A Secure Retirement for All Americans

By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

“What kind of America do you want?”

This was the question posed by A. Barry Rand at the latest UCLA Luskin Lecture Series event. Rand is the CEO of AARP, the world’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals over the age of 50.

“For us at AARP,” Rand said, “we want a society in which everyone lives with dignity and purpose, achieves their dreams, and enjoys lifelong financial security. Every individual should have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, whether they are young or old.”

Rand believes that discussions regarding the future of aging in America have never been more pertinent; as the nation undergoes changes in health policy, we are pressed to contemplate their impacts on an aging society.

According to Rand, the idea of old age was transformed from a “life in purgatory” to a desired destination beginning in the 1950s. At once, old age became known as “leisure years,” a reward for a lifetime of hard work.

Changing demographics are challenging the reward of retirement, Rand said. “America is experiencing a dramatic change. This is the first time that minorities account for over half of all births in the past twelve months,” he said. “By 2030, racial and ethnic minorities will be 42% of the US population. This new ethnographic makeup becomes new ‘American mainstream’ – where minorities become the majority in the aging population.”

The goal of AARP, outlined by Rand, is primarily to help the growing aging population make a contribution to society while allowing them to be financially prosperous after retirement. In his eyes, three main strategies need to be employed.

First, as social security remains a critical foundation for income security, AARP seeks to promote a full-blown discussion of how it contributes to the wellbeing of older Americans, and how it can be modified to improve effectiveness.

Second, Rand believes it critical to continue lowering growth and healthcare spending system wide – a major tenet of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010.

Finally, “in order to thrive and take advantage of life possibilities,” Rand explained, “people need to live in age-friendly communities.” From his perspective, the nation needs to become more welcoming to residents of all ages.

When asked what AARP should do to position themselves as national advocates for the growing U.S. aging population, Rand succinctly summarized their mission: “We strive to help people have access to affordable healthcare and be financially secure. We are focused on how to be creative in getting the costs down, while ensuring that all generations have the ability to enjoy social security benefits.”

Rand has long fought for social change. He has served as chairman and chief executive officer of Avis Group Holdings, CEO of Equitant Ltd., and executive vice president, Worldwide Operations, at Xerox Corporation.

Read Rand’s remarks (PDF)

The Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The Series features renowned public intellectuals, bringing together scholars as well as national and local leaders to address society’s most pressing problems. 

Villaraigosa: “Education is the civil rights issue of our time”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy made an impassioned case for improving public education in Los Angeles at the latest UCLA Luskin Lecture Series event on Wednesday night.

The event – coming the day after city elections that narrowed the field of mayoral hopefuls and saw nearly $6 million in outside spending on races for three school board seats – served as a chance for Villaraigosa and Deasy to chart a course for the next administration. Villaraigosa’s final term ends June 30.

“The next mayor of L.A. has to understand that there’s not really an option,” Villaraigosa said. “He or she absolutely needs to be involved in the success of our schools.”

Since he took office eight years ago, Villaraigosa has spent much of his tenure trying to improve performance at the nation’s second-largest school district. He made an early-term attempt to wrest control of the LAUSD board – an effort that ultimately was defeated in court. Through the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, he implemented reforms at 22 of the district’s worst-performing schools, improving student performance and parent engagement. The mayor’s advocacy of parent-trigger laws gave parents greater control over the administration of troubled schools, at the expense of union protections for teachers. 

Although Deasy took the top job at LAUSD less than two years ago, he has helped implement Villaraigosa’s efforts, pushing reforms in charter schools and teacher performance evaluations.

“We’ve got to make it easier to get better teachers,” Deasy said.

In addition to focusing on teacher performance, Deasy has worked to improve student achievement through careful analysis of data. When statistics on student suspensions painted a bleak picture of school safety – suspensions are intended only for violence and other serious problems, Deasy said – he met with school leadership to learn more. 

“The tiniest fraction of suspensions were for serious issues,” Deasy said, “but an overwhelming proportion were for ‘defiance.'” Administrators were keeping students away from school for low-level problems, such as failing to bring materials or “answering in a defiant tone,” Deasy said.

Since increasing student performance depends on consistent student attendance, and minority populations have been shown to be suspended at higher rates than their peers, Deasy told administrators to suspend students only as a last resort. As a result, suspensions went down 50 percent.

