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.”
At the end of the medal event, Dean Gary Segura joined Jorge Ramos in urging students to take out their phones and share a get-out-the-vote message via social media. Photo by Les Dunseith
In Henrik Ibsen’s timeless play, “An Enemy of the People,” a medical doctor and a journalist plot to publish a troubling truth about their town’s major attraction, a resort spa. The waters of the spa are contaminated with bacteria. It is not fit for human use. At the last moment, fearing the consequences, the editor cowers and declines to publish the story, imperiling the guests but protecting the town’s economy and — not coincidentally — his hide.
The doctor proceeds to tell the truth in a public forum. It does not go well. The town turns against him and his family. Perhaps the editor made the personally wise decision, but he didn’t make the right one.
On Oct. 9, 2018, the Luskin School presented a UCLA Medal — our highest honor — to Jorge Ramos, a journalist, longtime Univision anchor and proud Bruin. Mr. Ramos recounted his journey from Mexico to Westwood and UCLA. Ramos left Mexico where he was a successful reporter because, unlike Ibsen’s editor, he refused to be censored in his efforts to tell the truth. Ramos was fired for refusing to change a story to reflect a better light on the ruling one-party government in Mexico. He sold his car and came to the U.S. with little more than what he could carry. Not long after, he enrolled in a journalism program at UCLA Extension. “UCLA saved my life,” he told the crowd of students, alums and friends of the University.
We now know that Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was murdered by his own government. Though there are efforts to offer alternative narratives, there is little question that he was killed and largely as a consequence of his critiques. Khashoggi is, alas, not alone. He joins Daniel Pearl, journalists of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and many more… The international Committee to Protect Journalists has documented 590 intentional deaths of journalists in just the last decade, some in the cross-fire of international or civil military conflicts, but the overwhelming majority through murder/assassination. The mission to find and tell the truth sometimes gets you fired, as Jorge Ramos learned. And sometimes it gets you killed.
The values of democracy are powerful but do not defend themselves. They require us, citizens committed to the sovereignty of the people rather than autocratic rule, to defend them, to draw lines, to hold accountable those who cross them. We can and should disagree about policy, about which paths are best. But the truth, facts and evidence must inform us. To suppress the truth is unscientific and undemocratic. It is beneath us. And the values of democracy require a courageous, fair and uncensored press. Calling the press the “enemy of the people” is corrosive to an accountable democracy because it risks trading the courageous Jorge Ramos for Ibsen’s small-town editor, too afraid to publish the truth.
Jorge Ramos closed his remarks to the UCLA audience with this powerful affirmation of our duty as citizens. “When you see racism, disobey. When you see inequality, you have to disobey. When you see injustice, you have to disobey. This is not a time to be silent … The greatest social movements in this country and in the world have happened when people disobey authority.”
Be like Jorge.
All the best,
Undergraduate Affairs Chair Meredith Phillips, right, fields questions from students interested in UCLA Luskin’s new Public Affairs pre-major at an open house during the first week of school. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Mary Braswell
The rising excitement over UCLA Luskin’s new undergraduate program increased by at least a hundredfold as the first prospective Public Affairs majors stepped onto campus this fall.
Just weeks into the fall quarter, more than 100 students had formally opted in and dozens more had reached out to hear about the ambitious program, which combines critical thinking, social science methodology and deep engagement in the community.
In a year when young people are leading the charge for gun reform, transgender rights, climate change and more, the new major provides an avenue for activism.
“There will certainly be an infusion of energy that only undergraduates can bring,” said Dean Gary Segura.
Freshman Callie Nance was immediately attracted to the public service ethos at the heart of the major.
“I was undecided and feeling a little anxious about that, so I looked through all the majors on the UCLA website. When I came across Public Affairs, I realized it hit all of my passions,” said Nance, who spent time in high school working to create educational and employment opportunities for young people.
“This major doesn’t just expand knowledge,” she said. “It shows us how to do something with that knowledge, to make an impact.”
That sentiment is reflected in the undergraduate program’s motto: Developing Leaders Engaged in Social Change.
“Our students are developing knowledge and skills in the service of solving society’s most pressing problems, which is really what distinguishes this major from others,” said Undergraduate Affairs Chair Meredith Phillips, who is also an associate professor of public policy and sociology.
No other campus in the UC system offers a Public Affairs bachelor’s degree that draws from the three fields UCLA Luskin is known for: public policy, social welfare and urban planning.
This partnership has created an infectious energy that was on display during an undergraduate open house during the first week of school. Phillips led the welcoming committee, along with more than 20 faculty from across the School and Dean Segura, who noted that he too will teach an undergrad course this year, Foundations and Debates in Public Thought.
The event offered a glimpse of the resources available to students pursuing the B.A. in Public Affairs. Freshmen and sophomores freely mingled with professors who teach graduate-level courses and conduct cutting-edge research. And the undergraduate staff, who came together this summer to ensure the major was launched without a hitch, was out in force to answer questions and offer encouragement.
The networking continued the following evening at the Schoolwide Block Party, where the entire UCLA Luskin family — students, faculty, staff and alumni — came out to celebrate the new academic year.
“It was a good chance to talk to some alumni, to see what they are currently doing,” said freshman Navkaran Gurm, whose interests lie in law, politics, economics and public service.
