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Goh Explores Urban Climate Justice in New Book

A new book by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Kian Goh explores the politics of urban climate change responses in different cities and the emergence of grassroots activism in resistance. “Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice,” published today by MIT Press, traces the flow of ideas and influence in urban climate change plans in three key city centers — New York City; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the book, Goh analyzes major climate adaptation plans and projects such as Rebuild By Design in New York, the Giant Sea Wall masterplan in Jakarta and Rotterdam Climate Proof. Goh also discusses the rise of social movements and efforts among community organizations to reimagine their own futures in response to historical injustices and present-day challenges. Many groups of marginalized urban residents have pushed back against city plans and offered “counterplans” in protest against actions that they feel are unjust and exclusionary. Goh investigates how historically uneven development and global connections between cities have shaped the politics of climate urbanism, and her analysis provides insight on how to achieve a more just and resilient urban future. “Form and Flow” sheds light on the new wave of urban climate change interventions driven by environmental urgency, developmental pressures and global networks of expertise. Yale Professor Karen Seto called Goh’s book “a must-read for urban climate scholars and practitioners,” and Cambridge University Professor Matthew Gandy added that Goh’s “comparative global framework advances the field of political ecology in innovative directions.”


New Book by Segura Measures the True Cost of War

A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura measures the full cost of war by examining the consequences of foreign combat on domestic politics. In “Costly Calculations: A Theory of War, Casualties, and Politics,” published by Cambridge University Press, the authors employ a variety of empirical methods to examine multiple wars from the last 100 years. The human toll – the military dead and injured – is generally the most salient measure of war costs and the primary instrument through which war affects the social, economic and political fabric of a nation, according to Segura and co-author Scott Sigmund Gartner, provost of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Their work provides a framework for understanding war initiation, war policy and war termination in democratic polities, as well as the forces that shape public opinion. “War-making is not just strategic but also represents a political action of some consequence filtered through a societal lens,” the authors write. “Leaders embark upon a course of conflict with an eye on the level of public support, work hard to win that support if it’s missing, actively attempt to manage public beliefs about the conflict and its costs and benefits, and may suffer the political consequences when the people viewing a conflict through the eyes of their communities believe that they miscalculated.” 


 

Newton on Villanueva’s Uncertain Future

Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s decline in favorability since his shift to the political right. In 2018, Villanueva campaigned for sheriff as a relatively unknown Democratic candidate and promised police reform and transparency. However, since being elected, Villanueva has resisted calls for greater transparency, pursued controversial hires and resisted multiple subpoenas. The sheriff responded to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread demands for police reform by publicly rebuking local elected Democrats and working to increase the number of people permitted to carry concealed guns in Los Angeles County. The story cited UCLA’s 2021 Quality of Life Index, which found that Villanueva’s favorability has decreased since he was elected; he will be on the ballot for reelection in 2022. “Whether Villanueva is vulnerable depends in huge measure on who runs against him,” Newton said. “Without a credible opponent, none of this really matters.”


All 5 New Faculty Additions Have Prior UCLA Experience

By Stan Paul

For Jasmine Hill and four other new full-time faculty at the Luskin School, it will be a homecoming. 

The 2011 UCLA alumna, who served as student body president during her senior year as an undergraduate, will begin doing research and teaching at her alma mater as an assistant professor of public policy this summer.

“I think it’s always people’s dream to come back to their undergraduate institution, especially if they had a positive experience, and that was certainly the case for me,” Hill said. “Having received my graduate training at a private school, I got to see how much I value UCLA and public education.”

Hill’s work focuses on economic inequality, specifically on obstacles to social mobility for Black Americans. At UCLA Luskin, she will teach qualitative methods, plus a course about how seemingly well-intentioned policies can lead to racial inequality.

“In the wake of the assassination of George Floyd, I’m thinking a great deal about the disconnect between decision-makers and the public who wants to transform systems of power. If done correctly, I see qualitative methods as a tool to amplify the perspectives of the people and center the needs, and the concerns, of underserved populations,” she said.

Hill is passionate about mentoring students, especially those who traditionally have been marginalized. “I’m excited to support Luskin students who are organizing and fostering social change,” she said. “I’m motivated
and inspired
by them.”

Another new faculty member with direct ties to campus is Veronica Terriquez, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology in 2009 at UCLA and will become a professor of urban planning with a joint appointment in Chicana/o and Central American Studies. She will also lead the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. She was previously an associate professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz.

Terriquez focuses on social inequality, immigrant incorporation and political participation, taking an intersectional approach to understanding how individuals and groups reproduce or challenge patterns of social inequality. Much of her research has implications for policies affecting low-income, immigrant and Latino communities. 

“As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I prioritize conducting research that has implications for education reform, immigrant rights, labor rights and racial justice efforts,” said Terriquez, who also holds degrees from Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Mark Vestal has strong personal links not just to UCLA but also to Los Angeles. He was born in Inglewood and can trace his family lineage in the city to the late 1800s. He attended local schools and completed his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees at UCLA.

