As someone totally unconnected this story the first thing I noticed was the tension and anger in a Watts meeting hall. The hall is part of what used to be the City of LA Civic Center in Watts. There is a 'city hall' there and other buildings. The meeting was in the building used for a state subsidized alternative high school called Inspire Research Academy. It's a school for 17 to 24 year olds who didn't get degrees and want one. For many, it's another chance, a glimmer of hope.
School officials are concerned about the future of their program and the hope their students feel. City Councilman Joe Buscaino wants to move to the building and that will likely displace some of the school. Buscaino's office is in a Chase Bank building down the street from where Inspire has it's program. The councilman's offices cost $120,000 a year in rent. Moving to the area where the school is would be free. That's because the property belongs to the city. Several aides to the councilman tell me something has to change. The property where the current offices are is about to be sold and they need to move out. They also tell me that many residents in Watts want that city hall complex to return to a place where services are provided. And, aides tell me more would be brought in with the change.
The school is state subsidized. The program gets an estimated $6,000 to $8,600 per student each year. That provides all of the teachers and educational materials. School officials feel making them find a place where they have to pay for rent could prove a hardship.
The Councilman's Deputy Chief of Staff Jacob Haik says the school could still have the building they are in now, but because the program has grown from 25 students just a couple of years ago to almost a couple of hundred the building is too small for the need. Haik says they can have 65% of their student body for the free property, but if they want to full student population they'll need another location for the remaining 35%. He says his staffers want to help.
Students feel the city doesn't care about their needs. When asked how they feel about Buscaino spending $120,000 of taxpayers money for offices and would be returning that much each year to city coffers by moving to a city owned location, they say, he should find another location and spend the money because the resources for the students will pay be many fold in the years to come. They also believe there are other city properties that could be used.
Haik says the earliest anything can happen will be this summer.