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LPPI Co-Hosts Conference of Latino Elected Officials From Across the U.S.

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.

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin fills a critical research gap and provides a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.

“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.

Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.

LPPI founders Matt Barreto, Gary Segura and Sonja Diaz, front row, joined with their 2017-18 student assistants for a formal portrait in March. Also on hand was Director of Development Ricardo Quintero, far left. Photo by Les Dunseith

LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:

  • An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
  • A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).

Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.

“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”

Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.

Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.

“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”

LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Latino issues.

Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.

“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”

Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”

The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.

“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”

The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.

Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.

“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”

Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”

The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.

“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”

For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

Alumni Share Advice with Urban Planning, Public Health Students

The event was organized by students. Pictured, from left to right, are Rae Spriggs (MURP & MPH), Teddy Tollin (undergraduate geography major), Rebecca Ferdman (MURP & MPH), Tsai, Jasneet Bains (MURP & MPH), Diaz, Cristina Valadez (MPH), Simunovic, and Ali Goodyear (MPH). Click or swipe below to view a Flickr album of additional photos:

 

BEPHC alumni event

From UCLA Advocacy: U.S. Rep Barragán Looks to Lead by Example

Recently, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura moderated a discussion with U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, who was a public policy minor during her time at UCLA. “You’ve gone onto a pretty distinguished career already, even though you are just starting out in Congress,” he noted. The event at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center was hosted by UCLA Government and Community Relations and the UCLA Latino Alumni Association.

From UCLA Newsroom: Dean Segura Introduces Panel

Launch of New UCLA Luskin Initiative Is True to Its Mission Event celebrating the creation of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative brings UCLA community together with policymakers to share research and exchange information

By Les Dunseith

The newest research center at UCLA Luskin aims to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information so that political leaders can make informed decisions on issues of interest to Latinos, and its Dec. 6, 2017, kickoff event exemplified that goal.

Students, faculty and administrative leaders from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists, business leaders and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the launch of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI).

Attendees had an opportunity to hear keynote speaker Kevin de León, current president pro tem of the California Senate and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, talk about recent legislation on issues related to such diverse topics as labor, good government, the environment and education. He was then joined by a panel of experts in a spirited discussion of the current national political climate and major issues that directly impact Californians, particularly Latinos and other communities of color.

“In the great state of California, we celebrate our diversity,” de León told the crowd. “We don’t ban it, we don’t wall it off, and we sure as hell don’t deport it.”

In his speech, de León talked about the state’s efforts to deal with climate change, to improve education and to provide a safe haven for all residents. For example, Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, which de León championed, creates a safe zone at “our schools, our hospitals, our churches, courthouses and other sensitive locations so our undocumented immigrant communities can live their lives and conduct their businesses without fear.”

De León declared, “If this president wants to wage a campaign of fear against innocent families, he can count us out. Because the state of California won’t lift a single finger or spend a single dime to become a cog in the Trump deportation machine.”

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from UCLA Luskin and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information — real data, not alternative truths — to help leaders nationwide resist attacks on immigrants and also help them to craft new policies on other issues vital to Latinos.

“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd.

“It’s going to harness all of the intellectual capacity that UCLA has — it’s going to be truly interdisciplinary,” Waugh explained. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to affect change in a profound way.”

Darnell Hunt, dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA, noted in his remarks that the founding of LPPI comes at a particularly opportune time in American politics. “It goes without saying that we live in challenging times — challenging political times — and the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative will help us make sense of this contemporary setting with an eye toward transformative solutions.”

Barreto, who served as master of ceremonies for the night, spoke about the scope of LPPI’s vision. “We’re not only going to work on immigration reform — we know that immigration reform affects our community and we will work on that — but we are dedicated to work on every policy issue.”

He added, “Whether it has to do with climate change or clean energy, transportation, housing, homelessness, criminal justice or education, we are going to work on that. And we have experts at UCLA who will join us.”

Many of the 20 scholars from across the UCLA campus who are part of LPPI’s faculty advisory council attended the launch event, which began with a networking reception at La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes near Olvera Street, the founding site of Los Angeles itself. As musicians from La Chamba Cumbia Chicha performed, attendees had an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the featured speakers and various former and current elected officials in attendance, such as Gil Cedillo, the former state senator and current Los Angeles city councilman. Also in attendance were former California assemblyman and senator Richard Polanco and Amanda Rentería, the former national political director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and now a staff member in the executive office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The event wrapped up with a panel discussion and Q&A moderated by Lucy Flores, a former assemblywoman in Nevada who now serves as vice president for public affairs for mitú, a multimedia enterprise that targets young Latinos. Panelists said that bolstering the number of Latino elected officials has been a vital step in bringing about positive change.

“In the end, votes are what count,” Segura said, noting that Latino’s political influence has not kept up with its rapid population growth. “In order for governments to enact policies that benefit Latinos, it is going to be required that Latinos be a significant share of elected officials.”

