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.”


 

Which Voters Will Turn Out? Leap Weighs In on Sheriff’s Race

As California’s general elections rapidly approach, much of the local media focus has turned to the Los Angeles County’s sheriff’s race. The incumbent, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, is generally favored to win. However, retired sheriff’s lieutenant Alex Villanueva managed to force a runoff with strong Latino support in the June primaries, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. If elected, Villanueva would be the county’s first Democratic sheriff in 138 years. The article noted that the current political and social climate could benefit Villanueva, who aligns himself with progressive ideologies. Voter turnout will undoubtedly be a major factor, UCLA Luskin’s Jorja Leap told the Daily News. “Will the ethnic and racial groups subjected to disparity, will they get out and vote?” said Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare. “Will law and order, and people who believe in a more conservative, badge-heavy approach, get out and vote? [The outcome] depends on that.”


 

Mukhija Comments on Program to House Homeless in Backyards

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija commented in a New York Times story about a program to offer homeowners incentives to house the homeless in their backyards. Pilot programs in the city and county of Los Angeles offer subsidies for the construction of so-called granny flats that would be rented for a set number of years to those in need of shelter. The programs are seen as a creative, if limited, way to address the affordable housing crisis, which Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the biggest humanitarian crisis in this city.” “In the total picture of homelessness, we know this will not necessarily change that much,” Mukhija said. “The value goes beyond that, though, because it is finally somewhat of a departure of the purity of single-family housing in the region. It’s a good step to change what people here really consider a dogma of private housing.”


Yaroslavsky Weighs In on the Ballot Battle Over Rent Control

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, shared his expertise on housing policy with several media outlets covering the November 2018 ballot measure that would give California cities more power to curb rising rents. “The state doesn’t do anything for renters. It does everything for property owners and developers,” Yaroslavsky told the Christian Science Monitor. “If we keep this up for another generation, we’re going to have far more homelessness than we do now.” The Monitor’s article on the fight over Proposition 10 cited the Los Angeles Initiative’s 2018 Quality of Life Index, which found that more than a quarter of L.A. County’s 10.1 million residents had worried about losing their home in the previous year. “These are the people who are a lost job or eviction notice away from winding up on the streets,” Yaroslavsky said.  The Monitor also cited a UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy working paper on the historical roots of the affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles. Yaroslavsky has also been quoted in Proposition 10 coverage from Bloomberg News, the Guardian and Curbed LA.


 

Manville, Monkkonen Investigate Roots of Animosity Toward Housing Developers

UCLA associate professors Michael Manville and Paavo Monkkonen were recently featured in an article on Sightline highlighting their research on neighborhood opposition to new building. Even more than perceived harm and self-interest, Manville and Monkkonen found that “the most powerful opposition frame is about the developer,” specifically when a developer “is likely to earn a large profit from the building.” Despite the apparent motivation to “enforce community norms of fairness” by reining in developers who strive to maximize personal profits, Manville and Monkkonen note the potential flaws of this approach. Manville and Monkkonen illustrate the potentially “vicious cycle of regulation and resentment” as a result of anti-developer attitudes in which “punishing developers … [risks] thwarting affordability, punishing people who need homes, [and] discouraging all but the least likable, deepest-pocketed and most aggressive developers from building.” Despite the foundations of a moral argument against profit-driven developers, Manville and Monkkonen propose a shift in focus to the accessibility and affordability of “homes of all shapes and sizes [for] neighbors of all income levels.”


A Midterm Upset Would Spark Big Battles, Peterson Says

The website Elite Daily asked UCLA Luskin’s Mark Peterson to weigh in on the remote possibility that Democrats will reclaim control of the Senate in the November 2018 midterm elections. “I think it is first vital to emphasize what a shocker that would be,” said Peterson, a professor of public policy, political science and law. In the event that Democrats beat the steep odds against them, Peterson predicted big battles between the Senate and White House, particularly over judicial appointments and an overhauled legislative agenda that would face President Trump’s veto pen. He also said the chances are slim that a Democrat-controlled Senate would convict the president if he is impeached by the House. “That requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which could not be achieved without a significant number of Republicans joining in,” Peterson said. “Given our current politics, that would probably take not only a ‘smoking gun,’ but a ‘smoking bazooka.’ ”

 


 

Jacoby Comments on Employee Profit-Sharing in Sears’ Heyday

Sanford Jacoby, distinguished professor emeritus of public policy at UCLA Luskin, commented in a front-page New York Times article about the remarkably egalitarian employee profit-sharing program offered by Sears in its heyday. Before it was phased out in the 1970s, the stock-ownership plan allowed Sears workers at all ranks to build a comfortable nest egg. “People were retiring with nice chunks of change,” Jacoby said. “People loved this fund, and Sears was a wildly successful company.” But the approach favored men over women and also made workers even more exposed to their employer’s fate, said Jacoby, who also holds professorial appointments in history and management at UCLA. The article contrasted the program at Sears, which has declared bankruptcy, with policies at Amazon, which recently lifted its minimum hourly wage to $15 but also stopped giving stock to hundreds of thousands of employees. The decision underscores how lower-paid employees across corporate America have been locked out of profit-sharing and stock grants, the article said.