Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky co-authored an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times about threats to cut funding for legal self-help service centers, which provide free assistance to Angelenos who cannot afford legal representation. These services are used by 150,000 people a year in Los Angeles County, particularly those in poverty, experiencing homelessness, facing domestic abuse or with limited English proficiency. A decline in sales taxes due to COVID-19 has put the existence of these centers in peril. “We cannot afford to let this happen,” Yaroslavsky wrote. Self-help centers have always been “a place that residents can go to get information they trust and the free legal help they need.” Protecting legal self-help centers is “morally and fiscally the right thing to do,” he concluded. “We must use every tool at our disposal to reach those who need our help, and self-help legal access centers are a key part of that strategy.”
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky joined UCLA’s “Then & Now” podcast to discuss the aftermath of the presidential election. On the day Joe Biden was declared winner of the election, “I was not euphoric,” Yaroslavsky said. “I was very happy that Biden won. … I was not happy that 72 million people voted for an incumbent president who spent four years trafficking in racism and bigotry.” He argued that Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is “calcifying the divide and inability of either side to come together and work on behalf of the people in this country.” However, this issue should resolve itself as responsible people move forward in a rational transition process, Yaroslavsky said during the podcast produced by the Luskin Center for History and Policy. “Biden won the presidency, but less than 100,000 votes could have swung the election in another direction,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and lecturer Jim Newton were featured in a Forward article highlighting the successes and shortcomings of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is reportedly being considered for a Cabinet appointment in the Joe Biden administration. Garcetti established his reputation as a mayor who could get things done after he signed a $15 minimum wage into law in 2015 and with the 2016 passage of Measure M, which expanded public transit and bike networks. “Today, no county in America has so much local money invested in building transportation infrastructure as L.A. County has,” Yaroslavsky said. “He has a considerable record under his belt in that regard.” However, critics point out Garcetti’s failures to address homelessness and traffic congestion. “I’m one of the people who wanted to see him be more ambitious and swing higher,” Newton said. “I don’t think homelessness is his fault, … but I also don’t believe he can point to much evidence that he’s succeeded.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined KPCC’s “AirTalk” to discuss tensions between the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The supervisors have voted 3-2 to explore options to impeach or reduce the responsibilities of Villanueva. Yaroslavsky, a former L.A. County supervisor, said there is always some tension between the sheriff and the supervisors, but they’ve historically been able to work together to adhere to their constitutional responsibilities. However, he said, Villanueva has violated agreements on constitutional policing issues, including excessive use of force. Yaroslavsky agreed that it is important to raise the idea of changing the way that sheriffs are chosen but said he doesn’t think voters would approve the measure. “The resources and energies that would have to be brought to bear on a constitutional amendment or charter change should be brought to bear on removing him from office in the regularly scheduled election,” he said.
As the vote count from the 2020 election stretched into days, media outlets called on experts from UCLA Luskin to offer context and expertise. Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily for a story on President Trump’s swift declaration of victory, which he called “the most serious assault on our democratic institutions of any president, at least in modern times.” Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, offered insights on KTLA5 News, Peacock TV and radio programs including KPCC’s Air Talk (beginning at minute 19:30). Diaz spoke about a wide range of topics, including the Latino electorate’s impact in Florida and Arizona as well as on local ballot measures. Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky told KCAL9 News (beginning at minute 3:00) that the close presidential race vote signals a deep tribalism in the nation. “However it ends,” he said, “it’s going to be a very difficult road ahead for the country.” Yaroslavsky also told the Los Angeles Times that challenger Nithya Raman’s lead in a Los Angeles City Council race is “a political earthquake.”
KCAL9 News called on Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, to provide analysis of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election. Donald Trump and Joe Biden both delivered their messages effectively, he said, but noted that the debate came after 48 million Americans had already cast their ballots. Yaroslavsky weighed in on the role that personal character will play as voters choose their candidate and on the possibility that Russian agents will sow chaos on Election Day. On COVID-19, “Trump has no defense for his inaction,” Yaroslavsky said. “This issue is one that every man and woman in this country understands viscerally, in their gut, because they all know somebody who’s gotten the virus and many of us know people who’ve died of the virus.” He concluded, “Do you want four more years of what we’ve had for the last four, or do you want something different? That’s going to decide this election.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, appeared on KCAL9 News to analyze the first formal debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. “I’m not sure there was a winner out of this debate. But the loser was the American people. They deserve better than this,” Yaroslavsky said following the contentious showdown. Presidential debates dating back to the Nixon-Kennedy face-off of 1960 were argumentative but also classy and substantive — “nothing like this, which descended into a gutter,” Yaroslavsky said. Commenting on an exchange regarding the candidates’ position on race relations, he noted that the FBI, law enforcement agencies and civil rights organizations have determined that white supremacists pose a serious threat. “They’re armed, they are organized,” Yaroslavsky said. “And for the president of the United States to ask them to stand back and stand by is an invitation to violence. That’s the only way I can read it.”
A Los Angeles Times commentary arguing for stepped-up investment in a downtown L.A. arts scene as a way to rebound from the economic devastation of COVID-19 sought insights from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Envisioning a “democratic gathering place for arts and ideas” centered around the monumental Grand Avenue complex now under construction, the author called for building out the area with new and renovated concert venues, car-free stretches and outdoor cultural events accessible to all. Yaroslavsky, known as a supporter of the arts in his decades as a city councilman and county supervisor, endorsed this vision of Grand Avenue for the future but cautioned that it is too soon to expect governments to invest heavily.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on the Republican National Convention as an analyst for CBS2/KCAL9 News. Yaroslavsky said the convention had two goals: humanizing Donald Trump and demonizing Joe Biden. The president was portrayed as an empathetic family man, and his Democratic opponent was cast as a radical socialist who was soft on law and order. Yaroslavsky noted that, “if there’s chaos in the streets of America tonight, which is what Trump is implying, it’s on his watch.” The convention had the feel of a “very well-produced reality show” that at times seemed out of place several months into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The rest of us are sitting here saying why are there a thousand people sitting on the White House lawn without masks when we can’t go to a restaurant,” Yaroslavsky said. With polls narrowing, he added, “Democrats cannot take this election for granted. This is going to be a close race.”
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavksy spoke with KPCC’s Airtalk about the process of redistricting in relation to recent corruption charges against suspended City Council member Jose Huizar. Every 10 years, district lines are redrawn to reflect changes in population based on the census, and some have noted that the shuffling of districts gave Huizar a large swath of Los Angeles’ asset-rich downtown. “There’s nothing uglier or more difficult than the redistricting process every 10 years,” said Yaroslavsky, who described the political and sentimental factors at play. Most elected officials “want to keep as much of their district as they can” and some have close ties to the neighborhoods and constituents they may have represented for a decade or more. When politicians redistrict for themselves, self-interest can play a role, but Yaroslavsky also noted that there are “unintended consequences of so-called independent commissions.” He concluded, “There is no perfect system for redistricting.”