Update: County Commission Favors Spending $610,000 On Courthouse Art



Broward County Commissioners thumbed their noses at the public today, tentatively approving $610,000 for art work at the new courthouse.

For Broward residents who voted against a new courthouse, this was further evidence that commissioners are tone-deaf to the public.

Not all commissioners were on the side of spending.

Commissioners Chip LaMarca and John Rodstrom opposed the art.

Commissioner Barbara Sharief had qualms, but supported it because it will come back to the commission for approval of the actual art work.

“We talk about functionally integrated art.  How about functionally integrated jobs?  LaMarca snapped.

LaMarca campaigned last year against building the courthouse after voters tuned it down.

Commissioner John Rodstrom said the building cost $242-per-square foot without the art.


“It sounds like a pretty nice building to me.  We are spending plenty on this building (already), Rodstrom said.

Sharief suggested that local youths help with the art in the new building, a recommendation Browardbeat.com made yesterday.

Commissioner Kristin Jacobs argued the county had been fiscally conservative, chopping the cost of courthouse.  She said artists need jobs, too.

She said $600,000 was a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-million cost of the courthouse.   The project’s total cost is $350 million with all the elements.

Commissioner Lois Wexler said art was necessary because it would be enjoyed for years in the future.  She pointed out  the floor at the Port Terminal was mosaic tiles art work, but didn’t mention that user fees pay for port projects.

Wexler also wanted a commitment that the courthouse use local artists.

Commissioner Stacy Ritter called the art work a job creation project. “You’ve got a Broward County taxpayer in Broward County who is getting a job, she said.

Yeah, a $610,000 job!  Only one artist is mentioned in the agenda item.

Ritter also noted that the voters turned down a $450 million project, not the building being constructed now for $100 million less.

Commissioner Ilene Lieberman defended the purchase by noting that the art budget was cut from $4 million in a previous ordinance to $610,000.

Broward Mayor Sue Gunzburger and Commissioner Dale Holness also supported to art.

My question is this?  Would commissioners be so free to spend if it wasn’t other peoples’ money?

An Earlier Version of the Story is Here:

Broward County Commissioners are always whining about not having enough money.  This same group of spendthrifts are scheduled Tuesday to spend $610,000 for art in the new courthouse.

That’s right.  For art!

I’m no Philistine.  I grew up in the museums of Manhattan and am still a member of one museum in that city.  But if I was broke, that would be one of the first places to cut.

The commission does have the ability to wave the spending of any money for art at the courthouse.

I suggest they solicit donations. There are plenty of well-healed lawyers who will benefit from the new courthouse. Ask them.

Commissioners could set aside an area in the new building for art done by school students.  Or art done by prisoners as part of their rehabilitation.

Tough times require some tough new ideas.  Commissioners need to stop subsidizing the elite arts community and start cutting back on spending.

25 Responses to “Update: County Commission Favors Spending $610,000 On Courthouse Art”

  1. But Buddy says:

    Buddy – Totally 100% correct on this piece.

    Besides those areas, why not make space available for local Broward County artists to have their work displayed. Donate a piece or two, and your name and contact information goes up underneath the painting/sculpture, etc.

    I’m sure there will be plenty of local artists who would like that opportunity.

    Don’t spend $610k on glorified Holiday Inn wall art.

  2. But Buddy says:

    Oh, and no pun intended on using the name “But Buddy” in a piece on buying fancy pants artwork.

  3. Courtdude says:

    Is it true part of the art is a portrait of Judge Tobin for 75k?

  4. Resident says:

    I thought that the money for the art came from developer fees, not property taxes. If true, its not how it got paid for, but the amount is crazy.

    The problem is that they overpay for art and while they avoid dealing with “in the eyes of the beholder,” they should deal with the overall cost.

    Then the money they budgetted for art that doesn’t get spent, can be used on the building.

