Gainesville city leaders are hoping to leave a controversy surrounding the RTS transfer facility in the past.
Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is once again the target of controversy. Brown’s name has been brought up again by local government leaders and community members after she pleaded guilty in May to one count of tax fraud.
Back in 2014, the city of Gainesville decided to name the Regional Transit System building after Brown. This was due to her support and ability to secure funding for the facility, according to Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward.
The facility cost $39.8 million to build. The budget allocated for the land acquisition cost $2.3 million, engineering and design cost $3.3 million, and construction & site work cost $34.2 million, according to Gainesville Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti.
However, some Gainesville leaders feel the desire some have in the community to change the name of the facility isn’t a priority.
“I feel like this doesn’t address concerns of people that ride the bus. It doesn’t address concerns of people who work at RTS. I know that every now and then it comes back up,” Ward said.
One person, who frequently uses that service, believes that Brown’s crimes outweigh her contributions.
Amay Patel, a frequent RTS passenger does not share the same sentiment Ward and many other city leaders have regarding the name change of the facility.
“I think the building should only be commemorated to people who are already deceased and have made a meaningful contribution on the society that we’re surrounded in,” Patel said.
In Brown’s criminal case, court documents accused her of using more than $830,000 from her One Door for Education Foundation to pay for luxurious parties, trips and shopping. In December 2020, the city’s RTS advisory board voted unanimously to recommend that the city remove Brown’s name.
However, no action was taken by the city.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the former Florida congresswoman, she is still determined to make a political comeback.
According to Brown’s official website, she filed petition papers Thursday, June 16 to run in Florida’s 10th District. This would make it an open seat because incumbent Democrat Val Demings is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
“I’ve represented most of the people of the new 10th District during my 24 years in Congress and I always earned huge support in this region,” Brown said.
Some wonder if Brown would still be able to run due to her criminal past. However, the Constitution does not outright bar convicted felons from serving. The House or Senate would have to decide whom to seat.
Regardless of what her political career may look like moving forward, Ward feels it’s time to focus on the service the RTS provides and not the removal of her name on the building, which is becoming a topic of discussion, yet again.
“I want us to focus on providing great services and not wasting our time with partisan debates and ugliness. We need to be focused on providing great service to people who need that service,” Ward said.