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Organized Protest May Come From the Fervor of Crowds, Not Core Individuals UCLA Luskin professor’s analysis of 14 million tweets from the Arab Spring showed that normal people drive huge movements

By Stan Paul

The massive Arab Spring protests that began in late December 2010 and spread from North Africa to the Middle East generated huge crowds and had quick and profound effects — including the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had held a firm grip on the country for decades.

Was this the work of people at the core of networks trying for years to create such a movement? Not according to research by Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, assistant professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In a paper published in “American Political Science Review,” Steinert-Threlkeld argues that individuals not central to a social network may be more responsible for generating collective action and driving protest than those at the center. Steinert-Threlkeld calls his theory of the periphery’s ability to mobilize “spontaneous collective action.”

“Protests occur as a result of decentralized coordination of individuals, and this coordination helps explain fluctuating levels of protest,” Steinert-Threlkeld wrote in the study, “Spontaneous Collective Action: Peripheral Mobilization During the Arab Spring.” Although not intended to explain the Arab Spring, Steinert-Threlkeld’s paper presents the first large-scale, systematic evidence of how individuals behaved in each country.

Unlike simple models such as disease contagion or transmission of news, which need only one exposure to infect or inform the next individual, the spreading of protests is more complex, making it less certain, said Steinert-Threlkeld, who teaches courses on these topics at the undergraduate and graduate levels at UCLA Luskin.

“Having someone tell you, ‘Hey, I’m going to protest tomorrow’ is much less impactful than having multiple people tell you they are protesting tomorrow,” he said. Large groups of people, as opposed to a few central individuals, are able to discuss “where to go, how to get there, when to go,” as well as what is going on once there, Steinert-Threlkeld added. In addition, individuals debating whether or not to protest must receive a credible signal that large numbers of people are protesting.

“Protests are a complex contagion phenomenon because increasing participation makes others more likely to join,” Steinert-Threlkeld said, pointing out that because more individuals are on the periphery than in the core of a network, protest is more likely to occur where the larger group is located. “The decision to participate in a protest appears to be driven by normal people taking cues from each other, not from elites.”

In testing his theory, Steinert-Threlkeld took advantage of the Integrated Conflict Early Warning System, a dataset of daily protests across 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa during 14 months in 2010 and 2011. He then combined the dataset with geocoded, individual-level communications (nearly 14 million tweets from the same period), to measure the numbers of connections of each person.

“These 13,754,988 tweets show what was being said, when it was being said, where and how many connections each tweet author had,” he reported in the study. “Combining these datasets and using a wide range of models and operationalizations, mass mobilization is shown to occur through peripheral individuals.”

Said Steinert-Threlkeld: “Egypt’s January 25th protests surprised everyone — activists, bystanders and state authorities — with its large mobilization and brief occupation of Tahrir Square.”

He added that many Muslim Brotherhood leaders were summarily jailed — even though they did not sanction protests — because the Mubarak regime assumed only they could have mobilized such a crowd.

“This paper demonstrates the contributions big data can make to understanding processes of social influence in social networks,” he said.

A Speedy Solution to Networking A new format for the UCLA Luskin career event gives students direct access to alumni in their fields and fosters ideas about what they can do after graduation

By Zev Hurwitz

Taking a cue from speed dating, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs held its first alumni career networking event in which graduates of the school’s three departments met with current students about professional opportunities.

The event, held April 20, 2017, at the UCLA Faculty Center, was the first career development opportunity for students in which each employer was represented by an alumnus or alumna of the Luskin School.

Edon Cohanim, a first-year MPP student, said he appreciated the directness with which alumni provided tips on best practices.

“Alumni are more willing to help us and are more down-to-earth with us,” he said. “I got some advice on my career and how to pursue it, and they helped me understand what good moves are.”

Barbara Andrade-Dubransky MSW `00, director of program support at First 5 LA, said she hoped to help students understand more about career options in social welfare.

“There’s interest for students in knowing what’s going on out in the field, and I’m happy to share not only what I know about my organization, but I have relationships with other organizations, so I’m happy to share information to help students find other opportunities as well,” Andrade-Dubransky said.

UCLA Luskin Career Services launched Alumni Career Connections in lieu of its annual career fair. In past years, Luskin had held career events that more closely resembled traditional job fairs. This year, students met one-on-one with alumni who graduated from the same department or who currently work in the student’s desired field. Each student had the opportunity to meet with up to three alumni over the course of an hour.

VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at UCLA Luskin, said the change was in response to feedback from employers whose participation in the annual job fair had dwindled in recent years.

“For many employers, these small career fairs are passé,” she said. “I shared that with my student advisory committee, and one of the students said, ‘I want an alumni career fair.’ I lit up at the thought of that and said, ‘That’s a great idea!’”

Although many students attend career fairs in the hopes of finding a job, Powe noted that most UCLA Luskin students end up securing employment through networking.

“Networking, especially with alumni from your program, is extremely important,” she said. “This is more of a ‘We share a career-field, and am I prepared to do what you’re doing?’ kind of event.”

Alumni met with as many as eight students over the course of the evening. In all, 105 students and 42 alumni participated.

Jasneet Bains, a second-year, dual-degree graduate student in urban planning and public health, said she attended because she liked the structure of meeting with alumni from her programs and wanted to broaden her professional network.

“We were matched up with alumni who share our interests, and that’s very valuable,” Bains said. “They’re able to provide specific insight. Having gone through that process, they’re able to teach us about how to take knowledge from our program and apply that in the field.”

Adrian Cotta, a second-year MSW student, said he had no expectations about leaving the event with a job offer, but she hoped to learn from alumni who had the same educational experience as he did.

“I’m hoping to get some advice from people in the field to see how to begin a career — and make a new friend, if nothing else,” he said.

Wendy Yan MA UP `97, vice president of underwriting at affordable housing syndicator WNC and Associates, said that she attended not only to inform students about the field but also to recruit for summer internships and possibly full-time jobs.

“We’re always looking for good people,” Yan said. “Being an alum of the urban planning program, I know there are a lot of students who specialize in affordable housing, and so we’d love to have good people from Luskin work with us.”

Rima Zobayan MPP `01 currently works at Westat, focusing on an implementation project for national assessment on educational progress for the U.S. Department of Education.

“I was in the fourth class of public policy students, so there weren’t a lot of alumni who could participate in something like this for us,” Zobayan said. “It’s great for alums to have a chance to talk to current students, to share what we’re doing and to see what students’ interests might be.”

Autonomous Vehicles Are on the Way. Are Cities Ready? UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment focuses on planning for the connected movement of people and goods

By Stan Paul

Autonomous vehicles, once considered science fiction, are quickly becoming a reality.

With the technology and testing of driverless cars and trucks progressing rapidly, private industry is investing. At the same time, planners and policy makers are confronting another challenge: How will technology, policy, governmental legislation and industry practices come together to make the potential benefits of autonomous transportation a reality that is responsible, equitable and good for the environment?

To address these issues, two UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs research centers — the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies — used their April 13, 2007 transportation conference to focus on the implications of autonomous vehicles. The 10th UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment brought together speakers representing the technology industry, along with planning researchers, and practitioners in the government and private sectors.

This year’s downtown forum, held at the California Endowment Los Angeles Conference Center was titled, “Steering Connected and Automated Mobility in the Right Direction.” Speakers and expert panels provided a look at the policy aspects of ridesharing and driverless transportation, from liability and equality viewpoints to greenhouse gas emissions and infrastructure. The panelists also discussed how the anticipated disruption of autonomous vehicles might play out locally, across California and around the nation.

Lauren Isaac, director of business initiatives for EasyMile, a high-tech mobility startup, discussed how connected and automated technologies may shape the future.

“What the data shows is that there needs to be either a costs savings or a time savings” to get people to participate, Isaac said. “There needs to be some benefit to a user to make that decision. The good thing is because of the way technology is evolving there’s great potential for both.”

Governments also play a part by providing HOV lanes and infrastructure for a faster ride, she said. “I think those are the kinds of levers that both technology providers and government can pull.”

Isaac said that freight companies will most likely be the No. 1 sector among the early adopters. “That industry is really interested in this,” she said, citing a shortage of drivers and huge cost savings that could come from moving goods this way.

“On the passenger side, I think without question we’re seeing the best response come from the younger generation,” she said, noting that there is also significant interest from the senior and disabled communities. “That being said, the challenge is how do you transfer people in wheelchairs or if they need additional help? People still rely on humans to get into the vehicles. So there’s still a lot of issues to work out around the para-transit piece,” Isaac said.

Chris Ganson, a senior planner from the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, described some of the research he has seen. “The plus side here is — with a lot of this kind of thinking on automated vehicles — it’s really kind of this funny combination of research and futurism that’s going on,” Ganson said. “We’re extrapolating from our current experiences to try to figure out what things might be like in the future, and what we might need to do about them, but there is a lot of convergence in that thinking.”