    Art can also be incorporated in items required in the building, like a door, window or walkway. So you are covering the cost of that item in a way so it is still art. Just not a sculpture or painting.

  5. city activist Robert Walsh says:

    Thank you for pointing this out Buddy. It just goes to show you how quick they will spend money that they did not earn. 600 thou for Art Work. I’m sure the didler child molester or man beating on his wife will really enjoy the art work. i mean really here other towns are having proplems just even making payroll and w/ this Commission thinks nothing of spending this kind of money. I KNOW Comm. Jacobs , Lamarca and Shariff will better be against this among others(come on Wexler and Holeness)

  6. Nero says:

    More example of waste. It doesn’t matter what fund or where the money is hidden. All money comes from the taxpayers. If it is part of the construction budget, the budget should be lowered by the $610,000. How dare they spend our money when we voted against a new courthouse to begin with.
    Remember Stacy Ritter and Lois Wexler’s vote because they are running for re-election. Will Republican Chip LaMarca live up to his campaign promises.

  7. Nucky Thompson says:

    Forget about a portrait of Judge Tobin , what I would gladly pay for are portraits in prison sripes of Eggelletion , Gallagher and Salesman.

  8. Kevin says:

    They can melt down that bronze statue of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward and make several others.


  9. S only says:

    What’s up with you philistines? You’re probably in favor of cutting the arts from schools too.
    Buddy, what percent does that 600 mil represent? one percent? half of a percent? I thought it was part of the law to include art in public projects. And a good law it is, if it is…get some class people–and I don’t mean low class.

  10. Broward Lawyer says:

    Nero: “we” did not vote against a new courthouse, rather “we” voted against having a bond issued to build a new courthouse. There is a big difference.
    Also, I agree that 610k for art is obscene. just look at the “art” around the north wing of the courthouse for a good laugh. You will find a huge globe with moss on it, several posts coming out of the ground for no apparent reason. Then go check out the North Satellite Courthouse. You will find a yellow thing that looks like a cross between a pineapple and Big Bird.
    Take the 610k and put in a moving sidewalk to make the 3 mile trek from the new west wing to the north wing.

  11. Come on says:

    Lawyer Brad Goodman is a superb sculptor…haven’t asked but bet he’d do them proud for a token

  12. If Then says:

    The Broward County Commission has determined that the community requires a new court house which will be constructed. If we are going to build such a structure then it should be done right. Public structures have included works of art since the dawn of time. Only a philistine would suggest otherwise. It amazes me sometimes how incredibly unsophisticated this community is, we act like cave people sometimes. Is art in public places really so new a concept to you people that justification discussions are required?

  13. Floridan says:

    Sorry, Buddy, but being a member of an art museum – while laudable – does not prove you are not a Philistine.

    As pointed out above, the funds used for art in government facilities is not, strictly speaking, tax money. It was created to be a dedicated source of funding so that money for art would not have to come from general revenues.

    This is just another “race to the bottom” argument: “boo hoo, we’re so poor we can’t afford anything except tax cuts.” Meanwhile our quality of life goes downhill.

    The truth is that by almost any standard you care to measure it by, we are undertaxed.

  14. Brian Craig says:

    With people struggling to make their mortgage payments a part of which includes the property taxes paid to the county, the commision should be embarrassed at an expense to the taxpapers like $610,000 on art they don’t need.

    What Broward artist commands $610,000 for art work???

    Sounds like Lois Wexler, Stacy Ritter and Kristin Jacobs are saying, “Let them eat cake.”

  15. Dude come on says:

    Come on Walsh dont be so hard on the criminals that come through the courthouse, I hear you have been through a few courthouses, wouldnt you have appreciated some nice art?

