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Bruin to Bruin: Kristen Torres Pawling

By Danielle H. Cho

March 12, 2024 9:33 a.m.

Kristen Torres Pawling was the recipient of UCLA’s Young Alumnus of the Year award in 2022 and currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Planning for LA City Council district 5. She joins Podcasts contributor Danielle Cho to discuss her time at UCLA, her career in the public sector, and advice she has for Bruins.

Danielle Cho: Welcome to Bruin to Bruin. I’m Danielle Cho, a Podcasts contributor. And today I’m joined by Kristen Torres Pawling, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Planning for LA City Council district 5. She graduated from UCLA in 2006 with a bachelor’s in geography and environmental studies. Today, we’ll be discussing her journey and some advice for people interested in sustainability and transportation. Kristin, welcome to the show.

Kristen Torres Pawling: Thanks, Danielle. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

DC: To start, could you tell us a little bit about how you got interested in sustainability specifically in sustainability for transportation?

KTP: Yeah, sure, I was kind of a typical where I kind of knew in high school type of range when I was interested in doing and that was thinking about the environment or natural world and how it interacts with people. My family is from southeast LA. Southeast LA has particularly bad air quality, and there’s so much transportation movement, goods movement there. And I saw how that impacts people’s health. And I got to seeing the different mechanisms that impact the different choices that are made by policymakers, for example, which is things that typically in high school, you don’t come across it, I found that I was in like an AP in environment class, and there was a section about urban planning, I was like, Oh, these things are connected. And there’s like a job for that. So I kind of lucked out in being able to find coursework or like stumble into the part of my coursework that intersected with this sort of part of my family’s lived experience. That’s kind of how I got started. It’s just weird. Most people don’t even know what urban planning is until much later. So I was very lucky.

DC: You mentioned that your lived experiences with the environmental issues that you saw around you that kind of intersected with this job that you saw that you could be able to do. So I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about what initially sparked your interest in the environment around you and these environmental issues that you saw which you mentioned like air pollution and things like that.

KTP: Yeah, I mean air pollution, people don’t think about it being a big enough problem, as it actually is, you know, air pollution isa problem in the LA area. Like in UCLA, most stuff gets blown eastern, but if, for example, if we don’t think about it, but we have like, indoor air pollution issues, you know, if you aren’t turned in your, if you cook with a gas stove, you know, you’re going up your, your kitchen with all kinds of stuff. And I happen to see more of sort of the health repercussions, right. So I think, for me, it was just always a connection between people and the environment. And seeing people’s health impacts in my family, like, that’s, that’s what I saw, and that, like, oh, and then there’s these dirty trucks going up the 710, like there’s there, that’s, that was sort of the connection for me. And, and also that, like, you know, my, I have family who, who live in like, heavily industrial parts of Los Angeles, and like, no tree in sight, you know, like, like, and then my family, we moved to sort of much further out almost excerpts, you know, once I was in high school, and I was like, “Oh, I wish like a really different way of life” versus like me over here, sort of in the exurbs, and I have like, a metal to go run track in, verses my cousin back in like, Southeast LA, where rest of my family was that, you know, can barely walk down the street safely with like literally freight trucks, like going in front of his house, right. So, you know, I could see the difference that it makes in somebody’s life and like the lifespan and from that side of the family, like, it’s, the life expectancy is unfortunately, you know, much, much lower. So it’s, that’s really what sparked it for me sort of seeing those connections and through education, being able to draw that more definitively and understand sort of the literature and the science of why the built environment impacts our health, and how that’s connected to choices on pollution, for example.

DC: Thank you for sharing that. Lately, I’ve been learning a little bit more about sustainability and environmental studies. And as you highlighted, I found that the health of the environment is very closely intertwined with people’s health and these issues of like, health equity. So I think that’s a super important point.

KTP: Yep. And it’s, you know, sometimes I feel like the American health system focuses on the outcomes, and can we find a drug for this? And it’s like, well, maybe we should design our communities different. And that’s why our people prevent you know, these really difficult and unfair and inequitable health outcomes that we have.

