One Day in the American City


The Hope of Our Cities

Environmental restoration, urban farming and criminal rehabilitation are explored.

AIRED: May 04, 2016 | 0:25:11

So--you--you rolling?

Man: Camry and Nichole interview take one.

Uh, check, check.

3, 4, 5.

Do you want me to address you or the camera?

Man: Let's make sure this is rolling. Got it.

Uh, excuse me. Is the film still on?

Uh, so my name's--

Man: Actually, hold on one sec.

Take one!

Narrator: Simultaneously on April 26,

thousands of people in 11 U.S. metropolitan areas

were asked to film 10 questions

about the future of their city.

We uncovered many stories about our cites,

learned more about our challenges

and found many ideas and plans

for a collective better future.

Filmed entirely in one day across the U.S.,

this is "One Day in the American City."

In order to unify creative participation

in this project,

we presented 10 questions to thousands of people

across the country.

This experiment in democratized filmmaking

produced diverse and profound stories and answers.

In this episode, we will explore 3 questions

that focus on the future of cities.

What are the solutions your city needs to implement,

how are people changing the future of your city,

and what do you hope for your city

in the next 20 years?

Major funding for "One Day in the American City"

Man: Increasingly, our problems are complex.

There isn't, um, sort of a singular solution

to many of them.

When the citizens come together and decide that

"This is in all of our interests,"

we seem to find ways to get it done.

Woman: Streetlight repair,

GED programs,

um, ESL classes.

It's not a question just of do we have the resources

to build a better, safer, more vibrant city?

It's are we spending money how we should be spending it?

Different woman: We cannot be a world-class city

if we have potholes every block,

if we cannot have the first responders be there.

Man: Unfortunately, you have two L.A.s.

You have an L.A. which is extremely prosperous and wealthy,

and you have an L.A. which looks in many ways

like some of the worst of Calcutta.

I think there's a job there in terms of providing

more leadership and resources for programs on the ground

to deal with the many needs of the constituents in this city.

Different man: More funding and better use

of the tax dollars that are coming into our schools

so that every child has an opportunity to succeed.

Woman: A large amount of people who leave

California correctional facilities return

to L.A. County,

and there's just no work for them.

If we can match these two things together,

maybe we have a little bit of a solution.

Lots of people commit crimes every day.

There's just certain populations,

mostly poor people and people of color,

who get caught and get crazy sentences for it.

One of the huge missing pieces

is who is gonna hire these folks?

I'll put them to work.

Man: I think one of the profound

understandings that happened

actually came from the--the inmates

or the offenders themselves.

They went out on a release.

Uh, they took a--a duck to a local pond,

and the process of releasing that duck back to the wild,

I think, struck them all really hard

is that they were all in the process

of being reintegrated to the community,

and I think it was a stunning example

of what they needed to do and wanted to do

with their lives.

We're in the Thomas E. Curtis Wildlife Hospital

and Education Center.

So we are a free choice science learning environment.

Free choice means people come here and choose

what they want to learn.

Man: These people here are amazing.

They're--they're very caring people,

and even just coming here and coming out for 6 hours,

I don't feel like I'm incarcerated.

I feel like I'm one of the staff here,

one of the interns, one of the volunteers.

Oh, he didn't like that.

He did not.

Right now, I'm in the bunny room.

That's where we feed and take care of the bunnies.

Yeah, I was a animal person, but now I'm into it.

Like, you know, I had cats and dogs

but never wildlife animals.

Now I see a future in it. I like it.

Mertz, voice-over: The process of care

in an educational environment is one that has

a pretty profound impact on the people

who are doing the caring.

It's through that activity that we teach.

It's through that activity that we learn.

Man: I have a notebook with probably 100 pages

of notes in it of stuff that they taught me,

but more than that, more than any of that,

I think that the way that they treated us here

our self-esteem, just being treated like

a human being and a member of society

and being able to give back a little bit does a lot.

Bill: The way I look at it is I see it's an opportunity

for inmates to be given another chance,

and now I have a good foundation,

I feel good about myself.

I'm really interacting with people on a daily basis,

and I feel like for me, at least,

it's given me an opportunity to reenter into society.

[People chattering]

Man on P.A: Before there was Los Angeles,

there was this river.

The Tongva people who lived here,

this was a holy and sacred river to them,

and then in 1769, a group of Franciscans walked

through what is now on the other side

of Dodger Stadium,

and they christened the new name of this river.

They called it El Rio de Nestra SeĂąora la Reyna

de la Los Angeles de Porciuncula,

and that's where Los Angeles came from.

So this river isn't just about our future.

It is about where we came from.

We are gonna make sure that we bring this river back.

How many--tell me this is your first river cleanup?

And how many people is this your first time

really to the river?

It's OK. You can be honest.

I love that, I love that.

