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Time to clear the air on Regent events center

It's time for the Brandon Community Advantage Center board to have a "come to Jesus" meeting.

It's time for the community leaders who helped bring about the construction of the Regent to sit down with the current board members and put all the grievances, all the disappointment and all the hearsay on the table.

It's time to clear the air in a public forum and gain the confidence of the community.

The Regent can't truly move forward as the events center we envisioned all those years ago without putting an end to all the negative speculation.

A transparent, open and honest discussion is the only way to achieve that goal.

The future of other projects for the Brandon area may be at stake if the Regent remains a target for critics, a tool for others seeking county funding, and a punch line for folks who believe the rancor stems from the fact that this community lacks the sophistication to handle a $7 million investment.

The onslaught of scrutiny, from media reports to proposed legislation to audits from Hillsborough Community College and Hillsborough County, continues to raise questions about the Regent's funding, its mission and how the board operates the facility.

State Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, drafted a legislative bill last week that essentially would wrest control of the Regent from the board and give it to HCC, which has classrooms in the facility.

Burgin took the bold step after she says the board became less responsive to her concerns, including a letter she issued in May that outlined several steps the board needed to take.

Board member George May said this week that the board had started implementing some of the recommendations Burgin made in May — including having HCC appoint two board members (lawyer B. Lee Elam and college dean Joe Bentrovato) — but that the board needs more time, particularly because it has devoted so much energy to responding to criticism and inquiries.

Meanwhile, the County Commission met Wednesday to discuss its audit.

The lessons learned since the Regent opened in January are plentiful. The biggest may be this: It's not easy operating a tax-funded events/community center.

Scrutiny is a given. That's why it's best for the board to do all of its business in the sunshine. The board's executive meetings remain closed to the public, fueling speculation that it has something to hide.

Proving yourself requires more than a denial. It requires transparency. The best way to put out all the fires is with a big bucket of openness and a heavy dose of leadership.

Say what you will about Burgin, but at least she remains involved and is doing what she believes is best for the long-term future of the Regent. Others have walked away, but their leadership is still needed.

Those who initially advocated for this facility must persuade the board to move into the sunshine or offer a solution that will win community support.

When the Brandon Community Advantage Center board holds its next quarterly public meeting — it postponed a Sept. 15 meeting in the wake of the audit — I hope to see Burgin, County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, former state Sen. Tom Lee, former state Rep. Trey Traviesa, Brandon chamber president Tammy Bracewell, developer John Sullivan, and former project managers Earl Lennard and Ron Pierce.

I hope anyone who cares about the facility and any future area projects will show up, leave their egos at the door and put the community first.

It's time.

That's all I'm saying.

Time to clear the air on Regent events center 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:30am]
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