Despite this, he said, “We have some tough things to do policywise and politically to receive these autonomous vehicles into our society.”

Ganson also said that it makes sense to be proactive while planning for the future. “While you’re repaving … or building a new transit system, adding the technology now saves 10 times the cost of putting it in later,” he said.

Maya Buenaventura, assistant policy analyst at the RAND Corp., provided a quick primer on common law, tort law and liability issues that would come with taking humans out of the driver’s seat, as well as product liability issues for manufacturers of autonomous cars and parts. There may be some uncertainty in the details initially, she explained, but many of the longstanding concepts of common law that apply to personal injury and property damage would also apply to autonomous vehicles.

“The outcome might not be optimal from a social welfare perspective right away,” she said. “Judges need to start thinking in the long term — what are the long-term costs and benefits — if this is something they’re just going to pick up as autonomous vehicles get introduced. But it is not clear that there are any better options.

“Another thing that we’ve come to realize is the identity of potential defendants isn’t going to be very different when autonomous vehicles are introduced,” Buenaventura added. “There’s still going to be, potentially, lawsuits against the driver, against manufacturers, against the component part manufacturers. And suits against these defendants already exist today.”

For Eric Shaw, director of the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning, “This question of why we want to be ‘smart’ in the first place is actually a question we haven’t answered yet. For us, it’s not just smart vehicles, it’s smart planning. We need to understand how to be smart.”

Shaw, a pre-Luskin 1998 UCLA graduate minored in what was then policy studies, said his city’s overarching commitment is to spatial and racial equity, which must be balanced with the goal of livability, new innovation and understanding urban efficiency.

“We are having crazy growth in our city,” Shaw said of Washington. “We’re a historic city, one of the oldest cities in the nation. We’re one of the most planned cities in the nation.”

With equity and access in mind, Shaw pointed out that the nation’s capital has a huge income disparity. He asked whether creating a system around pricing automatically creates a system that excludes the city’s low-income residents.

With this in mind, Shaw said that his department was looking at a number of scenarios for the city’s future.

“We’re not afraid to test; we’re not afraid to pilot. So we are looking at some of the best practices, looking at ideas of shared mobility and performance, and we’re not afraid to get it all right before we do that,” Shaw added. “We’re OK to test and take some risks, but with the same question right now — racial equity, spatial equity of land use of the built environment.”

Brian D. Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of both the ITS and the Lewis Center, pointed out the importance of addressing the issues covered in the forum.

“The presentations and discussion made clear that the rise of shared, connected and autonomous vehicles poses significant new challenges for transportation planners and policymakers, and in addition cast existing challenges into sharper relief,” Taylor said. “Addressing these challenges head-on today will help to ensure that we steer these new systems in the right direction.”

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Students Help Solve Real-World Problems At annual springtime welcome day and networking event, MURP students showcase their research in capstone projects designed to help clients

By Stan Paul

Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students don’t have to wait until they graduate to identify and solve real-world problems. Working with clients and agencies, the students tackle issues in their respective fields long before receiving their diplomas from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The capstone projects — yearlong research efforts — were on display April 6, 2017, at the department’s annual open house, during which prospective students are invited to meet current students, alumni, faculty and project clients. Each student project was represented by a poster that, to be effective, needed to easily convey information and be attention-grabbing.

“We have some students investigating the impact of a potential new bus line, looking at the role that accessory dwelling units might play in addressing the housing crisis,” said urban planning capstone instructor Brady Collins UP PhD ’16, citing a few examples of the nearly 40 displays. “One student is looking at the often overlooked, but important, role of women planners and planners of color in the history of Los Angeles. So there’s a really wide spectrum of different types of projects and different types of problems that the students are addressing.”

During the fall and winter quarters, Collins guides the second-year students from concept to completion. During the spring quarter, the students, who also work with urban planning faculty mentors, prepare their presentations for clients.

“It’s an intensive course,” Collins said. “We spend the first quarter looking at research design and research methods, how to write a literature review, how to conduct research. And we look at different ways of writing a policy report, or writing something that’s a little bit more focused.”

The projects can be based in Los Angeles or elsewhere, and may be with a planning firm, public agency or a nonprofit group. “UCLA has a reputation in the City of Los Angeles, so a number of organizations actually put their name in the hat and say: ‘We want a student from the master’s program to work with us. This is the problem or the research need that we have. And if there’s a student in the group that meets that, we would love to have them on board.’”