Woman: The purpose of this activity

is to try to understand how trash is getting

into the Los Angeles river

and what types of trash are getting into the river.

For example, today, we actually pulled out

what we call a river treasure,

and it was the topping for a wedding cake. Ha ha!

You get a sense of how you can make a difference really

if you just don't get that trash into the waste stream.

Man: The river cleanup is just a way to bring people

down to the river,

but it's really building a constituency for the river.

Usually take out around 20 tons of garbage

during the river cleanup.

You know, I thought it was really interesting

that the mayor, of all people, found a turtle

in the river today,

and that kind of symbol of divination of good luck

came to him, as well as he came to it.

Garcetti: We have such a beautiful city.

We have this incredible weather, topography, geography,

but we've got to get people engaged.

You know, people are active in Los Angeles

but in isolated ways,

and, you know, I think we got to stitch together

a stronger civic fabric.

People want to participate, they want to give back,

but oftentimes, we haven't made those avenues very easy.

I think people are changing the future of our cities,

uh, simply becoming more aware of the issues and the problems.

People will become more aware,

and they'll get more engaged

because that's really the basis of a democracy

is an engaged citizenry.

Woman: How are people changing the future of the city?

I think just getting more involved

and not just talking about it but actually, you know,

taking a step forward and dong something about it.

Man: The Twin Cities is becoming more international.

We're recognizing we have to be part of global issues.

We can't be just stuck in the little Midwest here.

Woman: People are changing the future of the city

at every single level from activists

trying to bring healthy foods into neighborhood markets

to the folks making and advocating

for small little parks in their neighborhoods.

The generation that I see coming up in this city

is really concerned about making a difference and an impact

and understanding that having a meaningful life

is connected with how you impact other people's lives.

Woman: One of the most special things about Detroit is

that when things go wrong or if things get destroyed

it's the people that make the best out of the situation,

it's the people that come together and fix things.

I think the Heidelberg Project

is one of the best examples of that.

It's abandoned houses were turned into works of art.

This is probably one of my favorite houses,

and as you can see, it got burnt down.

On my way to school, I always see houses on fire,

and it shouldn't be a common thing to see.

There's no need to burn down any houses.

Another fan favorite was the house covered

in stuffed animals, which was this one.

The stuffed animals having dinner in their house

like it never got burnt down.

This house used to have records all over it.

Even though it was a burnt down house,

there's still new growth,

there's still flowers growing here,

and this house might have been burnt down,

but the Heidelberg Project still lives.

"Soul never dies."

Same thing with Detroit.

Detroit will never die no matter how many

houses are burnt down,

and that's because of the resilience

of the community and the people that live here.

Man: People are changing the future of Detroit

because they're inhabiting these places that were vacant.

Stuff like this-- abandoned lot.

We take it over, we make into something.

Before it was nothing, and now it's a place

for people to meet and hang out and get along,

and it's tight.

It's a old playground that was abandoned

in the early eighties, I believe.

It was started from a group of riders

that found this pile of dirt right over there,

and, um, they formed it into, like, something you could ride,

and from there, we just kept going and going.

I don't see it stopping anytime soon.

We're just teaching kids how to ride bikes

or how to make jumps.

We're teaching them how to get along,

how to act.

Not how to be mature but how to make something

as a team, as a group

because that's the future of the city is the kids.

I mean, they're-- they're the ones

that are gonna

[Birds chirping]

Man: Most of the landscaping and plants

that we're used to seeing in Los Angeles are here

because people wanted a landscape that looked like

where they were coming from.

Seeing something that was a dead lawn

with zero wildlife is now full

of amazing bees and birds and caterpillars,

I mean, that's like a powerful experience.

When a--a kid sees that transformation

from a lawn, let's say, to something like this,

they understand, they get it,

and there's a level of understanding

that's very deep, I think.

My name is Anne, and this is my son Eddie,

and this is site number 42

of the Wildflowering L.A.

I think there are 50 sites.

Yeah. There are 50 different sites.

50 different sites,

and we're site number 42.

We've actually learned quite a lot

with this project as we've gone along.

Well, uh, our yard is pretty different from all the other ones

because a lot of the other ones have a lot of just grass,

and they have to water it a lot,

so, you know, it's nice that we're--

now that we're in a drought to have

something other than grass

and something that produces some kind of oxygen

instead of grass that does nothing.

Haeg, voice-over: Part of my goal with this project

and other projects I've done is kind of recalibrate our eye

for what is considered beautiful in the landscape.

My only idea is to find 50 meaningful,

welcoming places to-- to grow these wildflowers

with the hope then that kids growing up

down the street from these sites

will pass it by every day,

and it will start to sink in.

Man: Most of the 20th century we--we spent

billions and billions of dollars in America

and around the world designing and retrofitting

our cities for the automobile.

Around the end of the 20th century,

we've kind of suddenly realized that that isn't working,

that the car and the city don't really mesh that well.

