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Judge Tena’s New Digs

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Our offices are on 400 South between Main and West Temple. To our south, billionaire Earl Holding owns nearly four city blocks. Lord knows he isn’t doing much to make his mostly vacant investment grow, but hey. The latest piece of hearsay is that nothing will be developed on the block directly across from our office for another 10 years. To the east and north lie the remains of what was once a vibrant downtown, now pockmarked with buildings in need of tenants and parking lots where former tenants used to do business. To our west, there’s at least a glimmer of hope surrounding the area of Pioneer Park, but give politicians enough time, and they’ll screw that up, too.


The federal government has announced it wants our office space for an expansion of the Moss Federal Courthouse. And the space on both sides of us. And the space beyond that. We’ve been told we will have to move to make room for that expansion (said to be named the HUBUB Plaza, for Hatch und Bennett und Benson). Since our space is being taken over by eminent domain, the feds are supposed to be helping us relocate. They’re not. We’re sitting here waiting for word—word that is over seven years in the making—on how and when to proceed.


As this is being written, yet another appraiser is going through the office making measurements and taking notes. It’s not the first time. We’re getting to be on a first-name basis, and they’re the only ones who give us a straight answer. The answer is, “We don’t know anything either.” The feds have spent enough on appraisers to have moved us to Egypt by now.


Despite numerous public announcements that our building is doomed, the government has yet to make an offer to our landlord. We can’t do squat without that offer. So, we sit in limbo and risk losing moving-assistance funding if we move now, and risk losing rental opportunities elsewhere if we wait. Not to mention we can’t exactly walk out on our current lease.


It’s not like we have any leverage—we’re not Earl Holding, you know. Mr. Holding has all that vacant land, land that casually may be assumed—given its proximity to existing courts—to be ideal for the courthouse expansion.


But Earl has friends in high places, and he let it be known early on that his property was off limits. A rich guy can do that when he has humble servants in the senate—not just Hatch and Bennett, because Holding does business in over 25 states. Do the math. He’s a very powerful man. That’s nice. He risks being remembered as a tightwad, self-serving sniggler who played a major role in the deconstructing of downtown Salt Lake City.


During a recent public meeting, Judge Tena Campbell happily announced she can’t wait to hold court in the new digs. How about you come on up to my office sometime, Judge Campbell? Maybe you can tell me why it’s so important for you to work in Saddam luxury while our 34 employees get treated like potted plants. Bring your meds. As you will learn, staring at Earl’s parking lot all day is mind-numbing. My med is Crown Royal, and it’s dosage time.

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