Update On Austin High School / Warehouse Debate

Here's an update on what happened at today's City Council finance committee meeting, via the good folks at Catalyst who were there and sent this along:

It wasn’t an outright win, but it

was a reprieve: The City Council finance committee held off a vote on a

controversial plan to give a hefty subsidy to a developer who wants to bring a

warehouse to the same site where Austin

residents want to build a state-of-the-art high school.

Residents and activists, organized by the

Westside Health Authority, showed up en masse at a Friday meeting of the

committee to protest the warehouse plan by ML Realty Partners, a suburban developer

that also built a Coca-Cola distribution center in Austin (and failed to hire anyone from the

community, according to several people who testified).

Click below to read the rest of the update -- and let us know what you thought if you were there or have other information to add. Check a few posts down to see a pair of articles about education in Austin -- one from Community Media Workshop, the other from the Wall Street Journal.

Under the plan, ML Realty Partners would

get a $10.6 million tax increment financing subsidy to help offset the cost of

developing the warehouse/distribution center on the former Brach’s candy

factory site at 401 N. Cicero. That’s where people in Austin—who

periodically interrupted the meeting to shout support for opponents as well as

displeasure with Ald. Ed Smith for backing ML Realty—want to build a new

high school, complete with athletic fields and a youth/cultural center to, they

said, keep kids off the streets after school

“and keep them from shooting at each other and killing each other.”

It’s easy to sympathize with them.

Since Austin High School was closed, kids who would

have gone there have instead been sent to Clemente and Wells and as a result,

one young student testified, often just give up and quit school. Who can blame

them, since they have to travel across town and across rival gang

territories—something CPS was repeatedly warned about, a former insider

says.

And the small schools now housed at the Austin Campus, however well they

may be serving the kids who attend, don’t fill the bill for parents who

want a safe, high-quality, comprehensive high school in their own neighborhood.

What do you do if you’re a kid who’s not interested in

entrepreneurship or manufacturing, which the small schools focus on? Maybe

you’re interested in music or art, or maybe you’re really good at

math and want to be a scientist—there’s not much in the way of

options in Austin,

to say the least.

The warehouse/distribution center idea

doesn’t come across as much of a win either, at least on the surface and

especially with the hefty subsidy.

CPS has reportedly proposed an alternative

site for a new school, but residents say it’s too small for the kind of

school-sports-cultural center complex they envision. In any case, neither of

two high schools now on the drawing board under a $455

million capital plan is in Austin.

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