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.”

Schoolwide Calls for Racial Justice

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.”


Yaroslavsky on ‘Mind-Boggling’ Use of Police Chokehold

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.

Yaroslavsky Seminar Becomes Crash Course in L.A. Crisis Management

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.

Yaroslavsky Weighs In On Newsom’s Data-Driven Approach

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.