The reports and accompanying posters may also serve as a pathway to a job, Collins said, demonstrating to potential employers that “this is the knowledge and expertise that I have — this is what I am capable of doing as a planner.”

Alumnus David De Rosa MURP ’10, who works as a senior urban and transportation planner in Los Angeles, served as an evaluator for the projects. De Rosa said he was impressed by the quality of the posters, which seem to improve each year. “It’s an important skill in urban planning to communicate a complex issue in a simple way to be understood,” he said.

One example was “Planes, Trains, and Storm Drains: The Effects of Transportation Infrastructure on Water Runoff in Los Angeles County,” a project examining the region’s many transportation modes. Student Aviv Kleinman, whose client is the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), looked at ways the county can recapture storm water, and at policies that can be more sustainable.

“Water is precious,” Kleinman said. “Even though we had a really wet year this year we’re certainly going to be facing drought in the future. We already know what that’s like and it’s really important to recharge the ground water.”

Caitlin Dawson’s project, “Turning the Blue Line Green: Implementing Green Places along Metro’s Blue Line,” is designed to help Los Angeles County Metro implement sustainable projects along pathways. Dawson wants to improve the experience for people on bikes and on foot who commute to transit centers. Solving this so-called “first last mile” problem will involve partnerships with communities, she said.

“Basically, what I’ve been looking at is how they can implement them through ‘tactical urbanism,’” Dawson said. “That’s a way to implement projects that are short term, and kind of try out strategies to see if it’s a long-term thing a community might want to do. It’s coordinating with a lot of community stakeholders.”

Among the faculty touring the displays was Vinit Mukjiha, chair of urban planning.

“I enjoyed seeing how our students were able to address real-world challenges and practical planning problems through sophisticated research projects,” said Mukhija, who also served as a student project adviser. “Their work was a good representation of both the range of challenges planners face and the wide array of research methods available to help address them.”

He also noted the interaction of current and future students.

“It was also nice to see the exchange of ideas between graduating second-year students, first-year students who are getting ready to think about their capstone projects, and admitted students who are raring to start their professional studies,” Mukhija said.

In other welcome day events, the UCLA Luskin’s Department of Social Welfare hosted newly admitted students at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom on the same day. And the Department of Public Policy welcomed its admitted students on Monday, April 10, 2017, with a full slate of activities.

Prospective students for all three departments had the opportunity to tour the UCLA campus and hear from current students about the Luskin experience. They also were offered the opportunity to sit in on alumni panels and learn about student groups and resources, from financial aid to alumni services.

UCLA Researchers Seek Juvenile Justice Alternatives for Children Under 12 UC study indicates that a minimum-age standard is needed to protect California children from prosecution in the juvenile court system

By Stan Paul

Dr. Elizabeth Barnert, left, and Laura Abrams. Photo by George Foulsham

Although Laura Abrams and Dr. Elizabeth Barnert come from opposite ends of the UCLA campus, their work in their respective academic professions meets at the intersection of health and juvenile justice.

A recent University of California study led by Abrams, professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, offers a powerful rationale for shielding children 11 years old and younger from prosecution and incarceration in the state’s juvenile justice system.

“Children in the juvenile justice system literally meet the definition of children with special health care needs,” said Barnert, who worked with Abrams as members of a team affiliated with the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium. Prior to their study, which was recently published in International Journal of Prisoner Health, the issue in California was not on anyone’s radar, they said.

“Kids in conflict with the law are kids that typically have unmet health needs. We see a lot of undiagnosed depression, ADHD and learning disabilities — or absentee parents who can’t support their children due to working three jobs, deportation, imprisonment or substance abuse,” Barnert said. “When we prosecute these children or lock them away, we’re putting them in a system that traumatizes them further and often makes their problems worse.”

The UCLA study brought together UC experts from social welfare, medicine, psychology and psychiatry, law and criminology, as well as community partners from organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the National Center for Youth Law.

“Our findings provide a rationale for why California should have a minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system and why children 11 and younger should be excluded,” Barnert said. “The study recommendations are based on international human rights standards, guidelines from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatricians, and medical evidence that children’s brains do not fully mature until their mid-20s.”

Added Abrams: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has established a standard on children in conflict with the law. The convention states that every country should have a minimum age of criminal responsibility, or what we refer to as a minimum age of juvenile justice jurisdiction. The United States does not have this type of law at the federal level, however, so it is up to the states to determine.”

