Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, discussed the recent arrest of Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar on federal racketeering charges on a segment of KPCC’s AirTalk. Huizar was arrested by special agents of the FBI in connection with an alleged “pay-to-play” scheme involving more than $1.5 million in bribes accepted from developers and others. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the criminal enterprise also included fraud, extortion and money laundering. Yaroslavsky described the City Hall scandal as the worst since the 1930s, when widespread misconduct ended in the recall of the city’s mayor. “It’s just mind-boggling as a former councilman. As a former elected official, this is the kind of thing that stains everyone,” said Yaroslavsky, who spent decades as a public servant in city and county government. “It really shakes that granite building we call City Hall to its very foundations.”
In a Los Angeles Times article, Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky weighed in on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal to redistribute funding from police to communities. After decades of efforts to expand the Los Angeles Police Department with the aim of making the city safer, the news proposal would direct $250 million from other city operations to youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” to heal trauma, with as much as $150 million coming from the LAPD. The proposal comes in response to widespread demands that the government provide poor and minority communities with more than a police presence following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “If you look at the arc of the city’s history for three decades, there is a tectonic shift here with this growing constituency for reform,” Yaroslavsky said. “There is the emergence of this multiracial coalition of people, who have formed a powerful constituency, and they are making their voices heard.”
Since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, voices from across the UCLA Luskin community have joined the conversation about systemic racism in the United States, shedding light on its roots and leading calls to move toward true justice. The insights have been shared near and far. Here is a sample: Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams told Asian news channel CNA that the wave of protest sweeping the nation has been “massive and powerful … and I don’t see it dying down any time soon.” Ananya Roy, director of the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, has led faculty from across UCLA to stand in solidarity with communities of color and “continue the unfinished work of liberation.” To explain Los Angeles’ role in the current unrest, the New York Times cited the Quality of Life Index produced by the Los Angeles Initiative, which found deep bitterness over the region’s immense income inequality. Public policy lecturer Brad Rowe told local reporters he was encouraging his students to express their support for criminal justice reform. And social justice activist Alex Norman, professor emeritus of social welfare, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram: “For most African Americans, the American dream is a nightmare. … What will it take to change the narrative? What we don’t have, leadership, at the national and local level.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Institute at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about police use of force in the case of George Floyd, who died in custody in Minneapolis. Images of a white police officer with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for several minutes as the unarmed black man pleaded for help have ignited protests around the country. “There is no excuse whatsoever. There is no chief of police who could defend engaging in that kind of physical restraint when somebody is already handcuffed and submissive,” Yaroslavsky said. In his years as a Los Angeles City Council member, Yaroslavsky was outspoken in his criticism of police use of chokeholds. The tactic was banned in Los Angeles in 1982 except in circumstances that call for deadly force. “Nearly 40 years ago, we ended that chokehold, and it’s just mind-boggling to me that law enforcement agencies across the country still use it,” Yaroslavsky said.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about his spring public policy graduate course, which shifted to an online seminar because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The former L.A. county supervisor and city councilman typically focuses the course — co-taught by his former chief deputy Alisa Katz — on regional institutions and leaders and how they influence policy and quality of life. The change has allowed guest speakers, including those on the front lines of leadership during the crisis, to participate. Guests have included county supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Most recently, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, broke away from their daily press briefings and other public appearances to chat directly with students via Zoom. “What better way to counterbalance their theoretical and quantitative training than to show them real-world, life-and-death decision-making in the moment?” Yaroslavsky said.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Christian Science Monitor article comparing the similarities and differences between the California and Texas governors’ approaches to reopening the economy. On May 1, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was allowing businesses to reopen while California Gov. Gavin Newsom closed beaches in Orange County. Both governors are now pursuing paths to reopening the economy while balancing safety precautions in response to conflicting pressures from citizens. While Abbott, a Republican, has prioritized a quick reopening of business, Newsom is taking a more cautious approach. Yaroslavsky described Newsom as “a data-driven guy.” While Newsom has publicly empathized with protesters, he maintains that it is science and data, not politics and pushback, that are allowing him to start to gradually reopen the state. “In this instance, the data-driven approach is perfect for the crisis we have,” Yaroslavsky said.
By Les Dunseith
Residents felt slightly better than last year about life in Los Angeles County, according to UCLA’s fifth annual Quality of Life Index, which was conducted just as the coronavirus crisis descended on the region last month. Ratings increased in all categories, with the exception of the two most directly affected by the pandemic — health, and jobs and the economy.
