OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A $7.6 million youth center five years in the making may close before it has a chance to open. While the West Oakland facility is almost finished, the city is having problems finding the money to run it.
The West Oakland Youth Center, which was built almost entirely with public funds, is supposed to open in the fall. But the City of Oakland is unable to come up with the $190,000 needed to run the center, or the $150,000 needed to staff the Digital Arts and Culinary Academy for teens in East Oakland.
“We’re talking about $340,000 for both programs combined out of a $1 billion budget. You can’t tell me that we can’t find $340,000 for our kids,” said Desley Brooks of the Oakland city Council.
Mayor Jean Quan’s budget proposal claims the city “does not believe it can absorb these costs.” The spending plan sacrifices the operating costs for both youth programs in favor of putting more officers on the streets.
Councilmember Lynette McElhaney-Gibson said the centers should be part of Oakland’s public safety plan.
“Make no mistake about it we are going to spend money on these kids. We will either spend it in a proactive way, through youth centers and positive programming,” McElhaney-Gibson said. “Or we will spend the money on arresting them, incarcerating them, putting them in juvenile hall or God forbid to treat them in emergency rooms because they’ve fallen victim to violence.”
The members of the council said if the city does not step up, millions in public money could go to waste.
“It’s supposed to be a fantastic facility and it would be shameful to allow it to sit for a number of years because we didn’t have funding,” Brooks said.
Quan did not respond to KPIX 5’s request for comment as of Thursday night.
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