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UCLA Luskin Professor Launches Organization to Fill Research Gap at EPA JR DeShazo co-chairs committee of environmental economists who will advise agency on social costs and benefits of its policies

Policies on air pollution, climate change and water have far-reaching effects on millions of Americans and businesses. Is the Environmental Protection Agency ─ the federal agency whose mission is to protect public health and the environment ─ using the best available economic science when designing and proposing these policies? The newly created External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (E-EEAC) will convene nationally recognized environmental economists to ensure that the EPA has access to the most advanced research.

“Our mission is to provide independent, state-of-the-science advice with regard to the benefits, costs and design of the EPA’s environmental programs,” said JR DeShazo, professor in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who co-chairs the new research organization.

The E-EEAC formed following the dissolution in 2018 of the original Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, which had operated for more than 25 years within the EPA’s science advisory board structure. Like its predecessor, the E-EEAC consists of economists who apply their expertise to analyze the impact of environmental policies.

“The members believe that, despite the retirement of the internal committee, advances in economic research remain crucial to achieving welfare-enhancing environmental policies,” said Mary Evans, professor at Claremont McKenna College and E-EEAC co-chair. “The E-EEAC is especially needed now given the large number of regulatory modifications that EPA has, and will shortly, propose related to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act.”

These policy changes will impact millions of Americans and firms, along with our ecosystems. The E-EEAC’s intent is to operate until the EPA reconstitutes an internal environmental economics advisory committee composed of independent economists. Many of the members of the original committee are now part of E-EEAC, including the co-chairs.

The EPA must comply with statutes and executive orders that explicitly require the agency to assess the costs, benefits and impacts of regulations. Economic expertise and analysis guide this compliance and enhance the quality of public debate about new regulations.

The E-EEAC is structured to provide independent advice from experts in the field of environmental economics. Functioning as a nonpartisan research organization, the E-EEAC intends to make all of its deliberations and findings easily accessible to the EPA and the public.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation have contributed funding to support this endeavor. The Sloan Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization that makes grants primarily to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics. The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is a policy-oriented research center uniting UCLA scholars with civic leaders to solve environmental challenges confronting our community, nation and world.

Tackling the Resource Curse UCLA researchers launch the Project on Resources, Development, and Governance to design policies in countries where corruption, conflict undercut natural abundance

By George Foulsham

From left, Michael Ross, professor of political science; Graeme Blair, assistant professor of political science; and Darin Christensen, assistant professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, are the co-founders of PRDG. Photo by George Foulsham

For three UCLA scholars, it just didn’t add up. Why do so many people who live in developing countries with an abundance of natural resources struggle in poverty every day?

“You would think that it’s a simple thing to take wealth that’s underneath the ground and turn it into wealth on top of the ground for everybody to share,” said Michael Ross, a professor of political science at UCLA. “But we know from studying countries around the world that that very rarely happens.”

Social scientists call it the resource curse, and it’s one of the reasons why Ross and two UCLA colleagues, UCLA Luskin’s Darin Christensen and political science faculty member Graeme Blair, have created the Project on Resources, Development, and Governance (PRDG), a network of social scientists, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations and industry representatives dedicated to finding policies that promote welfare, peace and accountability in resource-rich countries.

“For the past 15 years or so, I have been living in two worlds,” Ross said. “One is an academic world where I do research and I speak to some of the smartest young social scientists in the world who are studying the problems of developing countries. In the other world, I’m sitting around the table with policymakers who are worried about how to fix a problem called the resource curse.”

About three dozen countries in the low- and middle-income world are economically dependent on oil, gas and mining, but they all seem to struggle despite the riches provided by the resources. Those countries include Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Indonesia, East Timor and Kazakhstan.

“They tend to be conflict-ridden,” Ross said. “There are protests, there’s pollution, there are civil wars around these projects.” There’s also plenty of corruption, with many of the countries in economic turmoil because of bribery and other issues in regions of exceptional resource wealth, such as mining areas.

