Public policy lecturer Jim Newton recently published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times denouncing police unions’ “blanket attempts to shield [police] records.” Police shootings across the country have prompted demands for more transparency in law enforcement. A new law in California, SB 1421, requires that “records of police shootings and other uses of force be made public,” including “cases in which officers were investigated for dishonesty or sexual assault.” According to Newton, police unions are resisting the law by arguing that it “only applies to new records created after the law took effect.” Newton compares SB 1421 to other sunshine laws like the Freedom of Information Act, where access to “old documents … shed substantial new light on American history.” Newton acknowledges the special circumstances that may require withholding certain records from the public, but stresses the importance of transparency as a “crucial tool for keeping police accountable.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement of appointments to his team includes two accomplished UCLA Luskin alumnae, Giannina Pérez MPP ’03 and Lande Ajose MA UP ’95. They are among the senior advisors and members of the communications team announced Jan. 11 by the Governor’s Office. Pérez, who was appointed senior policy advisor for early childhood, has experience working in state policy, advocacy and government. In her time working in the California Legislature and with organizations like Early Edge California and Children Now, Pérez has focused on women’s and children’s issues that include child care, access to educational opportunities and domestic violence. Ajose was appointed senior policy advisor for higher education. She has extensive experience in research and evaluation of higher education and postsecondary degree attainment, serving on the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and on the advisory committee of the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California.
The Master of Social Welfare (MSW) at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has been named the No. 1 program of its kind in California for 2019-20 by HumanServicesEdu.org, an online resource for information on education, practice and employment in the human service fields. The organization describes the MSW as a comprehensive two-year program, selected from among California schools accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), that offers the highest level of training, designed to produce the next generation of well-equipped leaders in social work and to help advance the overall knowledge base of social work policy and practice. In a news release announcing the designation, HumanServicesEdu.org noted, “When we got to the UCLA Luskin Master of Social Welfare, it was clear we had a winner. With a decided focus on experiential learning, valuable opportunities to study abroad, and a world-class faculty with lots of front-line experience, UCLA Luskin offers students something they just won’t find anywhere else.” UCLA Luskin’s MSW program was among hundreds of schools across the United States assessed by the organization in compiling a list of the best programs for each state, according to Kelly Simpson, senior editor for HumanServicesEdu.org. UCLA Luskin also was recognized for offering hands-on experience in field work placements, as well as opportunities to participate in advanced research and projects, along with concurrent degrees available with other top UCLA programs including Asian American Studies, Law, Public Health and the Master of Public Policy program at UCLA Luskin.
By Mary Braswell
When Californians voted in 2016 to bring the cannabis industry out of the shadows, the aim was to create an environment where marijuana was safe, controlled and taxed. This has not been a simple undertaking.
Legalization of recreational pot has raised pressing questions from public health officials, local law enforcement, state regulators, city planners and citizens hungry for common-sense policies — not to mention the growers, retailers and users who drive California’s multibillion-dollar weed industry.
What will the city-by-city patchwork of laws look like? How can marijuana cultivators safely introduce pesticides into a neighborhood? When will communities see the benefits of tax revenues? How will lifting the stigma on pot use affect adolescents?
The need for facts, evidence and clear thinking has never been greater. Fortunately, UCLA Luskin researchers and policy experts are on the case, among them Public Policy lecturer Brad Rowe MPP ’13.
‘A REALLY TRICKY BUSINESS’
Proposition 64, the ballot measure that legalized recreational pot, gave each of California’s 482 cities and 58 counties the authority to license cultivation, manufacturing and sales. So far, most have declined to do so.
The more than 160 cities and unincorporated areas that decided to move forward face a labyrinth of policy questions, said Rowe, who launched his own research firm, Rowe Policy + Media, in 2017. He also serves on the faculty of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, teaches a Public Policy class on drugs and crime, and advises municipalities that are venturing into the marijuana fray.
“Cannabis is a really tricky business, and it’s one that is probably going to have more volatility than most of the other licensing areas,” Rowe said.
In many cases, he said, communities have overestimated the financial gains and underestimated the complications.
“Expectations have been set so high for tax revenues. Common claims from city representatives are, ‘We’re going to build libraries and parks and football programs for the kids,’ ” Rowe said. “The truth is that you’ve got to get your system up and running, and realistically expect that that store that you just licensed may only generate tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands in tax revenue for you this year. … It’s hard to pay for your new inspector and the new police officer you just hired, and your financial department has to figure out how to handle the cash.”