DC: Yes, thank you. And I’m wondering if you could share a little bit about what your day to day life looks like, as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Planning for LA City Council district 5.

KTP: Yeah. So three days a week, the LA City Council meets in person to conduct their business and the council woman sits on various policy committees. So and she also is appointed by Mayor Bass to the LA Metro board of directors. So making sure that the council woman has what she needs in all those meetings. I mean, I haven’t counted up the number of decisions, she makes a weekly basis, just looking at the number of agenda items that are before in a week. But you know, could be, you know, over 200 items that she votes on or more, a week, so she needs information about the issues that are before her and, you know, advice on how to vote. So my team and I put that information together. So it’s being aware of what the issues are, but also being aware of where other Council offices are, where other stakeholders, residents who are in the district businesses and who are in the district, and then regional partners, labor unions, etc. And where knowing where those folks are on issues and having that full picture, where she’s looking to my team and I for advice, and where I sort of lean most into our work with managing the agendas and how she votes on –– recommendations for how to she might vote on a particular item. She’s the chair of the city’s Energy and Environment Committee, and I lead her work there so I do a lot of interacting with departments like Department of Water and Power, because those items come before that committee that she chairs in the LA sanitation and environment department. Our Bureau technically, that does a lot of work on, for example, stormwater remediation, looking into –– so those are departments I interact with quite a lot. And preparing for those Energy and Environment Committee meetings is a big part of my role. And same with LA Metro, LA Metro is huge public agencies spending billions of dollars on infrastructure. And we, I advise the council woman on how to vote. So same thing of staying in tune with the staff at that agency and understanding, trying to figure out how to move her priorities forward with all these bodies that she sits on.

DC: Thank you for sharing that. It seems like your work involves a lot of research and kind of communicating with different people to fully understand issues and different perspectives.

KTP: Yeah, that’s a great summary of it.

DC: What would you say are the most important skills that you have relied on for your job?

KC: Oh, that’s a great question. Skill, I mean, so much of really any job and sort of the policy making arena, but particularly one where you’re working for an elected official is relationship building. Because there’s, there’s so many avenues for achieving success. Having people feel like they can work with you is such a critical one. Because it’s hard to want to help somebody if you don’t like being in a room with them or talking to them. So building relationships is very important. And understanding the particular institution, city of LA is very different than other public agencies that I’ve worked for. So sort of being flexible and being able to learn in new environments, it’s been especially important for me in this job. And then there’s stuff just like technical stuff that I learned at UCLA is still like is in my environmental studies work, and then in my master’s program, in urban planning, that is important too, or, and I know who to go to, if I like, worked with and I go to resources on campus still, honestly, if I’m looking for something that happens every once in a while, so thinking through using all the avenues, and knowing the different avenues for trying to achieve. And council woman’s priorities has been definitely one of the skills. And then the other is just like, writing is very important, that I don’t think, you know, it gets emphasized enough, like, if you have an opportunity to take a writing workshop, it doesn’t matter what major you’re in, being able to write well is very important. Because, you know, you can say a bunch of stuff in a meeting. But if you can, like send a follow-up email that says, this is what we agreed to or write the memo that sort of summarizes the next steps. That’s, that’s critical. So if there’s any skill that I’d advise, you know, any major to really focus in on, and that’s honestly a lot of grad school too. So good thing to work on in undergrad, excellent thing, and highly important, especially in grad school.

DC: Thank you for that. And kind of moving back in time a little bit, I wanted to ask you a bit about your experience at UCLA. As you mentioned, some of these skills are things students can start building on in undergrad and grad school. So I wanted to ask you a little bit about you mentioned that you learned some technical things in your environmental studies classes. So I wanted to ask you, were there any ideas or classes or professors that really stood out to you at UCLA that influenced your future plans?