Abrams pointed out that protections for minors already built into current state law are based on the capacity or the intent to commit a crime, as well as the competency to stand trial. California’s 58 counties, however, set many of their own juvenile probation standards. Therefore, “there’s no way to insure, without a minimum-age law, that state laws around capacity and competency are being implemented fairly and without geographic or racial disparities. There is no statewide oversight of these mechanisms for protecting children,” Abrams said.

Findings and recommendations from the UC study and related policy briefs prepared by the researchers include:

  • Children should be held less culpable under criminal law, given their expected developmental immaturity, as repeatedly recognized in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  • Children have a diminished capacity to make intentional decisions regarding participation in crimes or to understand that an act was morally wrong.
  • Children have less developed abilities to understand court proceedings and meaningfully participate, emotionally or cognitively, in working with attorneys to wage their own defense.

California currently has no law that specifies a minimum age for prosecuting and imprisoning minors. But a new state senate bill, SB 439, which incorporates the research and recommendations in the UC study, would change that by amending sections 601 and 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code related to juvenile court jurisdiction. In particular, the bill would substitute current references to “any person under 18 years of age” with language specifying individuals “ages 12 to 18.”

In its first hearing on April 4, the senate’s committee on public safety passed the bill, which was then referred to the senate appropriations committee, the next step in the legislative process. The bill is part of a package of criminal justice reform bills put forth by the legislators in March.

Proposed amendments and revisions to SB 439 can be found online.

Deportation, Loss of Health Care Raise Profound Concerns in New UCLA Luskin Survey Second annual Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index shows how some of the Trump administration’s policies have caused serious concerns for many county residents

By George Foulsham

Zev Yaroslavsky

More than one-third of Los Angeles County residents are worried that they, a family member or a friend will be deported from the United States, and nearly half of county residents believe that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new federal health law would make their access to health care worse.

These two major findings highlight the 2017 UCLA Luskin Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in partnership with the California Endowment. The annual survey, which is in its second year, is based on interviews conducted with about 1,600 county residents from Feb. 28 to March 12, 2017.

The index is an annual survey of Los Angeles county residents that asks them questions to rate their quality of life in nine different categories. In addition to the categorized questions, the survey also asks specific standalone questions that relate to their quality of life. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.

In one noteworthy finding, 37 percent of county residents are worried about deportation from
the U.S., and more than half of them are very worried. Of respondents who expressed
deportation worries, an overwhelming 80 percent said that they, a friend or a family member
would be at greater risk of being deported by enrolling in a government health, education or
housing program. More than half of them are very worried.

“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “The national debate on immigration in
recent months has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now
fear engaging local government for services should be of concern to all of us.”

Those observations are reflected in follow-up interviews conducted by the Luskin School. A man
in his early 30s who lives in the San Fernando Valley and is half-Latino said he worried for his
girlfriend’s family, most of whom are in the country legally but one of whom is not. “I wouldn’t
even call the police,” he said.

These concerns are not limited to minority groups. Another respondent, a white woman in her
late 50s who lives in the South Bay, said she’s concerned about neighbors and others being
deported. “I hear from a lot of people who are afraid,” she said.

Significant findings on deportation worries include:

  • Younger residents are more worried about deportation (50 percent between the ages of
    18-39, compared to 25 percent of those over 50).
  • Latinos, who make up 43 percent of the survey sample, are the most concerned about
    deportation (56 percent) and nearly one-third of Asian residents are worried (31
    percent).
  • Lower-income residents are more likely to be worried (49 percent of those earning less
    than $30,000 annually, compared to 30 percent of those earning over $120,000
    annually).
  • Residents born in another country (52 percent) are more worried, compared to U.S.-
    born (30 percent). Twenty-nine percent of the survey sample are foreign born.
    Nearly one-fifth of whites (19 percent) expressed concerns about deportation.

Obamacare Concerns

Nearly half of survey respondents said that repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, would
make their access to quality medical care worse. Forty-eight percent of respondents said
replacing the ACA would worsen their access to care, while 14 percent said the repeal would
improve access. Thirty percent said it would make no difference. The survey was taken before
the Trump administration and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the decision to withdraw
legislation that sought to repeal the ACA with the American Health Care Act.

Follow-up interviews bear out these findings. A young African-American man living in the San
Gabriel Valley thinks Obamacare could use some improvement, but “it’s better than what we
had.” He added that he had no confidence in the Trump/Ryan proposal to replace it.

