Akee, Ong on Creating Educational Opportunities for Native American Students

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to CNN about the University of California’s recent decision to waive tuition for Native American students in an effort to make the university system more affordable and accessible. As part of the UC Native American Opportunity Plan, tuition and fees will be waived for California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Akee collaborated with UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Director Paul Ong and other scholars on a soon-to-be-published op-ed urging other land-grant universities to follow UC’s lead. “The UC system is leading the way in acknowledging its place and role in educating Indigenous people,” the authors wrote. “In the absence of similar programs in other locations, the UC system as a whole will gain a significant advantage in recruiting the best and brightest [American Indian or Alaska Native] students from around the country.”

Ong Reflects on Lack of Progress Since L.A. Riots

Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Paul Ong spoke to the Christian Science Monitor about race relations and criminal justice reform in the 30 years since the police beating of Rodney King and the resulting L.A. riots. For many people, economic and social conditions have stayed the same or gotten worse in the last three decades. In the report “South Los Angeles Since the Sixties,” Ong and his colleagues found that many of the area’s residents were disenchanted over justice delayed and persistent discrimination, racism and unequal access to economic opportunity. Ong noted that racial segregation continues in South Los Angeles today and many African Americans are migrating to the exurbs in search of better schools, jobs and more affordable housing. He also pointed out that the Latino population is growing but remains on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, while white and Asian people are moving in, along with gentrification.

Much at Stake in State Attorney General’s Race, Diaz Says

Founding Director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Sonja Diaz was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the California attorney general’s race. In the June primary, voters will choose from the liberal incumbent, Rob Bonta, who was appointed to the job last year, and four other candidates, all with differing views on crime and criminal justice reform. The election will be held as voters are expressing heightened fears about public safety. Diaz explained that the attorney general’s job expands far beyond crime; the Department of Justice oversees the enforcement of environmental and housing laws and runs a civil rights division. “Crime is part of the job, not all of the job,” Diaz said. “The other part of the job is really defending and upholding not only our state Constitution but California’s values at a really important time in our nation’s history.”

Steinert-Threlkeld on Russia’s Disinformation Campaign

In an interview with Business Insider, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld discussed the state of misinformation in Russia. He explained that the Russian disinformation campaign works by pushing out a large amount of misinformation, some of which contains small amounts of truth. “When you control the information that people see, you control their willingness to act in certain political directions,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. “So if people learned that a train station was bombed by Ukraine by neo-Nazis as opposed to Russian military forces, then the soldier deaths that Russians will eventually learn about is justified, right? Because you’re not the aggressor, you’re the defender.” Western leaders have urged Russian citizens to access independent and verified news about the war. But Steinert-Threlkeld estimated that only about 10% of Russia’s population currently has access to virtual private networks, or VPNs, and those who do have access aren’t necessarily protected from having their location revealed.

Student Debt Is a Policy Failure, Appel Says

In a recent Marketplace interview, Hannah Appel, associate faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, said that “canceling student debt is the quickest way to narrow the racial wealth gap.” The Department of Education announced a plan to change the federal student loan system to make it easier for lower-income student loan borrowers to have their debt forgiven, prompting discussions about canceling all student loan debt. The vast majority of student loans are “simply uncollectable,” Appel said, adding that the impact of student loan debt falls disproportionately on people of color. She explained that student loan debt is unique because it’s held 95%-plus by the federal government. “We’ve seen the most progress and we’ve been able to build the most power around student debt, because it plainly is a policy failure for which we can hold the government accountable, and they can reverse course,” she said.

Shoup Weighs In on NYC Parking Angst

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, spoke to the New York Times about the recent decision to return to twice-a-week street sweeping in New York City. During the pandemic, street sweeping was reduced to once per week as city services were scaled back. Many New Yorkers welcomed the change, which required them to move their cars just once a week, but others complained that the cleanliness of streets across the city declined. Mayor Eric Adams recently announced that twice-weekly street sweeping would resume, and drivers will once again have to move their cars two times a week to avoid a fine. According to Shoup, car owners in the city are still getting a good deal. “Drivers are complaining that they have to move their car, and they’re parking for free on some of the most valuable land on Earth,” Shoup said.

Anheier Recommends National Security Council for Germany

In a new Project Syndicate article, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier urged Germany to create a national security council. For decades, Germany has received criticism for low defense spending, fence-sitting and free-riding, Anheier wrote. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz proclaimed a dramatic policy reorientation that would make Germany one of the top military spenders and arms exporters. However, the success of this policy change will depend on German leadership, and Anheier proposed establishing a German national security council. “Long proposed but never realized, an NSC could advance a coherent defense, security and foreign policy strategy,” he wrote. “Located close to the chancellery, it would act as a central policy coordinator, helping to overcome the fragmentation that often characterizes federal ministries’ responses to crises.” According to Anheier, a security council would be key to helping Germany align its economic and security policy with the European Union’s common defense strategy.

Yin on Policy Changes to Reduce Medical Debt

Associate Professor of Public Policy Wesley Yin was cited in a Health Care Journalism article about the burden of medical debt in the United States. Yin said that medical debt, totaling at least $140 billion, is the single largest source of consumer debt in the United States. To address this issue, the White House announced four steps to ease the burden of medical debt on health care consumers, including holding medical providers and debt collectors accountable for harmful practices and forgiving debt for low-income veterans. “Just shining a light on that type of behavior might lead to reducing the most egregious practices from providers,” Yin said. He expressed hope that the “White House’s actions to shine a light on charity care practices will have a positive effect for low-income individuals.” The policy changes may also “nudge providers to be stronger advocates for increased subsidies for health insurance and Medicaid expansion,” he said.

Callahan on Pursuing Clean Energy and Equity in California

LAist spoke to Colleen Callahan, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, about the California Climate Credit, one piece of the state’s larger strategy to address the climate crisis. Under the program, many consumers received a credit on their utility bills, funded by a cap-and-trade system that requires industries to pay for the pollution they emit. The credit is meant to offset the costs that fall on the public as California transitions from energy generated by fossil fuels to cleaner energy like wind and solar. Callahan said it may be time to rethink a universal credit, especially as low- and middle-income Californians continue to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation. “If the goal is to increase energy affordability for low-income Californians during a transition to a clean, low-carbon economy, then other strategies that the state are using should probably receive more emphasis in the future,” she said.

On the Harmful Impacts of Clearing Unhoused People From View

A Hollywood Reporter article about the harmful impacts of dismantling homeless encampments in Los Angeles, often to accommodate Hollywood productions and film shoots, cited a report from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. While authorities said a January 2020 “cleaning” operation at Echo Park Lake was set in motion by a film permit, the entertainment firm seeking the permit said it never sought removal of the unhoused community, according to the report. Theo Henderson, Activist-in-Residence at the institute, said production companies have “plausible deniability of what is going on” and added that unhoused individuals should be offered work by productions that use the streets and sidewalks where they live. Henderson also spoke to Buzzfeed News about mobile memorials called “Can You See Me?” The memorials are placed around Los Angeles to give people a place to grieve their unhoused family and friends who have died on the streets and in shelters.