KTP: Yeah. You know, I always remember, I think it was CGRP5, I don’t know, one of the like, lower number geography classes that Tom Gillespie taught, maybe he still teaches, where part of the final he gave was to be able to identify something like coral species, it was actually highly impractical for my current role, but like, being able to swim was part of our final because it’s like, it’s nice to study pictures of coral reefs, and all these plants and animals that we had to identify, but like if you don’t know how to swim to go see them, like why and it wasn’t that particular I don’t need to identify coral species in my role, but like that sort of thinking of like, is this real, like make this real, was like a memorable and practical perspective that I thought like really, that really stuck with me from Professor Gillespie. And then I also don’t use GIS in my job. But I will reference my GIS class that I sit in as well, where we were, I didn’t work on this project I was working on like Cloudforest mapping in South America. But another group in this particular GIS class was – actually sorry, remote sensing – this was a remote sensing class, some of my classmates, like, basically identified where Osama bin Laden had been hiding. This is like, dating me, and Professor Gillespie went on TV and said, “Federal government, I dare you to tell me that I’m wrong.” And then like, some stretch of time went by, they were generally correct. Like after Osama bin Laden had been captured, or killed. So to me, it sort of demonstrated, like wow, there’s really cool stuff that happens on campus here. And so like, if you like harness some of these skills, and get to know your classmates and take on kind of crazy ideas, you can do the same thing that the federal government does, but just in like an undergrad Remote Sensing Lab. So like that. So basically, Professor Gillespie’s classes were highly memorable, is the takeaway there . And then, you know, I actually this is talking about grad school I took, I was in the urban planning program. But I also took a law class, which I really enjoyed. I thought about doing a joint degree but decided not to. But I really liked the opportunity that I had in grad school to take courses outside of my school. That is the one textbook that I still reference, actually, like, none of my textbooks from urban planning, or anything else, do I actually use except for my environmental law. So that was if you ever get a chance to and like going outside of your major and thinking and like just understanding frames of mind of other schools of thought, I enjoyed being able to do that. So yeah, there’s some examples of memorable but also practical courses that I enjoyed.

DC: Thank you, when you mention the swimming example. I thought that was very cool. It seems like the experiences you had stressed how it’s important to be able to actually go out and experience or do things rather than just sitting back in a classroom and only studying theory. Right?

KTP: Yeah. Which is you can spend your whole career at UCLA that way or not, you know, so I enjoyed real world thinking.

DC: And then I wanted to also ask you a little bit about the direction you chose to take after graduating UCLA? How did you decide what to do after graduating and to pursue the masters? And then where you went from there?

KTP: Yeah, well, there’s this thing that happened, and it was the great recession. So there was a lot of constraint actually around what to do. When I graduated, I graduated in 2009, actually, and recession was still full swing in, especially in the public sector. I don’t honestly think local, especially cities, governments, especially local governments, have not even I think fully recovered from that in terms of job opportunities, and how many people they hire, which is kind of what I was thinking, I was thinking like working for a city. But I joined the Capital Fellows Program in Sacramento through Sac State and the governor’s office. That was an incredible experience and led me to, I was placed with Mary Nichols, who at the time was the chair of the California Air Resources Board at a time when the state legislature, less than a handful of years before had tasked that agency with figuring out how to meet some climate targets. For the first time, the state had not regulated climate pollution at that juncture. So it was a really cool opportunity to do really new kind of work at a time in state government, when like, there were what we call furlough Fridays going on, like staff just weren’t getting paid once a week. So a highly constrained budget time, but sort of turned the state to thinking about, well, how do you use the regulatory for hammer to do some work when there isn’t money to do supporting grants or anything like that, right, that it was so so little, sort of discretionary money around. So that got me sort of firmly going on the Public Service path. And luckily, you know, I had read about Mary Nichols in textbooks. She used to run the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability. She’s still involved with the law school. So she’s, you know, at the time, I was like, Wow, I can’t believe I used to work for her. So that very much got me interested in the climate specific pathway, and also the public service aspect of how do you work on climate policy. And also, I really, really did like state government as sort of a tool as a space for doing the climate work, because there’s a lot of, you know, even then, you know, political support for doing climate work when it wasn’t as popular as now and doing it sort of regardless of how budget was shaped. That was a one year experience than I was like, I love doing this, this is great. But I wanted to go to grad school. So I can sort of learn more skills, of course, but sort of wanting to achieve that. Because, you know, my family, my parents had gone to UCLA, they’re the first in their families to get BAs, but nobody had gone on to get a master’s degree. So I just wanted to achieve that, you know, personally, and the economy was still not great. Like, I’d rather step out and have the job and go back to school at a time when, before it gets harder to do that I felt personally then when you’re sort of on the path, making money, have a real salary, and then go back to grad school. So I wanted to just sort of achieve that earlier than later. And then I went straight back to the Air Resources Board after grad school, because I had like I said, kind of lucked out and just found the path that I like to do and have really been in public service working on climate and sustainability. And then in the state, I really saw how big of a chunk if you just look at sources of emissions and climate, transportation, that transportation is the biggest place, right? So it was sort of a like, you know, I have this personal interest in transportation, it’s the most effective way to break down climate emissions is to deal with transportation emissions. And I found a sort of a type of job that lets you work on those issues altogether. So kind of switched around different places since then, but really still working on very similar issues.