Deasy said the episode was a lesson that school reform is incredibly complex.

“I learned that we didn’t have a drop-out problem. We had a push-out problem,” he said. “We were forcing these kids out.” Only by focusing on the ultimate goal of providing high-quality education for every LAUSD student could reform be achieved, he said.

“When you pay attention and want to drill down, you can instigate positive change,” Deasy said.

Villaraigosa said the stakes for the city are incredibly high. A quality education system that serves every Angeleno is key to the future success of the city, he said.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time. It’s the democracy issue of our time. It’s the economic issue of our time.

“It matters.”

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

 

Sadik-Khan: Change “Can Be Done”

If city leaders clearly articulate a vision and pursue it in ways that rely on constant public engagement, transformational change is possible.

That was the message delivered by New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan Feb. 28, as part of the UCLA Luskin Lecture Series. Sadik-Khan spoke to an audience of more than 200 transportation planners and advocates at the 2013 UCLA Complete Streets Conference, an annual gathering produced by the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies.

In a talk that touched on nearly every aspect of a “complete street” — pedestrians, bicycles, buses, plazas and parks, as well as private vehicles — Sadik-Khan reported on her five years as head of transportation in America’s largest city. Throughout her tenure, she said, change has been at the forefront of her job.

“These streets have been unexamined for too long,” she said. “We should be designing streets for 2013, not 1963.”

Sadik-Khan has overseen a major revitalization of the ways New Yorkers get around their city. Beginning with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “PlaNYC” strategic document, Sadik-Khan has put into place a program of expanded amenities for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users while continuing to perform the tasks traditionally associated with a city transportation department — improving bridges, maintaining streets and filling potholes. “We’ve worked hard to bring balance back to the streets of New York,” she said.

In working for what she described as “a very data-driven mayor,” she has relied on a steady stream of surveys, evaluations and data analysis. When the city decided to close Times Square to vehicles and turn it into a pedestrian plaza, the administration was able to point to GPS data from New York’s 13,000 taxicabs to show that traffic had actually improved as a result of the closure. Pedestrian safety also improved, as did economic performance — Times Square is now one of the highest valued retail spaces in the world, Sadik-Khan said.

Other improvements across the city saw similar results. There were 47 percent fewer commercial vacancies after the city installed bike lanes along First Avenue. On streets where bus service has been refigured, retail sales have gone up 71 percent. “These are improvements of safety, livability and strong economic performance,” Sadik-Khan said.

Key to the success of her plans was the ability to implement change quickly and tangibly. “Change used to take years,” she said. “Now with paint, stones and street furniture, we can changes things overnight.” The improvements help the public see the potential of big ideas and accustom themselves to change.

“It’s not a rendering, it’s a real-world model,” Sadik-Khan said. “It lets people touch and point to it and say ‘I want that.'”

 

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

Luskin Lecture Series: Howard Dean

By Ruby Bolaria
UCLA Luskin Student Writer 

On Wednesday evening former Vermont Governor Howard Dean spoke to a large and diverse crowd at UCLA as part of the Luskin Lecture Series.

The event, hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, brought together donors and invited guests – several of whom are currently UCLA undergraduates – at the Covel Commons on campus.

Governor Dean spoke about why “Campaigns Matter.” It boiled down to how 20-35 year olds, with the help of the internet, are already transforming not just our nation, but our planet.

The theme for the night was about how a growing sense of shared fate among young people is helping to transform the world, beginning in the United States. Governor Dean recalled his first year in college, in 1968, and how at that time it would have been absurd and crazy to consider the possibility of a black president.

“We did do a lot of things and we did transform this country,” he said, “but this new generation is going to transform the world, thanks to tools like the internet.”

He credited the younger generation for dismissing the usual concept of “us and them” and embracing all people as “us.”

“For the first time they understand that there is no other – the other is them,” Dean said.

Governor Dean, who was Vermont’s governor for five consecutive terms, explained how the Republican Party does not get this message and has ostracized many young voters by framing campaigns around social issues, criticizing the gay community, racial minorities, immigrants, etc.

“The problem is those people are all our kids’ friends,” he said. “If you can have an economic platform that is much more attractive – focusing on spending cuts and entitlement programs, that makes sense. But if you hate their friends they aren’t going to vote for you.”

