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Campaign for new Miami-Dade civil courthouse takes case to TV


With close-ups of dilapidated paint, flooded columns and moldy walls, the campaign for a new Miami-Dade County civil courthouse launched its first television ad Tuesday asking voters to approve a $393 million referendum on Nov. 4 to pay for a new building.

The ad features Bertila Soto, chief judge over the 11th judicial circuit, listing the nearly 90-year-old building's deterioration, as well as a female narrator who tris to make the question one of civic pride.

"This is our community, and we can do better," the narrator says. "The courthouse no longer serves our growing population."

Paying for the ad is Building Blocks for Justice, a new political action committee formed by an attorney for the campaign. The PAC's chairwoman is Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, a partner at Holland & Knight. Its treasurer is Kara Stearns Sharp, an accountant and daughter of attorney Gene Stearns, who has pushed for the referendum.

"Our campaign is ready to engage with voters directly about the real crisis our courthouse faces today. Thousands of people visit the courthouse every day and are exposed to terrible conditions," de las Cuevas-Diaz said in a statement. "Understanding what's at stake is why we feel Miami-Dade residents will be ready to pass the emergency bond referendum."

The campaign is expected to face skepticism at the polls from an electorate that has been repeatedly been asked for higher taxes to spend on public buildings. Critics have already called the ballot question rushed. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that while he will probably support the bond issue, he expects most people -- unable to tour the courthouse themselves -- won't.

So far, the group has raised $123,000, entirely in contributions from law firms except for $1,000 from Judge Soto and $1,000 from an information technology company. Two successful Miami-Dade political operatives, campaign manager Christian Ulvert and fundraiser Brian Goldmeier, have been retained to head the campaign.