This blog is an ongoing First Person series, written by Master's of Public Policy student Rachel Miers, who is due to graduate in 2013.
May 20, 2013 — A Day in TJ
Sam Krumholz is a first-year student participating in UCLA Luskin’s Senior Fellows mentoring program. Sam’s Senior Fellow is William Martin, the State Department's diplomat-in-residence for Southern California. Bill was invited to give a talk at the American Consulate in Tijuana about serving in Afghanistan and Pakistan (he is the former consul general in Karachi), and Sam was invited along. Here is his account of his fascinating trip to our southern border.
We started our day with a drive to downtown San Diego where we stopped for lunch in Little Italy. We then hopped on the light rail to the border and walked across into Mexico. Two thoughts on this: first, it always amazes me that you can just walk right into Mexico past the heavily armed border guards without showing your passport. Second, walking across the border really brings home the fact that Tijuana and San Diego are essentially one metropolitan area divided by a giant fence. After crossing the border we took a cab to the American Consulate.
The consulate is outside of Tijuana on a deserted stretch of land set back from the highway. From afar it looks like a prison. Bill said the layout was extremely similar to the one in Karachi - minus the walls. Inside the consulate we got a tour and a brief talk on what the foreign service officers do on a daily basis – they essentially split time between assisting Americans in need of help in their consular district (which includes both Tijuana and Cabo, so they stay busy) and processing American visas for Mexicans.
We then got to hear Bill speak to young Foreign Service officers about life as a Foreign Service Officer in Pakistan. The talk gave me an appreciation for how difficult life can be for FSO's serving in dangerous posts: because of the security situation in Karachi, all American staff lived on-site and could only leave the consulate to go to a certain list of pre-cleared secure locations. Bill then described the team's mission and camaraderie in such a way that I was ready to sign up by the end of his talk!
After leaving the consulate, we headed to downtown Tijuana for dinner at a Baja-Med place. Downtown Tijuana looked like it was starting to emerge from the downturn caused by the loss of tourism from the drug violence - the streets were quite lively (see this interesting LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-tijuana-nightlife-20130512-m,0,3351646.story). We walked back across the border into the US and headed back to LA. All in all, it was a great trip and a good reminder that Mexico is only three hours away (easy to forget for an East Coaster like me). I'm definitely going to be back soon!
April 25, 2013 — Networking During a Celebration
When the clock struck 6 pm, hundreds of Luskin Public Policy students and alumni poured into City Hall’s Tom Bradley Tower for the annual City Hall networking event.
The Tom Bradley Tower, a perfect glass cube atop City Hall with expansive views from Downtown to Santa Monica, was the perfect setting for the event which brought together public, private and non-profit sector alumni who work downtown. The evening’s first speaker - City Councilmember Ed Reyes - did not have to travel far for the event.
The Alumnus of the Year Rusty Bailey, MPP class of 1999, had to travel a bit further as he was recently elected the new Mayor of Riverside. The fun continued late into the evenings as many of the attendees frequented the Edison for some late night networking.
April 9, 2013 – Insights from a 3-day Trip to Sacramento for Job Hungry Public Policy Students
As a policy student who hopes to one day run for office I have always known that Sacramento is where the action is at, yet living in LA the inter-working of the Capitol’s politics are a black box. After discussing my interest - and lack of experience - in California’s state level policy making with my Senior Fellow, former Assemblymember Warren Furutani, he suggested “Why don’t you fly to Sacramento and see it for yourself?”
Today I am on the steps of our Capitol with a detailed itinerary in my hand. Mr. Furutani put together a jam-packed three-day trip in which my fellow mentees and I are meeting with policy makers at the capitol and attended various senate and assembly committee meetings.
Mr. Furutani fine-tuned my itinerary to fit my policy interests – workforce development and education. Tonight I have a dinner with LAUSD’s head lobbyist and the Chief of Staff for the State Superintendent of Education, Tom Toralkson. Tomorrow I will meet with Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who heads the Assembly Education Committee and represents the 16th District, which includes my hometown in the East Bay.
