Journalist Sasha Issenberg to be Civil Society Fellow

Political journalist Sasha Issenberg will be in residence as a Fellow in the Center for Civil Society in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Department of Political Science for spring quarter 2014.

Mr. Issenberg is currently Washington correspondent for The Monocle, a magazine covering global affairs, business culture and design. He is the Author of The Victory Lab: the Secret Science of Winning Elections (Crown, 2012), which shows how political campaigns have been transformed by innovations in data, analytics, and behavioral psychology. He is also the author of The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of Modern Delicacy (Gotham/Penguin, 2007), which describes how sushi went from a street snack to a major global commodity in less than a decade.

He is currently writing a book on marriage equality to be published by Crown/Random House, The Engagement: A Quarter-Century of Defending, Defining, and expanding Marriage in America. The Engagement will document the political, legal, and social history of the battles over gay marriage in the United States. Mr. Issenberg’s UCLA Fellowship is supported in part by a generous contribution from the David Bohnett Foundation.

Mr. Issenberg will co-teach a Fiat Lux undergraduate course, Victory Lab, Exploring the Mechanics of Modern Campaigns with Lynn Vavreck of the Political Science Department, who was instrumental in bringing Mr. Issenberg to UCLA. The Fiat Lux Course will meet every other Tuesday from 3:30 to 4:50 in room 1284 of the Public Affairs building. Luskin students are welcome to sit in on the class, which will also feature a number of prominent guest speakers from the political arena.

In addition he will lead brown bag lunch discussions for the Luskin community: Thursday, May 1, 12 pm Why We Stopped Fighting over Gay Marriage” in 3333, and Wednesday, May 14, 12 pm for Why the Democrats Are Better with Data in Room 3343. He will also lead a Dean’s Salon in May on the topics of “Sushi, Campaign Strategy, and Civil Rights.”

Mr. Issenberg has held editorial and reporting positions for George, Philadelphia Magazine, The Boston Globe, and Slate. He has also published articles in a wide range of major publications including the New York Times Magazine, New York, The Atlantic and The Washington Monthly. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics in 2013. He is a 2002 graduate of Swarthmore College.

Most recently, he published “America Exports Democracy, Just not the Way You Think,” in the March 14 Sunday New York Times Review.  And in 2012 he held his own with Stephen Colbert.

Mr. Issenberg’s office is Rm 6273, in the Public Affairs Building, and he can be reached at

Soja’s ‘My Los Angeles’ Reviewed in L.A. Times

Distinguished Urban Planning professor emeritus Edward Soja’s new book, My Los Angeles: From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanizations, has been reviewed in the Los Angeles Times.

“Edward Soja, a geographer at UCLA, has spent much of his long career trying to read Los Angeles,” the reviewer, journalist and UCLA academic Jon Christensen writes. “Along the way, he developed innovative and sometimes controversial theories of urbanization and became a founder of a dynamic ‘L.A. School’ of urban studies.”

In placing Soja at the creation of this school of thought, Christensen, who is the editor of Boom: A Journal of California, credits Soja with “some of the most provocative and productive ideas to our understanding of cities in recent history.”

Soja’s book primarily addresses Los Angeles’ socio-economic landscape in the wake of the 1992 civil unrest, which he sees as a consequence of decades of economic decline and racial isolation. The key factor to future growth will be networks — of employment, transportation and culture — that serve all areas of the city and empower stronger communities and individuals.

Soja’s observations are important, Christensen writes. “In the next 30 to 40 years, as the worldwide population grows from 7 billion to 9 billion and possibly more, all of that growth effectively will be absorbed in cities, doubling the urban population on Earth.”

“That means the urban built environment will double too,” he continues. “The shape of those urban spaces, as Edward Soja shows, will fundamentally shape the future.”

My Los Angeles is published by the University of California Press.

Luskin Center To Host Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Conference

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will bring together leaders in government, nonprofits, academia and industry March 21 for a workshop designed to help disadvantaged communities take a leading role in fighting climate change.

Consistent with President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, the “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund workshop will advance a data-driven approach to combat climate change and build community resiliency with smart investments.

States across the nation are starting to make investments to reduce carbon pollution. In California, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will provide billions of dollars for projects designed to mitigate climate change and create local benefits, especially in hard hit communities.

But many questions remain about revenue allocation and implementation in disadvantaged communities. The Investment Justice Workshop at UCLA will support the development of an analytical, data-driven approach for this process. This will involve evaluative criteria to guide investment decisions and performance metrics to track results of the investments.

