Yaroslavsky on Crisis in Sheriff’s Department

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 Election Results Roll In, UCLA Luskin Experts Offer Insights

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.”


Yaroslavsky on the Question That Will Decide the Election

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.”


Yaroslavsky on First Debate Between Trump and Biden

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.”


Yaroslavsky on Vision for a Cultural Hub in Downtown L.A.

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.

Yaroslavsky Weighs In on GOP Convention

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.”


Nothing Uglier Than Redistricting, Yaroslavsky Says

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.” 

Yaroslavsky on ‘Governance Mess’ in L.A. County

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about continuing vitriol between the county’s sheriff and Board of Supervisors. Discord dates back to the election of Sheriff Alex Villanueva in 2018. Most recently, Villanueva has come under fire for using a slur against Supervisor Hilda Solis in a public address. In challenging Solis’ comments about police brutality against people of color, Villanueva said, “Are you trying to earn the title of a La Malinche?” The term, used to demean a woman as a traitor or sellout, refers to a historical figure in Mexican culture. Solis called the comment “highly unprofessional, inappropriate, racist and sexist.” Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant in Los Angeles, said the ongoing antagonism could stifle good policy. “It’s a governance mess. And the people are the ones that will be hurt in the end,” he said.


Yaroslavsky Gives Historical Perspective on City Hall Corruption Case

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.”

Yaroslavsky Sees Tectonic Shift in Los Angeles History

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.”