Days 2 & 3
After meeting with my Assemblywoman and Chair of the Education Committee, Joan Buchanan, I watched her in action at the committee meeting where she directed discussion on bills involving child safety, charter school legislation and curriculum. The daunting notion of Sacramento’s insider politics suddenly disintegrated when the lobbyist from LAUSD, who I had dinner with the night before, testified as a witness for a bill regarding access to student data. While I was not quite in with the in crowd, my newfound familiarity with some key players and their agendas let me in on some of the key politicking underlying the meetings.
As we moved around the corridors of the Capitol and around the grid of streets bordering the Capitol I began to recognize more of the lobbyists from the halls and Assemblymembers on the floor in the nearby café’s and restaurants. By the end of the three-day trip, the black box of Sacramento and its politics was open.
I made sure to ask everyone from the staffers to the Senators for career advice and this is what I learned:
1.) Relationships are the most important factor in building a career in politics. Never burn bridges and make friends when you don’t need them.
2.) There is no right way to gain entry into politics. Every politician’s career path is varied. Do what you love and are passionate about and the rest will follow.
3.) Stick to your Senior Fellow. My Senior Fellow, Warren Furutani, is immensely respected and loved in Sacramento. Everyone I met with noted that I should glean any and every piece of advice and guidance from him and take every opportunity I can to learn from him as a relationship with such a revered policy maker is invaluable.
I loved Sacramento’s energy, and was especially drawn to the passion and commitment to social justice that echoed throughout the conversations with multiple elected officials and their staff… and I want in on the action.
While I envisioned a move to Sacramento later in my career, I now am considering it once I graduate this summer. Heading the advice I garnered, I am having my Mentor and fellow mentees over for dinner this week to de-brief our trip and plan next steps for a job hunt in Sacramento.
March 12, 2013 – Five Minutes to Paradise!
Paradise – otherwise known as the Getty Museum – lies only five minutes from UCLA’s campus.
Having heard rave reviews about the museum and its gardens, I decided to round up a group of fellow students- before frantic finals hit - and see what all the hype was about. We packed a picnic lunch and headed over.
We arrived, wallets in tow, only to find that the museum was free – happy campers. After taking the Getty tram – packed with excited tourists and LA locals – up the mountain, there it was.
We wound our way though it’s many corridors leading to exhibits from modern photography to expressionist paintings. But the best part, in my opinion, was yet to come; the gardens.
The south end of the museum opens up to an extensive network of gardens and ponds all fitted with patios and picnic areas. It was 70 degrees, and we bought a bottle of wine from the museum’s vendors and claimed our plot of land overlooking LA. We watched the sunset over the city.
Finals? What finals, we thought … We had found paradise.
Feb. 15, 2013 – I'm on a Bike
My road bike sat there awkwardly; huge box, very small living room, three months. I tried to avoid it, but every time it caught me glancing out of the corner of my eye it flashed me those puppy-dog eyes, begging for a ride. The minute you start personifying a box, you know you need to get out more.
So I put on Queen, "I want to ride my bicycle," opened the box and have hit the road every weekend since. From Pasadena to the Ballona wetlands trail by the beach, LA has really opened up now that I've got wheels.
San Gabriel Mountain Trail
My favorite - the LA River Trail (pictured at top). Fifty miles of protected bike paths from Griffith Park to Long Beach. The best part, the trail picks up by Guisados – arguably the best tacos in town. Bike riding and tacos – not quite poetic enough for a Jimmy Buffett song – but it beats a cheeseburger in paradise any day.
Feb. 7, 2013 – Treading Without the Mill
Sam and I like to run. Both hailing from the burbs we envisioned moving to LA and trading in our trail shoes for treadmills; a sad sad prospect for those of us who prefer to run outside rather than watching the Kardashians flail around inside a box pinned to the wall.