Cannabis commerce requires cities to create systems for licensing, taxation, financial compliance and the delicate matter of handling deposits from a largely cash business, Rowe said. They must keep up with evolving regulations from the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control and shifting signals from the federal government, which strictly prohibits pot.
They will have to consider whether growing outdoors will create a nuisance and how to safeguard first responders against new threats. Firefighters arriving at a site that uses pesticides or volatile solvents for terpene extraction “shouldn’t be inhaling that stuff,” Rowe said.
Some of the policy debates veer toward the high end. Sonoma, he said, is considering whether to permit tastings of cannabis products, just as it does for viognier and pinot noir. “So then we’re getting into on-site consumption, event permits, more cannabis cops,” Rowe said.
On the whole, he said, “it can be a big hairy hassle for the cities, and that’s one of the reasons a lot of them have said we’re going to kick the can down the road and see how these other cities do.”
SEEKING JUSTICE, EQUITY AND FACTS
Rowe’s work with the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative focuses on criminal and juvenile justice as drug offenses are reclassified.
“Are we even moving away from the war on drugs? That is the intent but in practice it’s a trickier thing, so we’re looking at equity considerations,” he said.
The health and well-being of young people must be a top policy priority, he argues.
“The one thing I am super concerned about is cannabis use disorder among adolescents,” Rowe said, citing brain research as well as recent studies measuring the toll that compulsive pot consumption takes on test scores and analytical skills.
“We just don’t know enough about the plant,” he said. “We don’t know enough about its addictive properties; we don’t really know what will happen as it becomes de-stigmatized and easily available.”
Legalization has led to new funding for research aimed at answering these questions. Proposition 64 earmarks $10 million a year for public universities to evaluate the impact of the law and make recommendations to the state.
Rowe has visited cities up and down the state as a consultant with MuniServices, which helps local governments manage their affairs. He has hosted forums for potential pot licensees, family and faith-based groups, and other stakeholders and says, “There have been some really heartfelt, interesting conversations. Some are opposed and some just want this to be done with caution.”
Many simply want reliable information, he said.
“There’s a lot of room for reasonable conversation; there’s a lot of room for public policy people to come into this area,” Rowe said. “It’s only going to get bigger. It’s going to be a very big industry.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Reason about the California housing crisis. Manville attributed the crisis to severe constraints placed on building new housing. “The hallmark of a housing crisis is not that your new housing is expensive. New housing has always been more expensive than existing housing. The hallmark of a housing crisis is when a junky-looking bungalow in Venice costs $1 million that was built in 1985,” Manville said. He explained that “we don’t allow enough new housing to sort of contain this price appreciation.” The article notes that the relationship between cities and developers is complicated. If local governments stop limiting new housing development, they will lose the ability to gain concessions, often in the form of community spaces and services, from developers, Manville said.
A new report co-authored by Martin Wachs, UCLA Luskin distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, assesses California’s transportation revenue stream and the potential impact of a ballot measure to repeal the state’s gas tax. The tax was part of a law adopted in 2017 to fund road repairs and maintenance, along with new transit projects and infrastructure upgrades. Proposition 6, on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot, would repeal the law and require voter approval for future increases in transportation-related taxes. The study by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University projects that, between now and 2040, California would lose approximately $100 billion in transportation revenue if Proposition 6 passes. “California’s ability to plan and deliver an excellent transportation system depends upon the state having a stable, predictable and adequate revenue stream,” said Wachs, lead author of the report. The study also measured voter sentiment about how to pay for transportation improvements. “Of clear importance to the public is assurance that the revenue is being spent efficiently and on things that they care about such as maintenance, safety improvement and programs that benefit the environment,” said Hannah King, a Ph.D. student specializing in transportation planning at UCLA Luskin. King is co-author of the report with Asha Weinstein Agrawal, director of the MTI National Transportation Finance Center.
In an opinion piece for Capitol Weekly, JR DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), demonstrated that California’s pioneering climate policies are driving environmental and economic progress. Published on the eve of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the article pointed to LCI research showing that the state’s $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments supports more than 75,000 jobs. “We have hard evidence that climate policies are helping Californians in the most practical of ways by creating jobs throughout the state,” DeShazo wrote. The funds also support expanded transit options, affordable housing projects, tree-planting and programs to turn waste from dairy farms into renewable energy, among other initiatives. “Our state is working to do what’s right both for the planet and for the people of California, and it’s a record to be proud of,” DeShazo wrote.
