by Ari Rutenberg
After a decade of delays, shutdowns, and toxic gas discoveries, the massive, $350 million Belmont Learning Complex has finally opened in downtown Los Angeles. Now renamed the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, it was originally planned and designed to be both a relief to the massively overcrowded LA Unified School District and a model for new teaching paradigms, it had become the ultimate symbol of government waste. Though several investigations were conducted, no actual corruption was ever found. However the fact that the school was built on top of an old oil field and was vastly under-budgeted were the real issues. The giant school complex suffered from both explosive gas leaks as well as ground water poisoning from the oil drilling. It caused multiple work stoppages, and several times it was assumed the project was dead in the water.
As someone who grew up in L.A. watching this debacle happen, I am very heartened to see this victory, however small and belated, for the poverty stricken and underprivileged families who live around downtown L.A., and who are barely even part of our national dialogue. They really get so little, and even with dozens of new schools approved on recent L.A. county bond measures, the level of crowding and failure in the high schools is totally unacceptable in a wealthy nation. But for just a minute, I hope everyone can appreciate this small victory in the fight for an effective government.
Update: Reading the article again, I realized that they put up flaring towers to releive the gas danger. I don't get flaring towers. Essentially what they do is vent extra gas and burn it, and then let that dissipate into the atmosphere. The problems are that flaring is a major source of carbon emmissions, and instead of being allowed to dissipate could be used to generate power just like a natural gas turbine. In fact it would be a natural gas turbine. Wouldn't it have been nice if after 20 years (yes, the project began in 1988, the same year the first Bush was elected) and $350 million the school was not only safe but sustainably powered as well?