Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, wrote an opinion article about the federal government’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, noting, “It’s on each of us to realize that what we’re seeing is history repeating itself.” Akee called the current policy unjust, ill-conceived and inhumane, and likened it to the era of American Indian boarding schools, when “the U.S. government also separated children from parents — often under the guise of improving safety and opportunities for these children.” That separation “often resulted in death, disease and deprivation,” Akee wrote in the Houston Chronicle op-ed, adding, “The Trump administration’s actions in 2018 aren’t, unfortunately, all that different from historical actions taken by the United States toward its indigenous peoples over the last 150 years.”
In a Vice story about the black market for pot, which in many ways is more profitable than the now-legalized marijuana industry, UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer Brad Rowe commented that Los Angeles has made cannabis regulation too complicated. Rowe said there should be rewards for compliant businesses, such as fewer inspections and reduced fees. He added that the city must work harder to identify illegal shops and attempt to get them permitted. “It’s been whack-a-mole in the city of L.A. for forever,” said Rowe, who is also affiliated with the university’s Cannabis Research Initiative.
Martin Wachs, UCLA Luskin distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, commented on the history of California’s controversial gas tax in a recent Mercury News article looking at what drivers actually are taxed per gallon of gas. “The idea was not that you would be taxing gasoline,” Wachs said, “but you would be charging drivers for their use of the roads.” Wachs said that the first gas tax instituted nearly a century ago in California was intended to offset the costs of maintenance by charging people benefiting directly from roads.
UCLA Luskin Public Policy Professor John Villasenor authored a Forbes story on the cybersecurity implications of a court case involving Facebook and the U.S. government. At issue is whether the government can compel Facebook to break the encryption of voice communications made through its Messenger app. Law enforcement is seeking the communications as part of a probe into the MS-13 gang, Reuters reported. Since Facebook is not a traditional telecommunications carrier, Villasenor wrote, “there is the question of whether the government has the legal authority to order Facebook to wiretap Messenger audio exchanges.” He added, “Regardless of what one thinks of the U.S. government’s assertions regarding a right to access the audio exchanges in this particular case, if Facebook is forced to comply (and shows that it is technically able to do so), other governments—including authoritarian governments—will take notice.” Villasenor also commented in a Washington Post article about the brewing court battle.
Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning, commented in a Vox story on the rapid proliferation of electric scooters in U.S. cities. While scooters could benefit the environment by replacing car trips, they might also discourage walking. “Some of those walk trips are likely to be taken away at the shorter end, and some of those car trips are those at the long end,” said Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin. Taylor said scooters could encourage the use of public transit by solving the so-called “last mile” problem. “There’s the West L.A. rail station that’s a 22-minute walk from me. … I took a scooter the other day, and it took me five minutes,” Taylor said.
Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin lecturer of public policy, contributed a CALmatters “My Turn” commentary on proposed California legislation that would undo overly broad protection of police personnel records currently exempted under the California Public Records Act. “Senate Bill 1421 would undo a misguided effort in the 1970s to over-protect police from public scrutiny and yet preserve protections for officers who have done their jobs well,” wrote Newton, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the UCLA magazine Blueprint.
Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy, authored an article posted on RealClearMarkets about research linking higher levels of psychological stress suffered by blacks — compared to whites — related to short-term unemployment. Citing his own research, Akee suggests that differences in wealth by race might account for differences in unemployment experiences. “There are significant costs to wealth inequality. We have known for some time that it serves as an obstacle to important investment decisions in education and entrepreneurship. Now, we’re finding evidence that it may have adverse effects on individual well-being and mental health in the face of short-term unemployment,” Akee wrote.
Elon Musk's tunneling company is proposing a 3.6-mile tunnel to Dodger Stadium. (Chris Saucedo / Getty Images for SXSW)
Juan Matute, lecturer in urban planning and deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation, commented in a Los Angeles Times story about a proposed 3.6-mile tunnel to ferry baseball fans between Dodger Stadium and a nearby Metro subway station. Elon Musk, above, and his Boring Company proposed to whisk riders in zero-emission, high-speed pods, following another company’s proposal to build an above-ground gondola connection between L.A.’s Union Station and the stadium. “It doesn’t seem like Dodger Stadium’s traffic problems have been solved as a result of the bus-only lanes,” Matute said. “It seems like people have a different available option to get there, and this could be another different viable option.”
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about a controversial 1940s-era gas station in Silver Lake that may be designated as a historic monument, pending a city council vote. Monkkonen noted that disputes over historic preservation and development are not new, but groups demanding new housing are becoming more vocal. “In the past, a lot of this stuff happened without anyone questioning it.”
Chris Tilly, professor of urban planning, is quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about the benefits of perks that include free passes and access to special events and attractions for employees working at Southern California theme parks. “It does enable you to hold on to good employees, but it also helps motivate people,” said Tilly, who studies labor markets and public policies directed toward better jobs. “You want them to be part of the team, and they are jazzed to be working there.”