Before trying to sell our shoes on sellmyoutdoorgearIjustmovedtoLA.com we decided to give running outdoors a try. We picked one of the larger green areas on the map – Elysian Park in the Echo Park neighborhood – and hit the road.
Hoping to see the park in its entirety we planned a six-mile loop. All of a sudden we were on the kind of trails we thought were only made in the burbs.
And then Sam missed the trail. We ended up doing a nice scenic tour of China Town and then somehow ended up at a fan fair (seriously) at the Dodgers stadium sans the Dodgers.
Eight miles later we made it back to my car. We agreed the successful run called for a big bag-o-fruit topped with chili and lime, thankfully sold at many LA corners.
If you ask me, our day outdoors in LA beat watching the Kardashians.
Feb. 5, 2013 – Japanese street food and Karaoke - in LA - in my book it doesn’t get much better than that.
PPDE’s (Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity) first cultural outing of the quarter was a huge success as first and second year students hit the bustling streets of Little Osaka for some serious eats. We tried just about every Japanese pancake on Gotssui’s menu, and then ordered some more. We filled our glasses with one last Sapporo and then piled into the Karaoke room waiting for us across the street at Max’s Karaoke. Thankfully, Annie B. broke the ice with her earthshattering solo of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I know its not December, but somehow it made sense.
Keep posted for more updates on PPDE lead socials for Luskin Policy Students.
To find out more about PPDE check out:
Jan. 23, 2013 – "I'm On a Boat"
I couldn’t help but lyricize about our boat tour to the tune of one of my favorite nautical songs …
I’m on a Boat
We got our towels ready - we hit the deck.
We had our swim trunks and our flippe floppies we even saw a dolphin doing flippie woppies.
It wasn’t Sea World, it was the Port of LA!
We took the 405, and it was kinda far away
We toured head quarters and then hit the port waters
And saw a big boat with cargo coming our way
I never thought I’d be on a boat… in the Port of LA!
Thanks David Cho for planning the best field trip ever!
Jan. 16, 2013 – Student Spotlight: Policy Outside of the Classroom
Cody Reneau, a second year Public Policy student, has taken full advantage of studying his MPP in one of the nation’s policy hotspots; he not only analyzes LA policy in the classroom, but also makes it at City Hall.
Cody is a recipient of the highly competitive Rosenfield Fellowship, which trains future public service leaders by placing them in yearlong local government policy position.
Cody was placed in the Performance Management Unit (PMU) at City Hall, a unit that was created by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to track and analyze projects pertaining to his prime policy goals. While at City Hall, Cody has spearheaded numerous projects, specializing on breaking down city bureaucracy by making city services more accessible and user-friendly for Angelenos. Projects have included redesigning the LA City website and assisting top executives on a workforce development effort that placed thousands of city residents in living wage jobs.
Cody’s supervisor, Miguel Sangalang, explains the weight of Cody’s work at City Hall: “Proving himself to be of exemplary quality, Cody has helped shape the future of how the City and its residents will interact with one another."
Jan. 7, 2013 – A Slice of Life: Luskin Students Beyond the Classroom
While what happens in the classroom is the core of a masters program, the people you meet, the activities you do and the fortuitous opportunities you stumble upon outside the classroom will inevitably shape your experience and impact your career path. Located in the dynamic, bustling City of Angeles, student life at Luskin promises excitement, a little grit and unparalleled opportunities to mix it up and try something new.
This blog aims to give you a slice of Luskin life; students outside the classroom.
The MPP annual holiday party took to the beach. All those clad in ugly sweaters boarded the Bruin bus that winded its way through LA’s beach towns and finally arrived at Steve’s beach abode. The food and drinks were fantastic – as was the company - and the jokes about stats and econ were kept to a minimum, which was much appreciated. We danced the night away and successfully shed the stress of finals. I’ll let picture do the rest of the talking …