Vestal, who completed his Ph.D. in history in 2020, joined UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in January as a postdoctoral scholar and will transition to assistant professor in July.

“Being able to teach and do research in the city I have so much invested in, personally — in terms of personal experience, politically and also in terms of family ancestry — perhaps it should be an entitlement, but it feels like an incredible privilege,” Vestal said.

His interest lies in the Black experience of private property, he explained, looking closely at the history of discriminatory planning and housing policy in Los Angeles and beyond. 

Vestal is developing his doctoral dissertation into a book, describing it as a social history of working-class property and politics. The findings of his thesis will “force urban historians, and anyone concerned with housing policy, to rethink the central problem of race and housing in the United States.”

Also joining UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in January was Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor whose previous academic post was in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz. He holds a doctorate from Stanford and studies environmental economics and transportation. 

Working remotely amid the pandemic, Millard-Ball has already taught a class in transportation and environmental issues and another on urban data science.

Millard-Ball originally hails from the south of England. Trained as an economist, geographer and planner, his scholarship analyzes the environmental consequences of transportation and land-use decisions, including parking. He also examines policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Much of my current work is about street network sprawl worldwide — quantifying which places have been really successful in providing connected streets, which are good for walking and biking,” he said. 

 Noting that transportation is the largest source of emissions in California, Millard-Ball explained, “I’m interested in what can be done to bend that curve.”

The fifth new faculty addition also has UCLA teaching experience. Margaret “Maggie” Thomas, who will become an assistant professor of social welfare, previously served as a lecturer for a second-year graduate course on poverty and welfare. 

 “I was particularly glad to get to teach last year as a way to really be connected with Luskin in that interim year,” said Thomas, who finished her Ph.D. at Boston University in 2020, followed by postdoctoral work at Columbia University. “It was just such a nice chance to get to know master’s students and start to get a little bit familiar with what the whole feel of teaching is like at Luskin and to meet some colleagues who are also teaching in the MSW program.” 

Much of Thomas’ work is policy-oriented,
“so there’s a lot of really natural connections for me between social welfare, public policy and urban planning. Luskin offers such clear opportunities to collaborate with all three departments.” 

Thomas holds degrees from Notre Dame and the University of Illinois. She focuses on children and families facing economic hardship, as well as children and youth from marginalized communities.

 “We’ve heard conversations about hardship at the national level a lot more this year than we typically do. Whether it’s
food insecurity or housing hardship, the kinds of things I’ve been studying are only that much more prominent and bigger problems to solve,” she said.

Diaz on Newsom’s Advertising Appeal

Director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Sonja Diaz spoke to AP News about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s advertising strategies to boost his popularity and avoid a recall. Newsom’s campaign has aired three ads on television, including one ad in Spanish attempting to tie the recall to extremist Republicans who have been referencing comments by the recall’s lead proponent, Orrin Heatlie, about putting microchips  in immigrants. Another ad focuses on the cash payments in Newsom’s proposed state budget, which would deliver $1,100 in one-time cash payments to families, plus other relief. According to Diaz, Newsom’s positive ad presents messaging that will resonate with families and young people who have been hard hit by the pandemic because it highlights the cash payments, help for businesses and an expansion of preschool education. “This is something that I think is really targeted to talk to the policy choices that are going to help younger Californians,” she said.


Gilens Sounds Alarm for Democracy

The Washington Post was one of several media outlets reporting on a statement of concern about threats facing American democracy, signed by Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens and over 100 other scholars. The statement was a response to efforts by GOP-led state legislatures to restrict voting, which President Joe Biden referred to as an “assault on democracy … aimed at Black and brown Americans.” The statement, published by the public policy think tank New America, highlighted Republican efforts threatening the fundamental principles of democracy and urged Democrats in Congress to reform or end the filibuster to pass sweeping voting rights protections. The authors called for federal protections to ensure the neutral and fair administration of elections and guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote. “Our entire democracy is now at risk,” they wrote. “History will judge what we do at this moment.” The Hill, Business Insider, Forbes and other news organizations also covered the statement.


Matute Reflects on Garcetti’s Legacy as Mayor

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Guardian article about the strengths and shortcomings of Eric Garcetti’s administration during his time as mayor of Los Angeles. There is a possibility that Garcetti will cut his second term as mayor short to take a position as a U.S. ambassador and eventually return to pursue a higher office in the federal government. In Los Angeles, reviews are mixed about his efforts to address climate change, pollution, the affordable housing crisis and economic inequality. On transportation issues, Matute pointed out that the mayor succeeded in pushing a key funding measure in 2016 and set commendable goals for improving mobility and safer streets. However, the “execution of his plans has been slow and haphazard,” Matute said. “There was a lot of promise for changing mobility in Southern California that came through in plans … but they’ve fallen short of implementation.”


