Ong Finds Digital Divide in Remote Learning Access

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the education news site The 74 about students with limited internet and technology access who are falling behind in remote classes. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also cited a UCLA report authored by Ong, which found that nearly one in three American households had limited computer or internet access this fall. Students of color, students with disabilities, students learning English and students from low-income households are more likely to fall on the “wrong side of the digital divide,” making it harder to access classes, engage with peers, and complete and upload assignments. “You can think about all of these things that by themselves may not seem absolutely fatal, but collectively it has this cumulative effect that eventually leaves certain students behind,” Ong explained. While the report does not focus on the effects of limited access, Ong noted that the implications are clear and concerning.

Anheier on Future of German Leadership

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier authored an article in Project Syndicate about the upcoming election year in Germany. The country is preparing for a “super election year,” which will include federal elections for the Bundestag, regional elections in six states and a vote for leadership of the Christian Democratic Union. “Because German voters tend to prefer a cautious leader with a steady hand, Merkel fit her country’s collective psyche like a bespoke glove,” Anheier said, highlighting the successes of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 15 years as party leader. Immigration, the economy, public administration and the COVID-19 pandemic will all be important issues in the upcoming elections. He noted that while Germany’s mainstream political parties have shied away from open debate of contentious issues, German voters will no longer be able to “sit back and place their trust in Merkel to navigate the shoals of the twenty-first century.”

Diaz on Informing Latino Communities About Vaccine Safety

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, was featured in a Sacramento Bee article discussing many California Latinos’ hesitations about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. While vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been shown to be safe and effective, a history of deceitful government practices involving communities of color has left many hesitant to receive the inoculations. “There’s been a storied legacy of the way that the U.S. government has rolled out medical and scientific experiments on non-white bodies,” Diaz said. Recent allegations of forced hysterectomies at an immigrant detention center in Georgia have contributed to the erosion of trust between communities of color and government institutions, she said. “More must be done to ensure these communities, who are overwhelmingly on the front lines of this pandemic, have accurate and culturally tailored information to trust that the vaccine is indeed something that will make their lives and their communities safer.”

Peterson on Small Businesses Devastated by Pandemic

Professor of Public Policy Mark Peterson was one of 16 experts who weighed in on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a National Interest article. Millions of Americans are suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, and small businesses are among the hardest hit. “Small businesses would have been devastated just by the effects of the disease on consumers and their behavior,” regardless of the public health interventions put into place, Peterson said. “What has really been missing is the kind of large-scale and ongoing federal infusion funds to business owners that could have kept their businesses afloat and their employees more financially secure,” he said. “This is a societal crisis in which everyone is harmed by the demise of businesses, and the enormous fiscal capacities of the federal government, including borrowing, should have been marshaled in full force to amortize the burdens of the pandemic’s effects with its potentially multigenerational impacts.”

Steinert-Threlkeld on Rise of Alt-Right Forums

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld spoke to Dot.LA about the role of social media platforms leading up to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol. While some mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram have made efforts to crack down on President Donald Trump’s false rhetoric, alt-right forums including Parler, Gab and have promoted calls for violence and rebellion. There’s been a shift away from mainstream sites like Twitter and Facebook to alt-right platforms as stronger moderation policies have been implemented, Steinert-Threlkeld explained. Over the last two years especially, supporters have turned to far-right online platforms for “tactical coordination,” he added. Steinert-Threlkeld identified similarities between the use of real-time online platforms in the organization of protests in Iran in 2009 and among Trump supporters today. He also said many supporters are probably having private conversations in closed and private groups on Facebook or through encrypted messaging platforms.

Shedding Light on ‘How America Chose Homelessness’

Research from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) forecasting mass evictions and homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic was featured in the latest issue of the Nation. The pandemic amplified a crisis that dates back generations but was exacerbated during the 1980s, when social safety nets were dismantled in favor of trickle-down economic theories, said Professor Emeritus Gary Blasi of UCLA Law, one of the authors of the II&D research. In addition to immediate action to protect people forced from their homes during the pandemic, Blasi called for longterm solutions to address the structural causes of mass homelessness. “We could ramp up a wartime production of manufactured housing,” Blasi said. “It’s just a question of will and money.” In addition to the Nation cover story, “How America Chose Homelessness,” media outlets in the United States and abroad have highlighted II&D’s research to provide context to their reporting about the impending eviction and homelessness crisis.

Domestic Migration Patterns Accelerated by COVID-19, Stoll Says

Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Michael Stoll was cited in a U.S. News & World Report article about Americans’ migration patterns. A study by moving company United Van Lines found that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in many people’s decisions to relocate, including concerns for personal and family health and well-being, a desire to be closer to family and changes in work arrangements. Idaho had the highest percentage of inbound migration, while New Jersey had the highest share of outbound moves, followed by New York, Illinois, Connecticut and California, the study found. “United Van Lines’ data makes it clear that migration to western and southern states, a prevalent pattern for the past several years, persisted in 2020,” Stoll said. “However, we’re seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt accelerated broader moving trends, including retirement driving top inbound regions as the Baby Boomer generation continues to reach that next phase of life.”

Yaroslavsky on GOP Congressional Wins in California

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the significance of recent Republican victories in Congress. In November, California Republicans recaptured four of the seven congressional seats that had flipped to Democrats two years earlier. All four winning congressional candidates are from immigrant backgrounds, illustrating that the Republican Party can achieve voter support by avoiding political extremes and appealing to diverse communities. The four congressional districts that flipped back to Republicans still chose Democrat Joe Biden over President Donald Trump, indicating voter desires for moderation instead of extremism. Yaroslavsky expects these districts to be highly competitive for years to come. “For Republicans to be a viable party, they’re going to have to expand their base,” he said. “They can’t just rely on white voters, because that number is dropping. As we’ve seen, the trend is a more purple 50-50 split in these areas.”

