Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s Take Two about California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination as U.S. secretary of health and human services in the Biden administration. Becerra has “the dynamism and also the experience to get us through the pandemic,” Diaz said in an interview beginning at minute 10:30. “As much as health care is a policy, it’s also politics,” she said, noting that Becerra fought to protect the health of his constituents both as the state’s chief law enforcement officer and during his long tenure in Congress. Diaz earlier wrote a Univision opinion piece calling on President-elect Biden to build a Cabinet that reflects the face of America. “In 2020, it’s no longer acceptable to build a senior team or Cabinet without including Latinos in a meaningful way,” she wrote. “The lack of representation at the pinnacle of the country’s leadership … sends a message to the Black, Brown and Native American communities that power the economy as essential workers and serve as the core of the Democratic Party that their contributions are not valued.”
Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Health about how to address environmental racism. “Race matters in the distribution of environmental hazards, dirty air, and polluted soil and water,” Callahan said. Communities of color are more likely to be burdened with environmental hazards, such as toxic waste and industrial pollution, that put residents at greater risk of illness and negative health outcomes, she said. They also experience fewer positive environmental benefits, such as quality parks, compared with white communities, she added. According to Callahan, it is not enough for environmental policies to be race neutral. “Communities of color and low-income households disproportionately harmed by pollution from our fossil-fueled economy should also disproportionately benefit from the transition to a clean economy,” she said. “Health disparities, education disparities, economic disparities and more are linked to where we live — our environment.”
JR DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, co-authored an article in the Morning Consult about the state of science on the 50th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency. DeShazo wrote that four years of the Trump administration have weakened the rules that protect Americans’ health and environment. The Trump administration removed independent scientific advisors who protected the rulemaking process from political influence and eliminated the EPA’s Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, allowing expertise and technical know-how to fall by the wayside. DeShazo pointed to the COVID-19 crisis as evidence of the “damage caused when politics take precedence over research, science and expertise.” He expressed hope that the “EPA will soon return to robust, science-informed environmental policymaking” under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. “Re-elevating the role of science within the EPA would be the best birthday gift the agency could receive today,” he concluded.
Director Brian Taylor and Deputy Director Juan Matute of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the possibility that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be appointed to a Cabinet post in the Biden administration. After serving as national co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign, Garcetti is a potential candidate for transportation secretary. While Garcetti has only held local office, Taylor noted that he would not be the first mayor to run the federal department of transportation. Taylor added that big-city mayors like Garcetti have to know how to pull federal, state and local resources together, along with political will, to get transportation projects moving. Matute acknowledged the success of Measure M as Garcetti’s signature legacy but said he wished he “had more success in the implementation of his vision for a better Los Angeles,” given the mayor’s grasp of the intricacies of transportation planning.
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil was featured in a Forbes article about President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for improving Medicare, Social Security and other income security policies that will have a large impact on older Americans. Panelists at the 11th annual Journalists in Aging Fellows Program recommended an intergenerational framework to shift the focus from the needs of people over 50 and instead see all issues as aging issues. “What I am suggesting for our generation [of baby boomers] is not only must we be advocates whether it is health security, retirement security, pension reform, protecting Social Security or protecting Medicare and Medicaid, but we must find ways to drill down and begin to represent the interests of younger, emerging, ethnic minority populations,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. “Otherwise, I fear we may see greater incidents of generational tension, exacerbated by racial and ethnic tensions.”
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky joined UCLA’s “Then & Now” podcast to discuss the aftermath of the presidential election. On the day Joe Biden was declared winner of the election, “I was not euphoric,” Yaroslavsky said. “I was very happy that Biden won. … I was not happy that 72 million people voted for an incumbent president who spent four years trafficking in racism and bigotry.” He argued that Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is “calcifying the divide and inability of either side to come together and work on behalf of the people in this country.” However, this issue should resolve itself as responsible people move forward in a rational transition process, Yaroslavsky said during the podcast produced by the Luskin Center for History and Policy. “Biden won the presidency, but less than 100,000 votes could have swung the election in another direction,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and lecturer Jim Newton were featured in a Forward article highlighting the successes and shortcomings of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is reportedly being considered for a Cabinet appointment in the Joe Biden administration. Garcetti established his reputation as a mayor who could get things done after he signed a $15 minimum wage into law in 2015 and with the 2016 passage of Measure M, which expanded public transit and bike networks. “Today, no county in America has so much local money invested in building transportation infrastructure as L.A. County has,” Yaroslavsky said. “He has a considerable record under his belt in that regard.” However, critics point out Garcetti’s failures to address homelessness and traffic congestion. “I’m one of the people who wanted to see him be more ambitious and swing higher,” Newton said. “I don’t think homelessness is his fault, … but I also don’t believe he can point to much evidence that he’s succeeded.”
Professor of Public Policy Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about President Trump’s refusal to concede loss of the 2020 election. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in battleground states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, claiming that the Democrats are trying to “steal the election” through fraud. According to Peterson, these suits have been brought without evidence. “Donald Trump as an individual just cannot accept loss, and no one around him wants to take on the force of his personality, internal hurts and capacity to lash out,” Peterson said. He sees the “simulated controversy” as a last-ditch effort to save face and an opportunity to keep money flowing into the Trump campaign to pay off debts and finance the Republican National Committee. He added that the GOP needs the conservative base in Georgia to “remain highly agitated and energized” for the high-stakes Senate runoff elections in January.
Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was featured in an NBC article discussing voting trends among Asian Americans. Early exit polls indicated that Asian American voters heavily favored Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. While Biden performed well, the data suggests that Trump’s level of support among Asian Americans did not decline. During the pandemic, anti-Asian sentiment across the country contributed to hate incidents as well as an increase in Asian American unemployment and business closings, Ong said. He expected Trump’s use of xenophobic and discriminatory language, such as “kung flu” and “China virus,” to decrease support for the president among Asian Americans. Instead, he noted that “changes have only happened marginally, and not a massive shift.” Ong concluded that “the racialized political divide has hardened, and we face a difficult next four years.”
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to El Diario about the impact of Latino voters on the outcome of the presidential election. Segura noted that Latino participation was “very strong” in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Colorado — states that were crucial in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. According to Latino Decisions, a political opinion research firm co-founded by Segura, Biden had particularly strong support among Mexican and Puerto Rican voters. The pandemic, which disproportionately affects Latinos, and the economy were important factors in mobilizing the Latino vote. “Work has become the most important thing for the community, and not the political parties,” Segura said. El Diario also cited Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which is researching Latino engagement in the election. “In counties with high Latino density, many of them key in this count, Latino voters opted for Vice President Biden,” Diaz said.
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