“There are so many opportunities for corruption, and politicians are a whole lot less responsive to the people and a whole lot more concerned with siphoning off money for their own bank accounts overseas,” Ross said.

Finding solutions to these challenging issues won’t be easy.

“We have a generation of super-smart young political scientists and economists who are interested in this problem,” Ross said. “Our project is designed to bring together the smartest sort of leading-edge people in political science and economics with the policymakers who are dealing with these problems on a day-to-day level.”

That mission officially begins Sept. 21-22, 2017, with the first PRDG summit at the Luskin Conference Center on the UCLA campus. Researchers and policymakers from UCLA, the World Bank, Barnard College, the University of Pittsburgh, the Natural Resource Governance Institute and many other organizations and universities will make presentations and discuss issues that range from creating successful research-policy partnerships to the research priorities of funders.

The September conference at UCLA was generously funded by the Luskin Center for Innovation, Natural Resource Governance Institute, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Burkle Center and UCLA’s Political Science Department. The initiative also recently received a one-year, $600,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to support additional workshops in Washington, D.C., and Accra, Ghana, and the research partnerships that emerge from these meetings.

“One of the important parts of PRDG is the effort to bring in local researchers,” said Blair, assistant professor of political science at UCLA. “We want to provide training in modern social science research methods, and to provide learning-while-doing at matchmaking workshops where we bring together academics, policymakers and practitioners.”

Providing guidance on policy issues is Christensen, assistant professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “I think policy plays an essential role in this PRDG initiative,” Christensen said. “What PRDG is trying to do is bring policymakers and academics around the same table and allow policymakers to propose solutions and team up with researchers who can go to the field and determine whether these new initiatives are actually helping root out the corruption or address the grievances that often accompany these big mining, oil and gas projects.”

PRDG’s short-term goals include generating a series of new research projects on solutions to problems faced in resource-rich countries, bringing together researchers, policymakers and practitioners. “Another goal is to start joint learning exercises where we go out into the field and try to help build research into their existing program,” Blair said.

In the long term, the UCLA researchers are hoping that the conversation about these issues becomes circular — the research feeds back into the policymaking conversation, which generates new questions the researchers can tackle.

“We want to figure out ways to make a difference, and find ways to fix this problem,” Ross said.

Dean of UCLA Luskin Takes the Long View on Political Rhetoric Gary Segura sees parallels between California history and current national debate over immigration. He tells crowd at UCLA Advocacy event that Latino voters will again be key to a resolution.  

By Les Dunseith

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, thinks that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may seem all too familiar to Latinos and others in California who endured a similar campaign against undocumented residents a couple of decades ago.

The current effort could backfire on Trump and his supporters, suggested Segura, an internationally recognized expert on the Latino electorate, during a presentation March 21, 2017, to a packed room of citizens, policymakers and fellow educators. The UCLA Advocacy event, co-hosted by UCLA Government and Community Relations and the Luskin School, featured introductions by Chancellor Gene Block and Keith S. Parker, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.

Segura reminded the crowd at Cross Campus in downtown Los Angeles that a GOP-backed ballot initiative in 1994 known as Proposition 187 sought to establish a citizenship screening system in California and prohibit undocumented immigrants from using many public services. It passed, but soon was found unconstitutional and never took effect.

The lasting result? “It created a tidal wave of Latino registrants” that tipped the balance in California elections strongly toward Democrats. “It’s known as the Prop. 187 phenomenon,” Segura told the enthusiastic audience of more than 100.

“What’s less known is that between 1980 and 1994, if you looked at the California Field Poll, the share of Latinos identifying as Republican went up in every year,” Segura noted. Latino voters had been trending toward the Republican party for a decade and a half before Proposition 187 sent waves of Latinos to the Democratic side. For the GOP, the measure amounted to “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.

It’s too soon, of course, to know whether California’s pivot away from anti-immigrant policies will repeat itself nationwide. But providing this type of perspective about modern-day political controversies is an important role that Segura has embraced as the recently installed dean at UCLA Luskin.