DC: That’s very cool to hear. Thank you for sharing that. I also wanted to ask a little bit about you said you were debating possibly going into the Law Section or like doing your masters in like you mentioned earlier, how did you decide to focus on that specific area for your master’s? And what was your thought process?

KTP: Yeah, I mean, I thought I was going to do a joint degree in urban planning and law. I mean, I kind of realized earlier that I didn’t want to do just law or environmental law, mostly because I had seen, I had interned in a city attorney’s office, and I was like, this is interesting. That’s cool. I like it. But when I had more experience, like after working at the Air Resources Board, I worked with the chief counsel there. And I saw that the, at least in my perspective, like shaping how policy is made is much easier to do at the beginning of the process, instead of, as the attorney like the capital A attorney, or working with a product after it’s gone through the process, or you’re working with somebody who’s like aggrieved by the process and is trying to jam something through in that way, or like raise the red flag, after this process has already started of making policy and shaping it at the outset and writing down the words, I just decided I liked a different part of step, a different step in the process. So by basically I’ve had two jobs, where I really got to be hands-on with the attorney role. And so that’s another good part of doing an internship is, you also see what you don’t like and that’s what helped shaped my role. And then also, it was just like, law school is expensive, it was expensive back then it’s more expensive now. And I felt like I can, I could take a class at the law school, I could like get some of that background at UCLA, at least where you are as long as you’re eligible, or qualified, you can take classes and other schools and I was like, Cool, I’ll take a little bit of law school, and pay urban planning prices. So a little, you know, kind of practical, but also, you know, had some larger philosophical rationales as to why I picked the direction I went.

DC: That’s very cool to hear. Yeah, I can definitely see how in the role that you are in now you can kind of influence how the policies are actually set into. And then in that way you can make the kind of change that can maybe really target transportation and like these big sources of the climate change.

KTP: Yeah, it feels like I’m, you know, I know that if we make some changes here, it’s going to be bigger impact.

DC: Yes. Also, recently, I know you won the Young Alumnus Award, congratulations on that. I was wondering if you could tell us a little about your experience winning that award and like your feelings and what you want to do going forward.

KTP: Yeah, that was wild. So when the Young Alumnus of the Year Award, the other awardees were federal judges who had lived there like gone through internment as children and like really amazing individuals, supervisors, Sheila Kuehl, who had this like, multi-decadal long career doing just excellent service. Kind of like, I just I couldn’t believe you know, when they honored it all at the same time. And it was, it was very humbling. And I just felt so lucky to be able to, like, share that with my parents, who had been such an impact on my life. So it was great to like, be able to feel like I was making my family proud. And it was very fun. It was like the first time it was kind of coming out of the pandemic, and the Alumni Association who does so much of the heavy lifting there did such a great job, you know, rolling with the punches, it was sort of like, Oh, we’re gonna do it indoors when it’s outdoors, you know, still times. So it was just fantastic. And every part of it was so nice. And they did like a really nice recap video, and just to have that, you know, on hand, and they made a little poster with me on it. And just really, really a super special experience. And very, again, grateful to the Alumni Association, who, like I said, has been part of my life since I was 17. And like, helped me decide to go to UCLA. So yeah, is such a special, such a special thing. I just can’t think of another, like honor, that would be so meaningful to me.

