Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Living Back In Time in Los Angeles; It's Probably Time to Catch Up With the Real World

By Diana L. Chapman

A friend of a friend called. It seems, he had a vision – a vision to put internet access throughout Los Angeles city parks, like he’d seen in other cities. This allows people to sit and work in serenity.

The idea, of course, sounded like a flash of brilliance to me and the caller just wanted to know where to begin. He started with the bureaucratic process of going up the ladder of the officious Recreation and Parks staff – which I knew would probably send him upstairs and then right back down again.

Which, last I heard, is exactly what they did. But at least he gave it a shot.

There’s a pretty solid joke about Los Angeles that a friend told me once, which has been floating around for awhile. It went something like:

Question: What time is it in New York City?

Response: It’s 1 p.m.

What time is it Los Angeles? 1978.

Yep, I so often feel as a resident, among 4 million plus other citizens crammed in California’s largest city, that we’re frozen, locked into a time frame, stuck back in the years when cell phones, laptops, skate board parks and other modern facilities didn’t exist.

But now we need them – and I can’t think of a better thing to do -- then wire up our city parks so we can communicate beyond the old payphones, that don’t seem to work anywhere anymore anyway. Think of the emergencies that could be taken care of immediately with such access.

While Los Angeles remains one of the largest cities in the world, in the scheme of things, it’s behind the times as far as progress and I admit, I’m the first to get frustrated and it’s not because I like technology – but I understand the importance of keeping up the pace.

When I called the friend-of-a-friend back for a review, he’d been picking his way up the ladder, but was told that liability insurance was too much of a culprit to let internet in city parks happen. That makes me sad, because even though I’m old and not great at technology, I understand one thing: our children are swamped with it daily and are moving forward in the future so quickly that they seem to be coming smarter and smarter every day. We, the adults, are getting left in the dust.

So we owe it to them – our future – to catch up even in areas, which city officials dismiss as silly.

And if it’s not technology we are talking about, how about just that little old word called progress.

For instance, my friend, Ray Patricio, really wanted to bring goats to San Pedro, behind his home in Peck Park Canyon. His theory was simple and should have been a winner: The goats will clean up the weeds and brush, a potential fire hazard, and become an area where San Pedro families could watch goats at work. Kids, he contended, just have no idea how agriculture works, and such a program would add to their knowledge.

He got it for a week or so. It was great! Families flocked from all over. TV crews and newspaper reporters appeared. Councilwoman Janice Hahn supported it. But city recreation and park officials were always against it (I still can’t figure out why) and did everything they could to stop it from the beginning.

In the end, they won. After that, it seemed everywhere I went, I saw goats acting as cleanup crews in several cities, such as Rancho Palos Verdes. The National Forest Service uses them for this very reason and so do college campuses. So why can’t we have goats? I guess, as old-fashioned as it seems, it’s too progressive for Los Angeles.

And while I watched the city of Redondo Beach attempt to help its residents obtain a dog park – and such facilities became common in so many other cities across the board – getting one here in San Pedro was like a battle of the canines. It took years to get the dog facility, and when the residents did it, they eventually got booted out to make way for Little League fields. After years of work, the citizens who created it, moved to a smaller spot downhill.

Skateboard park? What’s that? It was never going to happen in San Pedro, so the kids built themselves one under the freeway.

When I blow through other towns – small, large, mediocre to affluent, it shocks me to see they have a state-of-the-art skateboard facility and dog parks that recreation officials helped to provide.

With Los Angeles being such a giant metropolis, it seems it should be way ahead of its time – and predicting – or at least staying to par with the present – not the past. Our city parking situation, for example, needs to catch up to cities such as Long Beach, who have ATM card machines to work for public parking!

I hear it now. Your mind is ticking and you’re probably thinking “all this takes money.”

Yes it does. But so often, the city’s citizens will raise the funds themselves and help Los Angeles build some of these facilities. Perhaps what Los Angeles should consider is using more of the community groups that are so willing to work so doggedly to get the things we need for our future – and our children’s futures.

Instead of turning them away, instead of forcing them to climb a treacherous ladder, it would be nice to see city officials work side by side with interested residents – instead of cutting them off at the pass. Together, we could possibly fly to new galaxies here -- and beyond.