“It’s a dazzling school that needs extraordinary leadership, and that’s what we have here,” Block said of Segura during his introductory remarks. The event served as a first opportunity for many of those in attendance to meet and hear from Segura, who relocated to Los Angeles in January after serving as a professor of political science and former chair of Chicana/o-Latina studies at Stanford University.

“We are introducing a true partner with Government and Community Relations and the university’s greater engagement with Los Angeles,” Parker said. “When Chancellor Block came to UCLA, one of his priorities was to increase our engagement with Los Angeles. In our discussions with Dean Gary Segura, that’s one of his priorities as well.”

A widely published author and a frequent interviewee by print and broadcast news outlets, Segura is also a principal partner in the political research firm Latino Decisions. His presentation, formally titled “Population Change and Latino Prospects in the New Era” but sarcastically dubbed by Segura as “Being Latino in Trumplandia,” drew heavily from polling results and other research gathered by Latino Decisions.

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“Latinos became deeply involved in this election in a way that they had never been in the past,” Segura said. “This was their highest level of turnout.”

Segura said this fact strongly refutes a narrative picked up by several media outlets based on an Election Day exit poll. That poll showed more Latinos voting for Trump than would have been expected given his anti-Latino rhetoric, including repeated calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“There is not a shred of statistical evidence consistent with the exit poll,” Segura said. “In fact, precinct analysis shows that Latinos actually voted more Democratic than they have in past elections. From actual precinct data, we estimate that Donald Trump won about 18 percent of the Latino vote,” not the 29 percent shown by the exit poll.

Results in other races also belie the presidential results, Segura said, noting that Latino voters were critical in electing a record number of Latinos to Congress.

“The Latino surge was real,” Segura said. “There’s lots of evidence for this. And, nationally, we estimate that about 51 percent of eligible Latinos cast a ballot, up from the last two elections.”

The political views of most of those Latino voters are at odds with the conservative policies of the Trump administration, Segura said. Polling of Latinos regarding issues such as gun registration, equal pay for women, higher minimum wages and climate change consistently lean toward a liberal viewpoint.

At this point, those views do not hold sway in Washington. The right-wing — mostly Anglo voters who tipped the 2016 presidential race to Trump — tends to be an older demographic, Segura explained. But Latinos are younger, and fewer are registered to vote. “That’s a disadvantage, but it’s also an opportunity. Latino advocates could, in fact, mobilize more voters.”

In 2016, 27 million Latinos were eligible to cast a vote, and it’s estimated that about 14 million were registered to do so. If Latinos had the same registration rate as whites and African Americans (roughly 70 percent), then 19 million would have been registered voters. That’s 5 million additional Latino voters.

And the country’s evolving demographics — fed primarily by Latino birth rates, not immigration, Segura noted — will continue to swell that potential voter pool.

“The number that it is important for you to leave here with tonight is that 93 percent of Latino residents under age 18 are citizens of the United States,” Segura told the gathering, which included prominent Latino officials such as UC Regents John A. Perez and J. Alberto Lemus, as well as Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the L.A. Community College District.

“What that means is the passage of time alone will dramatically enlarge the Latino electorate. The Latino electorate will double in the next 20 years,” Segura said, citing estimates that 73,000 Latino citizens turn 18 and enter the eligible electorate every month.

During a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Segura was asked by moderator and UCLA Luskin lecturer Jim Newton to address the fact that such statistics are seen as threatening by many Americans, particularly in rural America where lower-income white voters helped sway the election to Trump.

Segura expressed sympathy for those voters, acknowledging the legitimate concerns of people in communities hit hard by job losses.

“That pain is real,” but he said it’s wrong to blame illegal immigration for the country’s economic problems. “They are being told that reality is being caused by someone else. The actual evidence suggests that there is very little labor market replacement between Latin American immigrants to the United States and native-born U.S. workers.”

There are some historical exceptions, such as in the textile industry, “but as a large-scale measure, immigration really has very little to do with labor market turnover in the United States,” Segura said.

Newton also asked Segura to talk about whether the immigration issue is really of much importance to most Latinos voters. They are U.S. citizens, after all. Like other voters, aren’t they more concerned about crime, good schools and jobs?

“All of those statements are true, but the conclusion is incorrect — that immigration doesn’t matter,” Segura responded. “Both parties have gotten this wrong because they don’t understand that Latino families are mixed status. You might be a born citizen of the United States. Your wife might be naturalized. But your brother-in-law might be undocumented.”

In polls of Latino voters conducted by Segura and Latino Decisions, one-quarter of respondents know someone who has been detained or deported. “And 60 percent of Latinos who are registered voters know someone who is undocumented. In more than half of those cases, that person is a relative of theirs.”

Segura noted that “86 percent of all U.S. Latinos are within two generations of the immigration experience. So when you talk badly about immigrants, you are talking about members of my immediate family.”

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.”

When Congress Comes Calling, UCLA Luskin Students Are All Ears Former lawmakers and their spouses share their insider view of life in leadership and legislation

By Stan Paul

Reaching across the table was good form at a luncheon discussion with a bipartisan group of former members of Congress visiting the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Oct. 7.

The former U.S. representatives — two Republicans and two Democrats — and their spouses held informal breakout discussions with Luskin Master of Public Policy (MPP) students and undergrads in the school’s Public Affairs minor program. UCLA Political Science graduate and undergraduate students also participated.

“Congress has come to us,” said Mark Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, as he introduced the guests, all members of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC). The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization is dedicated to promoting an understanding of the role of Congress and the importance of public service in the United States and abroad.

Lynn Schenck (D-CA, 1993-95) shared her experience in public service and fielded questions from students on subjects ranging from the California ballot to emerging democracies.

“Democracy is hard work,” said the UCLA alumna (BA ’67) and lawyer who served in California Gov. Jerry Brown’s cabinet — in his earlier term — and as deputy secretary for the state’s department of business, transportation and housing. She later became the first woman to represent San Diego in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“You have to have an interest in people,” Schenk advised the future leaders and policymakers, stressing the importance of making connections. “Start now — stay in touch with people.”

Joining Schenck and Pete Weichlein, CEO of the Former Members of Congress Association, were Bob Clement (D-TN, 1987-2003), Phil Gingrey (R-GA, 2003- 2015), and Peter Smith (R-VT, 1989-1991), all of whom had a front row seat to the inner workings of Congress and life in Washington. Conversations with the couples buzzed from the start, a wide range of talking points that included this year’s historic presidential election, the economy, social media, taxes, immigration, super PACs and the pressures of fundraising.

Ramandeep Kaur, a first-year MPP student, said she appreciated the opportunity to participate one-on-one in a discussion with a former Republican representative.

“I am definitely not a conservative Republican but this gets me out of my bubble,” said Kaur, who spoke with Gingrey and his wife, Billie.

Also part of that discussion was MPP student Estefania Zavala, who said she gained insights about the difficulty of working across party lines as well as the time and effort spent on running for re-election. “What I took away from the conversation is that the process needs to be streamlined so that our elected representatives can focus on policy and not partisan politics,” Zavala said.

Axel Sarkissian, a political science major completing the Public Affairs minor at the Luskin School, said that hearing about the day-to-day aspect of governing “from the people who did it” was an invaluable experience.

“As a student of government, I study Congress and policymaking from an academic perspective,” Sarkissian said. “Being able to hear the candid thoughts of political leaders who put these things into practice created an interesting frame of reference for my future studies.”

One topic brought up by students dominated the conversation, said Peter Smith, a former representative from Vermont and founding president of Open College at Kaplan University: “Where did all the partisanship come from at the expense of compromise? When did it change and how can we get it back?”

“I was very impressed with their preparation from their studies and their interest,” said Smith, who also served as a state senator and lieutenant governor in Vermont. “They are looking for ways to be involved in public policy that can be productive.”