Expert on Africa Presents Senior Fellows Talk

The big story of the 21st century will be Africa, according to international policy expert Kate Almquist Knopf, who spoke Feb. 6 as part of the Senior Fellows Speaker Series at UCLA Luskin. “If we look at demographic growth rates, Africa’s population is projected to more than double between now and 2050, when 25 percent — a quarter of the world’s population — will be African,” she said. Knopf works for the U.S. Department of Defense as the director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, which aims to be an objective source of strategic analysis on issues in Africa. The audience for her presentation, which was co-hosted by Global Public Affairs, included local civic and business professionals who serve as mentors for UCLA Luskin students as part of the Senior Fellows Leadership program. The talk focused not only on demography but also on issues related to climate, economics, governance and security. Knopf cited statistics that show how issues such as poverty and authoritarianism contribute to violence and humanitarian crises in African countries such as South Sudan. “The violent conflict that we are seeing — and the violent extremism — I think portends the possibility of quite significant state collapse on the continent,” Knopf said. Some encouraging signs are evident, however. Because the youth of the continent are increasingly making their voices heard, “all is not lost,” she said. “It’s really fragile change at this point … but the great hope is that the youth across the continent want governments that work … and they are out there fighting for it — nonviolently, peacefully — and making a difference in big, profound ways.”

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Africa Expert Gives Sr. Fellows Talk

DeShazo on Future of Electric-Car Infrastructure in Indianapolis

JR DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and professor of public policy, spoke to the Indianapolis Star about the demise of the electric-car-sharing service BlueIndy. The service allowed people to rent a car in one neighborhood and leave it in another for a relatively low cost, but the company never gained traction. After nearly five years of sluggish growth and financial losses, the car service will shut down in May, and the city must decide what to do with the 81 electric car stations that have already been built. City officials are debating between reverting the stations to parking spots or purchasing the charging stations and building upon environmentally friendly infrastructure. According to DeShazo, BlueIndy’s demise creates a potential opportunity for Indianapolis. “Even if the car-share isn’t successful,” he said, “they’ve created a network of charging stations, which can be repurposed to support other charging needs the community might have.”


Villasenor Illustrates Asymmetry in Data Privacy Laws

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor co-authored an article with UC Berkeley Professor Rebecca Wexler describing the dangers of new data privacy laws and their unintended contribution to wrongful convictions. They explain how the “growing volume of data gathered and stored by mobile network providers, social media companies, and location-based app providers has quite rightly spurred interest in updating privacy laws.” However, these laws often favor prosecutors in legal cases, making it easier for them to deploy state power to search for and seize data, while defense attorneys struggle to access the same data using subpoenas. The article for the Brookings Institution’s TechTank blog describes a “fundamental asymmetry”: “While law enforcement can compel the production of data that can help establish guilt, a defendant will have a much harder time compelling the production of data that establish innocence.” The authors recommend drafting laws that accommodate “the legitimate needs of both law enforcement and defense investigations.”


A Fresh Vision for the Financing of Higher Education

A daylong conference hosted by the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin focused on a fresh vision for the financing of higher education, even as U.S. student debt has climbed to $1.6 trillion. The Feb. 7 event brought together 150 students, scholars and activists from across the country, many wearing small red squares as a symbol of solidarity. Hannah Appel, the institute’s associate faculty director, said student loans are crippling many households, particularly in communities of color. However, she said, “We are not here to talk about the student debt crisis. Instead, … we are here at a moment of possibility” thanks to a series of victories scored by a burgeoning social movement and intervention by engaged scholars. The conference featured two keynote speakers: economist Stephanie Kelton, and historian and author Barbara Ransby. Kelton, a professor at Stony Brook University and advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, presented research showing that cancellation of all U.S. student debt would boost the economy, adding $8.6 billion to $108 billion a year to the real gross domestic product. Ransby, a professor at the University of Illinois and leader in the Scholars for Social Justice movement, said the intertwining of race and capitalism have turned many universities into “bad actors or silent partners in the growing debt crisis that many of our students face.” Other panelists included members of the activist group Debt Collective, who shared how they struggled to make loan payments for years before turning to collective action. Joining together into the nation’s first student debtors’ union has so far won over $1.5 billion in student debt cancellation. At a ceremony closing the conference, individuals were invited to burn slips of specially treated paper symbolizing collection notices to protest predatory loan practices.

