The Lieberman Letter

The following email sent from Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman to activist Warence Mae Smith about the courthouse the commission decided to build for $328 million against the will of its constituents, who voted it down by a 70-30 58-42 margin. No matter what your view on the courthouse is -- and I know several fine people who support it -- the letter is condescending as hell. 


From: Lieberman, Ilene [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2010 11:42 AM
To: 'Warence Mae Smtih'
Subject: RE: Financing for new Broward Courthouse approved 6-3-your taxes are going up

Dear Ms. Smith:

Thank you for sharing your opinion with me about the courthouse vote. Please tell me when was the last time you were in the courthouse? Did you notice that some of the elevators were not working, causing delays in starting motion calendar and trials? Did you see the part of the building which had flooded, destroying records? Did you know that former State Senator Skip Campbell is suing Broward County on behalf of sick courthouse employees because of the intolerable problems with the building. If we wait til he wins his lawsuit, the courthouse will cost even more to build.

You may not realize that the

courthouse is where people's rights are protected, whether it be an adoption, divorce, probate, guardianship, small claims court (the people's court) or other type of lawsuit. The elevators are so old, they don't make the parts anymore.  When they go down, our residents have to walk up the stairs to the courtrooms, which are on the higher levels of the courthouse.  Recently, the building flooded for the third time in a year, disrupting courthouse activities and destroying records. Bathrooms have backup into at least one courtroom, causing a trial to be suspended.

Most people don't think about the condition of the courthouse unless they are suing someone, are defending against a lawsuit or are called for jury duty.  Anyone who has been in these circumstances knows that the problems must be fixed.  We needed to make sure the public has a safe place to go when they need to protect their rights.

The reason you would have a referendum is if you want to tax people about the 10 mil cap as voted debt is outside of the cap.  Non-voted debt is within the 10 mil cap, so it sets a limit on total taxation. Also, by using Recovery Zone Bonds, the interest costs are reduced by 45% and construction costs are at an all time low.  Due to the federal subsidy which ends this year, it would actually cost the Broward County taxpayers more to use the voter approved debt after 2010 then it would cost to have non voter approved debt in 2010 for the construction of the courthouse.




What she doesn't seem to understand is that the majority of people, unlike her, aren't lawyers who own commercial property nearby. They realize it's a hard sell, so you get the exaggeration. You'd think that people leave the courthouse swooning with some type of skin disease just from being inside the place. Not so. She hit a lot of the same old points, but at least she didn't repeat the fallacy about the building -- which is structurally sound -- being knocked over by a Category 2 hurricane.

Below, I include Smith's email, which raises some serious points from a seriously underrepresented quadrant in Broward County -- the ever-widening underclass.

-- Looks like it's time to spend a little of that Davie land money. Austin Forman's son, Miles, is marrying his fiance Tara Kriss on Saturday. I'm told the reception will be held at the swank beach hotel and that the "theme" of the celebration will be "Chanel meets Rock 'n' Roll." Gotta be true because you couldn't make it up.

-- Can't believe the play that the Sun-Sentinel gave the letter from Sheriff Al Lamberti to Scott Rothstein. I thought it must be groundbreaking, but it was just basically a form letter where Lamberti mentioned their "friendship" and offered his assistance to him. Most interesting thing is that it was bought by Democratic Party Chair Mitch Ceasar who says he bought it for $175 as a fun conversational piece. And the Sentinel let him get away with that line. Obviously it was purchased as a political maneuver to try to humiliate Lamberti.

Mission accomplished.

-- As promised, here's Smith's original email to Lieberman. It meanders a bit, but the last graph is dead-on:

From: Warence Mae Smtih [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 8:42 PM
To: 'Charlotte Greenbarg'; Gunzburger, Suzanne; Wexler, Lois; Rodstrom, John; Wasserman-Rubin, Diana; Lieberman, Ilene; Keechl, Ken; Jacobs, Kristin; Ritter, Stacy
Subject: RE: Financing for new Broward Courthouse approved 6-3-your taxes are going up

As I sit here watching a replay of Tuesday's County Commission Meeting and I am floored by some of your comments. Let me ask will there be showers in the judge's chambers?  I told they currently have showers.  Many of us when we go to work, if we have a meeting after work, we have to go home to shower or go from work to a meeting.  I wonder how many dollars are being budgeted for things like this? I go on and on about the showers.

Now to respond to what some of you guys are saying. First thing, what I have learn people who are not having financial woes have a hard time understanding, people in my community paying more taxes. The average income in central Broward is less than $50,000. We are losing our homes and putting [food] on the table is getting harder and harder. I want to thank the commissioners who are keeping their constituents in mind.

Second, I hear several of you make reference to the people who put you in office. As a leader I understand that there are times you may have to make a decision without input from the people who elected you and it may be a hard decision. When I elect an official I expect him/her to consult with me about things that will have a major affect on me. The courthouse issue has been discussed long enough to have consulted with the taxpayers of Broward County . But, none of you have.

Third, Commissioner Rodstrom stated Lori Parrish informed him of a 20% lost in revenues next fiscal year.  What are your plans? Which services will you cut next to hurt the low income families? Those of you think voters will not vote for this; you are probably correct.  Why? Is it because you are cutting all of needed program and services, which we count on to survive in these times for a larger building. All the prevention programs are cut or scale back so much, that families who are having problems have nowhere to turn for help.


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