The overall quality-of-life rating rose from 56 to 58 (on a scale of 10 to 100) in the survey, released April 23 by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Responses varied dramatically by age and household income, however. The survey took place between March 18 and 26, which coincided with the implementation of strict social distancing measures in the county and state.
“The slight increase in county residents’ satisfaction may be more of a reflection of the past year’s quality of life than of the new reality with which we have all been living for the last six weeks,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “Since then, we have been in uncharted territory, which we will be able to better measure in the months ahead.”
The onset of the COVID-19 crisis may have contributed to a sharp increase in how important health was to respondents when compared with the other survey categories. Sixty-five percent said health was of high importance in rating their quality of life, an 8% increase over the 2019 survey. This was second in importance only to the cost-of-living category, which has been the most salient category of the Quality of Life Index, or QLI, since its inception in 2016.
A telling takeaway from this year’s survey is a growing generational and economic divide among county residents. Respondents were asked whether Los Angeles is a place where people who work hard can get ahead. While 41% answered yes, a majority of 55% said no. That pessimistic outlook was held by 64% of those between the ages of 18 and 39 and 62% of those living in households with annual incomes of less than $60,000.
Housing and the fear of homelessness also remain priority issues for county residents. When asked whether they are worried about losing their home and becoming homeless as a result, 31% of respondents answered yes, an increase of 9% over last year. Thirty-nine percent of those between the ages of 18 and 39 and 48% of those with household incomes of less than $60,000 said they were worried.
“The notion that nearly 2 out of 3 younger and lower-income earners increasingly believe they are at an economic dead-end is a most distressing finding in our survey,” Yaroslavsky said. “When nearly 4 out of 10 young and economically stressed Angelenos go to bed each night worrying about becoming homeless, we are all diminished. This is a troubling trend that continues to plague our society.”
The QLI is a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment. Researchers ask a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents to rate their quality of life in nine categories and 40 subcategories. Full results are being released April 23 as part of UCLA’s Luskin Summit, which is being held virtually this year because of the ongoing health crisis. The host of that session is Adrienne Alpert of ABC7 in Los Angeles, where she is a reporter and host of a public affairs program, “Eyewitness Newsmakers.”
As in previous years, the 2020 QLI’s categories fell into three distinct tiers in terms of respondents’ level of satisfaction: a bottom tier including cost of living (45), education (50) and transportation and traffic (53); a middle tier including the environment (58), jobs and the economy (59), and public safety (64); and a top tier including health care (69), race relations (71) and neighborhood quality (71).
Overall satisfaction with quality of life rose across all age groups in the 2020 survey. Those aged 40 to 49 matched the index’s average score of 58, but those aged 39 and younger gave a rating of 54. Those older than 50 gave a 61 rating, a significant increase over last year. Older respondents are generally more satisfied with their financial security in retirement, while younger residents are less secure and more concerned.
Other key findings
- The results of questions directly related to the coronavirus were released publicly on April 8. County residents expressed high concern over the virus’s impact on their health (79%) and economic situation (82%). In addition, 61% gave local public health officials high marks for their response to the pandemic, compared with 39% for federal officials.
- Almost two-thirds of people surveyed (63%) favor building housing in their neighborhoods to help transition people out of homelessness, as long as the housing includes access to medical and social services and has on-site security.
- Sixty-two percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. A majority of respondents (53%) had a favorable opinion of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but less than one-third (31%) had a favorable view of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, while 34% said they had no opinion and 13% had never heard of Villanueva.
- Roughly 4 in 5 respondents (79%) expressed satisfaction with race relations in the county, and this strongly positive opinion was reflected across all demographic groups in the survey: Latinos (80%), whites (81%), Asians (77%) and African Americans (77%).
“One year from now, we will be living in a different world,” Yaroslavsky said. “In the past, Los Angeles has faced and overcome great challenges, but we are now in the midst of a crisis we could have never imagined. Next year, we will certainly know more about the extent of our region’s resilience.”