Significant findings on the ACA’s repeal and replacement include:

  • Younger residents are more likely to say that changes would negatively impact them (58
    percent between the ages of 18-39, compared to 32 percent of those older than 50).
  • Those with Medi-Cal or an ACA insurance policy are more likely to say changes would
    negatively impact them (59 percent).
  • A significant majority of African-Americans (63 percent) and Latinos (56 percent) say
    changes would negatively impact them.

Gentrification

The gentrification of many Los Angeles County communities also is a cause for concern,
according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of those contacted said they have a negative reaction
to the displacement of their neighbors by those who are willing to pay more for housing. Only 19
percent viewed this as positive. And the number went up to 57 percent negative among those
who were asked about community-serving shops and stores being replaced by businesses willing
to pay higher rents.

Sixty-five percent of Latinos and African-Americans viewed gentrification as negative, compared
to 43 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asians. Geographically, 68 percent of residents of
Central Los Angeles viewed gentrification negatively.

The Index

Interestingly, the QLI’s overall satisfaction score of 59 remained the same as last year, though
there were some shifts within various categories. The score remained slightly above the
midpoint of 55 (on a scale of 10-100). Overall satisfaction, according to the QLI, depends a lot on
one’s age. Those in the 18-29 age group had a satisfaction score of 53, at the low end of the scale,
while those who are 75 and older had the highest satisfaction score, 67.

That’s true throughout the survey, with younger residents the least satisfied overall in many
categories, including the cost of housing, educational opportunities and the fairness of the local
economy.

Other highlights from the index:

  • Transportation and traffic scores are lower this year, driven in part by the condition of
    streets and the length of commutes.
  • Satisfaction with the cost of living, especially as it relates to housing, also declined from
    last year, from 51 to 47. That was true among residents from all income groups. Nearly
    half of the respondents (48 percent) said that what they paid for housing was the most
    important factor in their rating of the cost of living category.
  • The scores for education also dropped slightly from 2016, with respondents expressing
    lower satisfaction with the overall quality of K-12 public education and the training
    children and young adults receive for jobs of the future.
  • The most positive score in the QLI was in race relations. Overall satisfaction in relations
    among different ethnic and racial groups rose to 79, compared to 76 last year.
    Asked to rank the overall impact that immigrants are having on this region, the
    satisfaction rating was four points higher than last year, at 69.
  • Satisfaction with neighborhood quality was also high — and unchanged from last year, at
    75. Homeowners are more satisfied with their neighborhoods than are renters.
    Health care continues to have a relatively high level of satisfaction, though those under
    age 39 are less satisfied than those over 50.
  • Other categories showing slight improvement included the environment, jobs and the
    economy.

“Overall, county residents generally feel positive about their quality of life, the communities in
which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said. “However, it is troubling
that younger people, who should have so much to look forward to, often feel most pessimistic,
especially when it comes to the excruciatingly high cost of housing.”

The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin, Metz & Associates.

Download the 2017 QLI (PDF)

 

 

 Review the data (PDF)

 

Summary Narrative (PDF)

 

 

A History Lesson for the President Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis closes out his annual winter teaching job at UCLA Luskin with a roundtable discussion on the country’s future — and past

By Zev Hurwitz

As the presidency of Donald Trump enters its third month, former Massachusetts governor and Democratic candidate for president Michael Dukakis says he’s seen this before.

At an annual luncheon held in his honor, Dukakis shared his thoughts on the current state of American politics at a roundtable discussion with Luskin faculty and staff.

Dukakis began his discussion of the Trump Administration by drawing a parallel between Trump and Edward J. King, Dukakis’s challenger in the 1978 gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts.

“This guy came out of nowhere, using the same kind of approach and appeal that Trump has,” Dukakis said. “Fortunately, we do have a political system that tends to respond over time very wisely.”

Dukakis teaches courses each winter quarter at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs — a post he’s kept for 21 years. This year, he taught a graduate level course on Institutional Leadership and Public Management.

Public Policy Department Chair Mark A. Peterson introduced Dukakis at the farewell luncheon on March 16, 2017, noting that this year’s installment of the luncheon had an added element of a full roundtable discussion.

“We always have our regular conversation where Mike offers various insight. This time I gave him homework,” said Peterson, who asked Dukakis to frame his conversation around the initial impact on American politics of the Trump administration.

“At this moment in time in the United States, we’re experiencing an unusual model of executive governance and legislative leadership,” Peterson said. “I wanted to ask Mike, who has experienced a lot in that kind of role, to give us kind of a master class.”

