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USC Price faculty advises Garcetti on policy issues

by Matthew Kredell
The meeting held this summer gave the mayor an academic perspective on policy issues during his transition into office.
The meeting held this summer gave the mayor an academic perspective on policy issues during his transition into office.

Representatives from the USC Price School of Public Policy took part in a meeting of policy experts advising Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on ways to improve city services and make City Hall more approachable.

Eric Schockman, adjunct associate professor at USC Price, helped to organize the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours on June 25, to give Garcetti an academic perspective on policy issues during his transition into office. USC Price faculty Lisa Schweitzer and Chris Weare, along with PhD student Dyana Mason, were among the 16 scholars to participate.

“One of L.A.’s most valuable — and underutilized — resources is our incredible universities like USC,” said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the mayor. “By harnessing their research, experts and innovations, Mayor Garcetti wants to partner with our universities to create jobs and make city government more efficient and effective.

“Mayor Garcetti made it a priority to meet with key members of LA’s academic community during his transition to ensure that he started his administration with the best thinking behind it,” he added.

Schockman, who first met Garcetti when he was a visiting instructor at USC between 1998 and 2000, volunteered for the mayor’s campaign as a policy adviser.

“I’m very proud of USC Price to be able to carry the banner for our USC scholars in a critical time in the development of Los Angeles,” Schockman said. “As an urban university, much of our research can help cure LA’s troubles. I think it’s a novel way to use the very skilled and talented people in the major universities of Southern California, to ask them to be part of an advisory council.”

Also participating were Manuel Pastor of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, as well as Tatiana Melguizo, Estela Bensimon and William Tierney of the USC Rossier School of Education. Faculty from the University of California, Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount and Occidental College rounded out the group.

Weare spoke about his research into performance management, encouraging the mayor to develop a performance management system by collecting data on all types of city services — such as miles of streets paved, potholes filled, trees trimmed, personnel work hours — and hiring a team of people to analyze and ask good questions about the data.

He also recommended better use of neighborhood councils by making them small elected bodies with a regular stipend of money they can allocate in their area.

“We teach our students to think of public policy as creating specific recommendations, and those recommendations get implemented right away and have the desired effect, but that’s rarely how the public sector works,” Weare said. “Usually more important is the enlightenment function of public policy, to get ideas on the table and allow this administration to remember that these ideas are there for them to get back to if the opportunity arises. I think that’s what we did here.”

Mason, who has worked in nonprofits for more than a decade, urged that the city be more engaged in helping support the sector with collaboration, communicating grant opportunities and providing an environment for innovation. Schweitzer focused on transportation issues.

“These professors have been looking at these issues for many years, have access to data and are very thoughtful in their approach to solve big problems,” said Sarah Dusseault, who ran the meeting from Garcetti’s transition team. “But what struck me most is that they love talking policy and are really interested in solving problems and making the city better.”

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