Posts

Yaroslavsky on Feud Between Mayor and Union

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the L.A. Times about the political feud between Mayor Eric Garcetti and the union that represents workers at the Department of Water and Power. The union has run a series of television and radio commercials attacking Garcetti’s plan to address climate change, saying it would eliminate thousands of jobs amid a serious housing crisis. Much of the opposition is driven by Garcetti’s plan to close three DWP natural gas plants but that is not mentioned in the ad, the story notes. “Unless you’re on the inside, you don’t really know what this is all about,” Yaroslavsky said. “You don’t know that it’s about shutting down fossil-fuel-powered plants in the basin.” Noting that the ads may be aimed at City Council members, Yaroslavsky said the union’s message may be: “This is what we’re doing to the mayor. Imagine what we can do to you.”

 

Guiding Tomorrow’s Difference Makers Potential internship providers can help ensure that UCLA Luskin's new undergraduate major remains strong as it grows

By Les Dunseith

Inside stately Royce Hall on a recent morning, more than 100 UCLA undergraduates listened intently as their professor spoke about one of the key documents of American democracy — the Federalist Papers.

“The greatest threat to liberty in the eyes of James Madison is faction — that is, the natural tendency of humanity to see their own interests as important and to work together with others who share those interests to try to get their way,” the professor said. “Now the problem with factions is that, while we might see things that they do wrong, if you’re going to have anything that looks like liberty, people have the right to advocate for themselves. Right? You can’t say you can’t go out there and try to make your lot better. That’s hardly liberty.”

It’s a lesson that draws from the past to provide context for the factionalized politics of today. It’s also essential knowledge for a class of aspiring public servants. The person laying this foundation? It’s a man whose influence was essential to creating the educational opportunity his students now pursue — Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The course — Public Affairs 50: Foundations and Debates in Public Thought — taught by Segura in spring quarter was just one of many signposts that the new undergraduate major in Public Affairs is taking shape. Other core courses are being taught, and scores of pre-majors are filling the seats. A class of incoming freshman has been recruited. Transfer students are arriving too. Construction has begun on a dedicated undergraduate office space in the Public Affairs Building. Additional staff are being hired.

But there is still much to be done.

Jocelyn Guihama, director of administration and experiential learning, is hard at work building out the experiential learning component of the major. Time is short. By winter 2020, she expects about 65 Public Affairs juniors to be planning senior-year internships.

To create those opportunities, Guihama is pursuing leads and hammering out details for mentorships in government, in public service agencies and in the many advocacy organizations that help shape policies.

Those partnerships are occurring thanks to supportive people throughout Los Angeles, including some connections close to home like UCLA Luskin alumnus Kevin Medina, program coordinator for the LGBT Campus Resource Center at UCLA. He got his job upon graduation in 2016 with master’s degrees in social welfare and public policy.

Guihama and Administrative Specialist Justin De Toro stopped by his office recently to discuss key assistance Medina is providing to the new major. Guihama noted that Medina had been instrumental in connecting her with a “very large organization in Los Angeles” as a possible internship sponsor.

“I definitely engage with our community in person, as well as through our digital resources,” Medina explained. “We usually have a resource or career fair for LGBTQ and social justice organizations that exist in Los Angeles. We also engage with folks constantly for their paid internship opportunities — for career development for our students.”

Discussions are also underway about placing future Public Affairs students as interns at UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center.

“We know that there are so many centers on campus doing work that is relevant to our students’ interests,” Guihama noted. “So, we hope to connect students to experiential learning opportunities both on and off campus, where students can develop an understanding of what it takes to create social change.”

In his job, Medina provides personal counseling to people “who are at various stages of coming out or [exploring] various relationships to their personal intersectional LGBTQ identity.” His point of view is not far removed from the concerns of many undergraduates.

For example, Medina stressed that “desirability of location is an important advantage of UCLA in terms of quality of life — particularly for folks with multiple marginalized identities. Where am I going to feel safe? Where am I going to find a community?”

For him, that sense of community extends to UCLA Luskin, and Medina is excited to play a role in helping the new major grow. Guihama hopes others — both recent graduates like Medina and the many older UCLA alumni who work in the Los Angeles area — will follow his example.

The experiential learning opportunities are envisioned as an essential step in the undergraduates’ educations, which will culminate with capstone projects.

