Commission Ignores Public With Courthouse Vote


The first thing you learn in politics is how to count.

It is a lesson Internet website editor Bill Gelin got this week at the county commission.

Before he even got up to speak against a new courthouse, there were six votes against him. Sixout of nine.

Gelin could have saved his breath. The numbers were against him.

Here is how commissioners counted:

Gelin is one voice. He also has several thousand readers of his influential Broward legal blog, JAABlog.

It is no wonder the six commissioners approving the courthouse  ignored Gelin and his readers.  They ignored a much bigger number  212,421 voters who cast ballots against spending money for a new courthouse in 2006.

The vote was 58 percent against a new courthouse, 42 percent for one.

The Courthouse Six don’t care. They do a different kind of math. Political math.

A new courthouse represents $328 million. 328 hard dollars trumps 200,000-plus potential voters and Internet readers in Broward politics any day.

Now there is $328,000,000 in contracts that commissioners can hand out to developers and lobbyists.

Add to that the millions in increased property values for downtown Fort Lauderdale real estate owners, many who are campaign contributors.

Millions for your insider friends. And the public pays those millions.

That’s how six commissioners count.

Three commissioners deserve kudos: Sue Gunzburger, John Rodstrom and Lois Wexler. They voted against the project.


If a new courthouse could be paid with federal money and without raising taxes, I am for it. I don’t believe this is the time to raise taxes for a courthouse when social services and other functions of government are being cut.

But there is no campaign contributions in social services. There are contributions in construction.

What amazes me is that six county commissioners continue their old ways at the same time the feds and state investigators are examining everything they do.

The six who voted for the courthouse are Stacy Ritter, Ilene Lieberman, Kristin Jacobs, Al Jones and Diana Wasserman-Rubin.

Most egregious of the Courthouse Six is Lieberman. She and her husband own a law office near the courthouse, but that doesn’t stop her from voting on the project.

It’s all very legal, she contends.

Still, legality isn’t everything.  Her voting on this project doesn’t look or smell kosher.  It is arrogant and repellent.

It’s nothing more than I would expect from Lieberman, who also is currently trying to shove a $1 billion no-bid, decades-long garbage contract down the throats of the public.

I’m not going to go into all the details about Lieberman. I’ve written it before and Bob Norman in the New Times did a good job of handling it here this week to refresh your memory.

Norman and Gelin are often voices against the repugnant politics that permeates Broward’s political structure.

Sometimes I join their chorus. Sometimes we sing from different hymnals.

In this case, we are all carrying the same tune.

13 Responses to “Commission Ignores Public With Courthouse Vote”

  1. No Nonsense says:

    Al Jones, a breath of fresh air on the County Commission. The song remains the same. Good work Christo!

  2. Come on says:

    Jaablog has thousands of readers? Seriously Buddy besides at best a couple hundred people in the courthouse no one else reads Jaab. Go around town and ask people in the community most if not all never herd of it. Its inside baseball. If thousands to read it then how come Julio Gonzales got beat in the election he was their annointed candidate? Where is the public outcry over Ana Gardiner or Mike Satz who are on the Jaab hit list. I am not saying Jaab is not informative at times and very entertaining but thousands of readers is a big stretch.

    FROM BUDDY: I’m estimating based on the number of people involved in the courthouse and based on the number of “hits” on other similar blogs.
    I do know, however, that JAAblog’s influence far exceeded its mere Internet “hits.”

    What should be more important to the commissioners, I would bet that almost every reader of JAAblog is a likely voter.

  3. Broward Voter says:

    When is the media going to really investigate this billion dollar garbage contract more? I hear that there is a financial report and analysis being passed around the cities that shows that Wheelabrator is likely to make a 50-60% profit on this contract, all as a result of a no bid contract. It makes this courthouse issue pale in comparison.

