Dukakis on Public Leadership in a Time of Crisis The former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for president shares his insights on leadership

By Stan Paul

As the former governor of Massachusetts and a onetime Democratic nominee for president, UCLA Luskin faculty member Michael Dukakis knows a lot about leading during a crisis.

“The only thing that I had that, from a state standpoint, came even close to [the coronavirus crisis] was the famous blizzard of ’78,” said Dukakis, recalling a catastrophic storm that struck New England states and shut down air, rail and highways. Some commuters were trapped in their cars, and the storm destroyed homes and forced people to evacuate, and find food and shelter.

Thankfully, Dukakis’ secretary of public safety, Charles Barry, “just was obsessive on emergency planning,” he said.  “We had a detailed plan for dealing with emergencies and I said, ‘You run it, and you tell me what to say every afternoon at 3 o’clock,’ because I had shut down all traffic and all these other things and, fortunately, came out of it in great shape.”

Dukakis teaches a policy course on institutional leadership at UCLA Luskin each winter quarter, and it focuses on case studies that include his own experiences in government and public service. He stressed the importance of preparing public managers well, noting that graduate students should be serious about learning how to run an agency and deliver the goods during a crisis.

“If you are not organized for this, and you don’t have really superb people, look out,” Dukakis said. “Whoever is in charge should be someone who knows what he’s doing.”

The interview with Dukakis took place shortly after the stunning reversal of fortune of presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“This is an extraordinary year. What’s happened over the last 10 days is beyond extraordinary,” Dukakis said a few days after Biden swept to victory in 10 of 15 Democratic primary contests on Super Tuesday, March 3. “Nobody would have predicted it, including yours truly, and somebody smarter than me is going to have to try to figure out how it happened.”

Normally, at the end of the winter quarter, Dukakis meets with faculty and staff at the Luskin School to share advice and make political observations. This year, that meeting had to be canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which also temporarily delayed the return of Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, to their home in Massachusetts.

“What I would say to the faculty is that what Joe needs now — and you’ve heard this rant of mine before — is a first-class, 50-state, 200,000-precinct organization … and no more reds, blues and purples, firewalls and all that nonsense,” Dukakis said about what Biden would have to do to defeat Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

A presidential candidate has to be competitive in every single state, “if only to keep the opposition busy in those states,” reiterated Dukakis, who has guided a number of UCLA Luskin alumni to careers in public office and public service over the years.

“It’s all grass roots,” he continued. “They can raise enough money to run a campaign like this, but it’s a precinct captain in every precinct, six block captains” that win an election. “It’s so dependent on the quality and caliber of the people you have working for you. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t think people understand just how important that is.”

Dukakis on Strong Coronavirus Response in California

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, spoke with Politico about the strong COVID-19 response in place in California and Los Angeles. Dukakis praised Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their quick adoption of strict social distancing protocols. “You’ve got a tough governor, tough mayor — to their credit, in my opinion — and they’re not fooling around here,” he said. Dukakis added that he is concerned about President Trump’s push to reopen the economy while coronavirus cases continue to rise. “I don’t have a problem with gradually opening things up, but you better do it very, very carefully,” he said. Dukakis, who teaches at UCLA Luskin during the winter quarter, anticipates returning to Massachusetts soon. He remains at his Los Angeles home due to travel restrictions and to recover from a bout of pneumonia in March that was unrelated to the coronavirus.

Super Tuesday, Luskin-Style

As Super Tuesday drew to a close after 72 hours of campaign twists and turns, Public Policy students and faculty flocked to a watch party at the Luskin School for pizza and political talk. The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as a two-man race came into focus as returns came in from across the country. In addition to weighing the merits of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, students talked about state and local races and the new voting centers rolled out by Los Angeles County for the March 3 primary. Many in the room wore “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots at Ackerman Union. The crowd also included half a dozen international students who were fascinated by the political process unfolding before them. Professors Martin Gilens and Mark Peterson provided context and commentary as hosts of the event. They were joined by Associate Professor Wesley Yin and Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic nominee. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, shared their own unique perspectives with students at the watch party.