A lot of our, you know, cities across North America

are just gridlocked in traffic.

I mean, it just doesn't work as a transportation system.

If you can make your cities less car-dependent,

you are solving public health problems,

environmental problems, qualitiy-of-life problems,

mobility problems.

You're just solving a lot of problems.

Man: These transit investments

attract private sector investment

in housing and offices.

It's already shaping development.

It's shaping how we live and giving people

more opportunities to live, to get to work,

to get to school, and to create a new community.

Naparstek: People are really engaged all across the country

in this idea of--of making their cities

into better places for people,

to come up with other transportation solutions

and develop new ideas

of how we use our streets

so our streets aren't just places for cars

but streets are places for people.

Woman: My hope for the city in the next 20 years

is that we figure this mess out,

that we figure out how we can live together

but we figure out how to make the city affordable.

Man: Naturally, what I hope for San Francisco

in the next 20 years is that we will finally serve

the underserved.

Also, you may notice I'm old. Ha ha ha!

So I would like to be able to retire here,

and that's gonna be hard.

Woman: In 20 years, I don't want people

to be able to say, "This is where the black folks live.

"This is where the white folks live.

This is where the Asians live."

I want people to say, "Welcome to Atlanta,

the truly international city."

Man: When I look forward 20 years from now,

when I've been in my home for 20 years,

um, is to see my kids raising their children here

with the same values, same dreams

that I have for them.

Hello. My name is Kelly Mohammed,

and what I hope for my city in the next 20 years

is for everybody to celebrate Earth Day

and start helping out the Earth

to have a better place to live in.

Man: The way I'd like to see Denver in the next 20 years

is a beacon for energy efficiency,

public transportation,

and self-sustaining as a city.

Man: I would hope that in 20 years, uh, New Orleans

is a place where I could feel confident

to buy a house and know that it's

not gonna be underwater in another 20 years.

Man: You see construction, you see kind of the enhancements.

Again, we're building a city for generations beyond us

that we may never meet,

and so we got to make the right decisions today.

Uh, in 20 years, I see myself cancer-free,

I see myself fundraising for breast cancer patients

and survivors.

I'm really interested in what's going to happen

within the city.

I don't know what it's gonna look like,

but I know I want to be a part of it for sure.

Man: What we want to do is make a nice public open space

for people to use for the next 150 years.

Park 101 is perfect for the city of Los Angeles

because we're creating space where there is no space.

We're creating a park out of thin air.

The freeway cap itself is about 10 acres

of, uh, new parkland,

and it's just over a half-mile long.

The current problem right now with downtown is we got

the 101 freeway that goes right through the middle

of L.A.'s most central core.

At the time, it was probably the perfect decision

for these city planners, and people really loved it

because they loved their cars,

but now that we look back, you know, it was

a little bit of a mistake,

and we're learning from the past

to move forward for a better future.

Man: I'm from a family that's very intimately tied with food,

so I grew up on a ranch, and I grew up,

uh, around the grocery business.

How can cities feed themselves in the future,

and how can we bring that point of consumption

closer to the point of production.

It's coming back down to, you know, we need water,

we need food, and we need places

for a lot of people to live, you know, in the same area.

You know, I think about my research,

and it's at the apex of technology.

I'm in outer space literally thinking about, like,

off-world food production.

We're working a lot with aeroponics and hydroponics

and different derivations of those,

lighting controls, automation, uh, for the system,

but all with the goal of feeding cities,

feeding future cities, a diversity of food options

that are both healthy and affordable.

Man: I think the best thing happening in Los Angeles

without a doubt is our urban agriculture scene.

Different man: You have this huge potential to be growing

lots of perishable food close to people.

Man: There's a power in knowing that you can grow

your own food.

Like Finley says, "it's like printing your own money."

Different man: I think what we're seeing nowadays

with the advancement of technology

is how independence can rise to the forefront,

how unique individuals who have tremendous skill,

tremendous capabilities

can bring tremendous change to anything,

um, whether it's technology, whether it's the city,

whether it's to a community.

Gilliam: Digital technology can solve a lot of problems

or at least provide us with the tools

to start to solve problems.

Man: We're seeing a radical change because

of information technology.

As we pack ourselves close and closer together,

not only do we have the opportunity

to interact in person,

but we also have greater access

to information technology.

We're connecting through the globe.

The new urban mechanics bring up the idea

of, you know, what--what's happening

in the world of technology

that we can bring into city services and improve them?

Man: If you look at something like President Barack Obama's

Twitter address, he has roughly 45 million followers,

so it would be great to start to see

more and more people feel connected

to their elected officials,

to their city government, to their councilmen, and so on.

Gilliam: As we know, digital technology

is used in everything from public safety

to a wide range of government functions,

and what we've heard from the digital technology folks

is that when they go to talk to public officials,

public officials have no clue about digital technology.

