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Kick 'em right out of the 'Taj Mahal'

I keep hearing people say, "Oh, well, it's too late to do anything about that fancy $48 million 'Taj Mahal' courthouse in Tallahassee," which insiders got sneaked through the Legislature.

But it isn't too late.

Make 'em move.

That's right.

Kick the entire 1st District Court of Appeal out on its black-robed keisters.

They deserve it. They snookered $48 million from the public.

They ordered up 60-inch flat-screened TVs for themselves, and private kitchens and bathrooms, and a whole lot of mahogany.

They scrapped their plans for the flat-screens and such once the bad publicity came out, but they still think they are going to get away with stealing the building.

So — make them move.

The Florida Supreme Court should make them move.

The governor should make them move.

The Legislature should make them move. That ought to be House Bill 1 in next spring's session.

I'm sure there is some other part of state government that could use the 112,000 square feet instead.

I'd take the saddest, most neglected agency in Tallahassee and say, "Hey, how'd you guys like new digs?" Actually, the joint is so big they could probably fit a bunch of stuff in there.

And then I would move the 1st District Court of Appeal into the Prince Murat Motel on N Monroe Street.

Make. Them. Move.

Otherwise, no ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal should ever be treated with any credibility again.

Every news article should begin: "Ruling from its luxurious $48 million headquarters in Tallahassee …"

And this goes beyond the one court. Frankly, no boo-hooing from the Florida court system about how it needs more money should ever be taken seriously again.

Not about needing more judges. Not about judges' salaries. Not about not having enough clerks. Not about anything.

Make them move.

Every taxpayer at every forum and every pre-election event from now until November should say to their legislator: You blew $48 million of my money on this? And you expect me to vote for you?

And here is what each member who voted for that 2007 budget, and the sneaky deal, will say:

I didn't know.

Which is even worse.

To say, "I didn't know," is to say, "I am such a sheep who does as I am told that you can't trust me not to blow tens of millions of your dollars."

As my colleague Lucy Morgan reported, the deal was sneaked into the state budget under then-House Speaker Marco Rubio and then-Senate President Ken Pruitt.

The House budget chief at the time was then-Rep. Ray Sansom, later charged with some sneaky budget writing of his own.

The House's general counsel at the time was the son of the 1st District judge — himself a former House member — who was pushing for the courthouse the hardest.

Rubio says hey, don't blame me, it was a Senate "priority."

The Senate's Pruitt says, he don't know nothing about birthin' no courthouses.

The key senator who did the deal was Victor Crist, R-Tampa, now running for the Hillsborough County Commission — who says Pruitt told him to do it.

Let's quote yet again from the report of the Tallahassee grand jury that indicted Sansom over a different project:

Far too much power is given to the legislative leadership on these budget issues which led to this appropriation that was voted on basically hidden in a huge budget. …

Your grand jurors recommend to the Legislature that it clean up this process.

But the Legislature has not lifted a finger. In fact, several leaders of the Legislature sneered after the indictment that the grand jury "doesn't understand how things work up here."

You know what? I think the grand jury understood perfectly well. I think everybody else does, too.

Make them move.

Kick 'em right out of the 'Taj Mahal' 09/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 7:35pm]

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