The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) is a research, policy, and advocacy, organization at Occidental College committed to bringing about social change and a more just, livable and green society. UEPI engages students, faculty, and staff at its home on Oxy’s campus and connects Oxy with its community partners in Los Angeles and beyond.
Thursday, November 11, 2016
“A Fierce New Kind of Electoral Politics”
Danielle Raskin, Senior, Urban & Environmental Policy Department, Occidental College, Class of 2017
For those of us who study electoral politics and have felt frustrated by it for a long time, many obvious answers float to the surface. The Democratic Party, which once stood for the working-class, women, the elderly, the disabled, women, people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community, has largely abandoned those at the bottom of the economic totem pole for the last 25 years. In an attempt to better align with the moneyed interests that have come to define American democracy and capture more moderate voters as the Republicans shifted to the right, the Democratic party has left large swaths of once-reliably Democratic voters in the dust (as illustrated by Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin). The populism that energized so many in the Democratic primary to support Senator Bernie Sanders was used instead to elect a right-wing populist with authoritarian tendencies. The political establishment, on both sides of the aisle, were so concerned with maintaining their own power that they tried squashing the populism that emerged in the primaries. However, only the Democrats were successful in their efforts, and instead of using the powerful force of populism to win the Presidency, dismissed it and left it for the Republicans. Many voters who were so disenchanted with the status quo opted to vote for change, for something different, for anything but the establishment politics of the last decade.
All of this is to say that an utter electoral failure like this means that politics as usual is no longer going to cut it. Now more than ever we need a fierce new kind of electoral politics that brings into the fold those who feel disenchanted, excluded, and left behind from the political system. We will disagree on the way to achieve this, whether to work within the Democratic party, start an entirely new party, or do something in between (as will be discussed in this paper), but there is no longer any ignoring the necessity of the challenge at hand. While the Republican Party will likely coalesce around and adhere to the new direction of president-elect Donald Trump, the left must similarly transform in order to engage with the issues most pressing to the electorate and emerge as the party of the people. The issues of economic insecurity, terror, and corruption that were the core of the Trump campaign are issues that resonate deeply in this country. The job of the left from this day forward should be to address those painful issues, and to propose solutions that do not pit fellow Americans against each other through white supremacy, xenophobia and sexism, and as the right has, but to lay a new vision for for a country and an economy that works for all.
This election may have been an earthquake, but the mountains that have formed as a result are simply new summits to mount-- we must not just stare in awe at their grandeur, but pack our gear and prepare for the journey ahead.
The task at hand, quite simply, is how American democracy can be made to represent and reflect the the diversity of the American electorate rather than one of establishment elites who represent only their own interests. While there are many ways to tackle this issue, this paper will explore how third parties can become more influential and build power in American politics at the state, local, and to a lesser degree, federal level. With the Presidency and both houses of Congress in GOP hands, the left must now turn politics at the state and local level as terrain for change. Luckily, these places are much more fertile ground for third-party efforts than federal elections.
October, 2016 | UEPI study shows UC workers going hungry
Study Shows Thousands of UC Administrative, Clerical, and Support Staff Go Hungry Due to Low Wages
At a press conference held in Oakland on Monday, October 17, UEPI researchers Peter Dreier and Megan Bomba along with collaborators Teamsters Local 2010 released findings about food insecurity among workers in the UC System. Based on a survey of UC clerical, administrative and support staff employees the study found that over 70% are food insecure with 45% of workers going hungry from skipping meals and reduced food intake because of a lack of resources. The UC employees suffer from food insecurity at a rate five times the national average.
The study comes months after an earlier report showed that one in five students across the 10-campus UC system had gone hungry over the past year.
“I'm well aware that many Californians don't know where their next meal is coming from, but I was nevertheless surprised to find that 70% of the University of California's full-time administrative, clerical and support employees suffer from food insecurity. As the state's fourth largest employer, UC should be an engine for good jobs and economic growth, not poverty-level wages. “ said Peter Dreier, professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and one of the report's co-authors. “Unfortunately, our study discovered that the University of California has become a public sector version of Walmart. From both a moral and a common sense perspective, that is simply unacceptable."