View a video and photos of the conference.


 

 

Yaroslavsky on Building L.A.’s Future With Lessons From Its Past


Astor Weighs In on Violence Against Teachers

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored an article in the Conversation discussing the findings of an American Psychological Association task force investigation of violence against teachers. The task force surveyed about 3,000 teachers across the country in 2010 to gauge the scope of the issue. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only 9% of U.S. teachers recounted being threatened with injury, 80% of those surveyed by the APA said they had personally experienced some form of violence or abuse in the past year. The article noted that the discrepancy in statistics could be attributed to teachers choosing not to report incidents of violence out of fear of jeopardizing their jobs. The task force is now focusing on whether the way schools are managed and their overall cultures contribute to the conditions that lead to teacher assaults.


Manville, Monkkonen, Lens Zero In on Single-Family Zoning

A new Sidewalk Talk article on Medium highlighted the main points of a paper written by Associate Professors of Urban Planning Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens arguing for the elimination of single-family housing regulations. The three associate professors wrote the essay for the January issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, which presented nine different arguments about the future of single-family zoning. The debate over single-family zoning has been fueled by new bills in Maryland, Oregon, Minneapolis and California that have proposed loosening single-family regulations, with limited success. In their paper, Manville, Monkkonen and Lens argue that removing single-family zoning doesn’t prevent single-family homes from being built; this means that developers can continue to build them in response to household preference and market demands. However, “in the 21st century, no city should have any land where nothing can be built except a detached single-family home,” they conclude.


small community in Alaska

Census Change Could Reduce Indigenous Population Count, Akee Finds

The New York Times featured a study conducted by Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy and American Indian studies, in an opinion piece about the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau is testing an algorithm that scrambles the final population count to preserve the confidentiality of individual data records. A test run using records from the last census showed that the algorithm may produce wildly inaccurate numbers for rural areas and minority populations. Akee’s study found this to be true for Native American reservations. On reservations where the population fell below 5,000 people, the algorithm reduced the count of indigenous people by an average of 34%, the study found.


 

image of a vehicle at a gas station pumping gas

Gas Tax Is ‘Absolutely Necessary,’ Wachs Says

Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the San Diego news site inewsource about Senate Bill 1, a gas tax  passed in 2017 to improve the condition of California roads. Some communities are unsatisfied with the pace of road repairs, the article noted. But Wachs called the law “a short-term fix that was absolutely necessary.” In the future, he added, different solutions will be needed as fuel mileage rates increase and more people drive electric cars that don’t use gas — two trends that will cut into gas-tax revenue. “We’ll be selling less gasoline in relation to the driving that we do as years go by,” Wachs said.


 

Armenta Selected as Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Amada Armenta was chosen by the Russell Sage Foundation as one of 17 visiting scholars for the 2020-2021 academic year. Armenta will pursue her research on race, ethnicity and immigration while in residence at the foundation’s headquarters in New York City starting in September. The selection of Visiting Scholars is based on an individual’s demonstrated record of research accomplishment and the merit of the proposed project. Armenta will study the legal attitudes of immigrants, focusing on how they understand and make decisions about migration, driving, working, calling the police, securing identification and paying taxes. Her research will culminate in a book analyzing the experiences of undocumented Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia. This will be Armenta’s second book, following the award-winning “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement” (2017), which analyzed the role that local police and jail employees played in immigration enforcement in Nashville, Tennessee. The Russell Sage Foundation’s Visiting Scholars Program supports research into the social and behavioral sciences with the goal of improving living conditions in the United States. Research topics have included immigration, race and diversity, poverty, labor practices, gender inequality, climate change and natural disaster recovery.