“California’s climate leadership provides lessons for the rest of the country,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center and professor of public policy at UCLA. “Aligned with President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, UCLA is bringing together leaders and lessons to help the State make wise investments with the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.”

The event will feature research including Graduated Density Zoning, produced by the UCLA Luskin Center and commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The LASER Atlas provides a tool to help local decision-makers and community members think strategically about where to invest to mitigate carbon pollution, expand renewable energy generation and create jobs. The Atlas includes maps of climate change vulnerability as well as rooftop solar energy capacity.

The LASER Atlas underscores how smart investments in solar and energy efficiency can reduce energy bills, thus lowering climate change emissions while at the same time making buildings more livable and saving money for residents, businesses and taxpayers.

The information in the Atlas comes at an important time. Unless changes are made, the L.A. region is projected to have three times the number of extreme heat days in the downtown and urban core by 2050, and four times the number of heat days in the valleys and at higher elevations, according to a separate UCLA study led by Alex Hall and mapped in the LASER Atlas.

In response to the President’s call to action via his Climate Data Initiative, the UCLA Luskin Center and EDF are now adding additional data layers to the LASER Atlas and plan to expand it to include other geographic areas.

“The UCLA Luskin Center, along with our research partner the Environmental Defense Fund, looks forward to being part of a national movement bringing data to bear to help communities, companies and citizens effectively prepare for climate change,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center.

“Data mapping tools like the LASER Atlas provide powerful visualizations of the effects that climate change can have on our most vulnerable communities, while also highlighting opportunities for economic growth, job creation and increased resiliency,” said Jorge Madrid of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Specifically, the new maps show that residents of Los Angeles County are disproportionately impacted by environmental risks but, in turn, could disproportionately benefit from upcoming investments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

For example, the LASER Atlas illustrates that disadvantaged communities are already benefiting from the installation of rooftop solar panels, with over 1,400 solar systems in low-income neighborhoods in just the investor-owned utility areas of the county alone. The data shows that expanding these installations would tap into L.A. County’s tremendous capacity to generate solar power.

The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund provides a new opportunity to invest in renewable energy, as well as clean transportation and sustainable communities, to combat climate change and create jobs.

The event on March 21 and its related research contributes to UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” whose goal is for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life.


Students Journey Far Afield for Spring Break Work

Students in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning are taking their shows on the road this Spring Break.

In pursuit of independently organized projects, groups of students will travel to Detroit, Mexico City and Tokyo. The trips are designed to encourage a broader understanding of issues of urbanization, governance, policy and social service.

In Detroit, a group of 10 students will explore the consequences of the city’s bankruptcy on urban policy. During their time in the city they have meetings scheduled with a host of city officials, including agency heads, nonprofit leaders and Mayor Mike Duggan. In their conversations the students hope to uncover lessons of governing a city in crisis, resources available to city managers and the role citizens can play in rebuilding an iconic city’s image. “Detroit represents the most extreme versions of problems in the urban core,” the students write on their trip blog. “This trip will serve to contextualize urban planning issues in the canonical distressed city.”

The Mexico City trip will cross disciplinary lines to understand transportation access in the context of a global metropolis. With many similarities in structure and environment as Los Angeles, 28 students from all three UCLA Luskin departments will use the Mexican capital as a source for new ideas in social justice, equity and community empowerment. The sessions packed into the five-day schedule, spanning such topics as bikesharing, parking management, women’s needs, sustainable development and public space programming, will be distilled into a post-trip event at UCLA Luskin. The group will also be posting updates to a dedicated website during the trip.

Two groups of students are heading for Tokyo. The first will follow a path established in previous years as they travel to the Tohoku region of Japan’s largest island, where they will engage with civic leaders responding to the 2011 earthquake that inundated the city of Sendai. More than three years after the disaster, the region still offers vital lessons of emergency planning, critical response and community rebuilding. The second group, traveling under the auspices of UCLA’s Urban Humanities Institute, will explore the role of transportation in crafting a community through an innovative interpretation of the neighborhood surrounding Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest transportation center.

Beyond the March pause in classes, UCLA Luskin students spend summer breaks living and working overseas through the International Practice Pathway program.

Student Postcard: Seeking Resiliency in the Pacific Rim

Greg Pierce, a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning, was selected as the sole UCLA representative to attend the Second Annual Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative Forum in Manila this month. Upon his return to the states, he shared this postcard of his experience in the city, which is still recovering from a major typhoon that struck in 2013.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) Forum in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. I was selected as the graduate student representative from UCLA to participate in the conference. The Urban Land Institute and the Asia Society jointly sponsored the forum, which brought together a diverse group of academics (including Professor Robert Spich from the UCLA Anderson School), officials from the Philippine government, real estate developers and other development consultants. Participants traveled from all across Asia and North America to Manila.