"While the results of this survey are staggering, ultimately they are not so surprising given the radically increasing cost of living in California, and the competing costs of rent, healthcare, and other basic needs. Food security, and a family's ability to meet its basic needs, is about so much more than just access to food or income. There are so many other financial burdens that families must bear, and the results of this survey show how often food is the area that families have to compromise on." said Megan Bomba, a Project Director at UEPI and co-author of the report.
The study also showed that 80% of food insecure respondents had to make the difficult decision between buying food and paying for rent or utilities with one out of four having to make that decision every month. About 60% said they have had to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care.
“This study presents a picture of food insecurity among UC employees much higher than anyone expected. In reviewing the final question “Is there any additional regarding cost of living, pay and food?" the responses were heartbreaking. Many shared stories of skipping meals so their children could eat well, or of making the hard choice between buying medication or groceries, and many shared that they reluctantly receive food assistance via Cal Fresh, food banks or relatives. It is simply unacceptable that full time workers at the University of California, many with degrees from the UC, are facing food insecurity and hunger at this level.” Said Rosa Romero, a Project Director at UEPI at Occidental College and one of the report's co-authors.
The response rate for the survey was more than 21%, with 2,890 University of California administrative, clerical, and support staff participating.
The Urban and Environmental Policy Institute of Occidental College authored the report with the cooperation of Teamsters Local 2010 who represents 14,000 critical support staff and skilled trades workers at University of California. The study utilized the six-item food security questions developed by the US Department of Agriculture which were used in the University’s recent survey on student hunger. UEPI is an applied research institute at Occidental College that promotes programs and policies that’s advance equity and social and environmental justice. This food security study is the most recent research, focused on how workers and communities experience food insecurity and organize for food justice.
The full report can be assessed here
The LA Times article can be found here
August 2016 | UEPI's Summer Public Health Internship wraps up a 4th successful year!
Three interns spent 10-weeks this summer learning by doing at health organizations in Los Angeles. Anna Warrick (2017, UEP) worked on care coordination and resource finding at ChapCare, a community health center in Pasadena; Jessica Shiosaki (2018, Biochemistry) interned with the Client Services Department at Foothill Unity Center where she worked with case managers to serve the social service and health needs of low-income community members, and plan for back to school events; and Eva Townsend (2018, Spanish major) interned at the MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) Clinic. One of her projects was to develop health education bulletin boards in the clinic waiting room. Eva (right) is pictured next to the boards with CSUN public health intern Kaitlin Day (left). Says Elizabeth Diaz, Assistant Clinic Manager, "It is because of interns like Eva and Kaitlin that the MEND Clinic is able to offer services to uninsured and under-served residents."
July 2016 | School Food Champions, Organizing for Change
From 2014 to 2016 UEPI's Healthy School Food Coalition mobilized a diverse coalition of community members and groups to continue advocating for healthy school food and nutrition policy at local schools in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles. Through case studies HSFC's new publication, "School Food Champions, Organizing for Change," highlights community work, shares lessons learned and recommendations of how others can work towards policy enforcement and improvement of school food, as well as school eating environments.
May 2016 | Crude LA: California's Urban Oil Fields
Learn about the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak and the health concerns of the local community. Produced by VICE NEWS, the video discusses the environmental health risks of urban oil fields and regulatory loopholes in California. Bhavna Shamasunder, Oxy professor and UEPI staff member, is featured in the video.
