Public policy lecturer Jim Newton and policymaker-in-residence Kevin de León shared their energy and environmental priorities for California in 2020 with the Sacramento Bee. Newton highlighted the defense of California’s right to set and enforce emission standards under the Clean Air Act as the most important short-term environmental priority for Gov. Gavin Newsom. The right to set emissions standards has allowed the state to pioneer clean air for the rest of the country for decades, despite backlash from auto companies, he said. De León called California’s reliance on fossil fuels for transportation the “single greatest hurdle to achieving our climate goals.” He recommended incentivizing local governments to build better public transit, sending stronger market signals to drive emissions down, and clearing the path for zero-emission ground shipping. “The jaw-dropping beauty of California’s natural environment will be short-lived if we don’t take action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation,” he warned.
The Summit on State and Local Progress Toward 100% Clean Energy, which brought experts from 30 states to UCLA to discuss different community approaches to environmental goals, was covered by media outlets including Forbes and Greentech Media. The summit was hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), which issued a report finding that more than 200 cities and counties have committed to a 100% clean electricity target — and dozens have already hit it. The report highlights differences in how and when communities plan to achieve their targets. “We’re going to look back on this moment as the moment when local action and state commitments began to push the entire nation toward this goal,” LCI Director JR DeShazo said. Senior analyst and policymaker-in-residence Kevin de León added, “The lack of leadership at the national level has forced states, cities and counties to take the lead and fight for their own public health.”
Jim Newton, lecturer of public policy, and Kevin de León, distinguished policymaker-in-residence, spoke to the Sacramento Bee’s California Influencer series about the rising cost of gas in the state. Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, said California should not be too concerned with high gasoline prices because they will lead to the development of alternative, clean technologies. “This has to happen,” Newton said. “It might as well start now.” De León, a former state senator, said, “The bitter irony about gasoline is that even though we need it to work, travel and live our lives, it is choking the clean air out of our lungs.” But he, too, pointed to a silver lining: “The pressure of high gas prices isn’t just an obstacle — it’s also an opportunity to drive a broader adoption of more affordable, renewable energy sources in California and across the nation.”
In a Sacramento Bee opinion piece, policymaker-in-residence and senior analyst Kevin de León wrote that Proposition 187 led to the political awakening of a generation of Latino leaders in California. Passed in 1994, Prop. 187 made undocumented immigrants in the state ineligible for public benefits, including access to public schools and non-emergency healthcare. As the son of a single immigrant mother, de León recalled the feeling of betrayal across the state when the proposition was passed. He helped organize a massive protest march in Boyle Heights before going on to join the State Assembly and then the California Senate. “If it were not for Prop. 187, most of us would never have thought about running for office,” de León said. Prop. 187 was eventually found to be unconstitutional by a federal district court. Twenty-five years after the protests, de León wrote, “California must continue to be a beacon of hope and opportunity in an uncertain world.”
About 30 undergraduate students from California and beyond convened at UCLA for a weekend of learning and public service, part of the not-for-profit Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program. UCLA Luskin Public Policy hosted the program, “Advancing Social Justice Through Public Service: Lessons From California,” with senior lecturer Kenya Covington coordinating a full weekend of lectures, conversations and off-campus experiences. Students ventured out to MacArthur Park west of downtown Los Angeles, the Crenshaw District and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to hear how policymakers are grappling with homelessness and gentrification. They heard from several MPP alumni from both the policy field and academia, and learned about public service career paths from Dean Gary Segura and other UCLA Luskin staff. Several members of the public policy and urban planning faculty shared research, insights and data-gathering techniques during the Oct. 4-6 event, including Amada Armenta, Kevin de León, Michael Lens, Michael Stoll and Chris Zepeda-Millán. Public Policy Chair JR DeShazo encouraged the students to engage intellectually, socially and emotionally as they explored policy challenges and prepared to make an impact in their own careers. The students formed working groups to synthesize what they had seen and heard, and presented their findings at the close of the program. Joining the large contingent of students from four-year and community colleges in California were participants from Arizona, Illinois, Michigan and Washington. The public service weekend was one of several outreaches around the country that are coordinated through PPIA to promote diversity in public service.
View photos from the PPIA public service weekend on Flickr.
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with CalMatters about ways to change the habits of Californians who are reluctant to give up their cars. “If we can create environments where traveling by other means becomes easier and easier, people will drive less,” Taylor said. “The challenge is the transition.” He added that increasing housing density could help create pedestrian-friendly cities that render automobiles such a hassle that they become an undesirable accessory. CalMatters also spoke to Kevin de León, UCLA Luskin senior analyst and policymaker-in-residence, about the dual challenge of taking on the fossil fuel industry and convincing consumers to change their ways. “You are talking about persuading [millions of] individual car drivers in the largest state in the union to drive zero-emission vehicles, or take public transportation, or ride a bike, or walk, or rideshare,” de León said. “We drive internal-combustion cars in part because they are easy.”
Kevin de León, policymaker-in-residence and senior analyst at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Associated Press about the impact that an increasingly conservative federal judiciary will have on gun restrictions in Democratic-leaning states. California, in particular, has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, including a ban on the type of high-capacity ammunition magazines used in some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings. Gun control advocates are concerned that right-leaning courts may overturn strict gun control laws, especially if President Trump wins a second term. “This would be one of the lasting legacies of Donald Trump,” said de León , former leader of the California state Senate. “When Trump is gone, they will be there for lifetime appointments.”