Extreme Heat’s Rising Toll on Public Health

News outlets seeking expertise on the impact of extreme heat have called on V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. Turner spoke to The New York Times about emergency rooms nationwide struggling to treat life-threatening heat-related illnesses. “It’s difficult for us to know how many people are impacted by extreme heat when we look at emergency room data,” Turner said. Around 2,300 people were reported to have died from heat-related illnesses in the United States in 2023 — triple the annual average between 2004 and 2018 — but that number may be an undercount, since many hospitals use software that does not include codes for heat-related conditions. Turner also spoke with Spectrum News about a California ballot measure that would allow the state to borrow $10 billion to address climate change. “The investment today is going to save us in the future because we will only see worse, more intense, longer heat waves, longer heat seasons impacting more areas of the state,” Turner said. 


Understanding Europe’s Political Turmoil

News organizations covering political upheaval in Europe have turned to the 2024 Berggruen Governance Index (BGI) for a deeper understanding of nations’ capacity to meet the needs of their people. PA Media cited the index’s finding that “long-term scars” caused by austerity and Brexit have stifled economic growth and undermined social cohesion in Britain. The public’s level of trust in many government institutions is at near-record lows, according to the BGI, a collaboration between the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. In France, the researchers found that “sluggish economic performance, persistent inequalities and tensions around migration” fueled a surge in support for the political right, according to the Democracy News Alliance. That said, the index still ranks the quality of governance in Britain and France among the highest of the 145 countries assessed.


Pierce on California’s Water Quality

Greg Pierce, director of UCLA’s Human Right to Water Solutions Lab, commented in a CalMatters article about nearly 1 million California residents whose water does not meet state standards, according to an annual assessment released by California’s State Water Resources Control Board. The report, which updates earlier research by Pierce and colleagues at the Luskin Center for Innovation, notes that while more than a decade has passed since the state recognized clean, safe, affordable and accessible drinking water as a human right, nearly 400 water systems statewide don’t meet state requirements, particularly in disadvantaged and lower income communities of color. Despite nearly a billion dollars spent on grants in disadvantaged communities, estimated costs of fixing water systems would require billions of dollars over the next several years. “The subtext of this report is pretty clear,” said Pierce, who commended the water board’s transparency and extensive analysis. “The state just needs to put its money where its mouth is.”

Parking Reform Can Seem Slow, but Technology Isn’t the Problem

For years, Professor Donald Shoup has said, “price the curb,” but acting on that advice can vary from city to city. For example, it can mean adding parking meters on New York City’s Upper West Side to generate income from about 1,700 parking spaces that historically provided free storage for car owners in one of the nation’s densest, most expensive neighborhoods. As reported on Streetsblog, the Department of Transportation’s long-awaited “Smart Curbs” plan seeks to address rampant double-parking and traffic snarls resulting from increased online ordering and delivery drivers unloading packages on streets packed with private cars. But with just 175 meters, Shoup said, “they’re just nibbling around the edges of problems with parking on the Upper West Side.” Shoup also recently spoke with Government Technology  magazine about technological innovation in curb management, saying he imagines a near future when parking payment will be handled by the cars themselves, via electronic technology.


A Deepening Political Divide Over Clean Energy Investments

Megan Mullin, faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to The Atlantic and The New York Times about the growing political polarization surrounding policies to combat climate change. A new Pew Research Center survey found that support for electric vehicles and renewable energy has fallen among Republicans over the past four years. During that time, President Joe Biden has launched initiatives including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which invests at least $370 billion in the manufacturing of electric vehicles, solar panels and other renewable power, while former President Donald Trump has dismissed global warming as a “hoax.” “It’s on Republican airways right now because the IRA is one of Biden’s key successes,” Mullin said. She did point to a bright spot in public opinion data: Climate change has become a more urgent concern among Democrats over time, now ranking near long-standing Democratic priorities as education and health care. Mullin also expressed hope that the economic logic of clean energy investments will eventually outweigh partisan politics.


