Now that 25% of Griffith Park is charred, Los Angeles will suffer with even less parkland than before. Groups such as the Trust for Public Land and the City Project have issued reports indicating that only 33% of LA schoolchildren live within walking distance of a park -- compared to 97% in Boston and 91% in New York City. The Department of Recreation and Parks is about to launch a public outreach campaign that we hope will follow the Lear Center's lead in using cheap Web technology to expand the outreach process.
The mantra driving the Lear Center's Grand Avenue Intervention is that effective urban planning requires direct civic engagement by diverse and disparate communities. Believing that new technology could extend the outreach process beyond the conventional Vermont town meeting model, we more than doubled the number of workshop participants by providing Webcasts, discussion boards, video and transcripts on our Web site.
The developer of the Grand Avenue Civic Park endorsed our online civic engagement efforts, but we'd like to see these simple tactics incorporated into every public outreach campaign -- especially when the topic is the development of public space.
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I mentioned to a colleague that I was going to be interviewed for a documentary about do-gooders in Hollywood, and he found the concept laughable. Isn't a do-gooder in Hollywood an oxymoron?
Of course there are plenty of worthy causes in Hollywood. Hundreds of advocacy groups subsist on the fringes of Hollywood's global media machine, trying their best to get their signature social message into entertainment fare and often giving awards to those celebrities and studios who seem to have taken heed. But the question at the heart of this documentary is not "who's making Hollywood behave itself?" It's "who are the Warner Brothers of tomorrow?"
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What Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men was to journalism, Don Herbert's Watch Mr. Wizard was to science. As a kid in Newark, I was one of those 7- to 12-year-olds who tried never to miss my Saturday morning appointment with his NBC show, and it's a safe bet that the curiosity about the natural world he encouraged, as well as the respect for evidence and analysis he modeled, were what set me on a path to a college degree in molecular biology. True, I lapsed, but in Don Herbert's New York Times obituary it says that during the 1960s and '70s, "about half the applicants to Rockefeller University in New York, where students work toward doctorates in science and medicine, cited Mr. Wizard when asked how they first became interested in science." A National Science Foundation official quoted in his Los Angeles Times obituary said in 1989 that "Don has been personally responsible for more people going into the sciences than any other single person in this country."
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