Dukakis discussed his take on a variety of policy issues the Trump administration will likely tackle, and expressed his concern over the president’s ability to handle foreign policy issues.

“If he can tell me what we’re doing in Syria, let me know,” he said. “It seems like a mindless running around — where are we going?”

Dukakis, a Democrat, also shared his thoughts regarding the state of the Democratic Party, which controls neither the presidency nor Congress.

“My party’s got to start getting its act together,” he said, noting that he had faith in newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. “I think he [Perez] clearly understands that we’ve got to get off this red-blue narrative … this has got to be a 50-state push.”

When asked about his thoughts on President Trump’s ability to govern, given the current structure and membership of the White House staff, Dukakis referred to a quote from longtime friend Gordon Chase, former administrator of New York City’s Health Services Administration.

“He used to say ‘There are three important things in leadership for the public sector: people, people and people,’” Dukakis said. “So much of this has to do with quality and caliber and political skill of the folks you surround yourself with. This guy has got a bunch of characters who are clearly at each other’s throats for reasons I don’t quite understand.”

Among the most concerning for Dukakis is the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, whose rhetoric on immigration comes off as hypocritical, Dukakis said.

“If any ethnic group in this country ought to understand what it’s like to be a reviled immigrant community, it’d be the Irish, because they were,” he said, pointing out Bannon’s Irish heritage. “Working class anti-Catholics won every office in Massachusetts in the 1850s in the Know-Nothing party. Sound familiar?”

Dukakis went on to note that the “competent” parts of the administration were coming from the “more conventional” politicos and Washington insiders on the president’s team, including military leadership.

Honored for Contributions to Gerontology and Geriatrics Education UCLA Luskin adjunct professor emerita JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez is recognized as a leading educator in the field of aging

By Stan Paul

JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez, adjunct professor emerita of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has become the first UCLA faculty member to receive the Clark Tibbitts Award from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE).

Damron-Rodriguez received the 2017 award, which is given each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of gerontology and geriatrics education, at the Washington, D.C.-based AGHE’s annual meeting held March 10, 2017, in Miami. The award honors Clark Tibbetts (1903-1985) as an architect of the field of gerontological education.

AGHE, which has bestowed the award annually since 1981, is dedicated to education, training and research programs in the field of aging, and counts more than 160 institutional members throughout the United States, Canada and abroad.

In accepting the award, Damron-Rodriguez, a licensed clinical social worker who earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in social welfare at UCLA, delivered a lecture titled, “Gerontology: Cultural Change, Competence and Creativity.”

“Gerontologists are taking the lead worldwide to build, with our communities, the future of purposeful living for the 50-plus population,” said Damron-Rodriguez, who has previously received UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She is a federally appointed member of the Veteran’s Health Administration Gerontology and Geriatrics Advisory Committee.

Regulating the Unmanned Skies UCLA Luskin public policy expert John Villasenor testifies before a U.S. Senate committee about drones, privacy and legislation

By Stan Paul

John Villasenor

John Villasenor, professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, told a U.S. Senate committee that Congress might want to consider a deliberate approach to any attempts to legislate the use of unmanned aircraft.

He testified on March 15, 2017, before the full U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation chaired by U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), on issues related to unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.

Villasenor, who also holds UCLA faculty appointments in engineering, management and law, was among a group of witnesses who were representing government and industry interests. The witnesses included the director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Members of the Senate committee were briefed on a wide range of issues that will affect the emerging technology as legislation catches up with innovations to and applications for the hundreds of thousands of unmanned aircraft systems — commonly known as drones — already in in the hands of individuals, commercial interests and government agencies.

Focusing on privacy aspects of drones, Villasenor cautioned the committee that while unmanned aircraft can potentially be used to gather information in ways that violate privacy, this does not mean that new federal unmanned aircraft privacy legislation is immediately needed or should quickly be put in place.

“Rather, the key question is: Do unmanned aircraft put privacy at risk in ways that fall outside the scope of existing constitutional, statutory and common law privacy protections?” asked Villasenor. “There are good reasons to believe that the answer to that question is ‘no.’ As a result, I think it is premature to enact broad new federal legislation specifically directed to unmanned aircraft privacy.”

He further explained that while limiting unmanned aircraft in obtaining and using information, “It is far harder to do so in a manner that is consistent with the full scope of the First Amendment.” At the same time, he commented that unintended consequences of legislation are especially heightened in areas where rapidly changing technology and privacy intersect, such as autonomous vehicles, location-aware smartphone applications and “always-on” devices with audio and video capabilities.

