The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $750,000 from The James Irvine Foundation to support data collection and research on the impacts of COVID-19 on Latino workers in California. The grant will also support the development of a policy toolkit to improve the capacity of California lawmakers, business leaders and advocates to champion recovery efforts that strengthen the state’s core workforce. “Latinos are the current and future workforce of California and the road to prosperity runs through them. Yet we often lack the data necessary to make the best policy decisions and targeted investments to uplift Latinos,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz said. “Opportunity and economic mobility for California’s Latinos is necessary for us all to thrive now and far into the future.” Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial group in the country, and a plurality in California, so understanding their contributions to the nation’s social and economic fabric is imperative, Diaz said. She added that providing opportunities to make a living wage and build new skills in a changing economy is critical to a strong recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irvine Foundation grant will support data collection focusing on eight areas: demography and population change; climate change and the environment; economic opportunity and social mobility; education; health; housing; child welfare; and voting rights and political representation. “We know that Latinos are essential to California’s future,” said Virginia Mosqueda, senior program officer at the Irvine Foundation. “Supporting UCLA LPPI helps ensure our state leads the nation in offering Latino workers access to economic opportunity.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to CalMatters about the $500 million in state funding allotted by Gov. Gavin Newsom for affordable student housing. The housing crisis in California has also impacted students, and the funding is meant to help public colleges and universities build affordable housing or renovate existing property through a grant process. Monkkonen noted that the housing aid is a good use of state money. “Unlike grant money or financial aid, housing is a one-time expense that pays dividends because it can be used repeatedly,” he explained. However, experts have agreed that the $500 million package will not be enough to create all of the necessary housing units for public students across California. “A better system would be one in which there’s a long-term plan to grow the stock sufficiently that everyone that wants to live there, can,” Monkkonen said.
NPR’s All Things Considered spoke with Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, about California’s Latino electorate. The state’s Latinos skew younger and more Democratic than Latinos in many other regions, Diaz said, but “by and large, Latino voters care about the same things in California that they do in Texas — good jobs and good health care.” Civil society organizations, rather than the Democratic Party, did the bulk of the work to get out the vote to block the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, she said. “The fact that these voters came out, it was because of these community-based organizers that really put a message that was distinct from either party,” a message that focused on values steeped in data science and strong policy rather than xenophobia, Diaz said. “That was very persuasive to these voters. And by and large, now they’re likely voters going into the 2022 midterm elections.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, appeared on Los Angeles news stations covering Californians’ rejection of an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor’s opponents suggested that the election results may have been tainted by fraud, an accusation that Yaroslavsky called “pernicious.” “If there’s evidence, bring it on and let’s deal with it. But if you don’t have the evidence, then keep your mouth shut,” he told CBS2. Yaroslavsky also discussed possible reforms to the state’s recall process, such as elevating the elected lieutenant governor or holding a separate runoff election. On KCAL9, he noted that mail-in ballots sent to every eligible voter led to a huge turnout for the off-year election. “People are more engaged in the political process now than they have been in quite some time,” he said. “You have a new generation of people who know what the stakes are and that elections have consequences for them individually and for the society.”
Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to the New York Times and Washington Post about California’s recall election, which ended in a decisive victory for Gov. Gavin Newsom. “There was never an intelligent rationale for this recall, and the people saw through it,” Newton told the Post. “And he got his people out, and that of course was the great fear heading into the vote, that too many Democrats would take the outcome for granted.” The New York Times piece focused on calls for reforming California’s centuries-old laws on recalls and referendums. Any changes are likely to be opposed by Republicans, who see the tradition of direct democracy as a key avenue of influence in a Democrat-led state. Newton commented, “The general premise that the initiative, referendum and recall are intended to curb the influence of powerful special interests has been tipped entirely on its head and it has now become the tool of special interests.”
Sonja Diaz, executive director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to CBS News about the importance of engaging Latino voters, who make up nearly 28% of the California electorate. Latinos’ priorities are largely dependent on where they live, Diaz said. “Los Angeles County was the epicenter of COVID 19. … In places like the Central Valley, you could see the closure of small businesses. In other places throughout the state, it’s issues of housing insecurity,” she said, advising campaigns and political parties to “meet Latino voters where they are and actually have the nuanced messaging that is geographical tailored.” In many diverse communities, trusted messengers such as medical professionals at local clinics are key in communicating that protecting one’s health and casting a ballot are important acts of civic engagement. “You need to identify the people that diverse households are going to respond to, especially since there is this plethora of misinformation and disinformation that target these households,” Diaz said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPBS about changes to California’s policies to combat COVID-19 if Gov. Gavin Newsom is removed from office — including potential cuts in funding to deal with the pandemic. “We know who suffers when bad policy exists … and that’s Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic,” she said. “One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who’s anti-science in dealing with the pandemic.” Diaz also spoke to the Associated Press about the electoral power of Latinos, who now make up 40% of California’s population but are less likely to vote than other groups. And she spoke with Spectrum News about the importance of investing in turnout to motivate people of color to vote.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was featured in an LAist article discussing his research on the effects of rising temperatures on the labor force. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) requires employers to give employees water, rest and shade while working in the heat, but the agency is chronically understaffed and underfunded. Meanwhile, reports of heat-related illness and death continue as temperatures rise. Using a computer model of temperature increases over 20 years and workers’ compensation claims, Park estimated that heat contributes to illness or injury among at least 15,000 California workers each year. He explained that many injuries are misclassified and are not necessarily categorized as heat-related, even if they should be. Park added that heat illness can occur at lower temperatures than expected, and that workers have reported experiencing heat exhaustion on days with temperatures as low as 75 degrees.
Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke with California Healthline about prospects that unions defending Gov. Gavin Newsom against a recall attempt will in return seek stronger action on instituting single-payer health insurance in California. Organized labor made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions, purchased ads and phone-banked to defend Newsom ahead of Tuesday’s recall election. “This is a crucial moment for Newsom, and for his supporters who are lining up behind him,” said Peterson, who specializes in the politics of health care. “They’re helping him stay in office, but that comes with an expectation for some action.” In 2018, Newsom made a campaign pledge to establish a government-run, single-payer health care system in the state, but it’s unclear whether he could deliver such a massive shift. In addition, if he withstands the recall, the governor will face competing demands to reward supporters pushing for action on issues such as homelessness, climate change and public safety.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about the potential for nationwide repercussions if California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ousted in Tuesday’s recall election. Newsom’s removal could fuel efforts to dismantle vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, and embolden Republicans who will battle to take control of both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. It could also undermine California’s reputation as a progressive trendsetter. “When California sneezes, the rest of the country catches a cold,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor and city councilman. California’s ouster of a Democrat would be a “political earthquake” that could shake the rest of the nation, he added. Yaroslavsky also spoke to the Jewish News Syndicate about the role of the Jewish electorate, noting, “There’s an undemocratic piece to this recall, which I think offends the sensibilities of the Jewish community.”