“The internships have to allow students to test what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Guihama explained. “The senior capstone experience is not only about being out in the community. It’s taking those experiences back to the classroom, reflecting on them, and then building a capstone project with and for the organization that has hosted the student.”

Potential partners may contact Guihama by email or call (310) 569-4491.

DeShazo on Low-Income Workers and Growing Green Economy

JR DeShazo, Public Policy chair and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, was featured in a KCRW broadcast discussing the explosion of the green economy. While there are 500,000 green jobs in California, they mostly benefit upper- and middle-class communities, while individuals from low-income communities are hindered by lack of education, language barriers, immigration status and travel distance from job opportunities. Companies like Grid Alternatives and O&M Solar Services are trying to change that by providing paid training for workers from low-income backgrounds. While California’s green energy policies generated 76,000 jobs in their first three years, DeShazo said that legislators are now reexamining the state’s approach to tackle the issue of equity. “The state has, in what I call the second wave of climate policies, gone back through and integrated a social justice or environmental equity component into almost every single policy,” DeShazo said. 


Storper Challenges Blanket Upzoning as Solution to Housing Crisis

A Planning Report article featured Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper‘s latest research challenging blanket upzoning and the “housing as opportunity” school of thought. Upzoning has been proposed as a solution to the affordable housing crisis, aiming to increase supply and affordability through trickle-down economics. According to Storper, UCLA Luskin’s distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, “Blanket upzoning is a blunt instrument, whereas people’s housing needs are diverse.” Storper highlights the unintended consequences of upzoning, which “favors those who can pay the price of housing in high-demand areas,” while the trickle-down effect to middle-class and lower-income people “will be small and could even be negative in highly desirable areas.” Storper concludes, “Affordability has to be tackled directly; it’s not going to be created through aggregate supply and trickle-down.” Storper’s comments were cited on Planetizen, the Berkeley Daily Planet, CityWatchLA, Fox&Hounds and other outlets.


Connecting With Those Who Once Traveled the Same Path During annual career event, UCLA Luskin Alumni Career Leaders share employment insights and offer career advice to current students preparing to enter the job market

More than 60 alumni returned to UCLA Luskin on April 26, 2018, to provide informational interviews to students during the second annual Alumni Career Connections event.

The meetings gave Urban Planning, Public Policy and Social Welfare students an opportunity to meet graduates of the School who serve as Luskin Alumni Career Leaders and receive career advice, learn about job opportunities and connect with practitioners in their fields of career interest.

The number of alumni volunteers grew by 30 percent this year, giving UCLA Luskin students additional opportunities to gain invaluable information.

“A 2017 Career Services survey ranked alumni networking as one of the graduates’ top two sources of job leads, so it’s essential to provide these opportunities to students,” said VC Powe, director of Career Services and the Leadership Development Program.

“We were very excited to be able to put on this event for a second year in a row,” said Emily Le, career counselor at UCLA Luskin. “It gives students an opportunity to connect with many alumni in their related fields that they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to meet with. Some of the first-year students have already said that they’re looking forward to next year’s event.”

Alumni also appreciated the opportunity to meet current students. Sheena Innocente MSW ’15 said, “The students I met with were very interested in learning about research consulting and how it can serve to shift policy at nonprofit agencies and in political ways.”

This year’s Career Connections event was expanded to include a resume station and a free photo booth for LinkedIn and other website headshots.

Many students, such as first-year public policy student Sarah Rubinstein, seized the opportunity to improve their professional profiles by getting photos taken. Others worked with Social Welfare alumnae Christina Hernandez and Juliane Nguyen and Public Policy alumna Emily Williams to review their resumes. The three also coached students on how best to formally present their information for interviews.

The meetings did not end once the doors were shut in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom; some alumni joined students for dinner or coffee and many exchanged business cards to stay in contact with their newfound UCLA Luskin connections.

Ruby Ramirez, who is in her second year as a dual MPP and MSW student, and C.J. Horvath, who is in his first year of the MURP degree, were two of the attendees who said they gained important connections with new alumni, while reinforcing their current networks. “I thought the whole event was done really well,” Horvath said.

As the lights were dimmed and a crew began to clear furniture, Williams MPP ’98, was spotted in the corner with a student. “I can’t leave now,” she called out, “I want to finish with this student before I go.”

— UCLA Luskin staff

Click or swipe to view additional photos from the event on Flickr:

Alumni Career Connections Event

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.”

