UCLA Luskin Postcard: Health Care Reform Salon with Mark Peterson

Mark Peterson, an expert in health care policy and a longtime watcher of efforts to reform medical insurance in the U.S., spoke to an exclusive group of UCLA Luskin friends at a Dean’s Associates Salon a few weeks after the Affordable Care Act’s coverage began to become active.

UCLA Luskin student writer Max Wynn sent this postcard from the evening.

On January 15th friends of UCLA Luskin gathered at Michael and Natalie Mahdesian’s Studio City home for the eleventh Dean’s Associates Salon.

The highlight of the evening was a discussion of the Affordable Care Act led by Mark A. Peterson, UCLA Luskin professor of public policy, political science and law. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a visiting professor of Public Policy, provided closing remarks and perspective on the health care reform experience of his own state.

In his opening remarks, Mahdesian, a member of UCLA Luskin’s Board of Advisors, stated that the School trains leaders to come up with solutions to the problems and needs of our society. Health care is a universal need but health care reform is a complex issue, and the clarity of Peterson’s analysis reinforced Mahdesian’s reasoning for calling UCLA Luskin “one of the best [public affairs programs] on the west coast — if not the nation.”

The collected guests filled the Mahdesian’s spacious living room, and while some sat up right in their seats and others relaxed on couches, they all listened intently as Peterson spoke.

He began by explaining why the Affordable Care Act is such a complex piece of legislation, before tracing the fraught history of health care reform in this country up to the problems with the Act’s rollout last fall. However, the majority of his presentation was devoted to what he called “the implementation wars.”

Peterson characterized the national debate over Obamacare as a “civil war within our political ranks,” explaining that the vitriol of the debate was driven by an increasingly polarized Congress and the racial intolerance of a powerful minority within the conservative electorate.

This divisive rhetoric of the health care debate was a recurring theme throughout the night, but Peterson’s in-depth, factual analysis of Obamacare was a steady hand on the subject.

Peterson’s remarks were followed by a lengthy question and answer session, and the intimate setting fostered a lively discussion between Peterson and the attendees. Questions came from all corners of the room and the constructive nature of the discussion stood in stark relief to the divisiveness of the subject matter.

As the night wound down Dukakis delivered his closing remarks, emphasizing that, “Obamacare works…[and] it’s working in my state.”

As guests milled about afterwards the general consensus was that the night’s discussion had provided a level of context that is much needed, but rarely found, in the discourse surrounding health care reform.

If you would like to learn more about UCLA Luksin’s Dean’s Associates program, click here.

Crisis as an Opportunity: UCLA and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade host symposium to address water concerns for a warming planet

By Karen A. Lefkowitz

“It’s important to awaken all to the seriousness of drought and the lack of rain…the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits and that we need solutions that are elegant.” On January 17 Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in California. On the other side of the world, Australia suffered through a 12-year drought that ended last year with widespread flooding. The 2012-2013 ‘angry summer’ was the country’s hottest on record and temperatures continue to rise this summer. These parallel challenges make Australia and the U.S. ideal partners on water resource responses. UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, International Institute, Luskin Center for Innovation, and School of Law Environmental Law Center partnered with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs to host a “U.S.-Australian Dialogue on Water — The Coming Water Crisis: Solutions and Strategies” on January 13.

Legislative officials, industry specialists, legal experts, educators and scientists, economists and business executives, and non-profit professionals shared experiences and advanced the conversation on water sustainability. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block provided introductory remarks and Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb delivered the keynote speech. The symposium was part of the G’Day USA program of events that brings together leaders and key influencers in diverse industries to cultivate and enhance the Australia–United States relationship. Conference segments considered coping techniques for arid environments, blueprints for better water management, and new water sources for the future.

You can view the rest of the story, conference agenda, and presentations here.

