August 25, 2017

Baltimore is on a mission to ensure every kid who needs glasses gets them

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Helping kids in Baltimore see clearly: The Baltimore City Health Department estimates that citywide, there are as many as 20,000 children who need glasses who don’t get them. And as recent studies have shown, this can contribute to students falling behind in their schoolwork, specifically in reading proficiency. Enter Vision For Baltimore, a three-year project that is a partnership between the Baltimore Health Department, the city’s public school system, Johns Hopkins, eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, and the nonprofit Vision To Learn. According to a recent feature on the program in Politico, Vision for Baltimore hopes to travel to 150 schools to screen students and distribute glasses for free. The program, which relies on donations, Medicaid reimbursements, and some funding from the city, has already distributed nearly 2,000 pairs of glasses, according to the article.

Placemaking in San Diego: City officials in San Diego want to make it easier for local organizers to give life to empty spaces throughout the city. They hope to accomplish this through a streamlined permitting process, the San Diego Union Tribune reports. According to the newspaper, artists and organizers currently struggle to move their projects, such as public art and community events, through the complex permitting process; they often spend thousands of dollars on “on permits and other red tape.” Now advocates are presenting their argument to the city council, arguing that lower costs and an easier process will help revitalize neighborhoods and areas with vacant and abandoned properties. The newspaper cites some recent projects that have added value to their communities, like a public art park that was formerly a dumping ground. Officials hope to present their plan to the city council as early as next month, the newspaper said.

Painting the town gray: For the past few months, the city of Los Angeles has been testing an experimental new measure to keep urban heat—and energy costs—down. On a series of blocks all around the city, the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services has been painting a gray seal on patches of asphalt. The sealant is meant to reflect sunlight—unlike regular asphalt, which absorbs roughly 80 to 95 percent of the heat from sunlight; that heat is released at night, increasing temperatures across the city. According to an EPA report on reflective pavement, the energy savings from the gray pavement could exceed $90 million per year. “Not everyone has the resources to use air conditioning,” Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at UCLA, told “That bothers me on a moral dimension. The pavement would provide benefits to everyone. It can protect people who have to be outdoors.”

Margaret Myers and Mikhail Klimentov