The theme of this year’s forum was ‘Creating Livable and Resilient Cities.’ This theme was particularly appropriate in the context of Manila, which experiences serious flooding several times a year, especially in lower-income areas. Moreover, the country as a whole is still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan. The typhoon struck in November 2013, devastating cities and towns throughout the islands of Leyte and ranking as the deadliest typhoon in the country’s history. Outsized, adverse weather events in the Philippines and throughout the Pacific Rim are only expected to increase in light of climate change.

The day before the forum began, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Santiago in Old Manila. Much of this area of the city was built in the 16th century by the Spanish. This area is rich in colonial and post-colonial history and featured a range of diverse architecture, including Manila’s city hall building. While in this part of town, I was also able to visit some neighborhoods nearby that provided a taste of the typical day-to-day experience of the city’s residents.

The first day of the forum consisted of ‘mobile workshops’ to different areas of the city to see urban resiliency in action. The mobile workshop I attended served as quite a contrast from Old Manila. I visited both Makati, the central business district and financial hub of the city, and Bonifacio Global City, a relatively new master planned development. Both areas have taken urban resiliency to heart by implementing advanced storm water management techniques and constructing earthquake-resistant buildings with the most flexible materials. However, Makati and Bonifacio are largely designed for wealthy Filipinos and foreigners, and do not facilitate the inclusion of the city’s lower and middle income residents. Another poignant portion of the tour included a visit to the memorial cemetery for the Americans and Filipinos who perished in World War II.

An explanation of the storm water management system in Bonifacio Global City

The World War II memorial cemetery with Bonifacio Global City in background

The subsequent days of the conference were held at the eclectic Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City. The forum featured keynote addresses by Sir Robert Parker — the mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand when the major 2011 earthquake struck the city — and Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the director of disaster relief in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami devastated Aceh province. These experts provided both practical advice for urban resiliency in future disasters as well as a welcome people-oriented approach to handling such crises. I was also able to attend a number of lively panel discussions and small-group breakouts on more specific topics in urban resiliency, such as public private partnerships and sustainable urban design. The conference also included numerous opportunities for knowledge-sharing and networking.

In addition to taking in knowledge, I contributed to the range of policies which can enhance urban resiliency. Along with other graduate students, I presented a poster at the forum. My proposal, ‘Performance-Based Pricing for City Parking in the Pacific Rim,’ outlined how large cities, both in the United States as well as in Asia and Latin America, can implement market-based pricing for their public on-street parking supply. Implementing dynamic pricing addresses past urban planning urban mistakes, improves livability by reducing congestion and pollution, and increases cities’ financial resiliency. Enhanced revenue from parking can also be diverted to urban residents without cars, the vast majority of those living in Asia and Latin America.

Overall, visiting Manila and attending the forum was a great experience but also served as a reminder of ongoing challenges for urban resiliency in countries such as the Philippines. While we know much about best practices and can see how well-off residents can ensure resilience in light of climate change and disasters, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and everyday livability for the average resident of a low or middle income city remains a challenge.

Nathalie Rayes Named MPP Alumna of 2014

Nathalie Rayes MPP ’99 has been named 2014 Alumna of the Year by the Department of Public Policy for her exemplary public service, philanthropy, and professional achievement.

Rayes currently serves as the U.S. National Public Relations Director for Grupo Salinas, a Mexican conglomerate with $6 billion in annual sales and 100,000 employees in Mexico, the United States, and Central and South America, and with operations in the broadcasting, retail, banking and financial services, and telecommunications industries. Rayes is also the Executive Director of Grupo Salinas’ philanthropic arm in the United States, Fundación Azteca America that seeks to improve the quality of life of Latinos by partnering with existing nonprofits to empower, create awareness and motivate change on social and civic issues.

Rayes is a true Bruin, earning her B.A. in sociology with honors. She commenced her public service career working as deputy to then-Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Feuer. With his enthusiastic and glowing recommendation, Rayes was admitted to the UCLA MPP program, where she distinguished herself early in her career. She interned at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo during the summer of 1998 and received an unsolicited outstanding letter of recommendation from the US Ambassador to Egypt. His letter noted her professionalism, resourcefulness and diligence, and was just a foreshadowing of the professional accolades Rayes would receive throughout her career.