Dr. Renée Kidson on Accounting for Carbon: National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and International Reporting

On Thursday, January 23rd, the Luskin Center for Innovation hosted a lecture by Dr. Renée Kidson. Besides being an expert in water management, an economist, and a Major in the Australian Army, Dr. Kidson is also the Director of the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory – she is the chief administrator for the process of tallying up, as best as possible, the total sum of greenhouse gases emitted throughout all of Australia.

With nations around the world struggling to adapt to the effects of climate change, there is a growing recognition of the importance of international cooperation to mitigate this global issue. The key UN treaty that seeks to regulate this area is the UNFCCC, which mandates that every signatory must submit a national greenhouse gas inventory annually.

Such a task is obviously immensely complex. Dr. Kidson elaborated a bit on the overview of how that task is accomplished, and where it can become problematic.

In Australia, as in most countries, 5 major domains account for most anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Energy production
  2. Industrial processes
  3. Agriculture
  4. Waste
  5. Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry

Focusing on an overall emissions result can mask dynamic changes occurring in each of these areas.  Australia has actually successfully come in under its international GHG target for the last 5 years, mostly due to reforms and improvements in its land use and forestry policies.

One of the questions that comes up immediately is how reliable are the data that are aggregated in these projects. Dr. Kidson acknowledged that this is of course an incredible challenge – adjustments must be made for small or transient businesses that go unreported, statistical uncertainties, and other factors.  But she also highlighted complex mapping and software tools, stringent reporting and regulatory efforts, and a surprisingly participatory tone among Australia’s business community as factors that helped the government’s effort.

As an extra check on quality, and perhaps most emblematic of the amazing access to information possible in the modern age, the entire review is freely available to researchers, journalists, engineers, and the lay public at: http://ageis.climatechange.gov.au/

-Written by Nathan Otto, UCLA Public Policy Graduate Student

Students Join Movers & Shakers at TRB Conference

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin student writer

A group of Urban Planning students looking to expand their knowledge and professional connections in the transportation world made the trip to the 93rd annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington D.C., earlier this month.

The TRB annual meeting is a massive event, with around 12,000 participants and 800 different sessions spanning the width and breadth of transportation studies each year. Attending this event offered the UCLA Luskin students an opportunity to meet a mix of professionals and academics working on issues and projects similar to their own.

One student presenter, Jaimee Lederman, recalled, “This conference really gave me the chance to talk to people I normally couldn’t gain access to. For example, I had problems getting data from people in the insurance industry because they are not easy to contact, but there was a woman there who happened to be the head of an insurance company.”

Fellow student Kelcie Ralph agreed that the networking opportunities at the program are invaluable: “My first year, I tried to go to as many sessions as possible and drilled myself into the ground just to see everything. This year, I scaled back and focused on networking. I had the opportunity to attend a women’s reception that became an amazing networking opportunity for me to meet other women in transportation.”

Four Urban Planning students — master’s student Timothy Black and doctoral students Trevor Thomas, Ralph and Lederman — each were invited to present and discuss their research in various panels and forums at the conference.

Thomas’ paper covered the topic of post-welfare reform. “There are many travel surveys done for low-income people, single parents and children under welfare reform, but none of these data has been analyzed on the national level,” Thomas explained. “After looking at travel surveys from 1995 and 2009, we found a big change in vehicle access for poor single parents — more so than for any other demographic — that reflected in distance and their speed of income.”

Black conducted his research on the effectiveness and application of methods of measurement in urban planning. “With each metric, we were looking at different ways it could be applied, along with its background and development,” he explained. “By applying different metrics to streets of Santa Monica, we can find the best ways of measuring each street for bicycles and pedestrians.”

Ralph presented both a lecture and a poster. Her paper analyzed the relationship between women’s household labor and their use of automobiles. “Men & women divide household labor, but even women who work more than their husbands do significantly more housework than their partners,” she said. “That means that they need an automobile to make these trips, so I am looking at how these two topics are connected to each other.”

For her poster, Ralph examined how participation in after-school activities can be influenced by teens’ access to an automobile. “I think the goal of transportation, at the end of the day, is to connect people to opportunities and further social equality,” said Ralph.