U.S. Retail Jobs Are Bad — But It Doesn’t Have to Stay That Way A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin urban planner Chris Tilly challenges the “myth of inevitability” for poor working conditions in America’s largest employment sector

Chris Tilly

By Stan Paul

“The United States has a bad jobs problem, and retail jobs are at the heart of it.”

That’s the first line of a new book, “Where Bad Jobs are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies (Russell Sage Foundation),” co-authored by UCLA Urban Planning professor Chris Tilly.

But, Tilly argues in the book, it does not need to be the last line for retail employment, especially when compared to the same jobs outside of the U.S. There is room to improve, according to Tilly and co-author Françoise Carré, research director at the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

What is responsible for this perception of the largest — and still growing — employment sector in the nation? Low wages, unstable working hours and flat advancement prospects top the list, as well as high turnover rates for employees and a drop in productivity. The current outlook is worse for women who fill lower-paying, entry-level jobs primarily in food retail as opposed to their male counterparts who fill the vast majority of higher-paying retail positions in management, according to Tilly and Carré.

In addition, the authors point out, “It is worth emphasizing here that the evidence is strong that employment in stores is here to stay for a long time to come, in spite of recent predictions of the imminent displacement of store-based retail by online sales.” Their book also touches on a number of current topics, including election-cycle debates on raising the federal minimum wage.

Searching for solutions, the authors started with a comparative “global shopping trip,” in which they made a rigorous study comparing the U.S. retail industry with the same sector in five Western European countries and Mexico. In doing so, they asked what national institutional settings make a difference in job quality and what “room for maneuver” retailers have, by country, to manage for better jobs.

In the richer countries in Western Europe, the authors found more job productivity, better and more regular hours and higher pay than in the U.S. in comparable jobs. For example, the pay was notably higher in France, and notice of work schedules was markedly better in Germany. The differences in social norms and the role of institutions and regulations in these countries have led to relatively better job quality than in the U.S., according to Tilly and Carré.

“Improving retail jobs does not necessarily mean turning them into unambiguously good jobs; retail jobs in our comparison countries are not terrific, but they are better in significant ways,” the authors report.

Tilly and Carré also assert that the U.S. can choose whether service jobs in retail will be bad or good. “Put in the simplest terms, U.S. bad jobs in retail and other low-wage industries will improve when changes are made in the institutional environment — laws, labor relations structures, and broadly held values — followed by changes in managerial approaches.”

The situation in Mexico, a poorer country when compared to the U.S. and the other countries studied, can be instructive. The authors note that the economic gap between Mexico and the U.S. might be the determining factor in comparing retail jobs. But, they add, this is only partly true. Using Wal-Mart as an example of a company that dominates retail sectors in both countries, they find that “even this behemoth behaves differently in terms of choice of market segments and labor strategies across countries.” For example, they point out that in the U.S., Wal-Mart is 100 percent non-unionized, whereas in Mexico, it pays higher wages than its competitors and is mostly unionized.

They explain, “Wal-Mart is not the exception to the influence of societal effects around the world, but rather demonstrates that influence. Even Wal-Mart provides better jobs where rules are better.”

The authors demonstrate that, by understanding where and why bad jobs are better, “we can learn how to make them better across the board.”

More about “Where Bad Jobs are Better,” including the complete introduction and a supplemental chapter, may be found online.

Examining an Issue from Every Side Urban Planning students enrolled in Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project efforts work together to tackle problems of significant scope and complexity

By Les Dunseith

As the curtain lifts on another academic year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students enrolled in one of two group efforts begin to tackle a major planning issue from multiple angles.

Listening, learning, analyzing, synthesizing and debating, the students enrolled in the Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project options will unite by graduation time to produce a shared vision of how best to address a challenge of significant scope and scale.

Exactly how comprehensive are these projects? Here’s the tally from last year:

  • 29 Urban Planning students (now alumni)
  • 20-plus weeks of class instruction
  • 545 total pages (256 pages in one report, 289 in the other)
  • 172 charts, tables, illustrations, infographics and complex data maps
  • dozens of photographs (including a few shot by a drone camera high overhead)
  • hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls and face-to-face sessions

Both of these group efforts are popular among students despite the workload, said Alexis Oberlander, graduate adviser in Urban Planning. In fact, an application and acceptance process is necessary to limit enrollment to a manageable number of about 15 for each.