Panelist Laura E. Gómez, professor of law at UCLA and former interim dean of the Division of Social Sciences, expanded on that idea in light of a recent wave of disclosures related to sexual misconduct by men in positions of power.

“I think it’s really important … for us to realize that Latinos are a diverse community. We are not just men; we are also women. We are not just straight people; we are also gay and transgender people. And those are important numbers going forward,” she said.

Flores summed it up, “Demographics is not destiny.”

The fact that California often seems to be an outlier in the current national political climate was a recurring topic of the night, with several speakers praising Californians’ resistance to the policies of the current U.S. president. Can the state also serve as a model of progress?

“Despite all of the discord and disunity, California is standing tall for our values,” de León said during his speech. “From education to the environment, from high wages to health care, to human rights, to civil rights, to women’s rights, to immigrant rights, California is proof positive that progressive values put into action in fact improve the human condition regardless of who you are or where you come from.”

De León said California is a leader in innovation — “home to Hollywood and Silicon Valley and the best public university system in the world, the University of California. And we are on the cusp of surpassing the United Kingdom for the fifth largest economy on planet Earth.”

The state is thriving, he said, by doing exactly the opposite of what Donald J. Trump says. “We succeed because we are dreamers, not dividers. We succeed because we double down on lifting people up, not putting them down. We are not going to allow one election to erase generations of progress.”

Photo by Les Dunseith

“I want to ask for your partnership, because this is what we need to do — we need to train a new leadership pipeline that is diverse but also represents us substantively,” LPPI Founding Director Sonja Diaz told the audience.

Saying that UCLA is “arguably the finest public institution in the nation, if not the entire world,” De León spoke enthusiastically of the promise that LPPI represents for elected officials such as himself. “We need the empirical evidence, and it’s about time we have this institution established at UCLA.”

Later, when speaking about climate change during the panel discussion, he expanded on the idea that knowledge equals power.

“California has the ability — if we have access to this type of information, this data — to export our policies to other states, even to red states that may not believe in climate change per se,” de León said. “We are showing that, whether you believe in climate change or not, you can actually grow an economy by delinking and decoupling carbon from GDP.”

Access to data is important, but it takes real leadership to turn information into action. “You can have all the academics in the world, all the data, but it doesn’t make a difference if it just sits in a book on a shelf,” de León said. “You have to take that data and move it with political power to actually implement it, execute it, to improve the human condition.”

Segura said it is his goal — and the mission of LPPI — to unite scholars and policymakers for mutual benefit, helping academics turn research into actionable policy.

“Facts do matter. Facts may not be a good way to sell people who don’t want to hear them, but lots of well-meaning elected officials want information,” Segura said. “One of the jobs of the institute is going to be to take the data out of those dusty books and put them in the hands of policymakers in a useful time frame so that policymakers can respond.”

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative is a comprehensive think tank around political, social and economic issues faced by California’s plurality population of Latinos and other people of color. Anyone interested in providing financial support may do so through the UCLA giving page for LPPI.

Additional photos from the event may be viewed in an album on the UCLA Luskin feed on Flickr. Watch the video of our speakers and panelists.

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Look at State Politics

Cristina Garcia’s day at UCLA began with a meeting with Ramona Cortés Garza, executive director of UCLA State Relations, and LPPI’s leadership — Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Professor Matt A. Barreto, Luskin Dean Gary M. Segura and LPPI Director Sonja Diaz. They discussed how to leverage research to inform evidence-based policy solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of diverse Californians. Photo by Bryce Carrington

Cristina Garcia of the California State Assembly spoke about her efforts to make government more transparent during an Oct. 16, 2017, gathering at UCLA hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Garcia talked about the grassroots battle against political corruption in the 58th Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles that eventually led her to seek office. “I’m an idealist at heart, and I do believe that we can have a democracy that works for us all.” Garcia talked about her three policy pillars: government transparency, women’s issues and environmental justice. She believes in standing up for the majority-Latino district she was elected to represent, but she envisions California as a place where every group of voters has equal input and access to the political system. She advocates for a more diverse and representative political system in which all Californians have an equal seat at the table. “For me, when I talk about where I want to see my society, we can’t shy away from race,” she said during a Q&A with students, staff and faculty from UCLA Luskin, the Division of Social Science, Grad Division, UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program, the Institute of Environmental Studies, and UCLA’s Government and Community Relations. “We can’t shy away from things that are real systemic barriers.” Although she faces hurdles when pushing many issues of importance to her constituents, she said that time and changing demographics are on her side. “Latino power is growing. We have had some losses and some steps back, but sooner or later we are going to be a majority,” Garcia said of California’s evolving population. “And we are also going to be a majority in those demographics in the State Legislature.”

Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of photos.

Assembly member Cristina Garcia