Lederman also focused her research on two different topics within the legal realms of transportation and technology. The first covered transportation and ecology, specifically “streamlining transportation delivery of endangered species through large-scale collaborative planning,” she said.

Her second research topic concerned liability for emerging transportation systems and technologies. “With the new integration of automated driving technology in cars, there is an uncertain legal landscape,” she said. “People are so focused on the ultimate endgame, the automatic car, but we first have to slow down and look at how legal liabilities will affect technological development in this area.”

Though the conference is promoted throughout the Urban Planning department as one of the biggest transportation events of the year, the high cost of attending often prevents students from presenting their research in person and receiving feedback from some of the top professionals in the industry. These four students were able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from alumnus Larry Sauve MA UP ’78  in order to cover their travel costs to the conference.

Sauve first experienced the conference as a working professional at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Once he realized the range of opportunities this conference could provide to students, Sauve offered to cover the travel expenses of four UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students who were invited to present their research each year.

“I felt that money should not hold you back” from this professional opportunity, Sauve said. “I didn’t get a chance to go to TRB until I was actually working, but if I had the chance as a student it would have made me even more enthusiastic about going into my career in transportation.”

“The scholarship was very helpful because people [at the conference] asked specific questions about the research,” Black explained. “It provided me the chance to be there to answer questions in detail about my own research.”

The four students will present their research again at a conference at UCLA Luskin on February 12, 2014.

Madeleine Albright Speaks on Policy and Service at Luskin Lecture

By Max Wynn
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

On January 29th the UCLA community packed into a sold-out Royce Hall to take part in the third Luskin Lecture Series event of the 2013-14, “A Conversation with Madeleine Albright.”

In a list of achievements in public service spanning nearly four decades, Albright most notably served as President Clinton’s Secretary of State from 1997-2001. When she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she became the first woman to hold that position, and at the time was the highest ranking woman in the history of U.S. government.

Former Massachusetts Governor and visiting professor of public policy Michael Dukakis introduced Secretary Albright, describing how much he had enjoyed working with her during his 1988 presidential campaign. Albert Carnesale, a professor of public policy and engineering and former Chancellor of UCLA, then presented her with the UCLA Medal, an award given to those who have not only earned academic and professional acclaim, but whose works also illustrates the highest ideals of UCLA.

Upon receiving the honor, Albright joined Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and basketball coach John Wooden in the exclusive club of UCLA Medal recipients.

Albright’s keynote address focused on the difficulty of creating effective foreign policy in the face of rapid technological change and growing global interdependence. These two megatrends, as she described them, are difficult to address from a policy standpoint because they create their own contradictions. They both share the potential to foster international cooperation and understanding, she said, and yet in many instances they have hardened sectarian, ethnic and regional divisions.

Conscious of her audience of students, Albright described her remarks as centering on “the challenges facing the next generation of global leaders,” saying “given all that’s happening across the globe, we have an awful lot to talk about.

“The world’s a mess,” she summarized.

Despite these weighty pronouncements, her light-hearted nature, sense of humor and inspiring closing statements made it clear that she retains an optimistic outlook for the future. “Higher stakes mean greater rewards,” she said.

“The leaders of today and tomorrow have a chance to examine the options before us, discard what is broken, adapt what can be made to perform better and create new mechanisms where they are needed so that the global system benefits us all,” she said.

In his opening remarks, UCLA Luskin Dean Franklin D. Gilliam. Jr., stated that “The mission of our school is to change the world. We do that by training the next generation of transformative leaders.” Albright echoed Dean Gilliam’s sentiment, recognizing the potential of Luskin’s students to do just that.

Describing the leaders that the 21st century landscape requires, Albright stated that we need “leaders who bring a broadened understanding of their role…men and women who understand the connections between policy, planning, and social welfare…who recognize the need for an interdisciplinary approach to an interdependent world.

“The Luskin School is the kind of place in which those leaders will be forged,” she said.