  4. New Money says:

    There is one commissioner who has been in the middle of everything wrong at the county commission and her name is Ilene Lieberman.
    Read The New Times stories.
    Her vote on the courthouse is the same as other self-serving votes she has made in the past 15 years. She figured out a way to make even more money for her votes by becoming a lobbyist the minute she took office.
    Ilene Lieberman=influence peddling.
    How do you think Lieberman’s husband got his Sunrise City Attorney’s job?
    It is curious she lived in a small house in Lauderhill when she was elected and now lives in a mansion.

  5. breaking it down says:

    Lets assume JAAB readers vote. Traditionally lawyers in general give $ they dont vote. Most of the readers who work in the old side of the courthouse all would agree the County Commission did a good thing. I think its a very small amount of the Jaab readership outside of Gelin and Help Me Howard that would oppose a new Courthouse.

    I believe that if a good campaign was run to explain the dire straits the building is in that voters would eventually vote for it. If the voters were aware that there could be serious liability for the pending mold claims that could be in the millions they would vote for the CH. If the Voters were educated that the continued use of band aids to cover up the serious structural problems will only cost more money in later years they very well could have voted for it. I think it was too bad the Commissioners were lazy and didnt give the people a fair chance

  6. Happy about the vote says:

    Your article suggests that Gelin speaks for all of his readers. He doesn’t. I read his blog, and I’m in favor of a new courthouse. The existing facility is a dump and in dire need of replacement.

    Many of the JAAblog hits are from courthouse employees and lawyers. I would be surprised if all, or even most, of them are against a new courthouse.

    Gelin and the criminal lawyers are not as concerned with the condition of the courthouse since the criminal wing is in the newest addition to the courthouse and is in far superior condition to the older parts (i.e., civil division) of the courthouse.

  7. 2 says:

    Would Mr. Gellin want a new courthouse if the criminal wing was shifted to the civil wing, and the civil wing was shifted to the criminal wing?

    The criminal bar would be screaming for a new courthouse if they had to be in the civil building.

    If the criminal bar had to practice in the civil wing, they would allege unfairness that the civil lawyers and judges are in a palace.

    Would the P.D.’s office cry foul if they were in the old building and the S.A. office was where they were?

    If the shoe was on the other foot, what would the criminal bar say?

  8. Floridan says:

    If a new courthouse could be paid with federal money and without raising taxes, I am for it.

    Something for nothing . . . the cornerstone of democracy.

    I don’t believe this is the time to raise taxes for a courthouse when social services and other functions of government are being cut.

    I must have missed your posts opposing cuts in social services and other government functions.

  9. Enough Already says:

    I am so sick and tired of how this community and country have become, bickering, sniveling, reds and blues, this team and that, this angle and that angle. We have lost our sense of “us” of community and being one nation.

    Broward County has needed a new courthouse for decades. What we have now is an overcrowded, smelly, rat infested dump that is crumbling.

    There is no better time than right now to construct, it has to be done anyway, it will put people to work, there may be some federal money to do it.

    Stop the bullshit and let’s get on with it already. Enough.

  10. shekfu says:

    bravo “enough already”…

  11. Right Wing Reactionary says:

    “Enough” I agree with you 100%. But the stuff of Blogs such as Buddy’s is as valid as any other opinion. But that’s all it is.

    Nevins, Norman, Mayo all agree on their opposition and criticism of the courthouse decision. But not one of them has a modicum of experience of life on the other side. Remember this: None of them are real newspaper reporters. A real reporter would tell us who, what, when, where and why. What we have instead are bloggers. Opinionated bloggers at that.

  12. Charley Varrick says:


    In the spending six list you missed out the biggest spender of them all. That flip flopping , gourmet and man about town , Ken Keechl. Speak about fiddling while Rome burns. OK the courthouse is a dump but with millions of Broward residents struggling in this economy , now is not the time to be spending public money ..wasn’t that the platform that Keechl stood on ? Spending other peopl’e money certainly seems to be his forte.

  13. Blue Man Scoop says:

    a news report is different then an editorial opinion piece. Maybe if you had a modicum of experience of life in media, then you would know the difference.