Matute Comments on Underground Transit Systems in L.A.

UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies Deputy Director Juan Matute spoke with The Atlantic about Elon Musk’s The Boring Company constructing an underground transit system in the city of Hawthorne. The construction process was expedited by the city with a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption. Matute reported there was very little pushback to the exemption from the community and that some negotiations were not open to the public. “This is typical with CEQA—a community that’s more disadvantaged and not as politically engaged doesn’t have the capacity to file lawsuits,” he said. Matute also commented on the construction of a proposed underground tunnel to Dodger Stadium. “I would be very surprised if it happened,” he said, giving it a 50/50 shot of completion due to “unfavorable economics.”


 

Yaroslavsky Advises Newsom to Pick Battles With Trump

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with CNBC about challenges facing Gavin Newsom, the next governor of California. Newsom inherits a booming economy and looks to steer the state in an increasingly progressive direction, with focuses on gun control, a single-payer healthcare system and affordable housing. His liberal-oriented ideologies put him in opposition to President Trump, who endorsed Newsom’s opponent, John Cox. Yaroslavsky, a former L.A. County supervisor, advised Newsom to focus on policy rather than constantly sparring with the president. “He’s going to have to take care of business in California and pick and choose his fights with Trump,”  Yaroslavsky said. “In my opinion, you can’t be, and shouldn’t be, a knee-jerk opponent of Trump on every single issue because people start to treat you as the usual suspect — and they don’t take you seriously anymore. I think he knows it.”


 

Monkkonen Critiques California Governor-Elect’s Ambitious Housing Proposal

California governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s plan to solve California’s housing crisis were critiqued by Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen in a recent article on Curbed. Newsom and Monkkonen agree that California’s current housing crisis is the result of “an underwhelming amount of housing production … contributing to escalating rents and home prices,” but they disagree on the approach to a solution. Monkokken argues that while Newsom’s proposed construction of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 sounds appealing, “it’s harder to figure out how to actually make that work.” Newsom’s plan would require an unprecedented construction boom and matching investment in infrastructure; Monkkonen points out the “restrictive zoning requirements” as a significant obstacle “that make dense housing extremely difficult to construct.” He concludes that the priority should be “[finding] a way to ensure housing construction keeps pace with demand” instead of Newsom’s focus on “[reaching] a specific number of units.”


Diaz on Increase in Latino Vote as Counting of Ballots Continues

Founding director of Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Sonja Diaz was recently featured on KPCC’s “Air Talk”  to discuss the ongoing results of the 2018 midterm elections. As provisional, conditional and vote-by-mail ballots were being counted, Diaz analyzed the increase in the Latino vote compared to 2014 midterm elections. Diaz’s research through the UCLA Luskin-affiliated LPPI found that, while Los Angeles County experienced a 52% increase in ballots cast overall, precincts where Latinos constituted 75% or more of registered voters yielded a “77% increase in the number of ballots cast.” Diaz also acknowledged the impact of Latino voters on the success of Spanish surname candidates like Kevin De Leon running for statewide election. Diaz also cited results from Texas’ Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, noting that “exit polls do not capture minority voters as accurately as more traditional or white voters.”


Leap Analyzes Factors in Tight Race Between Underdog Retired Lieutenant and Incumbent Sheriff

Public Policy lecturer Jorja Leap was featured in a Los Angeles Daily News article discussing factors contributing to the unexpectedly tight race for Los Angeles County sheriff. While incumbent sheriffs are traditionally successful at winning re-election, the 2018 midterm elections marked a notable shift, with retired lieutenant Alex Villanueva currently in the lead. Although opponent and incumbent sheriff Jim McDonnell is higher ranked, has more experience and had a better-funded campaign, Villanueva attracted significant support from unions and Latino voters. Leap noted the “collateral damage” of “voters who were primarily interested in other races and voted for Villanueva because of demographics or party support.” Leap and other experts debate whether Villanueva’s success thus far is a result of voters’ placing less value on incumbency, McDonnell’s overestimation of the power of name recognition, or the confusion prompted by Villanueva’s ballot designation as sheriff’s lieutenant, effectively muting the candidates’ different levels of experience.