He said voters under age 35 are more conservative than democrats, somewhat libertarian but are socially much more liberal than republicans.

Governor Dean went on to talk about his role within the Democratic National Committee in coordinating the widespread grassroots campaign to elect Barack Obama in 2008.

“More people under 35 years old voted than over 65. That has never happened in my lifetime. Barack Obama was elected by young people and that was a big surprise. He is a multicultural president and kids could identify with him.”

Governor Dean said republicans were better at running campaigns than democrats – they are more organized, disciplined and better funded. That started to change that in 2004 with his presidential candidacy which eventually transformed into the advocacy nonprofit Democracy for America (formerly known as Dean for America).

However, it was the Obama campaign in 2008 that made historic changes to the way democrats campaigned. It was a well-organized widespread grassroots strategy using new technologies.

A key tool used during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, started within the DNC by young 20-somethings as Neighbor to Neighbor, software used to connect organizers and volunteers with voters. Governor Dean stressed that internet, although helpful, is not the end.

“The internet is not a substitute for person-to-person contact,” he said. “We used the internet as an organization tool so it was easier to touch people.”

He also stressed the importance of a solid ground game that is always prepared for the unexpected, saying “change favors the prepared mind.”

Dean went on to clarify how the Obama campaign strategy included all 50 states – a strategy first implemented by Dean in his 2004 campaign – even historically republican voting states like Utah and Texas. If time isn’t spent in a place like Utah now, there will be no chance to win that state in the future.

As an example, the Governor recalled how he initially told Obama not to bother spending money in Florida because it was a lost cause. He was glad to be wrong when Florida voted democrat.

Beyond political campaigns, Governor Dean praised young people who took action using tools including Change.org to petition Bank of America to reverse their decision to charge for checking accounts.

He also credited young people for incorporating more social responsibility and ethics into business models. Dean cited how some young business owners are making it part of their mission to “do good” and preventing shareholders from suing the company if they do not maximize profits.

“We are on the verge of a revolution; in fact it’s already started,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going yet but it’s happening through the extraordinary power of the internet and it’s all about grassroots.”

He ended with a challenge of sorts – saying what young people are struggling with now is how to institutionalize the movement without denigrating the message or diluting the innovation.

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

 

 

Dean Gilliam and New Board of Advisors Discuss UCLA Luskin Strategy

Members of the new 2012-13 UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs board of advisors met in a newly refurbished conference room at the school on Tuesday morning to discuss the School’s strategic plan and initiatives for the upcoming school year.

During the gathering, Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. announced the appointments of Chair Susan F. Rice and Vice Chairs Cynthia McClain-Hill and Michael F. Fleming. Members provided feedback on the school’s mission statement and putting the strategic plan into action, and heard presentations by social welfare assistant professor Ian Holloway and social welfare Ph.D. candidate Sara Pilgreen.

The Luskin board of advisors is made up of civic leaders, business executives and social entrepreneurs. The full board meets twice annually in an effort to shape the School’s vision and strategic plan.

More pictures from the meeting

Harvard Law Professor and Obama Mentor Charles Ogletree Opens UCLA Luskin Lecture Series with Call to Social Justice

Harvard Law School Professor Charles J. Ogletree launched the new UCLA Luskin Lecture Series with a stirring address that wove personal, political, and historical themes of the African American civil rights movement before an audience of more than 250 people at the California African American Museum on February 16.

Ogletree’s wide-ranging talk touched on the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that nullified separate but equal, the lives of Martin Luther King and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the law school academic performances of his former students Barack and Michelle Obama, and the arrest of fellow Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in 2009. The Gates incident is the topic of Ogletree’s most recent book, Presumption of Guilt, which uses the case to analyze race, class, and crime in the U.S.

Ogletree set the tone for his remarks with a recognition in the audience of Luskin School Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, whose 1988 presidential campaign was torpedoed by the infamous Willie Horton commercial that created a genre of political advertizing exploiting “race as the dividing line,” Ogletree said.

“Martin Luther King had a dream,” Ogletree said. “Now we must have a plan.”  He pointed out that the achievement of the nine students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas was not their enrollment in the school, but their graduation and matriculation to college. (One of the nine, Terrence James Roberts, in 1970 earned his Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from UCLA, a program now housed in the Luskin School, and went on to earn a PhD.)

