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Yaroslavsky on the Tight Race for the Democratic Nomination

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.


 

This Election Year, We Have 2020 Vision The race for U.S. president comes to town, and the UCLA Luskin community is there to make sure candidates take a stand on issues of importance

By Stan Paul

Students at UCLA Luskin always have many opportunities to seek out public policy discourse and engage in political activities. But during the 2020 presidential election campaign, some of the opportunities for political engagement have been coming directly to them.

In December, the top Democratic contenders for the U.S. presidency were in Los Angeles for a closely watched debate that set the stage for the caucus and primary season soon to follow. And just a few weeks beforehand, students like first-year Master of Public Policy student Tamera Hyatte participated as questioners of presidential candidates during a live telecast of a town hall-style forum that focused on LGBTQ issues.

“Get ready, you’re going on!” was Hyatte’s cue. Moments later, she was asking Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke face to face — and on split screen for viewers — what protections he, as president, would put in place to safeguard transgender women of color. In her question, Hyatt noted that transsexual women of color are killed at an alarming rate.

“I thought he answered it fairly well,” Hyatte said of the former Texas congressman’s response. “I think a lot of the candidates being asked specific questions were caught off-guard, because I don’t think these are issues they generally look into,” added the former middle-school teacher. She said her interests include educational issues affecting LGBTQ students in K-12 as well as education in communities of color.

Hyatte was among a sizable contingent of UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff who attended the Oct. 10 Democratic presidential forum in downtown Los Angeles that was hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. And she was among a handful selected to ask a question of a Democratic candidate at the forum, which included candidates Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.

Ayse Seker, a second-year UCLA undergraduate student and public affairs pre-major at UCLA Luskin, was selected to question Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, on the sometimes-conflicting juxtaposition of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Seker, who is also from New Jersey, said her question was based on her own experience attending a religious-based high school.

“I wish he could have gotten more specific on the issues of Catholic schools and the rights their students have; sometimes our very identities are at conflict with an institution’s canonical ideas,” Seker said. “But I do appreciate the messaging of his response, as it is important for there to be representation of someone who is both outspokenly religious and a champion for LGBTQ rights.”

In fall quarter, Seker was enrolled in Public Affairs 80, a prerequisite for the public affairs major that explores how the policy environment shapes human development. Her professor, Ian Holloway of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, joined her at the event and provided useful commentary between candidates. She also appreciated his tips on public speaking prior to her on-camera moment.

Holloway said he was proud to see UCLA Luskin students asking tough questions of the candidates. “It was helpful for our students to think critically about how policies being debated, such as the trans military ban or pharmaceutical pricing, impact the lives of LGBTQ Americans.”

Kevin Medina MPP / MSW ’15 is now the capstone advisor and coordinator for UCLA Luskin’s undergraduate major. Like Hyatte and Seker, he had applied in early September to attend the event and ask a question, and he was notified that his question had been chosen just a couple of days before the forum. He asked California candidate Tom Steyer about his plan to combat “the erasure of LGBTQ Americans’ identities on the 2020 Census.”

“I hope asking this question on a national platform elevates the importance of this issue and puts it on the radar of those with the power to positively effect change,” Medina said after the event. He said the Census Bureau plans to collect data on same-sex partners. “However, this question does not gain information about transgender people or LGBTQ people who are single or not living with a same-gender partner.”

Hyatte, who studied journalism as an undergrad, was appreciative of the opportunity to become directly engaged in the electoral process. When she chose UCLA for graduate school, “I didn’t even know we would be able to participate in something like this.”

Reflecting on the experience afterward, Hyatte said, “I think a lot of the candidates may want to brush up more on informing themselves about the issues that are happening in the LGBTQ community.” At the same time, the forum — which was held the day before the 31st annual National Coming Out Day — was also instructive for her.

“Just for myself, sitting in the audience, there were questions brought up that I didn’t even think about asking, and it makes me think, ‘Wow, I want to look more into that and really see what’s going on,’” she said. “It makes me think about how I can also include LGBTQ issues into my research on education policy because I think that’s also relevant.”

Relevance was key for Seker as well. “Within public affairs classes, we’re constantly learning about the vast array of issues that plague our society and the institutions and their history that perpetuate them.” The town hall demonstrated how diverse and multifaceted the LGBTQ community is, she said, and it highlighted a number of LGBTQ-related issues and concerns “that find their roots in a myriad of intersecting oppressive systems.”

Being within the Luskin School means a nearly constant stream of interesting opportunities for political engagement, Seker said a few days after the forum. “The fact that this was only during Week 2 of fall quarter makes me eager and excited for all the future opportunities and events the Luskin School will offer me throughout the rest of this school year.”

And Seker is right — UCLA Luskin will host a full calendar of public events and politics-related opportunities for students and alumni through Election Day 2020.