Newton on Jenner’s Race for Governor

Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to Vox about Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to run as a Republican candidate in the race to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Jenner, a former Olympian and reality TV star, helped increase transgender visibility through her own transition. However, her support for former President Donald Trump and other conservative colleagues who have attacked the trans community have alienated her from the liberal trans community. “If her base is trans-sympathetic Republicans, well, that’s not 51%,” Newton said. “But in this race, if there are enough candidates, and they divide up the vote enough ways, she could win with a lot less than that.” Still, more than half of voters would need to vote to recall Newsom for that to happen. “If California continues to battle COVID successfully in the fall, then I think it’s very hard for me to imagine that [Newsom] gets recalled,” Newton said. “Then it doesn’t matter where Jenner gets her support.”


Dominguez-Villegas on Possible Census Undercount of Latinos

Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, director of research for the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Sacramento Bee about the possible undercount of Latinos in the 2020 Census. States with large Latino populations including Texas, Florida and Arizona did not gain congressional representation as predicted, raising concerns about the potential undercount of Latino residents. COVID-19 created new obstacles for census outreach, and Latino communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. “During the count, it was Latino communities that were having really high rates of infections and deaths, which also definitely impacted the way in which people view the priority of a census,” Dominguez-Villegas said. “When your community is dying, you don’t really care so much about participating in the census.” He noted that the Latino population in California grew by 1.5 million residents between 2010 and 2019. More information about the accuracy of the count in California will be available when further Census Bureau results are released.


Now or Never for Immigration Reform? Congressman from Texas opens LPPI webinar by expressing optimism that progress can be achieved with Democrats in power in Washington — if they act quickly

By Kassandra Hernandez and Les Dunseith

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas sees Democrats in power in Washington, D.C., and thinks the time may finally have arrived for comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policy.

“It’s not very often that Democrats have control of the presidency and both chambers of the Congress,” Castro said during a May 4 webinar hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “There’s a real opportunity here to pass comprehensive immigration reform and put 11 million undocumented folks — many of whom are ‘Dreamers’ or others, like their parents, who have been here for generations — on a path to citizenship.”

Castro, who introduced one of four immigration-related bills currently making their way through the political process in Washington, knows it won’t be easy, given the narrow Democratic majorities in both houses and longstanding GOP opposition to immigration reform that includes citizenship. Still, waiting too long could doom the effort.

As the 2022 midterm elections draw closer, elected officials will become “very cautious about the votes that they take,” Castro noted. “So, there’s got to be a lot of momentum and a big push to get immigration reform done this year.”

Castro’s comments came during a 10-minute live interview with webinar moderator Russell Contreras, a justice and race reporter at Axios, that set the tone for a panel discussion with scholars and political experts focusing on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. immigration reform.

During the interview, Castro spoke about why immigration policy reform is so important to him. He represents a district in the San Antonio area that is home to many Mexican Americans like himself.

“In our community, there’s an incredible sense of fairness, there’s obviously an incredible sense of family,” said Castro, whose mother is a renowned community activist and whose twin brother is former presidential candidate Julian Castro.

“There is a permanent class of conservative politicians … who want to use the immigration issue as a way to scare Americans and make them think that there is a lot of brown people who are going to come into the country and harm them,” Castro said. “But you see Mexican American communities being very favorable toward giving immigrants a path to citizenship because they understand that experience. To them, [an immigrant] was their parent or their grandparent. So, when they hear all of the fear-mongering, most of the time, they don’t buy into that.”

Castro said he hopes an umbrella bill that includes comprehensive immigration reform can be passed during this session of Congress, although it has not yet come to a vote. He noted that two other immigration bills have already made it through the House, however, and he urged the U.S. Senate to move forward with that legislation.

Cecilia Menjívar, a professor of sociology at UCLA who is an expert on immigration issues, argued that such piecemeal reform probably has a greater chance of success. Although the current social and political environment is unlike any in recent history, she said systemic barriers are likely to continue to impede sweeping immigration reform efforts.

Joining Menjívar on the virtual panel were Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. All the speakers agreed that the national stance must recognize the complexities of the issue beyond border security and militarization.

Immigration reform is deeply interconnected with labor rights, access to education, health care and violence in other countries, they noted.

“You can legalize the people in the U.S., but if you don’t deal with the system that keeps us out and kicks us out, then you are not doing service to our community,” Salas said.

The so-called border crisis is actually a regional international policy problem, Selee said. “If you have lots of people coming in an irregular fashion, we need to rethink how we facilitate a legal path to immigration.”

Salas called for an urgent change in enforcement. “The detention system is a for-profit system,” she said. “Too many corporations [make] money off of the detention of our people.”

U.S. immigration policy also needs to account for the economic contributions made by the millions of undocumented workers throughout the country, Selee said.

Menjívar cautioned that immigrants should be recognized in a manner that avoids “reducing them to a dollar sign,” noting the many “social and cultural contributions [immigrants] have made to this country over decades.”

Selee pointed out that almost half of immigrants today have college degrees, representing potential talent that can help catalyze economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

“Unlock that potential, [and] it would fit in really well in a moment where we are trying to recover economically,” he said.

View a recording of the webinar