Koslov on Managed Retreat for At-Risk Communities

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov was featured in a review of Mark Arax’s “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California” in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “The Dreamt Land” focuses on the water dramas of the Central Valley in California, including the environmental degradation of the region and the state’s ongoing efforts to manage climatic variability such as drought and fire. Managed retreat refers to the planned unsettling of or relocation from a threatened area, which is becoming an increasingly popular idea among communities in coastal and fire-prone zones. “Retreat is a powerful and evocative word, one that signals a change in direction — something we share the need for as a society even though we do not all live in places that are immediately vulnerable,” Koslov wrote. 

Tilly Sees Opportunity for Retail Workers to Voice Concerns

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in a WWD article about the challenges facing front-line and retail workers during the pandemic. Big companies like Walmart and Amazon have made efforts to compensate their workers and institute safety measures, including staggering breaks, handing out protective gear, and offering one-time bonuses and temporary raises for employees. However, front-line workers still face increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 while working for low hourly wages and managing additional responsibilities. According to Tilly, highlighting inequalities has been one way worker advocacy groups have sought to frame the discussion, keeping the attention on workers speaking out about pay and safety issues. “Even though most retailers have backed off the hazard pay, or limited it to sort of one-off bonuses, there is, I think, in the general public a renewed respect for this workforce,” Tilly said. “I think that creates an opportunity … to advocate more for protections but also for more voice.”

Yaroslavsky on Fallout From Assault on U.S. Capitol

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KCAL9 News after a mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. “What happened today did not happen by accident,” said Yaroslavsky, noting that Trump had for weeks called on his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was scheduled to certify  President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Yaroslavsky said invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power could have a calming effect on the nation. “It’s been four years of this tension, of this instability, of this constant drone of craziness,” he said. “In the next 14 days, if you have an unstable president, there’s a lot of damage he can do.” Yaroslavsky, who has served as an overseas election observer for three decades, lamented the damage done to the United States’ reputation as a beacon of democracy. “Imagine people all over the world watching the spectacle that we were all watching.” 

Monkkonen on Allocating Affordable Housing Units

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning, was featured in a CalMatters article about the lack of affordable housing construction in wealthy cities like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills. In the statewide planning process, affluent communities often lobby for fewer affordable housing units than smaller, less wealthy cities located inland. Monkkonen co-authored a paper arguing for a wholesale reorganization of the process, removing the focus on vacant and underutilized land in favor of rezoning in places where people can easily get to jobs and transit. “The cynical interpretation is that they frame local input as a ‘technical process’ that happens to end up with a result that satisfies the preferences of rich NIMBY cities as a way to distract from criticism,” Monkkonen wrote. “Whatever term you use, the result goes against the goals of state housing law, all the lofty rhetoric of SCAG itself about sustainability, and basic social equity.”

Leap on Rising Gun Violence During COVID Pandemic

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured in an NBC News article about the increase in gun violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, homicides rose across the country in small and big cities. In Akron, Ohio, six children under the age of 16 were killed over a single four-month stretch, all but one from gunfire. According to Leap, changes in people’s routine punctuated by economic upheaval, job loss, distance learning and other factors also brought individuals into closer contact for sustained periods, heightening tensions and increasing the prospect of violent encounters. She also noted that gun sales spiked, teenagers were out of school, and organized activities and programs ground to a halt during this time. “This is a complex situation with COVID at its heart but with several social dilemmas all interacting with each other,” Leap said. “I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been more of a rise in crime.”

Diaz on the Value of Leaders Who Reflect the Nation’s Diversity

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, co-wrote a CalMatters commentary on the importance of voters seeing themselves reflected in their government representatives. Diaz and co-author Michele Siqueiros, a higher education advocate, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for two groundbreaking appointments: Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino U.S. senator and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. “Today’s winning coalition of voters will continue to shape American politics,” the authors wrote. “Newsom’s dual appointments met their unapologetic expectations that our elected officials better reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.” Diaz also spoke to the Sacramento Bee after Padilla’s selection, noting that he is likely to focus on immigrant protections and environmental issues. And she spoke to Elite Daily about the importance of engaging young Latino voters, whose political power will expand in the coming years.

COVID-19 Doesn’t Only Threaten the Elderly, Reber Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber spoke to the Dallas Morning News about the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 deaths on Latino and Black communities in Texas. While many believe that COVID-19 threatens just the elderly, working-age adults in Texas’ Latino and Black communities are dying at rates many times higher than those of whites, according the the story, which was reprinted nationally. “That discussion of ‘Oh, it’s all the really old people’ — that’s a white people’s story,” Reber said. The disparities in COVID-19 deaths have gone largely underreported because health experts were not initially focused on them. However, there are significant differences in the death toll when separated by age and ethnicity. In Texas, the COVID-19 death rate for Hispanics among those ages 25 to 64 is four times as high as that of non-Hispanic whites. Furthermore, Blacks in that age group are dying at more than twice the rate of white people.

Yaroslavsky on What’s Next for Mayor Garcetti

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s future political prospects in a piece by Politico. An early supporter of President-elect Joe Biden, Garcetti served as a national campaign co-chair, helped to vet vice presidential candidates and serves as a co-chair of the committee planning the upcoming inauguration. While many presumed Garcetti would land a spot in the Biden administration, he did not, and the mayor has confirmed that he will stay put in City Hall as Los Angeles grapples with pandemic-induced health and budget crises, homelessness and a rise in violent crime. Some observers say Garcetti’s next career move is likely to be a mid-term appointment in the Biden administration. “This is not a time to write Eric Garcetti’s obituary,” Yaroslavsky said. “Biden remembers his friends, and Garcetti is his friend.”