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S.F. Chronicle: Trump Is Exaggerating Threat of MS-13, Leap Says

In its coverage of the Trump administration’s claims that its policies prevent members of the Salvadoran gang MS-13 from entering the United States to commit crimes, the Chronicle turned to Jorja Leap of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, who has studied MS-13 and other gangs. In reality, MS-13’s threat in Los Angeles, where the gang was born three decades ago, “is probably the lowest it has ever been,” Leap said. Constantly citing the danger of MS-13, as Trump has done, could backfire, helping MS-13 in recruiting. Leap said, “Along with being erroneous, he is giving them oxygen. Donald Trump is acting as a one-man publicity band for MS-13.” Leap also contributed to a recent visual storytelling piece about MS-13 by the New York Times. And she previously spoke to the L.A. Daily News about the search of a new Los Angeles police chief.


 

Blumenberg Says Trump’s Welfare Reform Plan Misses a Key Piece: Transportation 

UCLA Luskin’s Evelyn Blumenberg is quoted in a Washington Post article about whether a Trump administration order to toughen work requirements for welfare recipients overlooks a well-documented link between transportation and employment.  “Since the 1990s, things have become much more difficult for welfare recipients,” said Blumenberg, a transportation expert and professor of urban planning. “And I have not seen an upswell in movement for supporting the transportation part of this.” Cars play a key role in access to jobs that are “suburbanizing.” Blumenberg said, “It’s a touchy subject in transportation circles, where funds are focused on increasing access to public transit, even though poor people more than anyone need the flexibility and instant mobility of having a car.”


 

Decriminalizing Latinos Is Focus of Criminal Justice Gathering Latino Policy & Politics Initiative brings together scholars, policymakers and nationally known advocates for the Latino community for a day of presentations, discussions and workshops

A recent gathering at UCLA Luskin included a full-day of programming related to efforts to advance visibility on the experience of Latinos in the criminal justice system across the United States.

Dozens of experts and scholars on Latino issues at the local, state and national levels gathered on campus May 31, 2018, for a day of presentations and workshops organized by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Attendees included a number of nationally known advocates for Latinos, including LatinoJustice President Juan Cartagena.

“It is so reaffirming seeing Latinx people talking about these issues,” Cartagena told a packed classroom of workshop participants, including several UCLA Luskin students. “Everyone in this room should be listed as experts.”

The sessions began with an introduction from Dean Gary Segura, who was also one of the participants in a high-level strategy workshop focusing on Latino civil rights and the U.S. criminal justice system.

He told attendees that he helped found LPPI in part to address a shortfall in research about issues of importance to Latinos, including inequalities in the criminal justice system.

“People across the ideological divide agree that this is an issue for the Latino community,” said Segura, who said he hoped the day would provide an opportunity for attendees to “think constructively about the things that have to happen” in order to bring about change.

Matt Barreto answers a question during the opening panel, which was streamed live over social media. Photo by Les Dunseith

A discussion hosted by LPPI’s founding director, Sonja Diaz, followed with Cartagena and Matt A. Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and the other co-founder of LPPI. They zeroed in on the fact that national discussions have historically downplayed the impact on Latinos of criminal justice policies related to policing, mass incarceration or unequal rates of prosecution.

“Why are Latinos invisible in this discussion?” Barreto asked. “It’s because we are invisible in the data.”

For example, the U.S. Census has historically grouped Latinos with whites in its tabulations based on ethnicity. And this shortcoming has been replicated in much of the research at the state and local levels.

“So many people don’t count Latinos,” Barreto said. “This makes advocacy impossible.”

Today, some states still do not count Latinos as a separate group, he said. Even when Latinos are specified in the data, “some counties have better data than others.”

Discussions like this one continued for several hours, and participants had an opportunity to hear from wide range of people — scholars, policymakers and community advocates. That evening, the participants viewed a sneak peek of the in-progress documentary, “Bad Hombres,” by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, and then heard from the director, Cartagena, UCLA lecturer Virginia Espino, and from some of the people featured in the film.

Noting an “insurmountable amount of knowledge of Latino criminal justice knowledge on the stage,” second-year UCLA Luskin student Gabriela Solis Torres participated in the gathering and shared her impressions via social media, saying, “I am so honored to be in the same of the room as such inspiring leaders.”

View additional photos in an album on Flickr

 

 

 

Dean’s Message Announcing final approval and launch of the new Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School

Friends,

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has, in recent years, more finely honed our mission — to one that creates positive changes for individuals, communities, polities, ecosystems and the world through improved governance, equitable policies, sustainable planning and the facilitation of healthy individuals and families. As you will read in this issue, a big part of that mission is to address the needs and aspirations for a better quality of life among people of color and other marginalized populations who, collectively, comprise a majority of Angelenos and Californians.

The time has come for UCLA Luskin to take the next step in our efforts to create change-makers. As part of that effort, I am happy to announce the final approval and launch of the Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs at the Luskin School. By a vote of 58-1 on February 15, the Academic Senate authorized the School to launch our major, which, at full enrollment, will provide training to 600 total majors across the four years.

The Public Affairs major is an interdisciplinary social science degree that combines rigorous analytical and research methods training with deep theoretical immersion in social, psychological, economic and political theories of social change. Students will be trained to ask and answer tough questions regarding how society copes with socioeconomic inequality, democratic access, economic development, and infrastructure, capped off with a yearlong immersion in a field placement and research project, applying these insights in a real-world environment.

We envision a curriculum built around the same guiding principles that inform our graduate and professional programs: that the tools of social science, properly applied, can help us identify and address some of society’s most vexing problems. Students will be able to take these degrees straight to the job market in civic and governmental organizations, business and nonprofit sectors, or go on to graduate and professional training in a cognate field.