  16. Broward Lawyer says:

    Mark the little box on your tax return that you desire to pay more taxes that required. The IRS will accept your generosity.
    You assert that we are under taxed “by almost any standard”. Which standard are you referring to?
    In Europe, where axes are much higher the unemployment rates are equally as high. Many economists believe that in Europe job creation the entrepreneurship is stifled by their burdensome tax system.
    When you believe in higher taxes, you must also believe in government to solve problems. The more money government gets the more problems it will take on. I don’t have faith in politicians to solve our problems.
    Margret Thatcher once said that when you keep soaking the rich you will find out that before long you will run out of rich to soak.
    If you love the transfer of wealth from they doers to the takers, move to Germany. You will love it there…

  17. City activist Robert walsh says:

    Hi Buddy. I can’t believe comm.Jacobs. Just when I was starting to like her(sucker for a red head huh Comm.,Lieberman). Oh well again what do they think this art work is done by Picasso or what? Thank you Comm.Lamarca and Rodstrom. you others are wacked. i mean the nerve of them like this art work is some sort of entitlemnent. Pure bullshit w/ a price tag of over 600 hundred grand. So surprized at you Jacobs. Dye your hair.

  18. Git R Done says:

    This is totally INSANE!!!
    Why in the world would they do this?
    Don’t they know there is a problem with all financial plans now?
    Do us all a favor and vote Wexler, Ritter, Jacobs and Lieberman out, they’re not making any sense at all…
    We need positive change, people with common sense… not stupid sense!!!

  19. Politico says:

    You got my vote Git R Done!

  20. Floridan says:

    Broward Lawyer: Here’s one of the standards I’m referring to — Florida ranks 41st in the nation in per capita tax burden. Here’s another, for many municipalities the millage rate is lower than it was ten years ago.

    Yes I do believe that government can solve many of our problems; our quality of life is enhanced by many government functions, from providing clean water to fire protection to libraries and public art.

    As for Margaret Thatcher’s quote, I hardly think we need to start worrying about the rich getting soaked. For instance, as of 2007 twenty percent of Americans owned 93 percent of the nation’s financial wealth (the top one percent owns over 42 percent). I’d rather save my concern for the middle and lower classes, whose social and cultural services are being stripped away in the an attempt to make sure the rich get richer.

  21. County Employee says:

    Buddy: You are wrong, the commission did not vote to approve the $610,000. They decided to ask the artist to bring back how they plan to spend the money, then it will be voted on. Your title on this article is VERY MISLEADING. Please call the county admin for clarity.

    I disagree. It was clear from the debate that a majority of the commission were in favor of spending the money. Every penny of the money.

    As the piece states, they will bring it back for a second vote when they see the actual art work, which was a last minute amendment.

    There was no mention of cutting the price in the motion.

    Frankly, I believe that the commissioners in favor of this are hoping the attention goes away and they can slip it through at a later date.

  22. Come on says:

    Broward lawyer…the government micromanages poorly the further it gets from the people but …all in all we live in a safe civilized and well maintained place for a little more than say… 30 to 40 per cent of our incomes depending on how rich we are and whose statistics we choose to believe

  23. County Employee says:

    Buddy: I agree with your comments. Thanks for adding “Favors” in the subject title of this article…that’s better

    FROM BUDDY: Thanks for your suggestion.

  24. Community Service says:

    High school students who need community service hours, who have a knack for talented art work, could do tasteful wall murals, portraits, and lithographs for next to nothing in cost. Moreover, some of the criminals being prosecuted, could also perform community service hours in a similar vain, if they possess the talent and skills. Obviously, every submission would have to be screened that the art work is tasteful and qualitative.

    If worse came to worse, you hit Wall Mart or the Swap Shop, and facilitate enough art work for the court house for under $5,000.00.

  25. To Community Service says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. You obviously confuse art with decoration, the kind that one might find in a bowling alley, where persons of your artistic caliber and stature tend to congregate. Public art is not kitsch (look it up). It indeed does appear true that Broward is a community of cheap philistines. Swap Shop. The more artistic statement would be to leave it utterly bare, cold and undressed. It would mirror the public conscience I detect from this commentary.