Public policy lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Reuters news service about California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to leave the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter unfilled throughout 2020. Hunter submitted his resignation after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. His district, encompassing parts of San Diego and Riverside counties, will go without elected representation as Democrats and Republicans vie to win the seat in November elections. Newton said the governor had no particular political motive to rush a special election to fill Hunter’s seat. He said the yearlong vacancy probably gives Democrats a slight edge in providing more time to mount a campaign operation and raise money in a district that remains heavily Republican by registration but is, like much of California, moving to the left.
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the logic behind congestion pricing. While the idea of paying for freeway use has prompted backlash from drivers, transportation experts argue that congestion pricing is the only way to combat the traffic problem in California. “What happens on the 405 every day is what happens at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday,” Manville said. With the implementation of congestion pricing, “those who can afford to pay the fees are able to avoid congestion for a reliable daily commute, while presumably lessening traffic for those who don’t pay and use the general lane,” he said. Toll lane expansion is in the works across the state, including plans in Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Orange counties. “People who study congestion have known for a long time that the only thing [that will relieve congestion] is dynamic pricing,” Manville said.
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, wrote an article for The Nation about California’s raging wildfires, the deadly stakes of global warming and a key aspect of the crisis that has not captured headlines: “Yes, climate change intensifies the fires — but the ways in which we plan and develop our cities makes them even more destructive,” Goh argued. Private homeownership, a key part of the American Dream for generations, is an ideal that has blinded us to safer and more sustainable priorities, she wrote. She called for new urban designs that protect whole communities, including their most vulnerable members, rather than individual lots. “Given the scope and scale of the climate crisis, it is shocking that we are being presented with so few serious, comprehensive alternatives for how to live,” Goh wrote. “We need another kind of escape route — away from our ideologies of ownership and property, and toward more collective, healthy and just cities.”
The New York Times spoke with public policy lecturer Jim Newton for an article about California’s socioeconomic conundrum: The state has a thriving $3-trillion economy with record low unemployment, but also has a pernicious housing and homelessness problem and faces a future of ever-worsening wildfires. California’s biggest cities, plagued by traffic and trash, have gone from the places other regions tried to emulate to the places they’re terrified of becoming, the article noted, adding that the state has lost more than 1 million residents to other states since 2006. “What’s happening in California right now is a warning shot to the rest of the country,” Newton said. “It’s a warning about income inequality and suburban sprawl, and how those intersect with quality of life and climate change.”
By Zoe Day
Twenty-five years after Proposition 187 was approved by California voters, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is working to ensure that the lessons of the Latino activist movement that fought against it are not forgotten.
The 1994 ballot initiative sought to deny social services to undocumented immigrants but instead set off a political earthquake, inspiring many Latino activist leaders to make their debut in politics.
Eventually struck down as unconstitutional, Proposition 187 marked a profound turning point for Californians and yielded important lessons for other states about immigrant rights, electoral participation and collective action in the face of bigotry.
As the 2020 election and Census approach, LPPI has pledged to ensure that Latino voices and experiences remain a part of policy-making decisions across the country.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI, described the parallels between 1994 and today.
“I remember hitting a piñata of Gov. Pete Wilson at the Prop. 187 rally in downtown Los Angeles. In 2016, on my way from L.A. to Virginia for the presidential campaign, I saw Donald Trump piñatas in Arizona and Texas,” Diaz said. “The similarities between California in the 1990s and the U.S. as a whole today are unreal.”
As a founding member of the We Are CA advocacy campaign, LPPI is playing a critical role in equipping future generations of voters and leaders with accurate information and an understanding of history, she said.
For example, Diaz co-developed a middle school and high school curriculum to share the lessons of Proposition 187. The curriculum explores the impact of student protests in shaping public opinion and the role of litigation and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in helping defeat Proposition 187 in the courts.
In addition to organizing a “Rally for Our Rights” in downtown Los Angeles in November, LPPI and We Are CA have launched a project to create a documentary and media archive of the activist movement. Archival content about Proposition 187 includes articles, photos, flyers and audio recordings.
LPPI fellow Amado Castillo, a third-year undergraduate student, worked directly with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center to collect and digitize photos for the documentary, which will be produced by KCET.
“The effort to take away the rights of California’s immigrants more than 25 years ago continues to shape politics beyond the state to this day,” Castillo said. “UCLA, its student activists and professors have played a key role in shaping that history, and it is critical that we document that historical work to ensure that we learn from the mistakes and lessons of the past.
“Now, more than ever, we need to highlight the stories of those who experienced a political awakening as a result of Prop. 187.”
Cora Cervantes contributed to this article.
Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and professor of urban planning, spoke to WalletHub about affordable car insurance in California. Studies have shown that drivers from minority neighborhoods have higher insurance rates than other households, and Blumenberg advised states to regulate insurance companies to minimize such disparities. She also encouraged a transparent system of rate-setting that limits the use of factors not linked to driving safety, such as occupation, education and credit score. Blumenberg also pointed out that many drivers have difficulty understanding the full costs of owning a car, such as out-of-pocket expenses as well as congestion, environmental harms and other social costs. But she noted, “If access to a car increases employment outcomes (as many studies show), then the benefits of having a car must be weighed against the costs.”
Public policy lecturer Jim Newton and policymaker-in-residence Kevin de León shared their energy and environmental priorities for California in 2020 with the Sacramento Bee. Newton highlighted the defense of California’s right to set and enforce emission standards under the Clean Air Act as the most important short-term environmental priority for Gov. Gavin Newsom. The right to set emissions standards has allowed the state to pioneer clean air for the rest of the country for decades, despite backlash from auto companies, he said. De León called California’s reliance on fossil fuels for transportation the “single greatest hurdle to achieving our climate goals.” He recommended incentivizing local governments to build better public transit, sending stronger market signals to drive emissions down, and clearing the path for zero-emission ground shipping. “The jaw-dropping beauty of California’s natural environment will be short-lived if we don’t take action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation,” he warned.
Gregory Pierce, adjunct professor of urban planning and associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Arizona PBS about the presence of lead in California’s drinking water. California is testing pipes and upgrading plumbing at public schools across the state, the article noted. Nearby homes typically share the same water systems, but “there’s no required testing for these privately owned places, which may result in many people not knowing that the water they are using for showers, cooking and drinking purposes may have lead contamination,” Pierce said. The article cited a UCLA report card on water quality in Los Angeles County, where some residents perceive that their tap water is unsafe. “With the lack of trust in their water, these lower-income residents and areas are now having to rely on water stores, or having to buy drinks such as juice or soda because they believe there are issues with their water.”
Jim Newton, lecturer of public policy, and Kevin de León, distinguished policymaker-in-residence, spoke to the Sacramento Bee’s California Influencer series about the rising cost of gas in the state. Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, said California should not be too concerned with high gasoline prices because they will lead to the development of alternative, clean technologies. “This has to happen,” Newton said. “It might as well start now.” De León, a former state senator, said, “The bitter irony about gasoline is that even though we need it to work, travel and live our lives, it is choking the clean air out of our lungs.” But he, too, pointed to a silver lining: “The pressure of high gas prices isn’t just an obstacle — it’s also an opportunity to drive a broader adoption of more affordable, renewable energy sources in California and across the nation.”