Category: government

Can Data Build a Better L.A. Government?

CHRISTOPHER WEARE, research associate professor, USC Price School of Public Policy, and JULIET ANN MUSSO, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 21.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled the first specifics of his plan to modernize the city’s sprawling bureaucracy, posting on his website some of the metrics by which he intends to hold city departments accountable for delivering services. They include such measurements as Fire Department response times and speed of graffiti removal and pothole repair.

The mayor’s attempt to improve performance is certainly timely. A recent USC Price/L.A. Times poll found that Angelenos want better services. For example, more than 60% of respondents were dissatisfied with the state of street repair in the city. But metrics and data collection alone won’t solve the city’s problems. Garcetti will also need to transform the culture of city government and convince city workers that the changes will stick.

Property Owners Get a New Legal Weapon

ROBERT BRIDGES, clinical professor of finance and business economics, USC’s Marshall School of Business

This op-ed originally appeared at Forbes on July 2.

Nearly unnoticed among the marquee decisions by this year’s Supreme Court session is Koontz v. St. John’s Water Management District. The decision granted the plaintiff the right to sue a governmental agency that required a payment – or ‘exaction’ – for public facilities miles away from his property as a contingency for approval of a building permit.

The headlines the morning after the decision heralded the ‘bolstering of property rights,’ but it’s doubly ironic that the integrity of rights in real property have been so badly eroded that it would take an act by the highest court of the land to simply grant the right of an individual to challenge a clearly confiscatory act, and that other forms of exactions – unforced, implied, or provided voluntarily – are an unfortunate but normal part of today’s real estate development process.

How to Slow L.A.’s Rising Rents

RAPHAEL BOSTIC, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance, Price School.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 4.

Los Angeles, a city where 63.1% of residents rent their homes, is in the midst of a crisis in rental housing.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development laid out the stark facts. Los Angeles rents have increased, after adjusting for inflation, by nearly 30% over the last 20 years. During the same period, renter incomes have decreased by 6%.

One important part of the problem is an inadequate supply of affordable rental units. Only 37 units are available and affordable for every 100 would-be renters living at the average renter income level.

A Ramp Away From the Fiscal Cliff

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor of law, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on Nov. 30.

America’s fiscal policy faces an apparent Hobson’s choice. On the one hand, we need to tame federal deficit spending by imposing new across-the-board spending cuts and higher taxes. We are told that if we do not act on this soon, the debt markets will choke on the overabundance of government debt issued to fund those deficits, causing interest rates to climb. As a result, businesses and homeowners will be unable to borrow on reasonable terms, which will lead to a slowdown of the economy.

A Hail Mary to Save Proposition 30

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Since the day he took office, Gov. Jerry Brown has been on a crusade to convince Californians that he is not just fiscally responsible but downright stingy. During his first week as governor, he ordered thousands of state workers to give up their government-issued cellphones. Since then, he has negotiated to rein in pensions for public employees, initiated welfare reforms that were included in the last budget and bragged about his preference for flying Read more →

Can a Legislature Run by California Democrats Clean Up the Mess

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, fellow, USC Price School of Public Policy, and DOUGLAS JEFFE.

This op-ed originally appeared at Reuters.

California is on the verge of becoming a one-party state — but policy gridlock isn’t going anywhere soon.

Democrats now hold all the statewide offices and have a shot Tuesday at achieving two-thirds majorities in the Legislature. Yet they are far from being able to unilaterally resolve California’s fiscal logjam.

For the past decade, California’s fiscal picture has been awash in red ink, legislative stalemates, borrowing and a lot of budgetary gimmickry. Three governors in a row, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, hit a stone wall in trying to resolve the state’s structural deficit—the imbalance between ongoing spending and available tax revenues — that has persisted in

The Self-Loathing Congress

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared at Politico.

We’ve become accustomed to the fact that the American people don’t like Congress. But what happens when even Congress doesn’t like Congress anymore?

Answer: They go home. Members of Congress are so fed up with gridlock, they are leaving the body in droves. In the past four years alone, almost two dozen incumbents have thrown up their hands and decided not to seek reelection, a number that is unprecedented in modern political history. Over the past three decades, this rate of departure is almost double that which we have seen over any other four-year period.

The Medicare Disadvantage

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center, ADAM LEIVE, graduate student at University of Pennsylvania and DANIEL MCFADDEN, senior fellow, Schaeffer Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the New York Times.

One question at the center of the Medicare debate is whether private insurance companies have a future role to play in the huge federal program. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal gives private health plans a starring role in the form of a voucher program. But some economists would give them the hook, citing the failure of Medicare Advantage to control costs. Some perspective is in order.

Medicare Advantage has historically cost 7 to 12 percent more than traditional Medicare, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. But to conclude that this cost difference proves that private health plans have no place in Medicare misreads the Medicare Advantage experience in an important way: It ignores the decisive role that government has played in driving up the program’s costs. Medicare Advantage is only partly about reducing costs. It is also designed to increase choice for beneficiaries. And the incentives that government gives private health plans to expand choice end up undercutting efforts to save money.

The Truth Could Set Them Free

DAN SIMON, professor of law and psychology, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Stripping people of their liberty or life is one of the most solemn tasks exercised by liberal democracies. Yet, bizarrely, the American criminal-justice system pays too little regard to the factual accuracy of its verdicts.

Consider the steady trickle of exonerations, which occur at a rate few observers would have predicted not long ago. The recently launched National Registry of Exonerations lists the details of 989 exonerees since 1989, and the Innocence Project reports on 300 convicted inmates who have been exonerated based on DNA testing alone. (An additional group of 1,170 defendants have been exonerated in 13 “group exonerations” that followed major police scandals.) No doubt, the actual number of false convictions is much higher.

Making Universities and Colleges More Military Friendly

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, Schools of Education and Social Work

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Relations between academia and the military services are not known for their cordiality. The flash point was the Vietnam War. Campuses across the country were incubators of the anti-war movement and arenas for major protests. Many units of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were shut down, especially at the Ivies. More recently, the government’s “Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell” policy for gays was a source of friction at some universities.