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Blumenberg on Lack of Equity in Transportation Sector

Evelyn Blumenberg, urban planning professor and director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, was cited in a Bloomberg Government article about President Biden’s efforts to promote equity in his administration. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged to consider the needs of minority communities when evaluating old projects or considering new ones, but he has also acknowledged the hurdles that exist — including in the Transportation Department itself. The department’s employees are 74% male and 70% white, and these demographic trends have been consistent for at least 20 years, if not longer. Many transportation projects have negatively impacted lower-income people and communities of color, an issue that has been exacerbated by the lack of diversity in transportation policy officials. Blumenberg commented that the transportation needs of low-income communities have only been “sporadically addressed” on the national level. 


Diaz on Selection of Filipino American Attorney General

A Los Angeles Daily News article on the nomination of Assemblyman Rob Bonta as California’s next attorney general included comments from Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Bonta’s nomination completes a trio of high-profile appointments by Gov. Gavin Newsom. He tapped former Secretary of State Alex Padilla as the first California Latino to serve in the U.S. Senate. He picked former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as the first Black secretary of state. And he selected Bonta as the first Filipino-American to be California’s top law officer. “I applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for making California a model for the country in how to rectify the willful neglect of growing and youthful communities of color who are left out of key decision-making positions across our most fundamental institutions by sending the first Filipino to lead the nation’s second-largest Department of Justice,” Diaz said.


 

Diaz on the Value of Leaders Who Reflect the Nation’s Diversity

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, co-wrote a CalMatters commentary on the importance of voters seeing themselves reflected in their government representatives. Diaz and co-author Michele Siqueiros, a higher education advocate, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for two groundbreaking appointments: Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino U.S. senator and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. “Today’s winning coalition of voters will continue to shape American politics,” the authors wrote. “Newsom’s dual appointments met their unapologetic expectations that our elected officials better reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.” Diaz also spoke to the Sacramento Bee after Padilla’s selection, noting that he is likely to focus on immigrant protections and environmental issues. And she spoke to Elite Daily about the importance of engaging young Latino voters, whose political power will expand in the coming years.

Diaz on Becerra’s Nomination to the Biden Cabinet

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.”


Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro on Future of Federal Housing Webinar with the former Democratic presidential candidate includes UCLA Luskin housing experts in a discussion of urgent policy priorities

By Bret Weinberger

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro characterized the seriousness with which American society ought to address the nationwide housing crisis by saying during a recent UCLA virtual event, “All of us have a responsibility to solve this challenge.”

Castro said there is no time to waste in facing this issue, with an eviction crisis looming because of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The Nov. 5 webinar focused on the future of federal housing policy as part of the Housing, Equity and Community Series, a joint endeavor of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Castro and Michael Lens, associate faculty director of the Lewis Center, spoke amid uncertainty regarding the nation’s political landscape just days before major news outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden. They delved into the interconnectedness of multiple ongoing crises and came ready with policy solutions.

Regarding protections for those who struggle to remain housed, Castro said that local governments should be empowered to enact rent control measures, even if it isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy. And the federal government should robustly enforce the Fair Housing Act by working with local governments to put together implementation plans, as was the practice when he served in the Obama administration.

Castro, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020, also suggested changing the tax code to favor non-homeowners by offering a renters’ tax credit.

When Lens brought up the infusion of racial politics into housing policy, Castro castigated the Trump administration for assuming that racism exists among suburbanites and ignoring the realities of diversifying suburbs. He said their rhetoric translated into policy changes, such as removing protections against housing discrimination and underfunding key programs, that have exacerbated the housing crisis.

Castro raised cause for hope on the topic of homelessness when he said that both parties could agree on tackling veteran homelessness. He shared an experience of visiting Los Angeles’ Skid Row while HUD secretary.

“You can’t tell, just by looking at someone, why they’re there. You can’t stereotype them,” he said.

Lens also joined a second portion of the event that featured a roundtable discussion about topics covered by Castro, joining Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, founder and CEO of the urban planning firm Estolano Advisors, and José Loya, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin.

“We need to be strategic, and we need to work fast,” Estolano said. She argued that incomes need to rise for people to afford high housing costs. Policies helping minority-owned businesses could have a major impact, she said.

Like Castro, Loya focused on how the tax code could be rewritten to help renters and low-income homeowners. This centered on granting tax credits to these groups rather than to wealthier homeowners.

One theme resonated with all the speakers: The new government, whatever its composition, must face housing head on. Americans — whether rural, suburban or city-dwelling — can’t afford otherwise.

View a video of the session on YouTube:

Prolific Research Output by Ong Garners Media Coverage

Research Professor Paul Ong has shepherded myriad research studies amid COVID-19 on topics that relate to his role as director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, often in partnership with other UCLA research entities. A wide variety of media outlets have provided coverage:

  • Ong told laist.com that many immigrants and workers of color are not receiving unemployment benefits and will soon start to run out of money.
  • In a story about food insecurity by ABC News Radio, Ong said that Black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles have more barriers to sheltering in place, including lack of access to food and “huge disparities in terms of trying to manage or survive under COVID-19.”
  • Ong spoke about community investment in Echo Park with Curbed Los Angeles, drawing on his urban planning expertise to discuss community land trusts, which don’t exist to make a profit.
  • A Los Angeles Daily News story cited a study by Ong about the response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census. “We are critically behind,” he said. “Some groups such as low-income people, communities of color, renters and young children are at risk of being missed.

Stoll Joins Partnership to Foster Diversity in Research

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, is among a group of experts participating in a new American Institutes for Research (AIR) program aimed at building a pipeline of diverse candidates who can contribute to the field of behavioral and social science research and application. The Pipeline Partnership Program provides opportunities for select graduate-level students from Howard University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Georgia State University. Stoll will contribute his expertise as an advisor and content expert to the program, which provides students with education and training; mentoring and career advancement; and networking and internships. “I’m excited to be a part of this effort because it aims to help diversify researchers in the social and behavioral sciences regarding racial and ethnic representation, but also in regards to cultural competencies in the field,” Stoll said. He plans to give seminars at the partnership universities on his current research as well as subjects that encourage and motivate a new generation of researchers to take leadership positions in their fields. “The goal will be to use these opportunities to develop mentorship relationships with promising graduate students at these partnership universities so as to further their skill enhancement, social networks, and career and professional development and success,” he said. As an AIR external institutional fellow for the past four years, Stoll serves as a thought partner on critical projects or enterprises, provides mentorship to select staff, and serves as a reviewer on high profile reports or projects. — Zoe Day


 

New Scholarship Offers Support to Emerging Latino Leaders Partnership with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute aims to bolster student diversity

By Mary Braswell

UCLA Luskin and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute have entered a partnership to support underrepresented students in the School’s graduate programs.

Beginning this fall, alumni of the institute’s programs — aimed at developing the next generation of Latino leaders — will receive a $7,500 scholarship if they go on to pursue a master’s degree at UCLA Luskin. The scholarship is renewable in the second year of study.

“We are thrilled to start building our partnership with CHCI” to further the School’s goal of diversifying its student body, said Kevin Franco, recruitment and advising officer for UCLA Luskin Public Policy.

Franco credited MPP student Michael Rios with bringing the alliance from idea to reality.

“I kept hearing about some of the initiatives we were discussing for recruiting students of color, but I felt that there was a huge missing link, that there was a solution that we weren’t really pursuing,” Rios said. That solution, he concluded, was funding.

MPP student Michael Rios initiated the partnership between the Luskin School and CHCI.

“The pool of students of color who go into a graduate program is small, and the pool who go into a policy program is even smaller,” he said. Top candidates may be weighing handsome offers of financial assistance from private universities. Students considering UCLA must also consider the cost of living on L.A.’s Westside.

“As a student of color, you often have financial hardships, so you’re going to do what makes the most sense financially,” Rios said.

To tip the balance in UCLA’s favor, Rios researched potential partners who might work with the Luskin School to attract and support a diverse student body. Late one night in the spring of 2019, he decided to act.

Impressed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which creates opportunities for leadership and civic engagement for young Latinos, Rios sent an inquiry via the Contact Us tab on the group’s website. It was the first modest step of a yearlong rollercoaster ride.

Along the way, Rios worked to keep both sides engaged in what often seemed like a long shot. But his patience paid off in February when CHCI and the Luskin School finalized the agreement.

In the end, Rios said, “it was a match made in heaven,” one that would benefit students of color, advance the Luskin School’s recruitment goals and support the institute’s efforts to expand its reach.

The scholarships, awarded by UCLA Luskin to students who complete CHCI’s leadership program, are renewable for a second year for those with top grades, making them worth a total of $15,000. Rios’ efforts will benefit students entering all of the School’s master’s programs: public policy, social welfare, and urban and regional planning.

With the CHCI scholarship as a model, Franco said he is interested in pursuing similar partnerships with student leadership institutes representing the black and Asian communities.

Rios anticipated that future agreements would be easier to complete.

“We have the foundation, we’ve gone through the formalities, we know what the agreements look like, and we now know that we have the backing of the faculty and staff,” he said.

Rios hopes his efforts, spurred by his own sense of isolation when he first arrived at UCLA, will resonate with ethnically diverse students considering a graduate education at the Luskin School.

“For prospective students, I think it would be cool to see that there are students in the program who are doing things to benefit other students of color,” he said.

 

 

Holloway Study Reveals Support for Transgender Troops

Associate Professor of Social Welfare Ian Holloway spoke to Gay City News about the findings of a survey he co-authored that gauged support of transgender troops within the military. Two-thirds of the survey respondents indicated their support for transgender people serving in the U.S. military, a statistic that challenges the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. “In terms of our hypothesis about acceptance, we did expect to find high levels of acceptance — but I don’t think we expected it to be this high,” Holloway said. The report, also covered by LGBTQ Nation, found that support of transgender service members was higher among women, racial minorities, and gay, lesbian and bisexual people than heterosexual white respondents. According to Holloway, the survey “speaks to the importance of diversity in the armed forces, and there have been some concerted efforts to increase representation in the military.”


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