DC: Thank you for sharing that. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you like got the news, and like how you felt at that moment?

KTP: Yeah. So I had been selected for that actually, in end of 2019. And I was pregnant this time. And they said the one requirement of getting this award is you must be available for the award ceremony. You know, the award ceremony is around my daughter’s due date. And I was like, I can’t actually, I have to say no. And they’re like, that’s, you know, that makes sense. So I like couldn’t accept the award. I was like, I’m probably gonna be in the hospital. And it was slightly after, like, my daughter ended up arriving way after her due date. So like I literally was at the hospital, when that award, hypothetically would have taken place. But then again, that was so I was the award ceremony was intended to be May 2020. When obviously, nothing was happening on campus, so the whole thing got postponed. So I had like a long lead up. But so I wasn’t even sure that I was even going to get it at that point. Right. I basically had declined it. So it was just doubly sweet to be able to get it, you know, in person live, you know. So it was because they didn’t proceed with the awards. I just wasn’t part of that class because I had to decline. But you know, and then my daughter being able to see the award, and just, it was even better later.

DC: That’s amazing to hear. And are there any like roles or responsibilities that come with like being awarded the Young Alumnus Award of the year?

KTP: You know, there’s like an informal, like little group of some of the previous awardees reached out to me, the Young Alumnus Award is a relatively new award. It’s sort of changed over time. You know, there is I’ve tried to reach out to I think there’s been one other class since then. So it’s been, but yeah, otherwise pretty low barrier and just, you know, continue to be a supporter of the Alumni Association and being an Alumni Association member. So I always sort of tried to keep that I think it’s sort of automatic now that you get in but like, actually going to a higher level of giving commitment is, I think so important. So I continue to do that. But that’s not required.

DC: I see. Thank you. And going back to some of your current work, what are some current or upcoming projects that you’re most excited about? Or you’re most passionate for about?

KTP: Yeah, well, the council woman’s like top priority is on housing and homelessness and addressing that crisis. So that’s a lot of the efforts in the office that are around that, especially in the fifth Council District, which includes the UCLA there’s so much commuting from like, far reaches of Southern California into just like, I mean, I’ve personally when I’ve gone to like the medical center, I’ve had somebody that was some of the medical staff that I’ve come across, you know, like drive in from like Hesperia, you know, like very far away for daily commute. So that’s you know, I I’ve feel like I’ve connected and, like served by people at UCLA who have a kind of, to me untenable commutes due to unknown to unaffordable housing, in the area around UCLA and the district so that’s super important to the Councilwoman and I’m really excited to support, continue supporting her work in that space. And to put sort of the housing, especially aside from we have so many jobs in the fifth council district, we are going to have what is will we expect it to be the biggest performing, you know, transit hub in LA, when the purple line extension that goes through Westwood comes in, like it’ll be such a game changer. So being ready to do, to make sure that station is prepared so people can get there walking and biking, they don’t think that dropping people off and doing a bunch of driving to that station is what we’re looking for. So we’re thrilled to be working on both the land use planning around there. And the transportation planning to have Westwood, you know, aside from the Olympics and Paralympics component that will be there. Just to have Westwood be ready for it, sort of its future as that it’s already heavily used transit hub, with the bus modes that are there and the walking and biking. And also, for example, thinking about a higher quality bike network in Westwood. You know, my husband commuted from homes such as you know, not that not that far away physically on bike to work in a hotel in Westwood, and he would bike but not a lot of people make that journey, right, because it just feels so unsafe. So thinking about bicycle infrastructure that feels safe, whether you’re eight years old or 80 years old, is something that the Councilwomen is very committed to. And that’s part of why I’m so excited to be supporting her in that work. Also working on aside from first last mile in the housing components, working on the Environment and Climate pieces. So making sure power grid is 100% renewable and showing the city hasn’t wavered from that commitment. We’ve tried to make that clear, we’ll continue to say how important it is that we meet that goal. And there’s been some good, you know, federal investment in that. So looking forward for Department of Water and Power to keep moving forward. But also like the basics there that Department of Water and Power can be more responsive to customers or websites. Not great. Trying to bring that whole agency forward both from a climate goal perspective and just a customer orientation perspective. Yeah, those are a couple of the big buckets of pieces the that I work on that we are continuing to move forward with the Councilwoman.