Citing a wide range of issues and incidents, Ogletree, who also directs Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, emphasized that “social justice is not a regional problem, it is a national problem.”

“The divide between wealthier African Americans and poorer African Americans is greater than ever before,” he said, calling on the audience to see the link between link the 1964 Civil Rights march on Washington and the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprang up last year.

“If we can do the social justice thing, we can have a great United States,” he added.

Among the lighter moments in the talk, Ogletree confided insights on the Obamas from their law school days offering a dead-on imitation of Barack Obama taking over the facilitation of class discussions. He spoke of his admiration of Michelle Obama for her commitment to volunteer work in a legal aid office when she was a student.

He also offered a fresh telling of the Gates incident, amusing the audience with the insight that in the heat of the moment, Gates, an esteemed university professor in his own kitchen, “forgot he was a Black man” as he challenged the white officer by shouting, “Do you know who I am?”

“Race trumps class” is the lesson of the incident, Olgetree said.

Toward the end of his remarks, Ogletree paid a moving dual homage to his late father and to Thurgood Marshall with a story linking the importance of his father’s last-minute needing a hat to wear at his son’s swearing in at the Supreme Court. Not so coincidentally, Ogletree later realized he always felt a need to wear a hat at protests and rallies. 

He called on the audience to take on social justice concerns “as our moral mission.”

“We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership,” he said.

Recalling his observation of Thurgood Marshall’s wistfulness at the end of his career, he stressed the importance of carrying on from previous generations. “The next time you go through the door, leave it open for somebody else to follow,” he said.

The Luskin lecture Series was established as part of the recent $50 million gift from Los Angeles entrepreneur Meyer Luskin and his wife Renee to establish the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA, housing the Departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare, and Urban Planning. The mission of the lecture is “to feature renowned thought leaders who are involved with issues changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems.”

Dean Franklin Gilliam Jr. introduced the lecture noting the Luskins’ challenge to the School to pursue social justice as part of the school’s mission and the appropriateness of Professor Ogletree as the inaugural choice, citing his career as an “insightful, careful, and critical
thinker about life and the law.”

Pollster and policy analyst Shakari Byerly (MPP ’05) said what resonated for her in the talk were the “the enduring themes of the struggle for social justice.”

“Professor Ogletree’s stories reminded me of my own family’s journey,” she said.

The event was co-sponsored by the UCLA School of Law’s David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.

Luskin Center sets out to make L.A. a greener place to live, work The Luskin Center for Innovation has set a goal to produce research that will help Los Angeles become more environmentally sustainable

By Cynthia Lee

Green power. Solar energy incentives. Renewable energy. Smart water systems. Planning for climate change. Clean tech in L.A. For the next three years, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation has set an ambitious goal to produce research that will help Los Angeles and state and federal agencies reach the Holy Grail of environmental sustainability.

Five Luskin scholars are working on initiatives that could change how residents, businesses, industries and government meet the challenge of living more sustainably. The Luskin center is carrying out a mission that was broadly outlined by Chancellor Gene Block in his inaugural address on May 13, 2008: to marshal the university’s intellectual resources campuswide and work toward intense civic engagement to solve vexing local and regional problems. “I believe that UCLA can have its greatest impact by focusing its expertise from across the campus to comprehensively address problems that plague Los Angeles,” the chancellor told an audience in Royce Hall.

With an agenda packed with six hefty research initiatives, the center is diving into that task under the leadership of its new director, J.R. DeShazo, an environmental economist and associate professor of public policy who also heads the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. DeShazo took the reins in October when the center moved from the Chancellor’s Office to the School of Public Affairs, a move that took advantage of the school’s outward orientation. “It’s focused on policy solutions, so this is a natural place for us to grow,” DeShazo said. “But even though the center is located here, we’re very cross-disciplinary. We have researchers from chemistry, public health, engineering, the Anderson management school, the Institute of the Environment (IoE) and public policy.”

