Broward Is Open for Business

Categories: Politics

Yes, Ilene Lieberman showed up at yesterday's commission meeting.

But was she really there?

The AWOL commissioner was a veritable black hole, not participating in the least, except to cast votes with an "aye" and to decline adding anything else to the discussion.

She spent much of the time on her laptop. Understand that this is a woman who exerted more power over the board during the past decade than any other commissioner. The dragon lady has become a wallflower. 

The good news is that she looked perfectly healthy. After much pressure for an explanation, she cited health reasons for not showing up to the meetings, but she didn't appear ill in any way.

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Monroe County Sheriff's Office
So what the hell is going on? Does she know something about the State Attorney's Office investigation we don't? Did her old friend and aide Bev Stracher flip on her? Did Lieberman cooperate against someone else? 

We'll just have to wait and see.  

-- Things are definitely slow today. Proof comes in the form of one of the biggest nonnews stories ever seen posted on a newspaper's website. The Sun-Sentinel has seen fit to add under its "Breaking News" banner a story about a Broward driver being busted in the Keys for speeding (62 in a 45) and then arrested for having a small amount of marijuana and a little bag of mushrooms.  

The most absurd part is that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office saw this as a photo op. Remember those big cocaine busts where drug agents would stand in front of a huge haul of cocaine bricks? Well, now we got a deputy holding up a little baggie with maybe a half-ounce of pot on a scale in front of him.

-- One of the topics Lieberman didn't weigh in on involved the new courthouse. While schools are threatened with crushing proposed cuts and state parks are being closed, Broward County is putting out its bid for the new courthouse tower. Inside, get the big picture of what to expect. Hint: It involves big money, plenty of lobbyists, and the heavy participation of "disadvantaged" subcontractors.   

Yesterday the commission approved a request for letters of interest from contractors interested in building the courthouse tower, which amounts to $170 million of the $328 million courthouse.

So now the real fun begins.

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Expect a lobbying extravaganza on this one with heavyweights like Stiles Corp., Moss Construction, Skanska, and others jumping into the game. Each one will employ lobbyists, and soon you'll see commissioners falling into various lines. Here's how the county describes it: 

This project supports the Commission Goal of "A Pristine, Healthy Environment" by the provision of open space, and a sustainable green building.

The Public Works Department and the Office of Economic and Small Business Development established a 29% County Business Enterprise participation goal for this project (Exhibit 2).

The Construction Management Division is seeking a firm to contract for the demolition and reconstruction of the existing Broward County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale for an estimated construction cost of $170,000,000.

The Broward County Courthouse is located at 201 S.E. 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. The project will provide a new high-rise tower (approximately 700,000 square feet), demolition of the existing Central and East Wings, construction of a new 500-space secure parking garage and a new landscaped plaza.

Construction of the facility will be deliberately phased and planned to provide demolition and construction while daily operations are maintained on-site in existing structures.

It goes on a bit, but you get the picture. The letters will help the county establish a list of approved contractors, and then the low bidder wins the contract.

Notice that the county is demanding that 29 percent of the project -- roughly $50 million -- go to "County Business Enterprise" subcontractors. These are subcontractors that qualify as being "disadvantaged." You may remember that the county used to demand minority involvement in these contracts; well, courts have struck that down.

So now the county has created the category of "disadvantaged" companies. So how does a firm qualify as disadvantaged? Here's where it gets absurd. The owners of the company must have a net worth under $750,000 and must have done less than $5 million in gross revenues during the past three years. That's the official county brochure regarding the qualifications pictured above.  

You think this might lead to some fudging of assets to keep under that $750,000 threshold? Another problem: How long after one of these disadvantaged firms gets on the county gravy train before they aren't disadvantaged anymore?

This is going to be an incredibly complicated process, and I expect plenty of shenanigans. Let the games begin.


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14 comments
NotRickScott
NotRickScott

Com'on pulp, you've seen it before. You start out as a "disadvantaged" company, start swimming in cash from overcharging on change order, get the lobbyists in line, in front of the county commission, line the pockets of those who matter, and presto-chango, your a Pirtle, Stiles, or Cummings Construction winning a lot of the big stuff. That how it works around here.

Obermann
Obermann

Here's my prediction: The Fed's have Ilene Lieberman's head in a vice. She's torn between saving herself (which she will do or has done) and throwing her pseudo-friends/co-commissioners and lobbyists under the bus. She either has done that and is embarrassed to show her face in their presence, or she bought time before spilling the beans. In any scenario, this is a woman who is about to the feel some bad karma coming back on her. Just my take. When people are sick, they tell everyone, they don't hide it.

Virgil Starkwell
Virgil Starkwell

Thank God for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Look at the size of that bust.

And to think that Doritos spent all that money on Super Bowl advertising.

KennyPowersSays
KennyPowersSays

The tower of power. The directory of thieves will be posted in the lobby upon completion.

Gator
Gator

Any company big enough to take on a job like a new county courthouse is going to be at least somewhat politically connected. Do people expect these big projects to get built using contractors who work out of their pick-up trucks?

As to the CBE criteria, I don't see what the problem might be. This allows medium and small local businesses to participate in larger projects and is especially important in the current economic climate. As the number of development projects (both public and private) diminish, the big construction firms are bidding on smaller jobs, and thus pushing out many of the smaller companies that had previously won those contracts. The medium-size firms then bid on smaller jobs and push out the small companies. Of course the lower you go on the totem pole, the less able a company is to survive lack of work.

For whatever reason CBE set-asides were instituted, they make economic sense for our local economy.

unowho
unowho

Whoa !!! "Big Time Drug Bust " Now every principal in Florida will be playing hookie today hiding their stash!!! Speaking of stash where is the mysterious Cetecean1??? (the real genius)

lawandorder
lawandorder

The problem with the courthouse project is that it is being built by people who have no morals. They will select vendors not based on qualifications, but based on how much the vendors can kick back to the commissioners and their causes. Just look at Lieberman and the way she shook down Chait for a job for her husband and for a big fat donation to the transplant house.

How much have the architects and engineers donated on the books to commissioners?

The picked a global company ( AECOM ) with local partners Spillis and Cartaya. Well the last big job AECOM did was the LAPD headquarters, it stared out with a budget of $150 million in 2002 and when it was done in 2009 the final cost was $437 Million.

How can the results in Broward be any different? Just sit back and watch.

Randi Krotch
Randi Krotch

Maybe yesterday's Ilene is one of those Disney robot things that look and act real like in the Hall of Presidents and Country Brear Jamboree. I mean, the Disney people could even make her talk and move around like the robot Lincoln at the World in Orlando.

Goldilocks
Goldilocks

People who have handicapped parking tags have this discussion all the time. Not everyone who is unhealthy or disabled "looks it". That is a value judgment most of us are not qualified to make. I will accept that she is not well. From what ... will eventaully be disclosed. However, she is still responsible to perform her duties.

Local_Lawyer
Local_Lawyer

I met Ilene the day of the courthouse vote. If you look at her today and back then, there is a noticeable difference. Obviously, something happened. In comparison, she looks anything but healthy to me.

gimmesamore
gimmesamore

How is the Lieb sitting on the dais, if she is actually involved in any investigations? If she cut a deal for her own legal problems, the situation is even worse. The public has a right to know whether she has exchanged formal criminal charges for her cooperation.

Anonymous
Anonymous

If everyone gets to sing and save themselves, then who will ultimately get prosecuted? Why should any of the county commissioners, particularly Lieberman and Ritter, get to cut a deal for anything?

unowho
unowho

Ya 2billion and __ years later!!!

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