DC: That is super exciting. Yeah, I remember you talking about the high quality bike path from Westwood to Santa Monica, as well in the seminar. So super cool to hear about these other that project as well.

KTP: Yeah, the Councilwomen, you know, it’s like, nice if you have one good piece of infrastructure, but that doesn’t do enough, right? to like, say, have a family go from two cars to one car or like to change your everyday commute or path to school. So that’s what we’re really looking forward to is like a full network of bike infrastructure. So piece by piece is a good start. But we’re really looking for the whole city wide network.

DC: Yes, I know that on UCLA, we recently had a U pass that makes public transport free for UCLA students. So I know a lot more students are relying on public transportation nowadays.

KTP: Yeah, and even as a student, you know, being able to get to Santa Monica, just to do something different. Right is, you know, it brings it more into the pictures as opposed to like everybody piling in for Lyft, or Uber or just not going on the trip, right? I think in Westwood, some, like at least an undergrad was like when we’re just not gonna go anywhere. I think that there’s so much in LA, so much was actually very close by so that’s, that’s great to hear.

DC: I wanted to ask you a little bit about what you found are some of the most challenging parts of your work. And then conversely, what are some of the most rewarding parts of your work?

KTP: Yeah, I mean, the challenge, right in the city of LA, there’s been at City Hall, especially in city council, a lot of reasons for voters to distrust government, right? There’s been corruption issues, high profile, right? And that’s unfortunate. Department of Water Power, high profile, corruption issues that, you know, they haven’t been one off right. So being able to build that public trust back is super important. And we’ve been trying to think of way, like every possible solution that we can put forward to make sure that our ethics reform is continuing to move forward and that our office holds ourselves to a higher standard than what’s been held to in the past is really important. And I you know, I I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to move forward and support at that city hall and, you know, we’ve instituted like, if there’s a contract that’s coming before Council, we tried to, you know, before our lobbyists would come and ask you a question, but we thought about it, you know, we say like, No, we should there’s a big contract, for example, with the waste hauling for commercial buildings, that’s very high dollar. And we’ve said, No, we’re just not going to talk to those companies during that process, because we want to make sure that it’s not seen as us influencing that process. So that’s been, I’ve been happy to be part of those kinds of efforts to show that public servants can and should be held to higher accountability. And that makes, that’s like both a rewarding part of the job and a harder part of the job, because it’s not everybody holds themselves to those standards. And because of some of that distrust with the public, there’s things that need to go before the voters that there’s a lot of consternation and like people don’t like the city right now, how are we going to get this kind of thing done. So that’s a constraint that, especially around raising fees or taxes, there’s not a lot of appetite to do that. And I sort of mentioned at the beginning that impact of both now COVID, but also the great recession, there’s really limited resources at the city, more so than other agencies that I’ve worked at. I don’t think I understood the depths of those limitations to from a funding perspective, before I came to the city, so it is hard to accommodate, you’re like, they can only have 50 widgets across the city. And you’re like, but we need 7000, you know, and I was like, Nope, sorry, 50. That’s what you got. And then you kind of feel like you’re fighting over such small bits of resources, when really we should be working together to just increase the resources, but it’s hard at this particular moment to ask the public for resources. Yeah, that’s been, it’s such a rewarding and our team that supports the Councilwoman is such a great group of human beings. So it makes it a that’s definitely an upside. And there are so many great public servants at the city and other partner agencies that way to work with. So that’s definitely a fun part of the job.

DC: Thank you for sharing that. I also wanted to ask you a little bit more about what your plans for the next few years are like. What do you think like what directions you think your life might take?