The five scholars working on the six initiatives are DeShazo; Yoram Cohen, an engineering professor and director of the Water Technology Research Center; Magali Delmas, professor of management and the IoE; Hilary Godwin, professor of environmental health sciences; and Matt Kahn, professor of economics in the departments of Economics and Public Policy and IoE. “We started off by identifying problems that our community is facing and that it can’t solve,” DeShazo said. Then, they asked two questions: “Does UCLA have the research capacity to address this deficit? And can we find a civic partner who can make use of this new knowledge?” Proposals were prioritized by a 16-member advisory board with a broad representation of business and nonprofit executives, elected officials and a media expert. Among the high-profile board members are State Senators Carol Liu and Fran Pavley; Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board; Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel; Assemblymember Mike Feuer; John Mack, chairman of the Police Commission; and William Ouchi, professor of the Anderson School and chairman of the Riordan Programs.

“We take our research ideas and develop real-world solutions that can be passed on to a civic partner with whom we can engage and support,” DeShazo said. “We let them carry through with the politics of policy reform as well as the implementation. We don’t get involved in advocacy.” An array of local green research DeShazo recently completed Luskin’s first initiative with his research on designing a solar energy program for L.A. that would minimize costs to ratepayers. His research – the basis of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s new energy policy – proposes a solar feed-in tariff that would help everyone from homeowners and nonprofits to commercial property owners buy solar panels and be able to sell their solar energy to utility companies for a small profit.

Other Luskin research initiatives involve creating smart water systems for Southern California with water reclamation, treatment and reuse (UCLA researcher Cohen will work in partnership with the Metropolitan Water District); helping local governments plan for climate change (DeShazo with the California Air Resources Board and the Southern California Association of Governments); and reducing toxic exposures to nanomaterials in California (Godwin with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.) In another initiative in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the California Air Resources Board, researchers are compiling a database of jobs created by clean tech activities in L.A. County and will document best practices that other cities have used to attract and support clean tech development. Luskin’s Kahn is working with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to pinpoint what determines how much electricity is used by residential and commercial consumers and how the district can market its major green energy programs to increase participation.

Finally, Delmas is looking into whether the Green Business Certification Program approved recently by the City Council will reduce the overall carbon footprint of small businesses. The program offers incentives and assistance to small business owners in L.A. to become more efficient and less wasteful in their everyday practices. Those businesses that meet certain “green” criteria will be certified as being environmentally friendly. Her partner in this venture is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Fernando Torres-Gil Confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Member of the National Council on Disability

Associate Dean Fernando Torres-Gil has been named to an Obama administration post as a member and vice chair of the National Council on Disability.  This marks the third term of national service in a
presidential administration for Professor Torres-Gil, who previously served under President Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter.
Prior to his roles at UCLA, he served as a professor of gerontology and public administration at the
University of Southern California, where he is still an adjunct professor of gerontology. Before serving in academia, Prof. Torres-Gil was the first assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging.  Prof. Torres-Gil also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992.

Prof. Torres-Gil holds appointments as professor of social welfare and public policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs and is the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging.  Professor Torres-Gil is an expert in the fields of health and long-term care, the politics of aging, social policy, ethnicity and disability.

He is the author of six books and more than 80 articles and book chapters, including The New Aging: Politics and Change in America (1992), and Lessons From Three Nations, Volumes I and II (2007).  In recognition of his many academic accomplishments, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 1985 and the National Academy of Public Administration in 1995.  He also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992 and is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.  He is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance and of the board of directors of Elderhostel, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AARP Foundation, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, and The California Endowment.

UP Doctoral Students Receive Rishwain Social Justice Entrepreneurship Awards Two urban planning doctoral students were recognized for their outstanding contributions to community based social entrepreneurship

The Center for Community Partnerships has announced the winners of the first Rishwain Social Justice Entrepreneurship Award:   Urban Planning doctoral students Ava Bromberg and John Scott-Railton were recognized for their outstanding contributions to community based social entrepreneurship, serving the community in ground-breaking ways.

Ava Bromberg created a Mobile Planning Lab, a converted camper designed to take urban planning issues to low-income residents in South Los Angeles. Working with the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice and the United Neighbors in Defense against Displacement, she created the project “Visions for Vermont,” which helps to engage residents in land use plans by providing a mobile, neutral, and local setting for neighbors and city planners to go over models, maps and data, and to discuss the future development and growth of their communities. Her project has given a voice to residents to show city planners the concerns and comments of the neighborhood in order to create sustainable development.