Yaroslavsky on Democrats’ L.A. Debate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, assessed the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Los Angeles in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had “more of an opportunity to display her capabilities on the stage, and I thought she did extremely well,” Yaroslavsky said. “She had the most to gain by having this kind of a night.” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held his own in a sparring match with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions from wealthy donors. And “Andrew Yang is still somebody who’s connecting with people, though it’s not showing up in the polls,” Yaroslavsky said. He also said former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading national polls but lagging in Iowa, had a strong showing. “What he needed tonight was to stop the erosion and create a sense of ascendancy, and I think he may have started that process tonight,” Yaroslavsky said.


 

Yaroslavsky Offers Insights on Democratic Debate

KCAL9 News spoke with Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, following the fifth debate of Democratic presidential candidates. Yaroslavsky commented on the prominence of women’s issues during the forum, noting that in addition to the four female candidates on stage, all four moderators were women. “It was a change. You don’t see that many questions and answers on women’s issues in a typical debate,” he said. “In a Democratic primary, women have a disproportionately high percentage of the vote,” Yaroslavsky said. “African American women are a significant percentage of the African American vote and of the Democratic primary vote. So it was both a meritorious set of questions and also a politically significant set of questions.” Yaroslavsky’s tenure as a public official and civic leader in Southern California spans more than four decades.


 

Face to Face With Would-Be Presidents

A large UCLA Luskin contingent came face to face with a field of Democratic presidential candidates at a town hall in downtown Los Angeles that focused on LGBTQ rights. Students, faculty and staff from the School were among 160 UCLA guests invited by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, sponsors of the “Power of Our Pride” event broadcast live by CNN on Thursday, Oct. 10. Public affairs pre-major Ayse Seker was one of several students and staff selected to pose questions to the candidates. “How would you address the at times juxtaposing issues of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights?” Seker asked of candidate Cory Booker. Citing his own faith, Booker replied that he could not allow religion to be used as a justification for discrimination. Other staff and students invited to address the candidates included undergraduate Brandon Broukhim, public policy graduate student Tamera Hyatte and Kevin Medina, experiential learning advisor for the undergraduate program in public affairs. Candidates present at the forum included former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, investor and activist Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The town hall, held on the eve of National Coming Out Day, marked the first time a major cable news network aired a presidential event devoted to issues of importance to the LGBTQ community.


 

Yaroslavsky Weighs In on Democratic Debate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, provided in-studio commentary on KCAL9 following a debate of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates. Vice President Joe Biden, who bore most of the criticism during the three-hour debate, “has had his challenges with syntax, so to speak, but he hung in there,” Yaroslavsky said. Biden’s poll numbers are slowly falling, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s are on the rise, he said. But he cautioned that no one should take front-runner status for granted. Candidates with low polling numbers who fared well in the debate included Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, he said. “They all had an opportunity to reintroduce themselves to the American people, and they did well,” Yaroslavsky said. But he added, “It’s a crapshoot right now.”


 

Zepeda-Millán on O’Rourke’s ‘Last Effort to Stay Relevant’

Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy, spoke with the Houston Chronicle about a campaign strategy shift by Beto O’Rourke. Since the Aug. 3 mass shooting in his hometown El Paso by a man who warned of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the Democratic presidential hopeful has focused his message on racist violence, and held President Trump accountable for stoking it. This may be an attempt to jumpstart O’Rourke’s lagging campaign or set himself up as a vice presidential pick, some analysts said. “There’s nothing about him anymore that stands out,” Zepeda-Millán said. “He’s not a person of color, he’s not a woman, he’s not the most progressive candidate by far. He doesn’t have anything to set himself apart.” Zepeda- Millán concluded: “This is kind of a last effort to stay relevant.”


 

Yaroslavsky on the Impact of a Garcetti Endorsement

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was quoted in a McClatchy article about the potential impact of a political endorsement by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.  The mayor has appeared at campaign events with some of the Democrats vying to be their party’s 2020 nominee for president, but he is reportedly torn over whether to endorse one before California’s March 3 primary. In a tight race, Garcetti’s endorsement “could make a difference,” Yaroslavsky said. “It would be a one- or two-day headline, and it could give somebody momentum.” An endorsement would be valuable in Los Angeles’ notoriously expensive media market and could solidify interest from donors and organizers, the article noted. Yaroslavsky said the fluid nature of the primary “may be one of the reasons he’s holding out. Maybe one or two of his favorites fall by the wayside and then he doesn’t have to alienate anybody.”


 

Affordable Housing Is Not an Easy Fix, Lens Says

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, evaluated proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including those put forward by Democratic presidential candidates. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have proposed offering tax credits to help tenants pay rent. Opponents argue that such vouchers will not change the number of housing units available and could even spur landlords to raise rents. On KCRW’s Left, Right & Center, Lens said tax credits are just one of a wide variety of tools and interventions needed to address the complex problem. These include stronger tenant protections and more publicly subsidized housing, he said. “This is not a problem that lends itself to an easy fix,” said Lens,  associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The podcast segment featuring Lens begins at the 34-minute mark.