Martin Wachs, UCLA Luskin distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, commented on the history of California’s controversial gas tax in a recent Mercury News article looking at what drivers actually are taxed per gallon of gas. “The idea was not that you would be taxing gasoline,” Wachs said, “but you would be charging drivers for their use of the roads.” Wachs said that the first gas tax instituted nearly a century ago in California was intended to offset the costs of maintenance by charging people benefiting directly from roads.
By Stan Paul
‘We’re going to win this. … Have no doubt about that, we will win this.’
— Al Gore
‘We’re going to win this. … Have no doubt about that, we will win this.’
More than 2,200 people eager to learn how to make a difference in the future of the planet came together at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the largest-ever Climate Reality Leadership Corps training led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Participants from California, the United States and more than 50 countries took part in the three-day training session that began Aug. 28, 2018, and included working with the best-selling author of An Inconvenient Truth — and subject of the Oscar-winning documentary. They heard from world-renowned scientists, communicators and other experts about how to work together to find solutions to the global climate crisis by influencing public opinion and policy and encouraging action in their own communities.
“In the United States we have a tremendous amount of climate denial. We have a president who is a bitter opponent right now of addressing climate change,” said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Climate Reality Project, in his opening remarks.
The purpose of the ongoing series of trainings, held worldwide starting in 2016, is to develop a critical mass of activists to ensure there is enough support for addressing the climate crisis, Berlin said before introducing Gore, who appeared on stage to a standing ovation.
Joining Gore on the first panel of the day, “California’s Roadmap for Climate Change,” was JR DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, and other experts including Fran Pavley, former member of the California State Senate, and Veronica Garibay, co-founder and co-director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
“Here we are again at a time when our national government is … disappointing so many of us. Once again California is stepping forward,” Gore said in his opening remarks.
Citing California as a national leader and example to other states in addressing the environment and climate change, Gore started the conversation by asking DeShazo, “What is it about California that has led this state to be such a driven leader on climate policies?”
“I think California understands how important historically it was to deal with its air quality challenges,” said DeShazo, Public Policy chair at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “And so, in the ’60s and ’70s the state developed this robust set of state agencies to tackle that problem in the energy sector and the transportation sector,” he said.
DeShazo credited state leadership, including Sen. Pavley, with passing legislation that allowed those agencies to shift attention, “with all their expertise and authority, to attack climate change in a very comprehensive way.”
Gore also asked DeShazo to cite examples of the state “breaking up the problem … and addressing those elements in an intelligent way.”
“We decarbonized electricity while making appliances more efficient. We introduced the low-carbon fuel standard in the transportation sector, making transportation fuels lower-carbon while making vehicles more efficient and pushing for electric vehicles. So there was a broad-based scoping plan that really covers all of the relevant carbon-generating sectors of the state,” DeShazo said. He also credited state leadership that was “based upon a California that wanted to take responsibility for its emissions.”
DeShazo, who also holds appointments with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and UCLA’s civil and environmental engineering departments, recalled that during the nationwide recession California voters rejected a ballot initiative to halt the state’s climate policies.
“We said ‘no,’ ” he said, explaining, “We want to continue with the commitment that the legislature had made on our behalf. … I think that is really evidence of California’s commitment.”
More recently, DeShazo said, a “second generation” of climate policies in California has focused on environmental justice. “There’s a clean vehicles program, and there’s one for low-income consumers, there’s a weatherization program and there’s one for disadvantaged communities,” he said. A significant portion of the $2 billion a year generated by cap and trade is reinvested to benefit disadvantaged communities, he added. This year, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is part of two partnership grants that will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular. The grants ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council ─ total more than $4 million.
As a result of all of this, the state is making progress. “We’re on track to reach the goal of 50 percent renewable energy in 2020, 10 years ahead of schedule in reaching this goal,” DeShazo said. “And that’s terrific because we need to electrify the transportation sector, and we’re committed to that and that’s where a lot of the heavy lifting still awaits us.”
View more photos from the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training on Flickr.
Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin lecturer of public policy, commented in the Sacramento Bee’s California Influencer series. “The biggest environmental challenge facing California — and the world — is climate change,” said Newton, who was among experts in public policy, politics and government asked to address the question. “The particular aspect of this challenge for California is defending a solid consensus here against a reckless, anti-intellectual attack from Washington,” added Newton, who also founded and serves as editor-in-chief of the UCLA magazine Blueprint.