View more photos on Flickr.

 

Super Tuesday Watch Party

Citizens United Ruling Was ‘Outrageous,’ Dukakis Says

Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate and visiting professor of public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling and its profound effects on American politics. It has been 10 years since the momentous Supreme Court ruling that declared corporations had the same rights as people under the First Amendment and therefore were exempt from restrictions on political spending. Dukakis said the concept of a corporation having First Amendment rights is “outrageous.” Since the ruling, campaign finance has changed and Dukakis believes it does not align with what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the country.  “The Founders who wrote the Constitution would be astonished,” he said. “The right has been peddling this idea for years, and it’s nonsense.”


 

Visiting Professors Encourage Careers in Government With a dysfunctional government and Election 2020 firing up interest in politics, faculty stress importance of getting involved

By Stan Paul

“If government is so dysfunctional, why should I work there?”

That question guided a noontime discussion hosted by Visiting Professor of Public Policy Steven Nemerovski on Feb. 20, 2019, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

One answer, Nemerovski said, is that when nothing is getting done — at the federal level in particular — “that’s the time when you need talented people the most.”

Nemerovski is one of three visiting professors — all with decades of experience — at UCLA Luskin in the winter quarter. Citing his own unique career path, which has spanned politics, government, business and law, the adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs encouraged the gathered students to consider government as a starting point for developing a successful and multifaceted career.

“There is no right way” into politics, said Nemerovski, who is teaching an undergraduate and graduate-level course in advocacy and legislation. He said government experience should be looked at as an extension of education, an early step in a student’s career process. “You have to go into it thinking that way,” he said.

Another teaching visitor this quarter is Gary Orren, the V.O. Key, Jr., Professor of Politics and Leadership at Harvard University, who is again teaching a graduate course “Persuasion: Science and Art of Effective Influence,” which he says “lies at the heart of our personal and professional lives.”

Orren, who has taught at the East Coast institution for nearly half a century, is also able to share his experience as a political advisor in local, state, national and international election campaigns.

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, has also returned to campus this winter, as he has for more than two decades. Dukakis is co-teaching a course on California policy issues in the School’s new undergraduate major as well as his graduate course on institutional leadership.

In January, Dukakis led a Learn-at-Lunch discussion with UCLA undergrad students on the 2020 campaign. He noted that, since the 2016 election, young people’s interest in politics has increased dramatically and current events have only fired them up.

“They are streaming into my office asking about public service,” he said.

That sentiment was heard at the lunchtime conversation with Nemerovski, who offered a number of career lessons and insider tips.

Nemerovski, who has served as an attorney in government service, a campaign manager and lobbyist, and now president of a consulting firm specializing in advocacy at the state and federal levels, explained that his own career path did not start in a straightforward way or as early as he recommends to students.

He highlighted the importance of “picking a team” and “finding a cause” — of connecting passion with expertise. Admittedly, he said, he did not have a particular calling from the start in his home state of Illinois, but by becoming involved in lobbying, he developed a true career-long passion for health care issues.

He cautioned that becoming an expert can only get a person so far and stressed the importance of establishing relationships. He said he still has important connections from more than four decades of work in his various roles, and he has invited many in his network to speak to his classes. This quarter, Nemerovski’s students had the opportunity to hear from several current and former legislators from Illinois and California.

One of the many benefits of maintaining relationships with people throughout a career, he said, is that “you will grow with them.”

Nemerovski also shared a few enduring political rules of thumb: “In the world of government and politics, you have to be from somewhere” and “We don’t want anybody that nobody sent.”

And in launching and nurturing a career involving work in and out of government, Nemerovski said, “There’s nothing wrong with a little luck.”

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.


 

Dukakis on Culture Clash Exposed by Super Bowl

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece on the cultural clashes exposed by Sunday’s Super Bowl confrontation between New England and Los Angeles quoted Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and visiting professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. Despite the geographical and cultural divide, the article noted that there are connections between Massachusetts and California that defy surface stereotypes. “Yes, the places are totally different,” said Dukakis, who for the past 24 years has spent fall term at Boston’s Northeastern University before heading to UCLA for the winter term. But Dukakis added, “In recent years California and Massachusetts have come together politically for the Democrats.”