Halfway across the world, in Dakar, Senegal, John Scott-Railton has been working to solve “collective action” problems in villages as they seek to deal with unseasonable rains and devastating floods that are related to climate change. Using inexpensive handheld technology, John has partnered with Senegalese universities, climate scientists and their students, non-profit organizations, and community members to apply sophisticated mapping techniques, hybridized surveys, and linked satellite mapping to the village level toward developing more effective, long-term parcel-based solutions. As Railton continues his fieldwork, he plans to redouble efforts to steer local officials towards a pilot program in which community members and the government share responsibility for mitigating flooding.

A ceremony was held in Royce Hall to honor the recipients for their social justice entrepreneurial work with opening remarks by Dean Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. of the School of Public Affairs and a keynote address by Professor Jonathan Greenblatt, Anderson School of Management.

For more details see the recent article at the website for the UCLA Newsroom.

UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Releases Solar Feed-in Tariff Report Informing Renewable Energy Policy in Los Angeles The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with the Los Angeles Business Council to publish a report on an effective feed-in tariff system for the greater Los Angeles area

By Minne Ho

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Los Angeles Business Council has publicly released the report, “Designing an Effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles.” The report was unveiled yesterday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s Sustainability Summit, attended by hundreds of the city’s elected officials and business, nonprofit, and civic leaders.

J.R. DeShazo, the director UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, has long studied how governments can promote and help implement environmentally friendly energy policies. His recent research on solar energy incentive programs, conducted with Luskin Center research project manager Ryan Matulka and other colleagues at UCLA, has already become the basis for a new energy policy introduced by the city of Los Angeles.

On Monday, March 15, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced an ambitious program to move the city’s energy grid toward renewable energy sources over the next decade. Included in the plan is a provision — based in large part on the Luskin Center research — for a “feed-in tariff,” which would encourage residents to install solar energy systems that are connected to the city’s power grid.

The overall plan would require ratepayers to pay 2.7 cents more per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed, with 0.7 cents of that — a so-called carbon surcharge — going to the city’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Trust, a lockbox that will specifically fund two types of programs: energy efficiency and the solar power feed-in tariff.

Under the feed-in tariff system, homeowners, farmers, cooperatives and businesses in Los Angeles that install solar panels on homes or other properties could sell solar energy to public utility suppliers. The price paid for this renewable energy would be set at an above-market level that covers the cost of the electricity produced, plus a reasonable profit. “A feed-in tariff initiated in this city has the potential to change the landscape of Los Angeles,” said DeShazo, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. “If incentivized appropriately, the program could prompt individual property owners and businesses to install solar panels on unused spaces including commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and residential buildings. Our projections show that the end result would be more jobs and a significant move to renewable energy with no net cost burden to the city.”

Feed-in tariffs for solar energy have been implemented in Germany and several other European countries, as well as domestically in cities in Florida and Vermont. The programs have moved these regions to the forefront of clean energy. And while these programs have necessitated slight increases in ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills, they have also generated thousands of new jobs. The mayor estimated that under the program announced Monday, 18,000 new jobs would be generated over the next 10 years. “For Los Angeles to be the cleanest, greenest city, we need participation from every Angeleno,” Villaraigosa said. “We know that dirty fossil fuels will only become more scarce and more expensive in the years to come. This helps move us toward renewable energy while at the same time creating new jobs.”

The new program had its genesis last year, when Villaraigosa announced a long-term, comprehensive solar plan intended to help meet the city’s future clean energy needs. The plan included a proposal for a solar feed-in tariff program administered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In September 2009, the Los Angeles Business Council created a Solar Working Group consisting of leaders in the private, environmental and educational sectors in Los Angeles County to investigate the promise of the feed-in tariff for Los Angeles and commissioned the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to lead the investigation. In addition to DeShazo and Matulka, the working group also included Sean Hecht and Cara Horowitz from the UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. The first phase of their research examined current models operating in Germany, Spain, Canada, Vermont and Florida to propose guidelines for a feed-in tariff design. The second phase looks at the potential participation rates in a large-scale solar feed-in tariff program in Los Angeles and its impact on clean energy in the Los Angeles basin.

The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders in Los Angeles to address urgent public issues and actively work toward solutions. The center’s current focus in on issues of environmental sustainability.