For those of you who aren't aware, the Harris County Criminal Courthouse suffered severe damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The building received some water on the ground floor and basement. But the bulk of the damage was caused when chilled water pipes burst when the building lost power. Oh, that and the backed up sewer lines (you can't make this stuff up).
The building has been flawed since the day it opened. During Tropical Storm Allison the basement was flooded and took out all the computers and electronics. Who would have thought that the basement of a building built on the shores of Buffalo Bayou would have flooding issues?
I know real estate is expensive in downtown Houston, but a 20 story criminal courthouse doesn't make any sense - especially when most courts call docket at the same time. The elevators were a mess. Security lines often stretched outside the building as the sensitivity of the metal detectors was cranked up.
When the courthouse was closed after Harvey there were calls for it to be torn down and rebuilt. There were calls by others to turn it into a county office building and to build a new courthouse nearby.
Those ideas were all rejected by the Harris County Commissioner's Court (don't ask - it's the county equivalent of a city counsel) who proclaimed the county didn't have the money to do the right thing. The decision was made to shutter the building for a year (now it's looking like two) to remove the mold and fix the damage.
Now the misdemeanor courts are doubled up in the undersized (and severely outdated) Family Law Center while the felony courts are in an uneasy room sharing arrangement with the civil courts in the Civil Courthouse. Meanwhile defendants' lives are made harder by the staggered dockets and lines to get into the courthouses.
But, lo and behold, when it came time to authorize an expenditure of $105 million to renovate the Astrodome into a convention space, there was money!
Now, don't get me wrong. I love the Dome. I grew up attending baseball, football and soccer matches there. I've been to the rodeo, the supercross and I even watched the first Hearns-Leonard fight there with my dad. The coolest thing, though, was the old Houston Press Dome Run - the race finished on the 50 yard line.
But the building has been closed for almost ten years. It sits abandoned next door to the generic NRG (or whoever the sponsor is today) Stadium as a reminder of the greed of Bud Adams and the other owners of professional sports franchises.
I will leave you with Robb's own words:
I hope the Defense Bar, The DAO and the Judiciary vocally express their outrage at this public stupidity and slap in the face.
Commissioners Court has shown that they do not care about the extreme hardships created for everyone involved in the criminal justice system. Maybe it’s time Commissioners Court heard more vocal uproar from those they were hired to serve.