The 2020 UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index is based on interviews with a random sample of 1,503 county residents conducted in both English and Spanish, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5%. The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was the guest speaker on the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy’s inaugural podcast “Then & Now.” Yaroslavsky, a former five-term member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, commented in the first episode, “Of Supervisors and Sheriffs: Who’s Running LA County’s Emergency Operations?” It focused on current and past relationships between board members and the county sheriff. “There is this ambiguity or conflict — however you want to look at it — structurally, as a rule, looking at Los Angeles County,” Yaroslavsky said. “Those are the typical disputes that you have, but they get resolved.” Host David Myers, professor of history and director of the Center for History and Policy, noted that L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was removed as head of the county’s Emergency Operations Center in March. He asked whether brewing tensions “could have consequences for the county’s ability to respond to the crisis at hand,” referring to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. “All units of the county are at their best in a time of crisis,” Yaroslavsky responded. He added that disputes between supervisors and the sheriff are not uncommon but added that he did not recall a conflict that questioned the fundamental authority of the board “or tried to go around the board of supervisors in implementing policies that were corrupt or illegal, as the case has been. And that’s where the current situation differs.”
By Les Dunseith
An overwhelming percentage (78%) of Los Angeles County residents say they are concerned that they or a member of their family will contract the novel coronavirus, according to a survey conducted between March 18 and 26 and released today by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
A solid majority (61%) of respondents expressed confidence in the response by local officials to the pandemic, but only 39% had similar confidence in the federal response.
“There are two clear takeaways,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, which conducted the survey as part of an annual project known as the Quality of Life Index, or QLI. “The anxiety levels over contracting the virus and its economic impacts are overwhelming. And it’s a vote of confidence in the local public health agencies, while a vote of no confidence in the federal response.”
The results are based on interviews conducted with about 1,500 county residents during a period that happened to coincide with the implementation of stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles.
The QLI, which is a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment, is in its fifth year. Researchers poll a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents each year to understand the public’s perception of the quality of their own lives. Full results will be released April 23 as part of a UCLA event known as the Luskin Summit, which will be held virtually this year because of the ongoing health crisis. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6%.
Respondents indicated that they were very concerned (49%), somewhat concerned (29%), not too concerned (13%) or not concerned at all (7%) that they or a member of their family would contract the novel coronavirus. Women over the age of 50 expressed the greatest concern (62% were very concerned).
When asked whether the health crisis had or will have a negative economic impact on themselves personally, more than four out of five respondents (83%) said they were concerned, with 56% saying very concerned and 27% saying somewhat concerned. Again, women expressed the most concern, although in this case it was slightly higher among women aged 18 to 49 (61%) than among women aged 50 to 64 (60%).
Two questions were asked about the response of public health and government officials to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results were almost mirror opposites. When asked if they were confident in the response of officials in Los Angeles County, 61% of respondents said yes and 31% said no, but just 39% said yes and 55% said no when asked if they were confident in the response of officials in the federal government. These results were generally consistent among demographic and geographic groups.
“In virtually no major demographic group did we find less than a majority expressing confidence in local officials,” Yaroslavsky said.
Some of the highest marks for local officials came from those aged 50 to 74 (69%), men aged 50 to 64 (72%) and women 65 and older (70%), as well as Latinos over age 50 (70%). Residents in every L.A. County supervisorial district expressed at least 59% confidence as a whole.
Hardly any major demographic group expressed majority confidence in the federal response. The lowest confidence levels came from 18-to-39-year-olds (33%), African Americans (32%), women aged 18 to 49 (31%), those with annual incomes above $120,000 (30%), whites aged 18 to 49 (23%) and residents of the 3rd Supervisorial District (28%), which encompasses Westside communities such as Santa Monica and Malibu, plus the north and western sections of the San Fernando Valley.
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined KCAL9 News as nationwide returns from Super Tuesday came in. The evening’s big surprise was the campaign comeback of former Vice President Joe Biden, said Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant and political analyst. “This sudden change, this reversal of fortune at the presidential candidate level, is unprecedented,” he said, especially since the Biden campaign has been relatively low-budget. “As a politician, I used to dream of being able to win elections without spending a nickel. Biden did it nationally,” he said. But he cautioned, “Let’s not write off Bernie Sanders and consign him to the graveyard. Things, as we’ve seen in the last 72 hours, can change very quickly.” Yaroslavsky also said former President Barack Obama is wise to hold off on endorsing a candidate, as he may need to unite the Democratic Party in the event of a brokered convention. And he said Los Angeles County must overcome problems with its new balloting procedures before November. Otherwise, he said, “Democracy loses, because if people have to stand in line for two, three hours, it’s going to discourage people.”