April 2016 | MFN members meet US EPA Administrator McCarthy
On April 5th fourteen Moving Forward Network members from across the country met with US EPA Administrator McCarthy in Washington, D.C. These members came from Southern California, the Bay Area, Houston Texas, Kansas City, Kansas, Charleston, South Carolina, Tallahassee, Florida and New Jersey. Each of their communities is negatively impacted by freight facilities such as sea ports, truck corridors, rail yards, logistic centers or a combination of these. Freight operations emit deadly diesel exhaust that destroys the health of exposed communities while also contributing to global climate change. Working with the US Environmental Protection Agency has been a challenge. However, with the leadership of Administrator Gina McCarthy we are making some progress and expect to have a good outcome.
February 2016 | Zika virus fact sheet in English and Spanish
Responding to the need for community based information about the Zika virus, interns from the UEP 307 Public Health Practicum class have partnered with staff from the MEND Clinic, a practicum partner site to develop a fact sheet in Spanish and English. "Como evitar los mosquitos que puede transmitir la Zika" and "How to avoid mosquitoes that can spread the Zika virus" can be downloaded for distribution by following the links below. Please contact UEPI's Community Health Engagement staff with any questions.
December 2015 | School Food Convening on Feb. 10, 2016
The convening will be a great opportunity to:
- Learn more about school food policies and best practices
- Support efforts to improve the health and well-being of students
- Build your advocacy skills
- Network with other organizations focused on health and wellness in the greater Los Angeles area
- The federal school nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, increase access to nutritious food for children. Nutritious school meals not only have a positive impact on student health but also academic achievement. Healthy diets are critical for reducing obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes.
- Over 2 million low-income students in California participate in the National School Lunch Program. Over 560,000 of these children are in Los Angeles County and over 190,000 reside in each of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. (See State & County Profiles. link)
- Ensuring school meals are nutritious and accessible helps to ensure that California kids are healthy and successful!
Organizations and individuals interested in:
- Learning more about school food programs and policy and their impact on student health and academic achievement.
- Building advocacy skills – learning how to build support around an issue or policy.
- Taking action to improve the health and well-being of students, their families and the community.
- Networking with other organizations in the greater Los Angeles area.
- Anyone passionate about student wellness and nutrition!
We would like to extend a special invitation to organizations partnering with or working within Boyle Heights, Central Santa Ana, Long Beach, and South Los Angeles Building Healthy Communities sites. link
How much does the convening cost?
This convening is free of charge and lunch will be provided! Please RSVP. link
November 2015 | Fighting diet related disease by choosing water over sugary drinks
UEPI is in its third year of participating in Choose Health LA: an initiative of the LA County Department of Public Health aimed at improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, and reducing obesity across the LA region. California has the highest rates of obesity among children ages 2-4, and these rates are disproportionately high among Latino and African-American children.
“Water: The Healthiest Choice” is a campaign launched by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It is aimed at parents and focuses on providing simple, straightforward information about soda, sports and juice drinks and their link to obesity and type 2 diabetes. The multilingual media campaign encourages parents to give their children water and remove sugary drinks from their diet. You can already see campaign materials at bus stops, metro stations, and other advertising locations throughout the city, and UEPI staff will be promoting the campaign in the Northeast LA region.
October 2015 | UEPI and the National Farm to School Network celebrate Farm to School Month!
Great interview with Anupama Joshi, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network and former UEPI staff member.
Watch a short documentary on the scholarship and policy work of Prof. Bob Gottlieb:
July 2015 | Long time UEPI/Oxy community partner, James Rojas, received the California’s Planning Advocate Award of Excellence for 2015. James has led numerous workshops for the Oxy community and communities throughout the country, inspiring people to think about planning "through the medium of their own livedexperiences, memories, and imagination." We look forward to working with James this August as he kicks off the OxyEngage Social Justice trip with PLACE IT! Congratulations James!
May 2015 | Moving Forward Network Action at the NEJAC meeting in San Diego, CA
November 2014 | On November 12, 2014, Occidental College Professor of Urban and Environment Policy Robert Gottlieb was the recipient of the Graham L. Sterling Award, the College's most prestigious faculty honor. Watch his acceptance lecture below!
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