‘Put On Your Seatbelts,’ Peterson Says of Coming Election Fallout

Mark Peterson, professor of public policy, political science and law, spoke to Elite Daily about the November 2018 midterm elections and the implications of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Such an outcome would lead to an increase in investigations against Donald Trump and his administration and an end to Trump’s legislative agenda, he said. “It is possible some common ground will be found on some issues, such as investments in infrastructure, but even they will be caught not only in the vise of extraordinary partisan polarization and mutual distrust, but also the enormous constraints imposed by the erupting budget deficit and rapidly accumulating debt.” In a follow-up article, Peterson considered the stakes if the GOP had held on to a House majority. “A slender majority would mean that the Republicans would have to be extremely cautious about issues that divide their conference,” such as health care, he said.


Gilens on Ranked-Choice Voting to Bolster Democracy

Just in time for the midterm elections, UCLA Luskin Policy Professor Martin Gilens co-wrote an American Prospect article with Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page proposing extensive yet perhaps much needed changes to our democratic process. The first and foremost change that Gilens advocates is a transition from our current system of plurality voting or “first past the post” to a system called rank-choice voting, or RCV. Our current system can produce elected officials who are not representative of their districts; this was the case in Maine’s 2010 gubernatorial election, in which far-right politician Paul LePage won with 38 percent of the popular vote, which was split among three candidates. After this upset, Maine instituted RCV, a system where “voters do not just pick one candidate; they rank all the candidates in order of preference, from most favored to least favored.” This system, if applied nationally, would reduce party polarization as well as produce more representative elected officials, the article said. 


 

DeShazo Remarks on Rise of CCAs in Future of Clean, Cheap Energy

J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI),  is featured in a Comstock’s article assessing publicly owned electric-power-purchasing organizations in a transient energy market. The growth of so-called Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) as an alternative to municipal and investor-owned utilities is transforming the energy market. CCAs offer cheaper and cleaner power, but their future hinges on their ability to navigate regulatory and market changes. DeShazo, who is also chair of Public Policy at UCLA Luskin, is cautious about predicting the long-term success of CCAs, citing past bankruptcies of large utilities as a result of “wrong conditions and bad policy by the legislature.” Climate change and the resulting shifts in environmental policy make electricity and the energy market as a whole competitive arenas. If they are able to overcome the obstacles in their path, “CCAs may serve the majority of the state’s consumers now served by the big three investor-owned utilities within 10 years,” the article stated, citing a July report from LCI.


Yaroslavsky on O.C. Republican’s Reelection Bid

ABC News spoke to Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, for its report on Orange County Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s bid for reelection to the House of Representatives. Rohrabacher, the article noted, is a staunch Reaganite who took an unexpected ideological turn in advocating closer ties with Russia. In the November 2018 midterm elections, he is one of several California Republicans scrambling to defend his seat. Observers noted that Rohrabacher’s longevity and conservative record give him a strong change of reelection.  “He’s been around for almost 30 years in Congress,” said Yaroslavsky, who has known Rohrabacher for decades. “Don’t underestimate him because he will fight.”


 

New Rules Could Disenfranchise American Indians, Akee Says

Changes to North Dakota’s voting requirements threaten to disenfranchise thousands of American Indians, UCLA Luskin’s Randall Akee explained in a podcast for the Brookings Institution, where he is currently a fellow. A U.S. Supreme Court action, less than a month before the November 2018 election, permitted the changes, which require voters to produce identification that includes a street address. Many of North Dakota’s American Indians live on reservations and use a P.O. Box instead of a street address, said Akee, an associate professor of public policy. The new requirements could sway some very close races, including Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s battle to keep her seat, he said. Akee noted that American Indians did not get the right to vote until 1924. “It’s been less than a century that they’ve been allowed to participate in the voting process. And that’s why this particular turn of events, of disenfranchising Native Americans on reservations, is so distasteful.”