 

Dukakis Rides 1949 Hudson in Support of North-South Rail Link

Visiting Professor of Public Policy, 1988 Democratic nominee for president and three-term governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis traveled around Massachusetts in a 1949 Hudson in support of the North-South Rail Link, the Boston Globe reported. Dukakis said he hopes the journey will a send a message to lawmakers that the North-South Rail Link will alleviate traffic and improve the lives of those who use public transit. The project would build a tunnel between two stations to let trains travel through Boston. “We’ve got to get the folks in the State House to start getting serious about this,” Dukakis said, “and connecting these two stations is absolutely critical.” He is set to meet with legislative leadership to discuss the rail link and transportation in general. Dukakis also advocates a “first-class statewide regional rail system.” He emphasized, “These projects have got to start moving quickly and aggressively.”


 

UCLA Luskin Alumni Emerge as Local Leaders With Election Wins Former students credit policy lessons learned on campus with helping them garner votes during 2018 midterm races

By Stan Paul and Zoe Day

The November 2018 midterm elections provided an opportunity for several alumni to follow previous officeholders from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and put their educational experience and training to the test in local California races, with three Master of Public Policy graduates winning election battles.

Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, an economics instructor at Fresno City College, won a grass-roots bid for Fresno’s city council. His latest win follows a successful campaign in 2016 for a spot on the Fresno County Board of Education in which he unseated a longtime incumbent.

“I attribute my success to the variety of different variables, but my experience at the Luskin School was just invaluable,” said Esparza, who will serve out his school board term until he takes the oath of office for his new role in January. “It wasn’t just the nitty-gritty of the public policy that we got into in the classroom. It was the leadership aspects that I was able to engage in with my peers inside and outside of the classroom and through the different supplemental programs that Luskin offered.”

Esparza said he is excited about the opportunity to impact public policy in Fresno. He cited independent study with Luskin Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson and “instrumental” advice from Michael Dukakis, visiting professor of public policy and the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, as elements contributing to his win.

“And now we have a majority Democrat city council and a majority Latino city council, which is a lot more reflective of what our city looks like,” said Esparza, who has already started assembling his team and policy agenda. “We’re doing the best we possibly can to minimize the learning curve.”

Regina Wallace-Jones MPP ’99 was victorious in her run in East Palo Alto’s city council race.

“I cannot wait to get started with the policymaking. That’s where I am most enthusiastic,” said the chief of staff and head of product operations at eBay. She has also held posts at Yahoo and Facebook.

Wallace-Jones, who focused on technology policy as a student at Luskin, also said that classes such as Dukakis’ course were particularly “useful in sizing up the political opportunity.”

She is the founding board president of StreetCode Academy, a patron of Black Girls Code, a board member for Women Who Code and a partner of the Lean In Foundation.

Jacque Casillas MPP ’14, a nonprofit manager and healthcare advocate with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, also won a city council seat in her hometown of Corona.

“I feel like the hard work paid off. We knocked on 10,000 doors in our election and … we fundraised like crazy,” said Casillas, noting that a majority of contributions came from individual donors.

“It’s OK to be outspent but don’t be outworked. You’ve got to be able to do the work,” Casillas said. Early in her campaign, she posted a small number of signs compared to her competition. “Everyone thought it was all over, but, you know, yard signs don’t vote, people vote,” said Casillas, whose goal was to knock on every door twice.

“My Luskin family were among the first folks to donate to my campaign; they were the folks that I called that I didn’t have to explain why the heck I thought this was important or what the heck I thought I was doing,” said Casillas. She noted the generosity and time of local and some out-of-state Luskin alumni — “cohorts past and present”— who phone-banked for her remotely. “It’s Luskin, you know, it’s our network.”