Over the summer, another alumni connection led Gurm to the new major. He had enrolled in a Fresno City College economics class taught by Nelson Esparza MPP ’15, and ended up volunteering for Esparza’s campaign for Fresno City Council.
In the classroom and on the trail, Gurm spent hours talking to Esparza, who urged him to take a look at the Luskin School’s new bachelor’s degree. Gurm was sold. He plans to double-major in Economics and Public Affairs, with an eye toward attending law school.
“What I saw in the Public Affairs major was a way to show us how to make the world a better place, and that was something that really appealed to me,” said Gurm, who is keenly interested in battling disparities that put youth in rural communities, like his hometown, at a disadvantage.
A poll ahead of the November 2018 midterm elections found a remarkable level of civic engagement among young Californians. They talk politics, volunteer and allow political values to guide their purchases, the survey of 16- to 24-year-olds found. A full 80 percent said they considered themselves part of a social movement, according to the poll funded by the California Endowment.
Rising student demand led to creation of the Public Affairs major, which UCLA Luskin faculty unanimously endorsed in 2017. The university’s Academic Senate gave final approval in April 2018, and the first cohort was recruited over the summer.
Ricardo Aguilera switched to the pre-major as soon as it was announced. “For me, it was right on, concentrating on social advocacy within the community and just giving back,” he said.
Aguilera is one of several dozen sophomores who are working closely with the undergraduate staff to complete pre-major requirements in a single year. The School also continues to offer undergraduate minors in Public Affairs, Gerontology and Urban and Regional Studies.
Aguilera, Nance and Gurm have been struck by the personalized attention they receive in the relatively small Public Affairs program. Weekly emails share information about jobs, internships and campuswide events, and keep the cohort connected, they said.
Gurm said he attended informational sessions for other majors where students clamored to get their questions answered. At the Public Affairs workshop, “there were four of us and Brent, and it was as if we were having a one-on-one conversation,” he said, referring to undergraduate advisor Brent Showerman, who explained both the vision and the requirements of the program.
“I really like that whole support system, the feeling that they are guiding us in the right direction,” he said.
Moderator Abigail Golden-Vazquez of the Aspen Institute's Latinos and Society Program, far left, led panelists through a wide-ranging discussion of voter outreach issues. Photos by Amy Tierney
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:
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.
JR DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, appears at the climate conference attended by 2,200 from around the world. Photo by Stan Paul
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.
Elected officials from over a dozen different states, including state legislators, municipal and school district officials, gathered Aug. 3-5 at UCLA Luskin for a landmark conference co-hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). More than 60 elected officials were expected to participate in the first-ever National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy to learn about effective public policies that support Latino families and communities. NALEO Educational Fund and LPPI designed an innovative public policy curriculum to strengthen the governance capacity of Latino policymakers in the critical policy areas of education, economic development, criminal justice and immigration. “UCLA is ecstatic to partner with NALEO Educational Fund to empower Latino elected officials with the data and strategy necessary to address today’s most critical policy challenges and improve the well-being of Latinos from Connecticut to California,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s executive director. The invitation-only intensive training featured modules created by LPPI faculty, with a cadre of national policy experts and practitioners from across the U.S. advancing evidence-based policymaking. Conference speakers included Diaz and her LPPI co-founders — UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA — as well as LPPI-affiliated faculty such as Amada Armenta, who recently joined the faculty of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas also participated.
The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) has added Albert Carnesale, UCLA chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus of public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering to its Board of Directors. Also joining the board, which provides strategic vision and direction for CCST, is Alexandra Navrotsky of UC Davis. “Dr. Navrotsky and Dr. Carnesale have made exceptional contributions to their respective scientific fields and applications on the global stage,” said CCST Board Chair Charles F. Kennel in a news release. “Their deep insights and experiences into the societal importance of science and technology will greatly inform CCST’s mission and service to state leaders in California.” Carnesale joined UCLA in 1997 and was chancellor through 2006. He is the author or co-author of six books and more than 100 articles on a wide range of subjects, including national security strategy, arms control and nuclear proliferation. CCST is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that engages experts in science and technology to advise state policymakers.
In an opinion piece for the political news website The Hill, UCLA Luskin’s Martin Gilens, professor of public policy, joins co-author Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University in proposing a set of reforms that would actually increase democratic responsiveness. They say their research indicates that the most important and most promising changes fall into five groups: 1. Give equal political voice to all citizens; 2. Curb the political power of money; 3. Democratize the electoral process; 4. Improve House and Senate representation of all citizens; 5. Overcome remaining sources of gridlock.
The Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin has updated its website to offer two important online resources: an inventory and map of anti-displacement policies in Los Angeles County, and a map of neighborhood change and gentrification in Southern California. The map of anti-displacement policies utilizes data collected between February and May of 2018, and it reflects CNK’s first step to highlight and better understand the policies that can promote affordability or mitigate displacement of vulnerable populations in gentrifying neighborhoods. Among the findings is the fact that despite a wide range of anti-displacement policies and strategies in Los Angeles County, their coverage is fragmented and implementation is not equitably distributed across jurisdictions. CNK’s urban displacement map reflects an update to a resource first provided in 2016. It focuses on understanding where neighborhood transformations are occurring and helps identify areas that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement in both transit and non-transit neighborhoods. One of the key findings in this update is that the number of gentrified neighborhoods (based on census tracts) rose by 16 percent in Los Angeles County between 1990 and 2015.