Garcetti and Yaroslavsky on the Lessons of Leadership

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shared his reflections on the surprises and challenges of leadership in a special episode of the UCLA podcast “Then & Now.” In conversation with longtime public servant Zev Yaroslavsky, now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, Garcetti touched on issues including homelessness, the 2028 Olympic Games and the region’s response to COVID-19. He also summed up lessons learned from political leaders of the past: “Don’t worry about the criticism of today or the headlines of tomorrow. Think about yourself looking back 10 years from now, [asking], ‘Did I make the right decision?’ ” Nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to India, Garcetti said, “The basic work of politics, whether you’re an ambassador or mayor, is trying to reach people’s hearts … and to bring people together to realize it’s better when we find common ground than when we just shout about what separates us.” ” The podcast is produced by UCLA’s Luskin Center for History and Policy.


 

Yaroslavsky on Protecting Civil Liberties and Art

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the New York Times about the thriving Theatricum Botanicum located in the Santa Monica Mountains. The theater was started by actor Will Geer in the 1950s as a retreat for blacklisted actors who refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about alleged communist activity. Yaroslavsky, who represented Topanga and helped win the theater arts subsidies when he was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, called the theater a “civil liberties billboard.” Now, the outdoor theater continues to draw crowds in the Topanga area as many seek safe forms of entertainment during the pandemic. “When I think of Topanga Canyon and the Theatricum Botanicum, it’s a constant history lesson of what can happen even in a democracy like ours when people stop being diligent,” Yaroslavsky said. “The whole DNA of that theater is about eternal vigilance.”


Claims of Voter Fraud Are Unfounded, Yaroslavsky Says

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, appeared on Los Angeles news stations covering Californians’ rejection of an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor’s opponents suggested that the election results may have been tainted by fraud, an accusation that Yaroslavsky called “pernicious.” “If there’s evidence, bring it on and let’s deal with it. But if you don’t have the evidence, then keep your mouth shut,” he told CBS2. Yaroslavsky also discussed possible reforms to the state’s recall process, such as elevating the elected lieutenant governor or holding a separate runoff election. On KCAL9, he noted that mail-in ballots sent to every eligible voter led to a huge turnout for the off-year election. “People are more engaged in the political process now than they have been in quite some time,” he said. “You have a new generation of people who know what the stakes are and that elections have consequences for them individually and for the society.”


Yaroslavsky on Political Reverberations From Recall Election

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about the potential for nationwide repercussions if California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ousted in Tuesday’s recall election. Newsom’s removal could fuel efforts to dismantle vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, and embolden Republicans who will battle to take control of both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. It could also undermine California’s reputation as a progressive trendsetter. “When California sneezes, the rest of the country catches a cold,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor and city councilman. California’s ouster of a Democrat would be a “political earthquake” that could shake the rest of the nation, he added. Yaroslavsky also spoke to the Jewish News Syndicate about the role of the Jewish electorate, noting, “There’s an undemocratic piece to this recall, which I think offends the sensibilities of the Jewish community.” 


Yaroslavsky on Permit Parking Dilemma

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Los Angeles Times article discussing the permit requirements and restrictions that regulate parking across the city. Yaroslavsky came up with the idea of permit parking more than 40 years ago for residents in neighborhoods where street parking is dominated by customers trying to access nearby businesses. “Cities throughout our region have required developers to provide parking for their customers or residents. Eliminating such requirements in order to reduce development costs may be a good idea in theory, but it has consequences,” said the former city councilman and county supervisor. Yaroslavsky said that without parking requirements, car owners will be forced to circle neighborhoods to find curbside parking, and some businesses that rely on curb parking may lose customers. “The government should be careful before eliminating all parking requirements, because if it turns out to be a mistake, it can’t be corrected,” he concluded.


Yaroslavsky on High Stakes of Recall Election

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the Orange County Register about voter turnout in the upcoming recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Yaroslavsky explained that when Republicans started mobilizing to get enough signatures to put the recall of Newsom on the ballot, most Democrats didn’t think the governor was actually in trouble. “They thought ‘He can’t possibly lose. This is a blue state,’” Yaroslavsky said. Now that ballots are being mailed out and the recall election is drawing near, Democrats have been rolling out anti-recall efforts and encouraging voters to vote “no.” Yaroslavsky predicted that as Newsom’s campaign ramps up, voter engagement will also pick up. “People are starting to focus on the stakes and what it means for Newsom to be out of office,” he said. “The stakes are pretty high, and everybody needs to know it.”


Yaroslavsky on What L.A. Can Learn From the Tokyo Olympics

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky joined a wide-ranging conversation on KCRW’s “Greater LA” focusing on what Los Angeles can learn from the Tokyo Olympics as it prepares to host the Summer Games in 2028. Yaroslavsky was a member of the L.A. City Council when the city hosted the 1984 Olympics. Since then, Los Angeles has seen the construction of new sports venues and transit lines, as well as dormitories at USC and UCLA that can serve as an Olympic Village, he said. “The most significant difference between ’84 and the current state of affairs is that in 1984, the City of Los Angeles refused to sign the guarantee that the International Olympic Committee demands of every host city, and that is the guarantee that [the city] will cover all expenses,” he said. In Tokyo, costs projected at $7.4 billion skyrocketed to $15.4 billion. In 2028, Los Angeles will be on the hook for any final damages if the Games fail to meet projected revenues.


 

Measuring Public Support for District Attorney Gascón

A Los Angeles Times story about a petition to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón cited this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, a survey that includes favorability ratings for selected state and local officials. County residents surveyed in March were nearly equally divided in their opinions of the reform-minded D.A., who had a 31% favorability rating compared to 32% unfavorable. However, more respondents had intensely unfavorable opinions (22%) than intensely favorable ones (9%), according to the index produced annually by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. To move forward, recall organizers must collect signatures of support from 10% of L.A. County’s registered voters — a little more than 579,000 people — by Oct. 27. Gascón has also faced lawsuits from prosecutors in his own office, interference on cases from other California law enforcement leaders and an outcry from some crime victims who claim his policies have abandoned them.

On L.A.’s Gridlock in Politics and Traffic

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville were featured in a Capital & Main article about the political forces that often derail Los Angeles’ efforts to solve its transit crisis. The gridlock comes as climate change is increasing pressure to transition to greener, faster and more equitable mass transit. Transit-oriented cities like Boston and New York “did not divorce the automobile; they were married to transit from the start,” Manville said. Now, Los Angeles is trying to accomplish the same feat through electoral politics and public policy. As a county supervisor 20 years ago, Yaroslavsky proposed the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit system, which was expected to carry 7,500 riders daily when it first opened in the San Fernando Valley. By the time Yaroslavsky left office, the Orange Line was carrying 30,000 per day. “Today, if you tried to get rid of the Orange Line, people would lie in front of the tractors,” he said.


Yaroslavsky on COVID-19’s Stark Lines of Inequity

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Spectrum News’ “Inside the Issues” about this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, which offered a deep dive into the impacts of COVID-19 on Los Angeles County’s residents. “There are two Los Angeleses,” Yaroslavsky said. “There are the people who are doing well, who are making it. … And then there are those who are struggling, who are living on the margins of the economy and are always feeling one step away from oblivion.” The index included the surprising finding that Latino residents were more positive about their overall quality of life than white residents. Yaroslavsky said this may be because white people on average had higher incomes and more to lose during this pandemic, despite their greater privilege overall. Latinos faced tough challenges but “they worked their way through it, and they are much more optimistic about getting ahead in Los Angeles,” he said.