Early in her address Albright noted that she was particularly looking forward to the question and answer portion of the evening’s event. She explained that since she is no longer in government she was excited to be able to actually answer the questions students and members of the public asked her, and her answers were nothing if not candid.

After a conversation with Dean Gilliam in which the two discussed a series of topics ranging from the Syrian conflict to the revelation of National Security Agency spying practices to her father’s mentorship of Condoleezza Rice, Albright fielded questions from the audience, the majority of which came from UCLA Luskin students.

The questions touched on specific policy issues as well as covering more general inquiries about the experience of being one of the few women in the corridors of power. Lance Cpl. J. Vincent Barcelona, a Marine Reservist and a third-year undergraduate student, asked Albright what force she would recommend President Obama deploy in Afghanistan as he prepares to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014.

After thanking him for his service, Albright said she didn’t know of the exact number, but she knew it was important to protect the United States’ investment in the country. She also spoke of her own experience advising on military action, and how seriously she and others in her role take the responsibility of sending young people to war.

Vernessa Shih, a second-year Public Policy student, asked what advice Albright would give to young women interested in public service. Albright responded that she would encourage women to not be afraid to interrupt, because if an idea is important enough to be shared, it’s important enough to break up a conversation. She also passed along what she called her “most-quoted line:”

“There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said.

Members of the audience took part in the discussion on Twitter. See what they were saying:

Q&A: John Villasenor, UCLA professor at the intersection of technology and policy

UCLA professor John Villasenor is an electrical engineer who teaches in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Luskin School of Public Affairs. He is also a widely published writer on the intersection of technology and public policy, having written columns about drones, privacy and intellectual property, among other topics.

In an edited Q&A, UCLA Today’s Mike Fricano recently asked Villasenor how he became an expert in the public policy aspects of technology and why engineers should be part of that conversation.

To learn more, Click Here.

Ong’s Students Provide Demographic Data for EmpowerLA

Students in Paul Ong‘s Urban Planning 214 class, “Neighborhood Analysis,” completed reports of important demographic information last fall about seven Los Angeles neighborhoods.

The series of reports, which integrated data collected in the field with information from the U.S. Census Bureau, were delivered to EmpowerLA, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. According to a blog post on the empowerla.org site, the reports will help Neighborhood Councils in the areas drive their engagement with and service to their communities.

“I am so impressed by the caliber of the students’ work,” said EmpowerLA general manager Grayce Liu, according to the post. “I think this asset mapping is essential for all Neighborhood Councils.”

Read the entire post and see the reports — which cover Valley Glen, Highland Park, Lake Balboa, South Central, Sunland-Tujunga, Van Nuys and Southwest — on the EmpowerLA website.

Parklets Toolkit Receives National Recognition

Reclaiming the Right-of-Way, a comprehensive toolkit on planning methods to encourage walkability and complete streets design in neighborhoods, has been named a recipients of a National Planning Achievement Award for Best Practice, presented by the American Planning Association.

The award is the latest in a string of honors for the toolkit, which is led by program manager Madeline Brozen and UCLA Luskin Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris through UCLA Luskin’s Complete Streets Initiative. Local and regional APA chapters had previously recognized the project’s contributions to planning theory and practice.

In a letter supporting the project’s nomination, Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar called the toolkit “invaluable,” saying the toolkit encouraged the city to try new ideas and “helped the shift toward a healthier, more walkable and enriching public realm gain a stronger foothold in Los Angeles.” Similar letters of support came from the L.A. Department of Transportation and the City of Cincinnati.

Though focused specifically on parklet development in Los Angeles, the toolkit provides methodologies and guidelines that can be applied to other communities and cities. The city of Pasadena, for example, just announced the possibility of parklets being installed alongside their Colorado Boulevard; additionally, LADOT launched a website titled www.PeopleSt.org that offers resources for community members to create and apply for their own public parklet spaces.

Reclaiming the Right-of-Way is the first part of a three-phase effort, made possible by a $75,000 grant from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, that included the publication of the toolkit, installation of two demonstration parklets in Los Angeles, and evaluation of the parklets’ role in their neighborhoods.