Upon completing her Master of Public Policy Degree, Rayes returned to Feuer’s Office as his senior policy advisor. After the Mayoral election she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, a very influential position in the City, all the more remarkable for someone to attain before the age of 30.

After a distinguished career in public service, Rayes joined Grupo Salinas, where she continues to excel, evidenced by her many honors and accolades. In January 2014, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. Rayes also serves on the Advisory Board of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and on the boards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, Los Angeles Universal Preschool and U.S.–Mexico Chamber of Commerce, and she was one of the founding members of the UCLA Luskin’s MPP Alumni Council.

Rayes’ 2014 MPP Alumna of Year Award is only the latest of many previous distinctions including the 2013 Santa Monica College Distinguished Alumna Recognition Award for Outstanding Professional and Community Service Achievement and the 2012 “Mujeres Destacadas Award,” a recognition given annually by the publication El Diario La Prensa to the most outstanding women in the Latino community. She is also a Fellow of the Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative, the leading cross-sectional leadership development program in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although Rayes resides in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts with her husband, Dr. Tarek Samad, and their young sons, Julian and Alexander, she is eager to return to Los Angeles on Thursday, April 17, to accept her 2014 MPP Alumna of the Year award at the annual MPP Alumni Networking Reception.

Student Report Reflects on Japanese Disaster Preparation

Three years after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, students from all three departments have produced an anthology of personal reflection and academic analysis of the disaster’s impact on the community.

“Telling our Story: UCLA Luskin Japan Trip 2013” collects writing from 22 students in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning that traveled to the region last year. In a weeklong trip over Spring Break, the students toured disaster sites, examined official and community responses to the tragedy, and documented the country’s progress toward recovery.

“We, the authors, made promises to our sponsors and hosts to never forget Tohoku, and sharing our academic observations and personal experiences here not only immortalizes them but makes them accessible to those who cannot travel to the region themselves,” write the editors — Urban Planning student Vicente Romero, Social Welfare student Elizabeth Schaper and Public Policy student Keitaro Tsuji. “It is our hope that this body of work will help us achieve our promise to increase this region’s global visibility.”

The students also documented their trip in a video piece produced by Public Policy student Dustin Foster.

Students Get Up Close With Green Tech on City Hall Day

On Friday, Feb. 28, 24 students from all of UCLA Luskin’s academic departments traveled to City Hall for a day of briefings and interviews on the topic of “Can green technology help drive L.A.’s economy?”. The students gained experience in what it takes to make government work, and the city leaders benefited from the students’ new ideas and inspiration.

Follow the action through the Storify thread below.


Flexible Response to Calif. Budget Crisis Preserved HIV Testing

New research from a team led by Public Policy research professor Arleen Leibowitz shows that local health jurisdictions were able to maintain HIV testing near to pre-recession levels despite a substantial reduction in funding during California’s budget 2009 crisis.

As a direct result of state budget cuts that eliminated state funding for HIV prevention and testing, the number of HIV tests administered by California’s public health agencies declined dramatically between 2009 and 2011, the researchers write in the journal Heath Affairs. The state targeted remaining federal funds for HIV prevention to the 15 counties (other than Los Angeles and San Francisco) with the greatest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Counties with lower HIV/AIDS prevalence lost all their state support — and the number of publicly funded tests in those counties plummeted by 90 percent as a result.

Although testing dropped precipitously, HIV diagnoses fell by a much smaller amount. The 90 percent drop in testing in low-burden areas from 2009 to 2011 resulted in a decline in new diagnoses of only 15.7 percent in those counties. New cases of HIV/AIDS “declined by 6.7 percent in high-burden jurisdictions, despite the fact that their HIV prevention funding was halved and the numbers of HIV tests supported by public funds fell by 19 percent,” the researchers write.

The level of new diagnoses remained high because public health officials responded nimbly to the elimination of state funding, the researchers report. “By targeting the remaining federal resources to the most affected areas and allowing local jurisdictions the flexibility to allocate support to the most effective strategies and the populations at highest risk,” the state reduced the impact of the cuts, Leibowitz said.

“Across-the-board cuts would have resulted in delivering many fewer tests and identifying smaller numbers of new HIV/AIDS cases,” she added.

Although the agencies were able to mitigate the impact of the cuts, prevention activities were still reduced. Agencies were forced to scale back or eliminate risk-reduction and education programs, restructure program staffing, and seek external funding for testing and operations. In the sea of red ink, public health officials clung to a raft of testing regimens above other prevention methods.