Talking about her first run for office, “Luskin also showed me the value of really diving in to difficult policy questions, and that’s how I really outperformed the competitors,” Casillas said. “My candidate peers had a lot of platitudes to share about decisions that were being made. But during candidate forums, I had more substance and could provide a more thorough perspective on things.”

She also benefited from “the tools of the trade” like cost-benefit analysis and being able to speak in policy terms. “I acquired those skills at Luskin,” she said.

For Casillas, who previously served as a field deputy director for a congressional campaign, serving at the local level is important.

“That’s where decisions are made that impact your everyday life. I’m more of a practitioner. I wanted to make decisions, impact change and see it within five years in my community. That’s why I went back to school and got a master’s in public policy,” she said.

Like her colleagues were for her, Casillas said, “I’m always there for Luskin.”

Peterson, who also holds UCLA appointments in political science and law, congratulated the efforts of former policy students. “There are many valuable ways to be effective change agents, our coin of the realm,” he said. “Few, however, are as potent as becoming one of the actual decision-makers chosen by the voters.”

Two other MPP graduates who threw their hats in the ring this election season garnered second-place finishes in their respective races.

Shana Alex Charles MPP ’01, a professor in Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Public Health, ran for her local school board in Fullerton. Her research focuses on equal access to affordable healthcare in California, health insurance for low-income children and public health policies. At Luskin, she was a teaching assistant for Dukakis.

Mark Anthony Paredes MPP ’02 ran for a seat on Garden Grove’s city council. He is a teacher, health care advocate and former planning commissioner. He also serves as an associate board member for the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove.

About these candidates and others before them, Peterson said, “It takes guts, confidence, energy, optimism, hard work, a measure of luck and a thick skin, but there is no better way to become infused in one’s community and, if granted victory, to apply directly the MPP ethos and skills to improve policymaking.”

He continued, “Hats off to our dedicated MPP graduates who took the plunge in the past, in 2018, and who will in the future!”

Donald Shoup Earns Highest Recognition from Planning Academy The esteemed Urban Planning professor is named Distinguished Educator by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

By Les Dunseith

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Educator Award — the highest honor bestowed by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

The award is conferred every two years to honor significant contributions to the field of planning, and it recognizes scholarly contributions, teaching excellence, public service, and contributions that have made a significant difference to planning scholarship, education, and practice. Shoup is the second current member of the UCLA Urban Planning faculty to win this award; Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs won in 2006 when he was at UC Berkeley. Two other UCLA faculty members also won the award: John Friedmann in 1987, and Harvey Perloff, the inaugural recipient in 1983.

Perloff and Shoup are two of only three people who have won both the ACSP’s Distinguished Educator Award, which is given to academics, and the American Planning Association’s National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer, which is given to planners who have made important innovations in planning practice. This unusual combination of both awards highlights UCLA’s commitment to both academic excellence and practical relevance in urban planning.

Shoup said the latest award is particularly gratifying because it’s for education. “Universities reward you mainly for research and publication. It’s why we say, ‘Publish or perish.’ And I think most academics believe their lasting contribution will be their research,” he said. “But I think that our most important contribution is through teaching. If we have any influence — if there is going to be anything to remember after we are gone — I think it will be through the successful careers of our students who will be changing the world for the better.”

Professor Vinit Mukhija, the current chair of Urban Planning, remembers coming to UCLA as a job candidate when Shoup was department chair. Shoup’s manner then became a model for Mukhija to follow years later. “Donald was one of the first people I met on campus. His philosophy is to help people feel comfortable so they can share and present their best ideas. He takes that philosophy into the classroom, where he likes to engage students in a deliberative, non-confrontational manner as they discuss ideas that challenge accepted policy practices.”

During his tenure of more than 40 years at UCLA, Shoup has built an impressive record of accomplishment and scholarship, producing insightful research that has been truly influential on public policy. According to Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor, Shoup is an “internationally recognized authority on parking policies and their effect on urban development and transportation. Though largely overlooked by academics for years, parking policies significantly influence land use development and travel behavior in U.S. metropolitan areas and in rapidly developing urban areas across the globe.”

