Dead Kennedies: L.A.'s Robert F Kennedy School

The NY Times looks at the controversy over LA's $500 million Robert F Kennedy Community Schools (so called because it's actually several schools sharing a campus), which is not only fabulously expensive, but also intended as some sort of tribute for RFK, who was assassinated in the area where the school is built:

Paul Schrade, 85, gestured to a library counter and, behind it, a warren of empty rooms and closets. The pantry Mr. Schrade referred to, now vanished, was the passageway in the Ambassador Hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was shot 42 years ago after declaring victory in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. Mr. Schrade, a close aide, was at Kennedy’s side that night and was himself shot in the head in the rush of gunfire, a little remembered footnote to the assassination.

The Ambassador Hotel is now razed, replaced by a sprawling public school complex that will open on Sept. 13, a memorial to Kennedy as well as an ambitious effort by a beleaguered school system to provide classrooms to a community of mostly poor Latino students. Mr. Schrade has been the Kennedy family’s chief representative in a project to which he has more than a little personal connection.

Yet the opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools has become a new strained chapter in a long battle over this historically resonant site. In the 21 years since the hotel went bankrupt, the property has been the stage for a battle pitting historical preservationists against the Kennedy family and a city that is not often keen on embracing its history; a failed attempt by Donald Trump to build the world’s largest building; and now, a corrosive controversy over the almost $600 million cost of the school — it is the most expensive in the nation, local officials say — that is embarrassing Los Angeles school officials and chastening Mr. Schrade.

That's actually the perfect tribute for a liberal: an over-priced boondoggle that doesn't even accomplish one of it's two stated goals: preserving the historic sites that the school has replaced. Check back in a few years, and the school(s) will also be failing at their other stated goal: educating the kids.

One thing this fiasco may do is shine a light, not just on Croesus-level spending in urban school districts, but also the practice of paying "tribute" to Robert F Kennedy, surely one of the most overrated political icons of the last 60 years. He's a liberal saint - practically a martyr - but for what I have no idea.

That's not to say he was all bad. He helped Joe McCarthy hunt commies. He fought southern segregationists. He tried to assassinate Castro. He had his own private army in Florida that invaded Cuba. He was devout, and was obviously pro-life (tho' most of his kids ended up screwy). He led the charge against organized crime, which had corrupted political and social life in many American cities. His efforts to drive organized crime out of the trade unions may well have been his greatest legacy, one which fatally weakened private unions including the once all-powerful Teamsters. For that, a grateful nation owes RFK thanks. But, these can hardly be the accomplishments that modern liberals are thinking of when they become misty over "Bobby."

No, what they like is the post-assassination Senator Kennedy. This is the RFK who demagogued racial issues, helping poison race relations at a time when American society was finally beginning to integrate. The RFK who advocated for the sort of Great Society programs that have only perpetuated the poverty he claimed to be so appalled by. The RFK who was a wealthy man who advocated redistributive taxing and spending schemes. Most important, he is the RFK who turned loudly against the Viet Nam War begun by his brother, charmingly going to the well of the Senate to accuse US troops of engaging in "Nazi-like tactics." In other words, he provided the prototype of the modern left-wing Democrat Party. Hardly something to celebrate, let alone build a $500 million white elephant.

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