Finally, someone almost got a chance to use the “Taj Mahal” Regent in Brandon. That someone happens to be a five foot alligator. He was luckier than most Hillsborough citizens. He almost got inside the Regent. Unfortunately for him he was discovered before he made it through the doorway and was captured and taken away. If he was looking to rent the ballroom for a gator event he should have known, looking inside is by appointment only, and it’s frightfully expensive.
He may have gotten tired of waiting, like the rest of us, to enjoy the Regent as a community center. His gator relatives over in Carrollwood probably bragged about their community center, the Carrollwood Cultural Center, which offers concerts, theatre shows, children’s programs, art shows and a whole host of community activities at little or no cost to residents.
When you compare what local residents got for the $7M spent to build the Regent vs. what the Carrollwood Community Center offers, it makes you want to snap at Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who was instrumental in obtaining much of the county funding while he sat on both boards (the Board of County Commissioners and the Regent’s board), but has since done nothing to change it from a private catering palace to a real community center.
Here's a comparison of scheduled events at the Regent vs. the Carrollwood Center for the month of June 2012:
After the scandal broke in May of 2011 with revelations that the upper floor of the Regent (the extravagant ballrooms) is being rented to a private non profit for $10 a month, the Hillsborough County Commission had promised to do whatever it took to turn the Regent into a community center. So far it has done nothing toward that end.
I sent an inquiry to Commissioner Higginbotham advising how disgusted citizens were that the county has done little in the last 1 ½ years to resolve things. Higginbotham’s aide, Deanna Hurley, provided this nebulous response to my inquiry, “Commissioner Higginbotham said to let you know that he did read your email. As we proceed with our next step, we'll keep you informed”.
Next step??? It’s a year and a half since this facility opened. What is the next step? Will the next step occur this year, or next year? How come no one knows about this next step? Is it a secret? The rest of the commission doesn’t know what his plan is or if he even has a plan. Is the commissioner working undercover? The private board that runs the Regent will not relinquish control. According to Commissioner Murman, who unsuccessfully tried to arrange meetings between the county and the Regent board (Brandon Community Advantage Center), the BCAC refused to meet with the county. Can you imagine? A private group of individuals has control of our $7M building and refuses to meet with our elected officials? Apparently our building has been hijacked and no one on the commission seems to care. They’re hoping that everyone will forget about it if they wait and do nothing.
They’re wrong. That gator lives here. He'll be back, and so will we.
Photo credit: Linda Chion Kenny