Tearing Down Barriers to Homeownership

The podcast Policy Research and Poverty spoke to UCLA Luskin’s José Loya about his research on how race, gender and age affect access to mortgage credit. “Homeownership is the largest vehicle for creating wealth,” said Loya, assistant professor of urban planning. “It’s not small businesses. It’s not owning stocks or bonds. It’s actually the purchasing of a house.” Yet multiple barriers prevent certain demographic groups from accessing mortgages and achieving the multigenerational security that homeownership represents, his research shows. These inequities affect not just individual families but entire neighborhoods — the presence of quality schools, public transit, government services and high-opportunity jobs. Programs that expand homeownership opportunities in lower-income neighborhoods are not just about owning a piece of real estate, Loya said. “I always joke around that it’s not really about having the right to paint the wall or move my fence or whatever. It’s really about the opportunities that that home provides for that family.”


Subway or Monorail? LA Metro Weighs Options for Easing Congestion

LAist’s coverage of competing proposals to ease congestion in the Sepulveda Corridor features Jacob Wasserman of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. Wasserman explains the pros and cons of two alternatives under consideration by LA Metro: a monorail and a subway. Increased capacity for riders and shortened travel times are advantages of the subway, but some homeowners object to tunneling beneath their properties. A monorail would require little or no tunneling and lower the cost and duration of construction, but one potential disadvantage is noise and air pollution. Wasserman also speaks about the benefits to people who work and study at UCLA, which has “one of the biggest concentrations of jobs and, unique to the Westside, a big concentration of people without cars.” All of the subway proposals would have a stop at UCLA, while only one of the proposed monorail routes would stop directly on campus.


On the ‘Pernicious and Hidden’ Toll of Chronic Heat

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), spoke to several media outlets about the dangers of rising temperatures as well as cross-sector efforts to make communities more resilient to extreme heat. In a Guardian piece about this summer’s brutal heat wave in the United States, Turner noted that “chronic heat exposure can affect people in really pernicious and hidden ways.” On Spectrum News 1, she reminded viewers that heat not only contributes to more deaths than all other weather-related disasters, it also touches every aspect of daily life, from prenatal health, children’s learning, losses in labor and stresses on the medical system. Turner also spoke with the Los Angeles Times and the podcast America Adapts about the work that will be done by the new federally funded Center of Excellence for Heat Resilient Communities, to be housed at LCI. The center will be an “all-hands-on-deck approach to learn from existing efforts to prevent the worst consequences of extreme heat.”


Measuring the Impact of Guaranteed-Income Experiments

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Judith Perrigo of the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty about the impact of trial programs that provide a guaranteed basic income to people struggling to afford rent, child care and other expenses. Perrigo is currently studying experimental programs in Los Angeles County and Pomona, with the goal of providing scientific evidence to policymakers considering incorporating direct cash payments into social safety net systems. Her research aims to determine who benefits most from such programs and how extra cash with no strings attached affects the financial security and well-being of families, particularly those with very young children. “We know that the brain is developing rapidly in those first few years. So just to think about the opportunities that every kid could have at that age — the investments that they can have, the time that they can have from their parents, because their parents have the opportunity to spend more time with them — it’s tremendous.”


Tilly on U.S. Wages and Job Creation

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to CNBC in a story about the trend in real earnings — the net growth in worker’s wages after inflation — in the U.S. over the past year. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in the private sector saw an increase in real hourly earnings from May 2023 to May 2024. “The last year of increases in real wages is a large and important step forward for working families,” said Tilly, who studies labor markets and public policies directed toward better jobs. Tilly also commented in a Spectrum News 1 story about U.S. job growth during the current presidential administration. “The economy started out in a hole due to the pandemic when President Biden assumed the presidency, and so part of the process was getting out of that hole,” he said. “That’s a lot of jobs to create.”