Printer Friendly

`COOL SCHOOLS' JUST WHAT L.A. NEEDS, BUT CAN IT HAPPEN?

Byline: RICHARD NEMEC Local View

AT an urban school, in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers, the Department of Water and Power's David Freeman declared war on asphalt recently as part of a rare partnership between the city's huge utility and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Befitting two of L.A.'s most entrenched bureaucracies, a long line of suits stood in front of TV cameras and 1,100 T-shirt-clad youngsters at Magnolia Elementary School, a few blocks southeast of downtown.

Freeman, wearing his characteristic cowboy hat (the tan one), worked the crowd of youngsters, the TV cameras and ultimately the political photo-op process to perfection. The cause is motherhood and apple pie. No one can debate the program's goals - a better environment, better schools and less wasted water and energy. It's called ``Cool Schools.''

But as a dispassionate observer, I will feel better about this newfound thrust of the DWP and the willingness of Los Angeles politicians, bureaucrats and educators to work cooperatively when they deliver their promised 4,000 trees at 42 LAUSD campuses before the millennium, which is only about 18 months away. As an offshoot, Freeman also is promising grass fields to replace the LAUSD's signature blacktop athletic fields.

Freeman, who has been a champion of ecology and ``renewable resources,'' such as solar energy, for longer than it has been fashionable, brought together three of his favorite elements in crafting the utility's newest outreach program: solar power, electric buses and news media attention. And he has pulled together a combination of political leaders, environmental activists and kids.

I could tell this was an important event because Freeman arrived even before the television cameras and the politicians. He was out mingling with the kids on the asphalt school playground when I arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled start. The official program was delayed another 10 minutes, since none of the invited City Council members or Mayor's Office representatives were present.

Daisy Santos, a fifth-grader at Magnolia School, added a dose of reality to the event by giving a flawless welcome and opening remarks on behalf of the students. She introduced as her ``very special guest'' Freeman, who did his best to capture the attention of the kids and the media with a series of sound bites that nevertheless painted an important picture for the adults. After all, they - not the kids - are the ones who most immediately can do something about improving our city and its beleaguered school system.

Reading her script with an ease the politicians envied, Daisy told the gathering that her school was slated to get more trees from the DWP and its four tree-hugging partners. She said her understanding is that as the first Cool School in the program, Magnolia will get ``more beautification, cooler classrooms, reduced energy use and environmental protection.''

Freeman reminded his young audience that the millions of us living in Southern California are in the middle of a desert, a part of the globe that would have far fewer people if it hadn't been for the DWP and its legendary pioneer leader, William Mulholland, who a Mayor's Office representative later reminded us was an ``immigrant'' just like many of the kids in the audience. Most of the adults, Freeman told the children, have not planted enough trees, so the kids, together with the DWP, Tree People, L.A. Conservation Corps, Hollywood Beautification Team and Northeast Trees, have to change all that.

``You have to understand, if you plant a tree in the first grade, you can climb that tree in the sixth grade, and it will give you and many others shade for years to come,'' he said.

Ultimately, Freeman highlighted the fact that his presence at Magnolia School on a gray, overcast June morning, at a year-round school teeming with predominantly Spanish-speaking children, signals the start of ``the new DWP,'' which is going to be a more active part of its community.

For insiders, the newest and most unique general manager at the DWP noted that his department is going to concentrate on making Los Angeles better, not someplace in Utah - an oblique reference to the state in which the DWP has invested several billion dollars in a huge, coal-fired electric generation plant that has become uneconomic. Freeman promised that the DWP is going to make L.A. ``a cool place,'' not just with trees, but with more energy efficiency and clean, electric transportation as represented by an electric-powered school bus in which he and other dignitaries joined the kids for a short, symbolic ride across the asphalt playground that the DWP has vowed to help turn into a grass field in the near future, along with other schools throughout the LAUSD system.

For a cautious middle-ager who has helped organizations in the past stage similar events in which many promises for the public good were made, it all sounds too good to be true. But if I had a cowboy hat like Dave Freeman's, I would take it off to him and the L.A. schools for at least taking this first step. And I challenge them to make sure there is real follow-through on this program.

Before the year is complete, I hope the DWP and the schools are holding another media event - maybe even in the often-sweltering San Fernando Valley this fall - to let us know how they are progressing. That, I think, would be cool.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 14, 1998
Words:901
Previous Article:CUTTING STRINGS; WELFARE ROLLS DECREASING AS SELF-RELIANCE PROMOTED.
Next Article:`X' MARKS THE PLOT; CREATORS AIM TO DRAW MORE THAN TV FANS : YOU WANT THE TRUTH?


Related Articles
HAHN WOOS VALLEY ON HIS FIRST FULL DAY.
VOLLEYBALL BEAT PLAYOFF FORECAST.
LA NINA FUELING CHANCES OF FIRE.
PUBLIC FORUM : CLINTON'S CRITICS ON IRAQ, MONICA REBUTTED.
SUTTER STUDENTS THINK GORE'S VISIT IS COOL.
PUBLIC FORUM : SORTING OUT CONFLICTING VIEWS OF CLINTON DLIM.
PANEL SEEKS PROBE OF DELAYED AIR-CONDITIONER UPGRADES.
VIEWPOINT ONE WIN FROM FINAL.
L.A. BEAT : SPARKS CAN MERCURY BE LOWERED?
SO. SECTION VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS: VALENCIA STOPS SANTA BARBARA IN SEMIFINALS.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters