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Orfield Highlights Irony in Trump’s MLK Day Message

Gary Orfield, distinguished research professor of urban planning, told the ThinkProgress news site that President Donald Trump’s attempt to honor Martin Luther King Jr. was ironic because he “was elected in a racist campaign.” Trump posted a tweet praising the civil rights leader and made a quick trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. “Trump often tries to spin reality, but his tweet suggesting he affirms the ideals of Martin Luther King is truly incredible,” said Orfield, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “[Trump’s] administration has attacked civil rights in appointments, in regulation changes, in attacking affirmative action, in creating unspeakable conditions for refugee families, and turning the Supreme Court to the hard right.” Orfield concluded, “Those who believe in Dr. King’s vision of the ‘beloved community’ should be marching now because this administration is the most hostile we’ve experienced in a century.”


Diaz Explores Repercussions of National Emergency Over Border Wall

Sonja Diaz, director of the UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the potential political repercussions of declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, an action that President Trump is contemplating. Declaring an emergency would allow Trump to secure funding for the wall without congressional approval. This action may please Trump’s current base; but it could also benefit Democrats by ending the government shutdown triggered by the budget battle over border security while allowing them to keep the campaign against the wall alive. Diaz commented on the impact that building the wall may have on Trump’s chances of reelection. “In 2020, states like Arizona and Texas [with surging Latino turnout] are going to be critical,” she said. “This is going to be very impactful on who they choose on that ballot.”


Aberbach on Risks of Rigorous Oversight of Trump

UCLA Luskin Public Policy’s Joel Aberbach commented in a Roll Call article about House Democrats and the risks of launching rigorous oversight of President Donald Trump on many fronts. Aberbach said Democrats would be wise to “pick things that don’t get stymied right away by total obfuscation or refusal to cooperate.” He added that, in today’s hyperpartisan atmosphere, the results of investigations into Trump may not change how voters feel about him. “We may be at a point where people who sympathize with Trump aren’t going to accept anything as legitimate” grounds for impeachment, he said. “And people on the other side will accept almost anything.” Aberbach is a distinguished professor emeritus of political science and public policy at UCLA.


 

Expert Panel Dissects Latino Role in Midterm Elections Chair of Democratic National Committee is among participants in a voting analysis event co-hosted by a policy research group based at UCLA Luskin

By Les Dunseith

As the days passed after the Nov. 6, 2018, elections and vote tallies across the United States were finalized, it became increasingly clear that voters had turned out in record numbers for a midterm election cycle. It also became evident that Latino voters played a pivotal role in many races.

Tom Perez, the first Latino to serve as chair of the Democratic National Committee, told an audience of about 175 people that gathered Nov. 14 at the Japanese American National Museum for a panel discussion of the midterm elections that his party’s get-out-the-vote effort targeted many populations that have been historically hard to motivate in large numbers, including Latinos.

“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon.”
— Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee


“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon,” Perez said during the event co-hosted by UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program.

Perez was joined by three other experts on the U.S. Latino electorate during a wide-ranging discussion about the outcome of key 2018 races and what it means for the future of Congress and the 2020 presidential election.

Although turnout was higher than in most midterm elections, the proportion of eligible Latino voters who cast ballots was not as high as it could be. Even so, Perez is focusing on carrying the increased voter engagement of 2018 into future elections.

“I mean, you look at turnout and I think it was up 174 percent in 2018,” he said. “Can we do more? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that there are votes that are left on the table.”

The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new report by LPPI that analyzed 2018 midterm results in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas — states with large Latino populations.

“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election. It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved.”
— Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI 


The report found a significant increase in Latino ballots cast, said panelist Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI and professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA.

“We can observe that here in California about 40 percent of majority Latino precincts in Southern California had over a 70 percent increase. For non-Latino precincts, it was only 20 percent, so it was twice as high in the Latino community,” Barreto noted about the difference in voter turnout in 2018 as compared to 2014.

On the Republican side, Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, said campaign strategists for the GOP missed opportunities to connect with the Latino electorate on many issues by continuing to focus on the divisive rhetoric that has marked much of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Donald Trump never shaped my values or my conservative views. I am pro-life. I believe in a limited government. Less regulation,” Garza continued. “But [Republicans] weren’t connecting on those issues as well as they should.”

Even though the midterm results generally favored his party, Perez said it is unwise to view any demographic group as a monolithic entity that will always vote a particular way.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that civil rights is about inclusion. It’s about making sure everyone has a seat at the table,” Perez said. “Demographics are never definitive. You need to show up. You need to build relationships. You need to listen. You need to be responsive. And the reason we were successful is that we responded when we heard from folks, ‘I want a better life for my kids.’”

The panelists also talked about voter suppression and how policymakers could make it easier for citizens to cast their ballots. A key point of discussion was the fact that national campaign strategies often focus on likely voters at the expense of people who vote less often, which includes many Latinos.

Barreto noted that a Latino voter tracking poll asked respondents whether they had been contacted by a campaign. Initially, the rate of contact among Latinos was 40 percent. By Election Day, 53 percent of Latinos in the battleground congressional districts said that they had been contacted — a higher rate for Latinos than for whites in those districts.

Even though 53 percent is historically high, “what’s frustrating is that there are still millions of people who didn’t receive any contact at all,” Barreto said.

Also on the panel was Democrat Tatiana Matta, whose bid to unseat GOP incumbent Kevin McCarthy in U.S. House District 32 was unsuccessful. She spoke about some of the challenges she faced to reach potential supporters in her district in the Central Valley of California.

“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity. But we have to work for it.” — Tatiana Matta, on the challenge to reach supporters in her bid for a congressional seat


“My district is very rural. So to get from one home to another home, you have to get in your car,” Matta explained. “So you have to physically take volunteers or canvassers to those communities and push those resources out. If not, you’re not going to reach them.”

To reach Latino voters in many areas, candidates must be comfortable speaking Spanish.

“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity,” she said. “But we have to work for it.”

Garza expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s hard to get ahold of people,” he said. In Nevada, for example, Garza said that when his organization’s campaign workers made calls or canvassed, people were often unavailable. “So it’s hard work, too. It’s not because of indifference.”

Barreto interjected. “I think it’s entirely because of indifference,” he said bluntly. “When campaigns look at the voter file and someone doesn’t have a vote history, they just put them in another bucket. They don’t say, ‘How hard are you to contact?’ They just don’t contact them. So we have to change that cycle.”

Barreto told the crowd, which included many people who had participated in Latino voter registration and outreach efforts, that the 2018 midterm elections are just one step in a long process.

“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election,” Barreto said of the long-term political importance of the growing Latino population in America. “It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved. And at some point that will pay off for whichever side wants to take advantage of our voters.”

Learn more about the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.

More information about the Aspen Institute and its Latinos and Society Program is available on social media via @AspenLatinos.

View video of the event on YouTube:

Browse additional photos on Flickr:

LPPI 2018 midterm elections panel

‘Your Day Is Coming,’ Gray Davis Tells Future Policymakers at UCLA Luskin The former governor shares political wisdom from his decades of public service at ‘Today’s Los Angeles,’ an advanced seminar in public policy

By Mary Braswell

Two dozen UCLA Luskin Public Policy students spent just one afternoon with former Gov. Gray Davis, but they came away with nearly half a century’s worth of wisdom and insights gained during his service to California.

The wide-ranging conversation touched on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), cannabis, teacher strikes and those decades — long ago — when California was a red state. To students worried about the role of policymakers in an era when facts are disrespected, Davis had words of encouragement:

“Your day is coming,” he said.

“Every presidential election is a referendum on the incumbent,” he said. Richard Nixon led to Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush led to Barack Obama. And in 2020, Davis predicted, Donald Trump would lead to the anti-Trump — “a more cerebral, more humble and more thoughtful candidate,” quite possibly from the public policy ranks.

“Following Trump, I’m convinced, is one of you sitting in a law library; you’re so modest you don’t even use the word ‘I.’ It’s always ‘we,’ and you’re wearing some cardigan sweater or something,” he said.

Davis’ appearance on April 4, 2018, kicked off “Today’s Los Angeles and the Institutions and Leaders that Make It Work,” an advanced seminar taught by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs lecturer Zev Yaroslavsky — himself a fixture in Southern California politics. The longtime city councilman and county supervisor is now director of UCLA Luskin’s Los Angeles Initiative, which focuses on the intersection of policy, politics and history in the region.

“You have the opportunity to talk to a governor of California, and there have only been 39 of them,” Yaroslavsky told the class. “He’s had the benefit of governing both in good times and bad times.”

The students took full advantage. One of the budding policymakers sought out Davis’ views on how government can be most effective.

“I believe that the government has to discharge the basic responsibilities of the constitution. They have to keep us safe, they have to keep us together in one union, they have to provide the rules,” Davis said. “But, basically, the dynamism, the excitement, the energy and the money comes from people outside of government.

“Everything that’s ever happened in this country that’s exciting, new, had a big private-sector role.”

With the governor’s race in full swing, one student asked about the most pressing issue California’s next leader will face. Davis’ answer had national scope.

“The biggest problem facing America is disparity of wealth and disparity of opportunity,” he said.

The conundrum that California faces is how to remain at the forefront of innovation without worsening unemployment. The downside of artificial intelligence, robots and other advanced technology is that jobs are put in peril, Davis said.

“What are we going to do with these people who used to have jobs? We need people working,” he said.

“I’m a great believer that we’re all God’s children, we’re all made in his image, and we need to help people reach their potential,” he said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to rise to the same level, but everyone is going to do better.”

Davis posed a challenge to higher education, including the UC system: “Why can’t we take courses online? … This would create more opportunity for people who can’t afford to be in a classroom.”

Davis stepped into the political arena nearly 50 years ago, after a tour in Vietnam. On his journey to the governor’s office, he helped Tom Bradley win election as Los Angeles’ first black mayor in 1973, served as Jerry Brown’s chief of staff during his first term as governor, and was elected state assemblyman, controller and lieutenant governor.

He remains active in the public sphere. As one of four California governors to found the Southern California Leadership Council, Davis advocates for policies focusing on economic vitality, job growth and quality of life in the region.

Davis listed several points of friction between the state and President Trump: “He wants offshore drilling off the California coast. He’s fighting the notion that we’re a sanctuary state. He doesn’t seem to be that enthralled with Dreamers — some days he is, some days he’s not.  He’s very much against the emissions standards and mileage requirements. He wants to build a wall [along the Mexico border].”

Halting offshore drilling in federal waters will be an uphill fight, he said, but he was confident the state’s gasoline emissions standards are bulletproof.

As for the young immigrants who came out of the shadows and registered with DACA, Davis was confident they would be protected. “America has to keep its promises,” he said.

Davis also told the UCLA Luskin students “how proud I am of you for pursuing a career in public policy,” and he urged them to embrace the California promise.

“I want you to know how fortunate you are to live in this state. This is a state of second chances, this is a state where we don’t care who your parents are, we don’t care if they were billionaires or homeless, we don’t care if you were born in this country or some other country. All we care about is whether you can make a contribution to our society,” he said.

“You live in this state; it’s your state now. We’re counting on you to keep it dynamic, keep it vibrant, keep it innovative, keep it open to new ideas. Keep it at the forefront of change.”

KCRW President Emphasizes the Value of Open Dialogue UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow Jennifer Ferro stresses the good that can come just from a willingness to truly listen

By Les Dunseith

Jennifer Ferro was still a UCLA undergrad in the early 1990s when she landed an internship at KCRW, the public radio station in nearby Santa Monica.

“Jennifer had an internship that turned into a job,” noted Sarah Burtner, a second-year student in public policy at UCLA Luskin who helped introduce Ferro to a crowd of about 75 people, mostly students, who gathered Jan. 18, 2018, to hear Ferro’s Senior Fellows Speakers Series presentation. Ferro has been with KCRW for 25 years now.

“Millennials, on average, change jobs every three to five years, so this type of longevity is truly lost on us,” said Burtner with a smile.

Today, KCRW is the flagship public radio outlet in Southern California and Ferro is the station’s president. She is also an active participant in the UCLA Luskin Senior Fellows program, serving as a mentor for current students such as Burtner and Andres Carrasquillo of urban planning.

“We were drawn to Jennifer’s work at KCRW to help us understand how we might use the tools from the field of communication in thoughtful, engaging ways to help the public navigate the complexities of our fields,” Carrasquillo told the audience in the California Room at the UCLA Faculty Center.


Ferro’s presentation focused on a central question: “What role can public media play in making good people?”

“At KCRW and in public media, we do very high quality work. And I do think it matters that when your goal and your mission is to serve people and not to get the largest audience,” Ferro said. “It means that you attract people with integrity and talk to people who care about integrity.”

She leads a radio outlet that is among the nation’s largest, best-known and most prolific, producing more than 100 hours of public interest and music programming each week. Her station offers hard news reporting as well as feature coverage of trendsetters in fields such as food, art, Hollywood or culture.

“Most of all,” Ferro said, “we believe in disseminating truthful information — which seems like something that we would not even need to talk about, until recently.”

Ferro tailored her presentation in part to the policy interests of her audience, most of whom were from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She noted, for example, that many people have the mistaken perception that public radio exists mostly on money doled out to stations by the federal government.

In reality, just 6 percent of the station’s budget comes via taxpayers. “KCRW receives close to half of its $20-million budget annually from individuals who decide, voluntarily, to support it,” she said. In all, about 55,000 people donate to the cause. The remaining funding “comes from sponsorship, or what we call underwriting,” Ferro explained.

She and her colleagues try to use those funds wisely, Ferro said, covering stories in ways that will enlighten listeners and broaden their perspectives.

Noting the overriding sense of political division in the country of late, Ferro played a couple of audio clips from public radio programs that tried to bridge the divide between left and right by including voices from both sides on controversial topics.

In one piece that aired prior to the 2016 presidential election, a woman who supported Donald Trump speaks of her beliefs, including the idea that radical Islamists had been infiltrating the country in large numbers with the intent of doing harm to Americans. An interviewer points out that white men have been responsible for the vast majority of terrorist violence in this country, but the woman refuses to believe him.

Ferro said this piece sticks out in her memory not because of the woman’s views but because of the reaction the interview generated among many listeners.

“If you are like me, you presume that people who listen to public radio are rational and reasonable — kind, even,” she said. “Of all the media consumers, public radio people would be like Canada, you know, tolerant and nice.”

Yet, after that interview aired, the woman who expressed her conservative views on air was flooded with hateful emails and tweets, including many that were vile — even death threats.

“One of the things I hear all of the time is that we just need to listen more to each other,” Ferro told the crowd. But when people with opposing views do try to communicate, “sometimes I feel that what we really want is to wait for them to stop talking so that we can then persuade them to think the way that we think.

“It comes from this notion, this concept, that ‘I’m right, and you’re wrong.’ But that’s what the other person is thinking about you too.”

As a Senior Fellow at UCLA Luskin, Ferro engages with students who benefit directly from her experience and efforts to expand their worldviews. She and other participants in the mentorship program provide other benefits too.

VC Powe, who organized Ferro’s talk as part of her role as director of career services at UCLA Luskin, generated a buzz among the crowd when she told them of a new donation by Edmund J. Cain, vice president of grant donations for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, that will provide $5,000 stipends to UCLA Luskin students who land summer internships that would otherwise be unpaid. The catch? The stipends can only go to students whose internships are somehow connected to a senior fellow.

That won’t be a problem at KCRW, which still offers internships like the one that first got Ferro her foot in the door there. Now, as station president, she continues to delight in the opportunity that public media provides for open, honest communication.

“We let people tell their own stories, in their own voices,” Ferro said, while urging that it’s important that all voices be heard. “Are we going to allow ourselves to hear things that we don’t agree with, that we think are absolutely wrong, that we find personally repulsive?”

She continued, “I think there’s a better goal in all of this, and it’s the goal of exercising our humanity. You should go and meet your neighbors. You should talk to people about anything besides politics,” Ferro said. “You should try to like people in spite of who they voted for.”

Responding to the Call in a ‘Post-Truth’ World Presented by UCLA Luskin’s Institute on Inequality and Democracy, ‘From the Frontlines of Justice’ and other J18 events demonstrate how ‘places of learning will not bear silent witness’

By Stan Paul

Teach! Organize! Resist!

That was the call by organizers of J18, a daylong exercise of teaching and learning at UCLA, as a response to the uncertainty and fear of many people surrounding the transfer of power to a new U.S. administration.

The Jan. 18, 2017, event, positioned between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the presidential inauguration, was planned as “an opportunity to mobilize the power of knowledge and the creativity of the arts” to challenge the new administration and its stated ideals, said Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and lead organizer of an evening event titled “From the Frontlines of Justice.”

“The politics of exclusion and isolation are all around us,” Roy told the overflow audience at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom in her opening remarks. “Here in the United States … we face the systematic dismantling of environmental regulations, of newly won labor rights, hard-won civil rights, of the first scaffolding of national health care and the last vestiges of social protection,” she said, adding that the purpose of the evening was to “learn to listen and reflect and to do so with love and respect.”

And the J18 call was heard, said Roy, who is also a professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare at the Luskin School. “J18 is made up of a multitude of actions, teach-ins, discussions, performances, rallies — nearly 100 of them — from American University to UC Santa Cruz, from Rome to Singapore, here in L.A., at Skid Row, at CalArts, Cal State LA, Caltech, USC and of course here at UCLA,” she said. With a smile, she added that her favorite J18 event was Elementary School Kids for Equality, which organized a march at UCLA “complete with music, fun … and snacks.”

Patrisse Cullors, UCLA alumna and co-founder of #Black Lives Matter, started by checking in with the audience in anticipation of the political transition two days away. “How ya doing? How are you coping?” asked the artist, organizer and founder and board member of Dignity and Power Now.

“We know that when someone becomes the president of the U.S. they become the president of the world,” said the L.A. native, who wondered what the response should be. “Do we go back into our classrooms? Do we go back to our homes? No, we need to be in the streets. We need to be mobilizing and we need to be organizing, and at this point in history we need to have the most innovative and creative approaches.”

Jeff Chang, a cultural critic who writes about race, music and politics and is executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, said, “We’re weary, we know of the fight ahead, and it’s having to demand our place in the world again.” The co-founder of CultureStr/ke and ColorLines said his most recent work has included writing about cycles of crisis.

“When it comes to race in this country we seemed to be to caught in this permanent cycle of crisis,” Chang said. “It’s like climate change, the cultural wars — they seem to be an enduring feature of our daily lives. It’s a permanent fog that covers everything.”

Peter Sellars, a UCLA professor of World Arts and Cultures and director of opera, theater and film, said that there is “new, powerful work to be done,” describing the challenge as a “new discipline,” while reminding everyone that “none of this started a few weeks ago.”

The MacArthur Fellowship recipient said, “It’s time for a new set of solidarities and for actually crossing the line,” adding that while others may have voted a different way and might hold “very scary ideas,” the point is “not to mirror back the demonization.” Instead, “the point is to insist on equal humanity, and that means equal humanity of people who disagree with you on absolutely everything.”

Migrant and activist Ilse Escobar’s presentation started with her own emotional and harrowing story, one she said represents many who like her were not born in the U.S., and whose futures have always been uncertain but may be in jeopardy now.

The UCLA alumna spoke of her own experience crossing as a child into the United States to escape abject poverty. “I remember walking the border with my mom and my sister … I remember getting into the trunk of the car and coming here and starting kindergarten and knowing illegality intimately … 5 years old knowing I had a secret to hide.”

She recalled applying for college without a social security number, being accepted and not being able to pay for school.

And, while gains were made during the previous administration, she said that the fear of deportation has always been there and remains. “So I knew then, as a conscious political being, that what really mattered was organizing, that I could come back here to my comrades that are here in the room and work some of that out and figure out what to do next.”

In addition to the messages shared in words, song and dance, the audience of students, faculty, organizers and advocates also viewed a video narrated by Roy titled “3 Truths About Trumpism,” which Roy begins with the definition of “post-truth,” the Oxford English Dictionary’s choice for 2016 word of the year.

“Truth is out of fashion. Truth is past its expiration date,” Roy says in the animated feature that has already been viewed thousands of times online.

The J18 message was also delivered through performances, including the poetry of feminist, essayist and poet Erika L. Sánchez, the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, and Bryonn Bain, artist/activist and creator of “Lyrics From Lockdown,” who pumped up the audience with presentations of spoken word and powerful lyrical performances accompanied by bass and cello. Concluding the program was hip-hop artist Maya Jupiter, whose rousing musical performance included a song with a refrain that effectively summarized the evening: “They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.”

Roy said that J18 is meant to go beyond the one evening. As a collective endeavor, “J18 is both a platform of interconnection and solidarity,” Roy said. “It will be up to all of us to put it to good use in the coming months and years.

“Our J18 call is an insistence that places of teaching and learning will not bear silent witness, that we will stand up for those among us who are the most vulnerable that we will defend the academic freedom to examine with courage the stockpiling of wealth and power,” Roy added. “That we will not be bullied into quiet acquiescence with ignorance, hate and fear.”

The crowd included Lolly Lim, a first-year master of urban and regional planning student at the Luskin School who was also among a packed classroom for an earlier J18 event at the Luskin School — an exercise on “Envisioning Compassionate Cities.” The session included collaboration between students and faculty from the Department of Urban Planning.

In the exercise, Lim and the other students were asked to imagine what future cities might look like, what social justice values they would encompass and what problems they would solve. Ideas generated by the exercise were grounded in a working definition of compassion — “the response to the suffering of others that motivates an actual desire to help.”

Lim said she appreciated the opportunity to sit at the same table with faculty and work on the problems together.

The event was introduced by Vinit Mukhija, the newly installed chair of urban planning, and facilitated by new urban planning faculty member Kian Goh; Gilda Haas, longtime urban planning instructor and founder of the department’s Community Scholars program; and Kiara Nagel, program associate from the Center for Story-Based Strategy.

As part of the session, the students and faculty participated in a thought exercise to “remember when” — looking back from a future reference point — and framing aspirational ideas such as “remember when we all got along, everyone had free healthcare, everyone had access to food and all people were safe in cities and no individuals were dispossessed?” Questions such as how to make cities “spaces of hope” and how to “prototype radical ideas” were brought up as work groups focused on imagining alternate visions of urban space.

The students’ ideas of the future were generated on multicolored post-it notes, represented graphically on paper and in three dimensions. Mukhija said that he hoped that the exercise would serve as inspiration for further exploration of these topics in similar future events.

For J18, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy was the lead organizer, joined by RAVE (Resistance Against Violence through Education), UCLA; UCLA Department of African-American Studies; UCLA Department of Chicana/o Studies; UCLA Institute of American Cultures; Justice Work Group, UCLA; UCLA Labor Center; UCLA LGBTQ Studies; and The Undercommons.

2016 California Voter Issues — A Lot More Than Just Hillary and Trump UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty members analyze the potential impact of a slew of state and local ballot initiatives

By Stan Paul

On issues that include condoms, juvenile justice reform and housing for the homeless, California voters will be making important decisions in Tuesday’s national election.

Judging from this year’s unusually hefty state voter’s guide, a lot of those issues will have a great deal of impact closer to home — it’s not just about Hillary and Trump.

“This election is more than just about the presidential election, which has taken all of the oxygen out of the political room,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Torres-Gil served as moderator at a faculty panel discussion held just a week before the general election.

Holding up a full-page news article listing the 17 propositions on the California ballot, Torres-Gil started the discussion highlighting a few key state and countywide initiatives and their impact on social work, justice and quality of life issues. “This does not end on Nov. 8; the issues continue,” he said, acknowledging California’s “extraordinary influence” on the rest of the country.

Voting can be good for you — and habit forming — according to new Luskin Social Welfare faculty member Laura Wray-Lake, encouraging the students in attendance to exert a bit of peer pressure.

“The election is obviously really interesting to me from a research perspective,” said the assistant professor, whose work focuses on youth civic engagement and draws on several disciplines to understand social development among young people.

“When young people start voting, this goes a long way to establishing lifelong habits,” Wray-Lake said. “So, if you get into the habit of voting, you will become a more habitual voter across your adult life, which is important for democracy and is important for you in terms of having your voice be heard.”

Citing Pew Research Center data, Wray-Lake said that there are now as many eligible millennial voters as baby boomers for the first time ever. This translates into millennials being one of the most powerful voting blocs in the country. But, she pointed out, the potential of this powerful voting bloc is offset by the lowest voting rates across all generations. She said this had real implications in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, when youth voting influenced several swing states.

“If young people had voted at a slightly lesser rate, then Romney would have won the [2012] election,” Wray-Lake said. “Young people really carried Obama to victory.”

She cited a recent poll showing that 70 percent of young people have not been contacted by presidential candidates. Candidates, she said, are putting campaign dollars where they think the reliable voters are, and they’re dismissing young people and their issues, including education, poverty and the environment.

On a positive note, Wray-Lake said that the voter registration rate in California has surged to the highest levels in modern history at almost 74 percent.

“That’s more registered voters in California than 46 other states combined,” she said. “You’ll do your demographic proud if you go to the polls,” pointing out that 10,000 new voters were recently registered on the UCLA campus.

Among the state’s initiatives with health implications is Proposition 60, which would add a condom requirement to the California Labor Code for the adult film industry. According to information provided in the voter guide, the primary argument for the proposal is that “Nobody should have to risk their health in order to keep their job!” Opposition to the proposal argues that it would be costly to voters, is opposed by lawmakers and is largely supported by a single special interest group.

Ian Holloway, assistant professor of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, said that Proposition 60 had its origins in L.A. County’s Measure B last year — which passed — and is now being rolled out at the state level. Proponents say that Proposition 60 will stem the rise of HIV in California, said Holloway, whose applied behavioral health research looks at factors that contribute to health disparities among sexual and gender and minority populations.

“When it comes to the adult film industry, the majority of adult films that are distributed throughout the United States are made in California and the majority of films made in California are made in Los Angeles County,” said Holloway, who also directs the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center. He explained that there could be a significant economic impact because the adult film industry brings a lot of revenue to the state. He noted that one of the fears is that the making and distribution of adult films will move outside of the state if the proposition passes.

While the goal is to protect the health and well-being of adult film actors, Holloway said that many in the community feel that the proposition is misguided.

“When we think about the HIV epidemic in the state of California, we’re talking about 5,000 new infections a year that disproportionately impact gay and bisexual men and racial-ethnic minority communities,” Holloway said. “So, adult film actors, while an important constituency, are a very small proportion of HIV cases in California.”

Holloway argued that if there is a real interest in focusing on reducing HIV among people living in California, the focus should be making prevention technologies more accessible to low-income communities, racial-ethnic minority communities, gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and other sexual and gender minority communities.

“If we’re thinking about this as an HIV-prevention measure, then we have many more tools at our disposal besides condoms,” Holloway said.

Laura Abrams, professor of Social Welfare, has applied her research to improving the well-being of youth and young adults with histories of incarceration. She provided analysis of Proposition 57, which considers criminal sentences and parole as well as juvenile criminal proceedings and sentencing. The proposition, if passed, would make a change to the state constitution that would “increase the number of inmates eligible for parole consideration,” as well as “make changes to the state law to require that youths have a hearing in juvenile court before they can be transferred to adult court.”

“Prop. 57 means a great deal to juvenile justice reform in California,” Abrams said. “It would help to prevent many youth from being directly tried in the adult criminal court system, and instead allow them to go before a judge to determine if they are indeed fit to be tried as an adult.”

Abrams said that, without the previous process known as “direct file,” many youth will be more likely to be offered rehabilitation within the juvenile system instead of languishing in the adult prison system.

Proposition 57 would amend the state constitution to provide the possibility of parole hearings for nonviolent offenders who have served their minimum sentence and incentives toward release for adults within the state prison system who participate in education and rehabilitation programs.

“This likely means that county services will need to be more attuned to those who are released, often with long sentences behind bars and coming home on parole,” Abrams said, and that will have implications for those in the social work field.

“Social workers will need to be attuned to the trauma that people can experience with many years of imprisonment, mental health needs, and to develop appropriate housing, transition, and other types of programming,” Abrams said.

Finally, two Social Welfare faculty went head-to-head on Proposition HHH, a City of Los Angeles initiative that aims to provide permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

W. Toby Hur and Michelle Tally, members of Luskin’s Social Welfare field faculty, discussed the pros and cons of approving a $1.2 billion general obligation bond. It would be supported by a property tax levied on homeowners to create 10,000 affordable housing units over 10 years for the homeless, including veterans, senior citizens, foster youth and those living on the streets due to mental illness and disability.

Hur, whose interests include ethnic communities, poverty and homelessness, argued that a tax levied on L.A. homeowners would be less than $10 per $100,000 of the value of a home or $50 for a home valued at half a million dollars, although it would increase over subsequent years.

“Initially when I read Proposition HHH it sounded really good and something that I would support,” said Talley, whose interests are in child and family welfare, as well as domestic violence and substance abuse. “Then it talked about increasing property taxes.”

Hur sees minimal burden for homeowners, but Talley said the tax could greatly affect low- and fixed-income residents and even contribute to homelessness for “those who are barely making it,” she said.

“Fifty dollars may not be a lot to you, but there are a lot of people on fixed incomes,” Talley said. “So it’s $50 they would have to take from somewhere else — food on the table, daycare programs. You might potentially have other kinds of consequences.”

 

Author and academic Benjamin Barber speaks to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Oct. 26 about the role of cities in solving global problems. Photo by Les Dunseith

Global Change Should Stem from Local Leadership Author and academic Benjamin Barber says cities present the best hope of solving the world’s problems

By Zev Hurwitz

While voters weigh the prospects of which presidential contender is best suited to address the big issues in 2016, one academic thinks the real change-makers are at city halls — not the White House.

During an Oct. 26 lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Benjamin Barber, a noted political theorist and author who holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, lectured on his philosophy that the key to addressing major global problems is tackling those challenges from the local level.

“Common sense problem-solving pragmatism makes cities the most useful governing institutions in the world as compared to the 19th Century ideologically based national politics of … countries all over the world,” Barber said.

Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty and community members, Barber asserted that cities are uniquely positioned to address every major challenge facing the international community because these issues are no longer specific to individual nation states.

“Every problem we face is a problem without borders,” said Barber, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors. “Cities are positioned to address every major problem we have globally.”

The lecture’s title, “How Cities Trump Trump: Urban Pragmatism vs. Toxic Campaign Demagoguery,” was meant “to draw you in, the same way MSNBC does: with Trump,” Barber said, noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric claiming an international conspiracy to undermine American sovereignty is flawed and “toxic.”

“Trump is right in pointing to the loss of sovereignty, but where he’s wrong is thinking that it is due to stupidity,” Barber said. “We need to learn how to accommodate, not how to scapegoat.”

Nationalized global power, the way Trump describes it, started disappearing after World War II and hasn’t existed since, Barber said.

“Sovereignty, the jurisdiction of a national government over all of the issues its people face, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, in any country claiming to be sovereign,” Barber said. “We are still responding to these global, borderless problems with sovereign nationally based governments.”

Because the power spheres are organized differently in the 21st Century, the real power — and driving force for change — lies in cities, which Barber said is euphemistic for all regional and local governance, not necessarily individual municipalities.

Cities have a unique interest in driving solutions to global issues because “the problems of cities and the problems of the globe are very much the same.” To illustrate this point, Barber pointed to two major issues: climate change and terrorism.

Most of the world’s population, in the 21st Century, lives in cities, and most cities are within proximity to bodies of water, meaning that much of the world’s population has a vested interest in combating climate change and rising sea levels. In addition, Barber said, 80 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from cities. Because the cause and the effect are both specific to cities, cities are best suited to address that challenge.

About terrorism, Barber said that problem-solving must come from local leadership because terrorists almost exclusively target cities.

“Nobody has attacked a pecan farm in Sacramento,” he said. “They come after cities because that’s where the people are. Terrorism is aimed at cities because cities represent everything that terrorism rejects.”

In order to address major global challenges, Barber said, cities, and their leaders, need to practice collaboration with interlocutors locally and with other cities.

“Cities work by consensus, by collaboration, by building bridges and working with everybody,” he said.

Barber spoke about his involvement with the Global Parliament of Mayors, an international body of local leaders that convened for the first time in September. There was a need for “enacting common urban legislation, not just best practices.” According to Barber, the United Nations’ model of organizing nation-states based on their sovereignty has stymied opportunities for problem-solving. The Global Parliament of Mayors has potential to be a unifying force beyond international borders.

“This is a founding seedling for what, in time, can become a genuine governance organization — a kind of U.N. body,” he said, calling the ideal for the organization to be a body that is “defined by the natural collaborativeness of cities” and their capacity to work with one another.”

The Department of Urban Planning organized the lecture and the Department of Public Policy co-sponsored it, with assistance by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA departments of History, Philosophy and Political Science.

Mark A. Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, introduced the speaker, saying that the lecture “couldn’t be more timely.”

“Much of the American public, and our own faculty and students in the Luskin School, have felt intense frustration over the years of policy stalemate at the national level,” Peterson said after the event. “Dr. Barber presented the possibility of a different pathway for addressing major issues — problems for which there seems little prospect of making progress through congressional and presidential action, regardless of the results of the 2016 elections.”

Peterson also noted the application of Baker’s philosophy in Luskin’s curriculum.

“The motto of the Public Policy Department is ‘advancing knowledge in the public interest’ — an essential requirement for understanding the causes of societal problems and identifying interventions that mitigate those causes,” Peterson said.

“However, the actions to be taken, whether by national governments or subnational institutions, are necessarily determined by governing institutions embedded in political processes, ideally with full opportunities for democratic choice and accountability. All of these elements are features of the Public Policy MPP curriculum and prominent in Dr. Barber’s scholarship and public engagement.”

Barber has authored 18 books, including 1995’s best-selling “Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World” and 2013’s “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

Soham Dhesi, a first-year Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student attended the event. Like Peterson, Dhesi said she found parallels between Barber’s lecture and her Luskin coursework in urban planning.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is urban planning — haven’t cities already been built?’” Dhesi said. “This is an answer to how cities can be important tools to address these global problems.”

Dhesi referenced the histories and theories of urban planning and course discussions on grassroots movements and individual participation in change-making, saying she found application of Barber’s views on the potential for cities to lead the way.

“Citizens, through their participation in the city, can bring about change,” she said. “Cities are a way for people to participate, which is harder to do at a national level. This goes in line with what we were learning in class about community development.”

UCLA Luskin Students Watch and Learn During Presidential Face-Off Debate sparks intense interest and frequent bemusement at gathering of Public Policy master's candidates

By Les Dunseith

The more than 50 Public Policy students who gathered Monday night at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to watch the first presidential debate had an opportunity to see their political studies play out in real time as an election that has repeatedly defied expectations again seized the public spotlight.  

With a reporting team from KTLA Channel 5 on hand to cover the students’ reactions, Public Policy chair Mark Peterson set the stage beforehand by noting the intense public interest in this debate and reminding students of Donald Trump’s recent dramatic surge in political polls. Peterson speculated about how the debate was likely to play out.

“Is Donald Trump going to get red-faced and throw insults at Hillary Clinton? Is she going to get defensive?” Peterson said. “Of all the single events that exist in the election process, we are watching tonight one that may — may — have the potential to move the numbers.”

Well-versed in policy issues, the students knew going in that Clinton would probably show a better grasp of details. Trump, on the other hand, was more likely to be bombastic and speak in generalities. Both would blame the other for the nation’s problems. It would get testy. Insults were likely.

The results did not disappoint. And, in the students’ minds, the debate had a clear winner.

“It was Hillary Clinton,” first-year MPP student Estafania Zavala told KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade after the debate had ended. “She was reasonable. She was skeptical of the things that Trump was saying. She never lost her cool.”

Tony Castelletto, a second-year MPP candidate, agreed that Clinton had the advantage. “Basically, she won it just by being the only adult on stage.”

That kind of skepticism about Trump and his debate performance was shared by other students during the viewing, which, at times, sounded more like a raucous Super Bowl party than a serious-minded political discussion. The room frequently filled with laughter — much of it derisive of Trump — as the candidates sparred around questions and traded quips.

The controversial and combative style that served the Republican candidate well in building fervent support among voters in the primaries did not play well with these Luskin students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It also didn’t win Trump favor with former Bernie Sanders supporters, who filled half the room, second-year student Reid Meadows speculated. Yet Meadows, a longtime Clinton supporter, was uncertain about how other voters might respond to the debate.

“I think to a lot of people who aren’t studying politics on a regular basis, it might come off like Donald Trump won it,” Meadows told KTLA.

Zavala, who described herself as less of a Clinton supporter and more of a Trump opponent, said she was surprised by how well Clinton handled herself in the debate. “Clinton was a lot more honest, more humorous, more human than I expected her to be,” she said.

Peterson saw the debate viewing as a valuable learning experience for Public Policy students. “Our MPP students are dedicating their professional lives to careers in public service informed by facts, evidence and analysis, but they know their opportunities for action will also be shaped by the contest of ideas, emotions and values in the political process, often most sharply drawn in the race for the White  House,” he said. “What better way for policy students to witness and assess these forces than to have the shared experience of watching and talking together about the crucible of a presidential debate?”

The prevailing conclusion of students milling about after the debate was that Clinton had successfully kept Trump on the defensive. Her air of mild exasperation in reaction to many of Trump’s statements was an effective approach for the setting, they said.

Regarding Trump, however, Peterson noted that it is a challenge for anyone, even political experts like himself, to judge Trump’s debate performance because his approach is so different from that of previous presidential candidates. “We just haven’t had this kind of candidate, or personality, as we have in Donald Trump.”

Overall, the debate held few surprises for Peterson.

“Some of it was what I expected in that it was pretty harsh,” he said. “Hillary Clinton, the longtime politician, was trying to stay within the boundaries of what had been established for the debate. And Donald Trump was trying to push those boundaries and be disruptive.”

Ultimately, it will take awhile before the debate’s results are fully understood.

“Donald Trump was the wild card going into this,” Peterson said. “He, on the one hand, showed somewhat more self-discipline than one might have imagined. At the same time, there was the real Donald Trump there — in your face, interrupting, making certain kinds of characterizations and comments that one would not normally see in a presidential debate. We’ll have to see how the American public reacts to that.”

 

 

 

 

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