“Comprehensive projects are more realistic to what it’s like in a professional setting,” Oberlander said of the difference between the group efforts and individual client projects pursued by other MURP students. In the professional world, “You don’t really do anything alone most of the time.”

The group efforts are similar in scope, complexity and instructional approach, but Community Scholars and the Comprehensive Project have key differences.

Community Scholars is a joint initiative of UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education that has been tackling issues related to jobs, wages and worker rights since 1991. UCLA’s Department of African American Studies was involved in 2016-17 too, joining an effort on behalf of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center to produce a report that reflects broad social concerns: “Black Liberation in Los Angeles: Building Power Through Women’s Wellness, Cooperative Work, and Transit Equity.”

“The idea is that students actually get to take the class with activists from the communities who are trying to accomplish the same things but need the guidance of an academic program,” Oberlander said. “And the students need the guidance of activists. So they learn from each other.”

Conversely, the annual Comprehensive Project is managed solely within Urban Planning. The 2016-17 team prepared a report for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which was titled, “Lower LA River Revitalization: An Inclusive Approach to Planning, Implementation, and Community Engagement.”

From concept to completion, a typical Comprehensive Project can stretch over a year or more. Oberlander pointed out that students entering the Luskin School in the fall will decide just six months later whether to register for the next Comprehensive Project, which won’t wrap up until more than a year later.

Thus, now is the time for potential client partners to step forward. “You can come to Luskin and you can get really great research for a third of the cost to hire somebody,” she noted.

The end of an academic year is often a hectic time for Comprehensive Project students. For example, the final presentation to the Community Economics, Health, and Equity Committee of the Lower LA River Working Group was on June 8, 2017. A final (more comprehensive) on-campus presentation took place June 13, 2017, just two days before Commencement.

Public presentations are also typical of Community Scholars. On June 17, 2017, the students gathered at Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles for a rousing public review and reflection on what they had accomplished together.

“It is phenomenal to have the privilege to spend 20 weeks in a room with other organizers and thought leaders who are every day experimenting and making change on the front lines for black workers and black working class families,” said the UCLA Labor Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the 2016-17 project director.

“We didn’t solve the black jobs crisis in this 20 weeks,” she continued. “But what we did do was create the opportunity for us to get closer, to build the relationships, to build an analysis that will help us shape and continue to hone those definitions and our work together moving forward.”

Their report, which like other student research from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students can be viewed online, focused on three aspects directly related to African American workers in Los Angeles:

  • a curriculum on trauma-informed self-care for women served by the Black Workers Center;
  • a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned jobs services center;
  • a mobility study of the Slauson Corridor that paid particular attention to the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues, which a collision analysis found to be among L.A.’s most dangerous traffic locations.

Marque Vestal, a PhD student in history who served as a teaching assistant for Community Scholars, noted that the effort was about more than simply doing great research. While studying under Smallwood Cuevas, UCLA Luskin’s Gilda Haas and Gaye Theresa Johnson of UCLA African American Studies, the students examined issues of race, equality and empowerment through the black radical tradition.

“We suspected that something special would be crafted in that room because every week the laughter amid the planning got louder,” Vestal recalled during the presentation. “So we are here today to share that harvest of laughter and planning.”

“And there’s always the people who rise to the top with any group project who end up being the leaders,” Oberlander said. “They are usually the ones who are still working till August after they have graduated, making sure the client has exactly what they need.”

The instructor of the L.A. River project was Diana Varat JD/MA UP ’08, a planner and attorney who was part of the Luskin School’s adjunct faculty for the year. A rotating instructor approach is used for Community Scholars too. In 2015-16, UCLA Luskin’s Goetz Wolff led an analysis of the distribution of goods in Southern California that went on to win a national applied research award.

For the L.A. River project, students looked at gentrification, access and community impacts as part of their detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls of redeveloping the Lower Los Angeles River that runs through 14 cities from Vernon to Long Beach.

“As the potential of the Lower L.A. River becomes more clear, communities along the river are at a critical juncture,” said Alex Linz MURP ’17 during concluding remarks. “By committing to sustained community engagement and empowerment, river-adjacent cities have an excellent opportunity to showcase the Lower L.A. River both as a local and regional reflection of community pride.”

For 2017-18, the Comprehensive Project team will work with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs on the issue of transit-oriented development. Community Scholars will tackle homelessness and housing.