April, I've seen for myself what happens at the
last public meeting.
Among other things, regular Broward citizens get rolled
and Big-footed, and the staff attorneys just look the other
way or make pathetic excuses that are neither reasonable
nor fair!
Or even true.

I wrote about that troubling experience in detail last August
and how the South Florida media completely ignored it at
Comm. Keechl, given all that's happened, it really looks more
and more like they all should've listened to you in the first place,
and NOT tried to take advantage of the very real and myriad
problems there to try to reinvent the wheel, with taxpayers
paying for it.

But they didn't, and now, Broward citizens and taxpayers
can see and read for themselves what will likely happen,
unless common sense somehow head's 'em
off at the pass.

By the way, in case you missed it, a Herald article on
the Taskforce by Todd Wright on the day of the last
meeting on February 27th, at bottom, which I planne on
attending but couldn't make, was so badly written that
in a story ostensibly about that afternoon's meeting,
Wright never actually mentioned
a.) what time the Taskforce meeting was,
b.) where the meeting was to take place, or
c.) even note the Taskforce's webpage to help readers
interested in getting more info.
And THAT's what passes for serious local news coverage?!

That piece from February was perhaps the worst thing in the
Herald all year, except for all the things they didn't run but
should've, which I'll detail soon on my own blog.

In my opinion, what's needed is to renovate and expand the
existing Broward Courthouse, yet take full advantage of the
current economic situation to drive home good deals for
Broward taxpayers with designers, architects and
construction firms.

DO NOT just rubber stamp the Taskforce's upcoming final
report, which I can already anticipate in my head, which
will likely use the very lawsuits described below as
ammunition to faithfully serve well the interests of the
county's legal community.

I'm no psychologist, but based on everything I'm reading
nd hearing, it sounds to me like many of these folks
involved have a real Edifice Complex.
Or is it Edifice Envy?

I want a safer, cleaner and SMARTER Courthouse and
infrastructure, with less dead-wood employees and much
more transparency and accountability to the public.
Quite frankly, on the last half-dozen times I've been in
and or near the current Broward Courthouse, it often
seems like a hangout for teens cutting class.

I like well-designed public areas, but in that regard,
the scene I saw in FTL more closely resembled what
I often observed in D.C. whenever I'd swing by the
District Courthouse and watch one of my friends,
a federal prosecutor for then-U.S. Attorney for D.C.
Eric Holder, do her thing at a trial.
Tons of teenagers and people milling around for hours
and hours, many of whom never actually seemed to
go into the building.
Witness intimidation?
H-m-m-m... I wonder?

All I know is that it used to make her nervous, given
the sorts of VERY serious cases she prosecuted
against some of D.C. worst career criminals, back when
D.C. led the country in murders, to everyone's horror and chagrin.

I plan on being at Friday's Taskforce meeting and will only
be too happy to share my displeasure with all the Taskforce
members about how this whole enterprise has been
mis-managed from Day One.

Based on what I already knew, what I've read and observed,
as well as what reliable people who are much better attuned
to the Broward legal community than me have shared with me,
if on the surface, all the Taskforce members seem to all have
either family, friends, institutional or political supporters who
will greatly benefit from a new Courthouse building, tell me,
what reason would they have for actually supporting renovation
(and possible expansion) of the existing building?

Yes, it seems pretty stacked to me.
So how does a Broward citizen undo that damage?

I guess I'll find out on Friday.

-----------------------------------------
http://www.miamiherald.com/486/story/977937.html
Miami Herald
BROWARD COUNTY COURTHOUSE

Court staff: Building mold made us sick

Is mold making workers at Broward County's main courthouse ill? Several think so, and have filed lawsuits.

By Diana Moskovitz,

DMOSKOVITZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM

March 31, 2009

Read the lawsuit at: http://media.miamiherald.com/smedia/2009/03/31/18/mold.source.prod_affiliate.56.pdf

Five employees at Broward County's main courthouse have filed lawsuits saying mold at the building made them sick.

The lawsuits are the latest chapter in the downtown Fort Lauderdale courthouse's ongoing structural woes, which have resulted in several floods and power outages that forced its closure for days at a time.

On Friday, a county committee looking into what can be done about the building will meet at 1 p.m. at the courthouse.

The five lawsuits were filed Monday, naming Broward County and three companies that worked on various stages of repairing and cleaning up the courthouse: D. Stephenson Construction, C&B Services and Affordable Restoration.

On Tuesday, the plaintiffs' attorney, Walter ''Skip'' Campbell, said all of his firm's clients suffered serious respiratory problems because of the courthouse conditions.

''That courthouse has been deteriorating since I've been practicing law,'' said Campbell, a former state senator.

The lawsuits seek damages and the relocation of court services out of the courthouse.

County officials would not comment, saying they had not been served with the suit yet. But County Mayor Stacy Ritter said leaders are trying to address the building's problems.

''Clearly the county commission understands that the courthouse is an aging building,'' Ritter said, ``and we continue to have ongoing challenges to ensure that the complex remains viable for public use.''

Representatives of the companies being sued could not be reached for comment.

Those claiming damages are Patti Buchholtz, Sun Rentel, Brenda Spony, Jody Romm and her husband Michael Romm, and Stefanie Krathen Ginnis and her husband Eric Ginnis.

Broward's courthouse isn't the first in the region raising concerns about mold.

Lawsuits also have been filed by the family of late U.S. Magistrate Theodore Klein, contending that mold at Miami's federal courthouse contributed to the illnesses that caused his death.

The Broward lawsuits outline several instances believed to have contributed to the mold problem, starting with water damage left behind after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma tore through Broward County in 2005. Air samples taken afterward showed the courthouse 'was a `very sick' building with long standing water intrusion problems,'' the lawsuit stated.

A pair of pipe bursts worsened the conditions. One in late 2008 soaked court files, knocked out phone service and forced the building to close for several days. A second in January added more water damage.

And on Feb. 12, a urinal on the eighth floor broke, flooding several floors below, the lawsuit stated.

Reader comments at:

  • http://www.miamiherald.com/486/story/977937.html?mi_pluck_action=comment_submitted&qwxq=2316883#Comments_Container

    ________________________________________

    Miami Herald
    Broward courthouse panel debates renovation or rebuilding
    By Todd Wright
    February 27, 2009

    The Broward County Courthouse task force is meeting to brainstorm about leaky pipes and other structural problems at the judicial complex, parts of which are more than 50 years old.

    The second meeting of the group -- made up of lawyers, judges, business leaders and elected officials -- is expected to focus on determining which is cheaper: renovating or building a new facility.

    Recent floods caused by breaks in the outdated and rusted pipe system has added fuel to the discussion, which many thought was dead after voters shot down a 2006 bond issue to build a $450 million courthouse.

    But a series of accidents, highlighted by a flood that shut down the courthouse for two weeks in December, has caused county officials to revisit the issue.

    During the first task force meeting in January, a pipe burst in the state attorney's office, soaking hundreds of files and causing the entire juvenile division to be relocated for about a week.

    Earlier this month, another flood plagued a judge's chambers and a day later, a severed electrical wire left portions of the courthouse in the dark for half a day.

    Both mishaps forced some hearings to be rescheduled.
    Reader comments at:

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