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The Source: Five Years After A Deal, No New Federal Courthouse

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For 5 years, San Antonio has been waiting for an agreed-to land swap to happen between the city and the federal government, the site of the old San Antonio Police Headquarters at 215 E Nueva St. in exchange for the John H. Wood Federal Courthouse on E Cesar Chavez.

The courthouse dates back to HemisFair in 1968, and–along with its adjacent parking lots–sits on prime real estate. So whether the land go toward the ongoing HemisFair redevelopment or some other project, the city has been in a holding pattern since 2010.

But that doesn't even compare to what the Federal Judiciary for the Western District of Texas has been going through. 

The year was 1998. In the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to Dallas, the band Marcy Playground was number one on the Billboards for Modern Rock the most consecutive weeks, and the Western District of Texas' John H. Wood Federal Courthouse was added to the U.S. General Services Administration's list of buildings that needed to be replaced.

So for more than 15 years, the judiciary have been doing their work out of a building with known problems.

The building, which was never intended to be a courthouse, has a host of security issues. According to Federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez, the court scored an abysmal 25 points out of 100 for security, in a 2006 National Security Survey conducted by the U.S. Marshall Service.

"Anything below 80 was to be considered serious security deficiencies," says Judge Rodriguez.

Because of congressional gridlock, the budget process has gone off the rails the past few years, so much so that the deal that would build a new federal courthouse on the site of the old SAPD HQ doesn't require new money.  Between $3 and $5 billion sits in an account called the "Federal Building Fund" explicitly allocated for building new buildings for the federal government.

Guests:

  • Jeff Coyle, director of Intergovernmental Relations at the City of San Antonio
  • Judge Xavier Rodriguez, Federal Judge for the Western District of Texas
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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive