Disgusted, embarrassed and vaguely threatened by their decrepit 90-year old courthouse on Flagler Street, Miami Dade commissioners have decided to ask the voters to pay for a new one.
Downtown workers have been seeing the nets and fence around the courthouse for at least 12 years, and they are in no doubt about the condition of the historic building. But those who have to work there know even better. Like Glenn Sheldon, whose office is on the 22nd floor.
"I am surrounded by mildew," he says. "Mildew so thick I can write my name in foot-high letters. I don't actually touch it."
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle sends her grand juries to meet there, and always feels bad about it.
"It is an embarrassment," she says. "They come to what is supposed to be a beacon of our society, and what they come to is squalor."
And Court Clerk Harvey Ruvin reminded commissioners that 90 percent of the 1925 building's structural columns are deficient. Thousands of citizens are legally summoned there every year for jury duty. If just one of them got hurt, "the liability in the part of the county and its citizens would be enormous."
Commissioners voted 11-to-2 to ask voters for a $393 million bond issue to design and build a new courthouse. The sum includes $25 million to keep the old one standing for another five years. If the bond issue is approved in the Nov. 4 election, it will increase the average residential tax bill by about $14 a year.