“HIV testing is a crucial first step in identifying people living with HIV, who can then begin treatment to maintain their health,” Leibowitz said. “Treatment is also a key prevention strategy because it dramatically reduces transmission of the virus to others.” Even with the increased emphasis on testing, however, the reduced funding pool meant that “fewer than 520 Californians a year were not informed that they had been infected with HIV,” the researchers write.

Now that California’s budget outlook is improving, HIV testing should be strengthened and expanded, Leibowitz said. “California’s improved fiscal situation could allow for restoring resources for free, publicly-funded HIV testing, so necessary to the ‘HIV treatment as prevention’ strategy,” she said.

The article, “HIV Tests And New Diagnoses Declined After California Budget Cuts, But Reallocating Funds Helped Reduce Impact,” appears in the March 2014 issue of Health Affairs. Leibowitz’s coauthors are Karen Byrnes, Adriane Wynn and Kevin Farrell of UCLA’s California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center. Support came from the UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment Services, which is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The California HIV/AIDS Research Program and the UCLA AIDS Institute also supported this research.

Bluestone Kicks Off FEC Lecture Series

By Stan Paul

From President Obama and the Pope to venture capitalists and billionaires, “everyone is talking about inequality,” said Northeastern University professor Barry Bluestone in his Feb. 25 talk at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“This is new,” he added.

Bluestone’s presentation, “The Great U-Turn: Inequality in America 25 Years Later,” launched the Luskin School’s 2014 FEC Public Lecture Series. The events, which follow the theme of “Economic Inequality Through Multiple Lenses,” are sponsored by UCLA Luskin’s Faculty Executive Council, the Center for the Study of Inequality at UCLA Luskin, the Ralph and Goldy Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, among others.

While inequality in the United States is certainly not a new subject, focus on disparities among Americans and their relative freedom to pursue the American Dream has sharpened recently. In addition to a historical view of inequality in the U.S., Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern, provided new data that showed the situation has changed since he first reported his findings in the 1980s.

Among the headings of his presentation were insights such as: “Where inequality is greatest, so is the cost of living,” (Los Angeles was recently ranked ninth most unequal on a list American cities), and “Income Gains at the Top Dwarf Those of Low- and Middle-Income Households.” He presented data showing the percent change in real after-tax income since 1979 that resembled a craggy, but ever-growing mountain range of prosperity, culminating in a 201 percent increase for the top 1 percent. But, the categories of the next 19 percent, the middle 60 percent and the bottom 20 percent appear as relatively flat foothills in comparison.

As an explanation for the causes behind the divergent fortunes of the haves and the have-nots, Bluestone referenced an Agatha Christie novel to show that no one cause is to blame. Under the heading “Murder on the Inequality Express,” he ran through a top-ten list of suspects from technology to globalization to decreased union representation to trade deficits.

One chart, named “Income Growth and the Changing Distribution of Family Income,” came with a dour subtitle, “From Growth with Greater Equity…to Stagnation and Inequality.” Following World War II and decades of growth in income generally among most Americans, the “Great U-Turn” began in the 1970s, according to Bluestone, who used that term with his co-author Bennett Harrison as the title of their 1988 book. In the preface of the paperback version of that book, the authors wrote, “When we first wrote The Great U-Turn, we began with a simple and fundamental premise: what is essential to the American Dream is the promise of an ever-improving standard of living. Americans expect to find and hold higher-paying jobs as they get older, and they expect their children to fare even better…”

Prof. Bluestone put the “current concern about growing economic inequality into some historical perspective. He and Bennett were pioneers in this field,” commented Urban Planning professor Paul Ong, who directs the Center for the Study of Inequality at UCLA Luskin.

Counter to society’s expectations of ever-increasing prosperity, Bluestone showed evidence that family income mobility has stagnated in the decades since the 1970s. While expressing pessimism about any significant changes for “current generation income equality,” Professor Bluestone said that intergenerational improvement — or the prospects for children born into low-income families to advance to a higher level of wealth – might have more luck if major changes are made.

Bluestone suggested that universal quality prenatal care for all children and more spending on early childhood education would be the best investment to address the inequality gap. By better matching educational spending to the time when a child’s brain undergoes its period of most dramatic growth, the U-turn could be reversed, Bluestone said.

How much would this cost? “A fortune, but it would be worth it,” he said.

Bluestone’s presentation is available here.

The next FEC Public Lecture, scheduled for April 29, will feature William “Sandy” Darity of Duke University who will discuss “Race, Ethnicity and Economic Inequality.”