Distinguished Professor Donald Shoup talks about his research on parking policy with a delegation of planners who visited campus from China in September 2017.

“The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup’s widely acclaimed book (originally published in 2005, and revised and reprinted in 2011), was based on decades of research on parking policies. It also was based on years of listening.

“When I was younger, I focused much more on analysis and publication. As I began to see how policies got adopted, I became much more oriented toward the concerns of public officials,” Shoup said of how his approach has evolved over the years. “I have always tried to engage with practicing planners and city officials who will have to implement anything that I recommend — to hear their objections and concerns.”

The Distinguished Educator Award is selected from candidates nominated by faculty at ACSP member schools, which consist of universities with departments and programs offering planning degrees or programs that offer degrees affiliated with planning. Most are in the United States, but some member schools are located internationally.

“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research. Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.” — Professor Vinit Mukhija, chair of Urban Planning

The nomination letter included testimonials about Shoup from renowned scholars at UCLA and other universities:

  •  “… in recent years he has become one of the most widely cited urban planning scholars in the world. … [Shoup] is literally the world’s leading expert in the subject matter on which he specializes while admirably fulfilling all of the other responsibilities of a senior faculty member.” (Martin Wachs, UCLA and UC Berkeley)
  • “Don is probably the most creative, original planning scholar who has been at work during the past several decades, and this is certainly so within the field of transportation.” (Alan Altshuler, Harvard University)
  • “What impresses me most … is his willingness to take his ideas and writings and be fully engaged in public debate and action over them. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been one of the most powerful forces in the nation for bringing sanity and good sense to our work with urban communities.” (Michael Dukakis, UCLA, former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential nominee)
  • “Over the years I watched him create literally many generations of students who went on to implement his ideas in cities throughout the U.S. and world. It would be difficult indeed to find another scholar who has had as much impact on the practice of urban planning.” (Genevieve Giuliano, University of Southern California)

Shoup’s most important scholarly contribution has been his research related to how parking policies affect land use and urban travel.

Said Taylor, “Through more than three dozen publications on the role of parking in cities, Professor Shoup has almost single-handedly convinced a previously skeptical audience of planners and elected officials about the critical importance of parking policy to urban planning, transforming planning practice to a degree unmatched by any of his contemporaries in the planning academy.”

“The conventional wisdom on good parking policy across the world is now defined by Donald’s research,” Mukhija said. “Our students are fortunate to have been involved in the development of these ideas from the start.”

Shoup said that his research approach tends toward finding solutions to practical problems. “My focus is to look at areas where the prices that people pay are substantially below the cost of what they consume. Traffic congestion is a good example. Drivers in peak hour traffic pay far less than the cost they impose on other drivers and in the process they aggravate traffic congestion.”

His forte — parking policy — is another example. “The price that drivers pay for parking is usually far below the cost of providing it,” Shoup said. “Drivers park free at the end of 99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States. But all this free parking costs a lot of money.”

As his research progressed, he was struck by the lack of equity in parking. People who are too poor to own a car, or who prefer not to own one, receive no benefit.

“If you ride the bus or ride a bike or walk to work, you get nothing. But if you drive to work, you get to park free in a very expensive parking place. It leads to overuse of automobiles, creating air pollution and traffic congestion.”

When cities charge fair market prices for on-street parking and spend the meter revenue to finance added public services, they can improve the lives of everyone. Shoup’s work has inspired cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pasadena, Austin, Houston, Seattle, and many others to change their approach to parking.

Shoup has four degrees in electrical engineering and economics from Yale University. At UCLA he has served as chair of Urban Planning and as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. And he practices what he preaches — walking or biking to campus every day, even after his “retirement” in 2015.

This dedication comes in part from his perception that he has been fortunate to have worked in Los Angeles, a city where his ideas about land use, traffic, and parking are particularly important and where civic leaders — some of whom count themselves among his legion of followers, known as Shoupistas — have been willing to listen to his advice.

Great city. Great university. Great professor. It all adds up to a career filled with great accomplishments.