Associate Professor Meredith Phillips of the Department of Public Policy will serve as the inaugural Chair of the program, the development of which is owed to all three departments and a core of thoughtful faculty committed to new and socially relevant undergraduate social science.

In the coming years, we will keep you informed as to the progress and growth of the degree program, which should graduate its first seniors in June of 2021!

In the meantime, rest assured that the nationally ranked professional and doctoral programs will extend their tradition of excellence, diversity and impact.

— Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

The Dean’s Message also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

 

 

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.

The Art of Shaping Opinion: Lessons From Three Experts Visiting Public Policy faculty draw on rich life experiences to share their wisdom about influence, advocacy and persuasion with UCLA Luskin’s future leaders

 By Stan Paul

The U.S. Constitution, by design, sets up a weak and limited government. In short, “it is set up to fail,” says William Schneider, a visiting lecturer this spring at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“The wonder is that it actually does work. What makes it work is public opinion,” says Schneider, a leading U.S. political analyst and professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, who is teaching the undergraduate course “Public Opinion and Public Policy.”

Schneider, who has covered every U.S. presidential and midterm election since 1976 for numerous news outlets and publications, is among a group of top scholars from across the nation adding depth and breadth to the world-class faculty at the Luskin School.

Schneider’s class follows offerings from visiting professors Steven Nemerovski from Columbia University and Gary Orren from Harvard, who taught during winter quarter. All three visitors from the East Coast explored influence, advocacy and opinion-making as tools to effect policy change.

For Schneider, the Constitution works when there is “a strong sense of public urgency. In other words, a crisis.”

He explores this thesis — “and why the U.S. is more bitterly divided than at any time since the Civil War” — by looking at policy battles over civil rights, the financial crisis and terrorism. The course also focuses on the way public opinion has shaped policy on issues such as abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage, gun control, health care and military intervention.

A core element of American populism is the belief that politics is the enemy of problem-solving, he says. “That’s why we often elect political outsiders,” says Schneider, whose new book, “Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable,” will be published in May 2018. Schneider hopes his students will learn that “there is a reason why you can’t run government like a business. Business is not a democracy.”

When Orren, the V.O. Key, Jr., Professor of Politics and Leadership at Harvard, arrived at the Luskin School this winter, he made a convincing case for taking his graduate-level class, “Persuasion: The Science and Art of Effective Influence.”

“Persuasion lies at the heart of our personal and professional lives, whether the goal is to convince one person in a face-to-face encounter, influence a small group in a meeting, sway an entire organization or win over the public,” his course description said.

“It is challenging enough to lead those who agree with us,” says Orren, who has taught at Harvard for nearly half a century and also worked as a political advisor in local, state, national and international election campaigns. “But inducing others to willingly follow us when they are initially skeptical or opposed to our goals — persuading them — is the greatest challenge facing aspiring leaders.”

That pitch, and a recommendation from a Harvard alum she knows, convinced second-year MPP student Farah Setyawati to take Orren’s course.

“I like the course because it has a unique exposure to psychology. It got me thinking a lot about human behavior,” Setyawati says.

She now pays attention to body language and “reading the room,” and recognizes the importance of knowing the client. She also likes the required “three-minute pitch” exercise that allowed her to practice her presentation skills.

When Nemerovski brought his popular undergraduate course, “Advocacy and the Legislative Process,” from Columbia to the Luskin School, he immediately brought up the dreaded “L word” — “how society feels about lobbyists and are they the scourge of the earth or something. We talk about that up front and get past that immediately,” Nemerovski says. “Then the whole class is about strategy, … the role of advocacy and the tools needed to navigate successful outcomes.”

In addition to a career as an academic, the Columbia professor has worked as a political lobbyist, TV program host and author of “Third Party,” a series of political novels. He drew on that vast experience to bring in a number of guests with first-hand experience in advocating for legislation:  a state representative from Illinois; two former California Assembly members; and Dan Glickman, a former member of Congress from Kansas, U.S. secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, and former head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

When students have “heard four or five people in this industry say it’s all about trust, your word is your bond, when they leave the class … they’re going to understand what this is about — trust and word and bond,” Nemerovski says.

“One of my guest speakers actually commented that my class asks better questions than the more sophisticated groups he speaks to. That really speaks for the class and their enthusiasm for the speakers,” he says.

UCLA undergraduate student Axel Sarkissian says the course has been among the most interesting he has taken and has given him a better understanding of “how lobbying is done, an important lesson for those of us interested in government and for anyone interested in public engagement.”

“I have particularly appreciated Professor Nemerovski’s efforts to integrate practitioners — politicians, lobbyists and others — into the course. Hearing their perspective on how they interact with each other and what effect this has on policy has been fascinating,” says Sarkissian, who is completing the Luskin School’s undergraduate minor in Public Affairs.

Nemerovski challenges his students to become “citizen lobbyists.” During winter quarter, they were asked to lobby their congressperson on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as the Dream Act.

“I can’t tell them what to think — whatever side they may be on — so they have to decide what they think and they have to act on it,” says Nemerovski, who notes that part of the exercise is to wrangle not only with the issue but what actions they need to take. “I’ve been watching them struggle with it — ‘how am I really going to do this?’”

Nemerovski also places students on each side of a bill. Some must develop strategies to pass it, others to defeat it.

“They will walk in with a strategy and I will poke holes in it,” Nemerovski says.

But he adds: “I always tell my kids the first day of class they’re going to have fun.”

Gross Fellowship Recipients Meet Their Benefactors at Luncheon

Click or swipe below to view a Flickr album of photos of the 2018 fellowship recipients with Cal and Marilyn Gross and UCLA Luskin Director of Development Ricardo Quintero:

2018 Gross Fellowship

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

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

By Mary Braswell

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

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

“Your day is coming,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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