So many of our leaders in the public space

don't really understand, uh, technology,

and as a result, I think we waste a lot of time

and effort and money in that space.

That's one thing that I'd like to see happen definitely

in the next 20 years is--is better technological education

of our public leaders.

Man: I think that it's absolutely revolutionary

that people are now able to interact

within their communities in ways that,

um, they weren't before, and for the first time,

these new marketplaces are allowing people to access

goods and services in ways that were never possible before.

You know, Lyft, Uber, Sidecar,

you know, these have really exploded

over the last couple of years into billion-dollar businesses,

uh, and they're build on this concept

of connecting people in their own communities

and allowing these little microentrepreneurs

to--to make some money by helping out

their neighbors in some way or another.

Man, voice-over: I was a banker, and it just, you know,

wasn't cutting it out for me.

My friend started doing Lyft,

and I was like, "Oh, man. How's that?"

And he was like, "Dude, it's cracking."

I'm like, "All right. Let's get this on then, right?"

It was kind of new back then, so you don't really know

what to expect either, you know?

Clark: I think one of the reasons

the sharing economy is thriving right now

is that these platforms have reinvented trust.

They've reinvented, uh, who you're neighbors are,

they've reinvented community.

Finding a new way for people to employ themselves

in a nontraditional sense, a new way that works

with these new platforms, I think, could be

absolutely transformational for our society.

Naparstek: You know, before we had Facebook and Twitter

and eBay and Amazon,

we had this technology called the city

that was fundamentally created by humans

to facilitate the exchange of goods and services and ideas.

Gilliam: The beauty of cities is that they can support

extraordinarily diverse populations.

Cities have a very rich social and cultural life,

so it allows for people to organize and come

collectively together around common interests.

Dixon: Everybody has to play a part,

I mean, because that's really what a city is

is a complex system of systems,

and if, uh, you know, parts of it are left out,

it's never gonna achieve its full potential

and the humans in that city are never gonna achieve

their full potential

because we have to have this matrix or this mix

of skills and talents, creativity, intelligence,

and we have to make it work together.

A lot of our population is gonna be there.

Naparstek: We have this tendency now to think of cities

as these very distinct, separate places,

um, separate from the suburbs,

separate from villages,

separate from the rural countryside.

I think one of the things that we need to

really start thinking about is the way that our cities

are not contained just

within their little geographic boundaries,

but our cities are part of this much bigger web

of connections that really spreads all over the world,

and one of the things that starts to happen

when you think that way is you start to realize

"Wait a second." You know, to some extent,

Planet Earth is basically fully inhabited now

by human beings,

and to a certain extent, we really need to start thinking

of our entire planet as one big city.

It's kind of a crazy thought, but I think if--

you know, if we started to think of the planet

as a kind of city, you know, as a place

that needs to be, you know, managed--

just like New York City was once considered

the ungovernable city,

um, right now, our planet feels unmanageable and ungovernable.

You know, we have these conflicts,

and we have this sort of incredible climate problem

that's underway,

but, you know, I think it probably is governable,

and it probably is manageable

just as we found that New York City is,

and I think we need to move toward that place.

Narrator: This collaborative film experiment has yielded

many stories and perspectives on the American city.

Our filmmakers showed us the magnetic power of cities

to attract people from across the country

and across the globe.

They found that our cities face incredible challenges

ranging from economic inequality and crime

to rising sea levels and natural disasters.

On the other hand, they showed the city

as a living, changing community defined by new opportunities

and vibrant culture.

We uncovered the resiliency of our great metropolises,

showing how some are rising from ashes and disaster

and that we will continue to see resiliency

in places like Detroit

and New Orleans.

Experts interviewed think technology will be essential

to navigating a path to greater civic participation,

durable infrastructure,

and equitable standards of living...

and that with growing populations

and greater trains on resources

living in cities will be essential

to a sustainable way of life in this country

and around the world.

Some say the future of the American city

is what we make it.

Documented by this project, we see that everyday connections,

discoveries, and experiences are writing a shared story.

Woman: OK. Clap.

Man: Good enough for me.

Woman: Perfect. Thank you. OK. All set?

Thank you all. Man: All right.

Appreciate it. You bet.

Woman: That was nice.

Is that enough? Woman: No. That's great.

Cool? Man: That was very cool.

Man: Thank you. Thank you.

Really appreciate you.

No problem.

Woman: You want to say anything else

about New Orleans?


That's about it.

We got it? All right.

That was a no-brainer.

I hope you can make that sound good.

Man: I think that's about it.

Woman: Is that good?

Man: Yeah.

Man: I think that was great.

Narrator: Citizens of our cities

Believe they have a role to play

to shape this story

towards a future that is equitable

and supports a pursuit of happiness

for themselves and future generations.

That's a wrap.


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