Other witnesses testified about the variety of issues to be considered, including limiting drone technology for use in agriculture, air traffic safety, infrastructure inspection and protection, and as critical tools in saving lives in natural disasters and search and rescue efforts.

Villasenor, while recommending restraint, concluded the hearing by stressing that Congress still has a vital role in addressing the challenges of emerging technologies. He urged dialogue among lawmakers, regulators, consumers, the commercial sector and civil liberties groups, so all parties can gain a better understanding of the issues.

“Part of that role involves identifying where existing legal frameworks are working well and where they are falling short,” Villasenor said. “Part of that role involves knowing when not to legislate. And part of that role involves enacting carefully targeted legislation at the right time.”

After his appearance before the Senate panel, Villasenor said he was grateful to have the opportunity to testify.

“Congressional hearings provide a very important opportunity to contribute to the dialog regarding today’s complex policy questions,” he said. “I appreciated the chance to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on the privacy challenges being raised by rapidly changing technologies.”

In addition to the archived webcast, the full written testimony of Villasenor and the other witnesses may be found online.

‘It’s About Changing the Paradigm’ On ‘A Day Without a Woman,’ the Department of Urban Planning creates space for reflection and dialogue about women’s history, gender and equality

By Stan Paul

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

A century ago, the great-grandmother of UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris faced raising and educating her children alone. She and her family had been expelled from Russia following the 1917 revolution, losing their property, and Loukaitou-Sideris told those gathered at an open forum to mark “A Day Without a Woman” that her great-grandfather died on the journey to Greece.

Her great-grandmother persevered, raising one of the first women in the labor force in Greece, Loukaitou-Sideris’ grandmother, who soon was “climbing the ladder” on her way to becoming a manager in the Greek railway system.

Loukaitou-Sideris credits her family, especially her father, with supporting her decision as a young woman to find her own path in the United States, where her academic and professional aspirations led to her becoming a professor of urban planning at UCLA and also the university’s associate provost for academic planning.

“I was a lucky one,” said Loukaitou-Sideris at the March 9, 2017, dialogue for students, faculty and staff at the Luskin School in observance of International Women’s Day.

Other participants shared their own perspectives, recognizing women who had influenced their lives. Attendees also talked about ongoing equality issues and how to break down gender barriers that continue to exist. With gratitude, they recognized the strength, struggle, and perseverance of female role models in advancing women’s rights in society and the workplace.

“I’m here to show solidarity with my fellow women and celebrate the role we play in society,” said Leilah Moeinsadeh, a first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student.

Michael Lens

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, added, “I think of … things that women have to deal with that I don’t have to deal with, things my position and status as a man have exempted me from. So, it’s important to reflect on how to treat people, particularly women, with the respect they deserve.”

Lens said much of his life and career have been shaped disproportionately by women in positive ways, explaining that he grew up with his mother in a single-parent household. Mentors, advisers and supervisors in and out of academia — many of them women – “have shaped my career in ways I never expected,” he said.

Joan Ling, lecturer in urban planning, pointed out that challenges remain. “Today reminds me of all the work ahead of us,” she said. “It’s not enough, because it’s not about women being equal to men. It’s about changing the paradigm about how we look at power and influence.”

Ling, a graduate of the urban planning master’s program, added, “And, [it’s about] using different metrics to measure our ability to have control over our lives and live a just life.”

Day Without a Woman from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

Ling’s grandmother — raised in China during a time when young girls’ feet were bound to stunt growth — was “crippled because her feet were bound into 4-inch stumps when she was a child.” Ling’s mother didn’t go to school because at that time it was not considered important for a girl to be educated. “I want those things to change,” Ling said. “But beyond that — equality and education and opportunities — it’s really redefining how we run the world.”

The discussion also covered political issues such as gender-neutral restroom legislation across the nation and the day-to-day challenges of being a mother and keeping up with the requirements of a Ph.D. program. Other topics included the logic of planning buildings to include lactation rooms in the workplace, as well as discussion of housing, jobs, women of color, transgender women and the role of students in dismantling barriers.

“An international day of recognition is a great way to ignite conversation, but something as important as gender equality should not be designated to a discussion once a year, it must be ongoing,” said Alexis Oberlander, urban planning graduate adviser, who helped organize the event and served as moderator. “I was excited by the ideas the students presented, and I hope those ideas invigorate more dialogue and action.”