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City Leaders Go Full Court Press For New Courthouse

Courtesy of Jeff Coyle, City of San Antonio
Texas Senator John Cornyn Meets With San Antonio City Leaders About Replacing city's Federal Courthouse

A group of San Antonio city leaders were in Washington DC Tuesday to enlist the help of Texas' Senior Senator John Cornyn about the urgency they feel in replacing the John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse.

The Wood courthouse has a lot of problems. Drinking water in some of its public fountains have tested positive for harmful contaminants, complaints from court workers about air quality have led to multiple meetings with the building's landlord, the U.S. General Services Administration, and--as for security--there are issues the moment you walk through the door.

"It's a 50 year old facility that was designed to let as many people in as possible because it was the United States Pavilion. So are there risks there today? I think our Federal Judges absolutely feel there are risks today and our Federal Marshals believe there are risks today," said District 9 Councilman Joe Krier.

Krier, along with Ron Nirenberg and Rebecca Viagran represented the City Council in the meeting that also included Greater Chamber of San Antonio President Richard Perez and Board Chairman Henry Cisneros. Federal Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez, as well as Mayor Ivy Taylor all brought their concerns to bear on Sen. Cornyn, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The city and Federal government agreed to a land swap five years ago, hoping the new courthouse would be built on the site of the old police headquarters. Mayor Taylor believes the issue needs to be top of mind, and said they will push to make it a priority in Washington D.C.

"We can't just sit by and wait for other folks to move, to act. We have to be at the center talking with anyone and everyone that can move this along."

This renewed effort comes at the same time as recent legislation introduced by the San Antonio Congressional delegation to get funding for a new courthouse, but the courthouse fell in is priority ranking late last year with the federal government.

According to a September 2014 Five-Year courthouse project plan, the John Wood Courthouse replacement fell from a top-four project to eighth on the list of projects as a result of a changing priority formula. It now sits behind courthouses in Des Moines, Iowa, Greenville, South Carolina and a project 1/3 the size in the city of Anniston, Alabama, which boasts a population of 22,000 people.  

Both Krier and Taylor said the visit was a success and that Sen. Cornyn has taken up their cause. According to them, Cornyn and other lawmakers will travel to the courthouse as a site visit in late November.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive