Students Tackle Climate Change in Visit to L.A. City Hall

Climate change — and what Los Angeles leaders and planners can do about it — was the topic of this year’s UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall held Feb. 15, 2019. Now in its 15th year, the event sees UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Public Policy students traveling to the iconic City Hall to discuss and debate a current policy issue with policymakers, officials from government agencies and community leaders. This year’s topic, “How Can Planning Combat Climate Change?” came from Councilmember Paul Koretz of District 5. Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), served as program adviser for group of 18 students. Koretz wanted “outside-the-box ideas for addressing climate change through planning and policy solutions,” Callahan said, “and how to leverage what the city is already doing and build on new opportunities.” First-year MPP student Noreen Ahmed said, “I thought it was really valuable because the people we interviewed went straight into talking about what the issues were, what they cared about, how climate change is involved in what they are doing.” Ahmed also had the opportunity to interview Los Angeles city planners. Koretz will receive a written memorandum of findings and policy recommendations from the students, according to organizer VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services. “What happens here in Los Angeles doesn’t stay in Los Angeles,” Koretz told the visiting group. “We are one of the most watched cities in the world. We take action and it spreads statewide — sometimes nationally, sometimes globally. We hope that what we do here in Los Angeles can literally help save the world in terms of dealing with climate change.” The annual trip is co-sponsored by UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations—Stan Paul

View photos from the day on Flickr.

UCLA Luskin Day at LA City Hall


Manville’s Research on Universal Auto Access Published

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville’s research on “The Poverty of the Carless: Toward Universal Auto Access” was published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Manville and co-authors David King and Michael Smart investigated how vehicle access inequity affects low-income American households. In a society where vehicle access is becoming increasingly necessary, “anyone who can acquire a vehicle will, even if doing so is financially burdensome,” the study explained, noting that “only the most disadvantaged people [are] unable to afford cars.” The research found that “U.S. households without access to a vehicle have steadily lost income, both in absolute terms and compared to those with cars, as the landscapes around them were increasingly shaped to favor the automobile.” Facing objections to universal auto access due to factors such as carbon emissions, the study argued that, “like water and heat, access to cars should be guaranteed and perhaps subsidized for low-income households.” While the long-term goal should be to decrease driving overall, the status quo is comprised of a “small group of people who need vehicles and lack them and a large group who have vehicles and use them needlessly.” Manville and his co-authors recommended treating vehicles as essential infrastructure and working to close gaps in vehicle access for poorer Americans while aiming to decrease overall consumption by the more affluent in the long term. The research was featured a recent Planetizen article and in a Q&A with co-author King. — Zoe Day

Undergrads Lunch and Learn With Gov. Dukakis

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis sat down with 30 public affairs undergraduate students to talk about the 2020 election and the importance of politics at a Learn-at-Lunch gathering on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate, began the roundtable discussion by crediting his third-grade teacher for inspiring him to enter politics when he ran for class president. Ever since, Dukakis has been involved in politics at the local, state and national level. In the 2020 presidential campaign, Dukakis said, Democrats must adopt what he called the 50-state strategy. The system must be responsive to the people it is serving, he said, and candidates must engage with voters in every state. “If you neglect a place, if you disparage people, if you don’t spend time with them, don’t be surprised if they turn somewhere else,” he said. A visiting professor of public policy this quarter, Dukakis is teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses. His class on California policy issues is part of the coursework for the new undergraduate major in public affairs. At the lunch, Dukakis wholeheartedly encouraged every student in the room to run for office or become involved in politics. “There is nothing more fulfilling or satisfying than being a professional where you can make a difference in the lives of people,” he said. — Myrka Vega

View photos from the roundtable on Flickr.


Film Spotlights Students Pushed From School System

As a young man growing up in a disadvantaged community, Victor Rios was a repeated school dropout, and was involved in drugs, crime and gang activity. Today, he holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and is a tenured professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara. Rios’ inspirational story is shown in the documentary “The Pushouts,” which was presented at the Fowler Museum’s Lenart Auditorium on Jan. 24. Following the screening, which was co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin, Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millan moderated a Q&A with many of the people featured in the film. They included a group of students in the Yo! Watts high school program, which gives disadvantaged youth the tools, including mentors like Rios, that they need to find success. Victims of what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline, these students are labeled “dropouts.” The documentary argues that they should instead be called “pushouts,” since they are often pushed from an educational system that is often geared against them. “The Pushouts” is trying to begin a dialogue about why this is happening and what can be done about it. As Rios said during the Q&A, “There’s a conversation that’s being had around the nation, but this film is just one of the conversation starters.”  — Jackson Belway

Filmmakers and supporters gather at a reception before the “Pushouts” screening.


Tilly’s ‘Where Bad Jobs Are Better’ Earns 2018 Bowen Award

Professor of Urban Planning Chris Tilly and co-author Françoise Carré received the 2018 William G. Bowen Award for their jointly published work on retail job quality, “Where Bad Jobs Are Better.” The William G. Bowen Award for the Outstanding Book on Labor and Public Policy, named after the 17th president of Princeton University, is presented annually to the book making the most important contribution toward understanding public policy related to industrial relations and the operation of labor markets. “Where Bad Jobs Are Better” offers an empirically based account of the retail sector and the factors contributing to declining job quality. The book identifies room for improvement in the retail sector by comparing working conditions in the United States to Western European countries and Mexico. The authors argue that the low wages, unpredictable work schedules and limited opportunities for advancement that are often considered characteristic of retail jobs are not in fact inevitable. By illustrating the differences in “bad jobs” in different countries, Tilly’s “Where Bad Jobs Are Better” sets the foundation for improving working conditions in the retail sector.


Shah Publishes Research on Improving Sanitation Practices

Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah’s research on improving sanitation practices in Indonesia has been published in the Journal of Development Economics. Shah and two co-authors measured the effects of scaling up both the construction of toilets and the education of communities about the negative health consequences of open defecation. Poor sanitation habits can have dire consequences: Worldwide, an estimated 1.7 million people die each year because of unsafe water, hygiene and sanitation practices, according to the World Bank. The researchers studied Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), a program active in 60 countries, to determine its effectiveness when scaled up over large sections of rural Indonesia. Among their findings:

  • CLTS led to modest increases in toilet construction and decreased community tolerance of open defecation.
  • Roundworm infestations in children declined, but there was no impact on anemia, height or weight.
  • When the program was implemented by local governments instead of agency teams, its effectiveness declined.
  • The poorest households chose not to build toilets, highlighting the potential advantages of offering financing or subsidies through the program.

As Shah’s research illustrates, interventions that work on a small scale face challenges when implemented on a large scale. “Currently, there are very few studies that explicitly examine the scale-up process through the lens of a rigorous quantitative evaluation,” wrote Shah and co-authors Lisa Cameron and Susan Olivia. Their findings are designed to increase the chances of success of these programs by reducing dependence on trial and error.


Newsom Appoints 2 UCLA Luskin Graduates to Policy Advisor Roles

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement of appointments to his team includes two accomplished UCLA Luskin alumnae, Giannina Pérez MPP ’03 and Lande Ajose MA UP ’95. They are among the senior advisors and members of the communications team announced Jan. 11 by the Governor’s Office. Pérez, who was appointed senior policy advisor for early childhood, has experience working in state policy, advocacy and government. In her time working in the California Legislature and with organizations like Early Edge California and Children Now, Pérez has focused on women’s and children’s issues that include child care, access to educational opportunities and domestic violence. Ajose was appointed senior policy advisor for higher education. She has extensive experience in research and evaluation of higher education and postsecondary degree attainment, serving on the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and on the advisory committee of the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California.