KTP: Yeah, you know, it’s also a really one of the really special parts of my job is the Councilwoman is a mom of three kids, like her youngest is about the age of my daughter’s. That’s not typical, right? At City Hall, there’s right now, there’s not even half of the seats are filled by women, let alone mothers. So it’s lucky to have the space to think about that. So my, you know, trying to make sure my kid gets to school, and all those things, those are all decisions that will be coming up for my family and the Councilwoman took office in December, like we’re almost approaching, we’re approaching a year when the Councilwoman took office, and there are elected terms of four years. So if assuming the councilwoman gets reelected, you know, there are term limits, but hopefully stays around for a long time. But this is sort of a new role for me to work for an elected official. So it’s been such a learning experience. But you know, I really enjoy, we’ve worked together at a previous, my last role with the County of Los Angeles. And there’s so much to accomplish, and I really hope we get that quality bike infrastructure. Yeah, I’ll join the team to get that done, you know. So that’s like certainly one thing that brought me to this particular job. And, you know, I also didn’t talk a ton about LA Metro, but LA Metro, we are working on converting the bus fleet to zero emission. And it’s not easy, and it’s relatively expensive. But I think that, you know, I’m looking forward to continuing rapid progress at LA Metro on electrifying our bus fleet. I also, you know, I won’t say I’m excited about this, but one issue areas that is really personally important to me is preparing for extreme heat. If we happen to have not that crazy, extreme heat summer, this year that we will have hotter hots, that’s the basic of global warming. I think we do kind of stop saying global warming, but that’s what drives all the other aspects, climate changes heat. And I think that we have just starting to scratch the surface of understanding how pervasive those impacts will be on our infrastructure systems or on all the people systems too. So continuing to work on that and the fifth council district isn’t going to be the hottest place compared to other places, but thinking about how places that are not going to be as hot as others. What’s the role regionally? I think that will be a really interesting policy question that we’ll all be grappling with over time. So yeah, I mean, I hope Councilwoman stays elected for a long time with my job security. But yeah, and I look forward to working with UCLA as part of our district. So continuing to work with UCLA on so many issues is definitely something I hope to continue to do over the years.

DC: Thank you for that. I think those are very important areas, and like, especially the heat one you mentioned, like making sure that we have policies in place kind of preemptively in order to deal with those like before issues emerge.

KTP: Absolutely. And it’s easy to think that’s not as big of a problem than it is. But unfortunately, I think we think a little more about that.

DC: Yes. And I wanted to ask you, if you have any advice for current UCLA students, or recent graduates who are looking to go into the public sphere or sustainability?

KTP: Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s so many ways to do that. Now, I think it is in actually talking to Marivic, one of my mentors, and former boss, Mary Nichols, like she went into law in an environment because that was the kind of the pathway at the time, like being a lawyer and, and being a woman that had kind of just opened up. And now I mean, you could be a data analyst and work on climate and sustainability issues. You can be a management professional and work on these issues. You can be a field technician and work on these issues. So they’re just like, what does that field even look like? It looks like anything. So finding out what you like to do every day is important. And then like applying it to sustainability. I have a hard time now asking people like how I want to get into the sustainability, well, what do you want to do? Because there’s so many opportunities. So figure that piece out of what makes you get up in the morning? And then what skill do you like doing over and over every day, and then find a job that aligns with that because you can work in philanthropy, you can work in public sector, you can work in private sector, though. So there’s just so many ways to be involved. It’s quite an exciting time. So figuring out what makes you tick and then find a job that does that.

DC: Yes, I think it’s super like – the more I learn about sustainability, the more I’m realizing how much of an interdisciplinary field it is. It covers so many different aspects. And there’s so many steps in the process with different jobs, like related to that you could potentially do to help with sustainability and in the future of the planet.

KTP: Yeah. Yes, it’s wide open so.

DC: Kristen, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. And thanks so much for sharing your story and your expertise. It was a pleasure to speak with you.

KTP: Yeah. Great to chat with you Danielle. And thanks for asking me on.

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Danielle H. Cho
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