A brief description of the toolkit and award is available on the American Planning Association’s website:http://planning.org/awards/2014/achievement.htm

ACCESS Magazine Wins National Planning Award

ACCESS Magazine, the publication housed at UCLA Luskin that reports on research funded by the University of California Transportation Center, has been named the recipient of a National Planning Excellence Award by the American Planning Association.

The award celebrates efforts to increase awareness and understanding about the planning profession, and “tell the planning story.”

Launched 21 years ago by Berkeley planning professor Mel Webber, ACCESS has consistently made transportation research useful for policymakers and planning practitioners. With a goal of translating academic research into readable articles intended for a lay audience, ACCESS helps bring academic research into the public policy debate. ACCESS is currently housed within UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies, and is managed by editor in chief Urban Planning professor Donald Shoup and managing editor John Mathews.

The biannual magazine has more than 8,500 subscribers and 1,000 website visitors per month from more than 60 countries. Its ease of reading and widespread fan based has led to numerous reprint requests and articles being translated by international publications, including the leading Chinese journal, Urban Transport of China.

“As a teacher, I regularly assign ACCESS articles because students love them,” said Joe Grengs, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “In both style and substance, the articles are compelling enough to draw students into a conversation in ways that standard, dry academic writing cannot.”

Research published in ACCESS also inspires the implementation of new public initiatives. For example, San Francisco’s SFpark, a program that prices parking by demand, stemmed in part from ACCESS articles.

ACCESS Magazine has undoubtedly increased public awareness of the transportation and planning industry,” said Ann C. Bagley, FAICP, chair of the 2014 APA Awards Jury. “The magazine presents study findings in an engaging and comprehensible manner, helping to spread sustainable planning ideas to a global audience.”

ACCESS Magazine received the 2012 Organization of the Year award from the California Transportation Foundation and was nominated for the 2013 White House Champions of Change Award. The publication is funded by the California and U.S. Departments of Transportation.

The Communications Initiative Award will be presented at a special awards luncheon during APA’s National Planning Conference in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The magazine also will be featured in Planning magazine, APA’s flagship publication.

To learn more about ACCESS and sign up for a free subscription, visit the publication’s website.

Behind America’s Incarceration Boom

By Stan Paul

Why are so many Americans in prison?

This is the question asked in the title of a recently published book by the policy scholars Michael Stoll and Steven Raphael. They discussed the question this past week at a lunchtime talk hosted UCLA Luskin’s Department of Public Policy.

Stoll, professor and chair of the department, and co-author Steven Raphael, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, said that while asking the question seems obvious, getting to the question took a long time.

Arriving at the question posed in the title involved getting past myths such as the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill between the 1950s and 1970s, or the introduction of crack into Americas cities and its supposed related effects on crime.

And, while “race does matter,” Stoll said, citing the disproportionately high incarceration rate of African American males, “this is an American problem and requires an American solution,” pointing out that the U.S. incarceration rate is “unparalleled” (more than 700 per 100,000) compared to Europe and the rest of the world.

Stoll and Raphael, who are longtime research collaborators, looked closely at the reasons why the incarceration rate has soared over the past decades into the millions nationwide, despite historically low rates in crime. Wading through all the popular conclusions and other factors that do not explain why incarceration has gone up so rapidly, their research pointed to political choices.

The bottom line for Stoll and Raphael is that since the 1980s, this increase is “attributable to changes in sentencing policy,” which has resulted in longer sentences, for example. New sentencing guidelines, “get tough on crime” policies and other politically driven efforts to address crime have only compounded the problem, pushing the system to the point where the costs of maintaining such a high incarceration rate begin to outweigh the benefits.

In their book, published by the Russell Sage Foundation, Stoll and Raphael explore alternatives aimed at reducing this incarceration trend.

The entire discussion is available for view on UCLA Luskin’s iTunes U channel.