Cars Crush Transit

traffic-los-angelesThe Los Angeles Times has recently reported that public transit agencies “have watched their ridership numbers fall off a cliff over the last five years,” with multi-year decreases in mass transit use by up to 25%. And a new UCLA Institute of Transportation study has found that increasing car ownership is the prime factor for the dive in usage.

As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh.”

Southern California residents bought 4 times as many cars per person in the fifteen years after the turn of the century, compared to the decade before. That substantial jump in automobile ownership caused the share of Southern California households without access to a car to fall by 30%, and 42% for immigrant households. As one of the study’s authors, Michael Manville, put it, “That exploding level of new automobile ownership is largely incompatible with a lot of transit ridership.” In other words, once a household has access to a car, they almost universally prefer driving to mass transit.

This patronage plunge threatens transit agencies. Typical responses echo Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, who said, “We need to take this study as an opportunity to figure out how we make transit work better for us.” In other words, we should ignore increasing access to automobiles and overwhelming revealed preferences for driving over mass transit, and find new ways to fill bus and train seats.

Many things are already in motion to solve transit agency’s problems. For instance, in 2015, Los Angeles began a 20-year plan to remove auto lanes for bus and protected bike lanes, as well as pedestrian enhancements, diverting transportation funds raised from drivers and heightening congestion for the vast majority who planners already know will continue to drive (it would have doubled the number of heavily congested–graded F–intersections to 36% during evening rush).

Such less than effective attempts to cut driving (and bail out transit agencies) by creating gridlock purgatory suggest we ask a largely ignored question. Why do planners’ attempts to force residents into walking, cycling and mass transit, supposedly improving their quality of life, attract so few away from driving?

The reason is simple–cars are vastly superior to alternatives for the vast majority of individuals and circumstances.

Automobiles have far greater and more flexible passenger- and cargo-carrying capacities than transit. They allow direct, point-to-point service, unlike transit. They allow self-scheduling rather than requiring advance planning. They save time, especially time spent waiting, which surveys find transit riders find far more onerous. They have far better multi-stop trip capability (which is why restrictions on auto use punish working mothers most). They offer a safer, more comfortable, more controllable environment, from the seats to the temperature to the music to the company.

Those massive advantages explain why even substantial new restrictions on automobiles or improvements in alternatives leave driving the vastly dominant choice. They also reveal that policies which will punish the vast majority for whom driving remains far superior cannot effectively serve all residents’ interests.

The superiority of automobiles doesn’t stop at the obvious, either. They expand workers’ access to jobs and educational opportunities, increase productivity and incomes, improve purchasing choices, lower consumer prices and widen social options. Trying to inconvenience people out of their cars also undermines those major benefits.

Cars’ allow decreased commuting times if not hamstrung, providing workers access to far more potential jobs and training possibilities. That improves worker-employer matches, with expanded productivity raising workers’ incomes as well as benefitting employers. One study found that 10 percent faster travel raised worker productivity by 3 percent, and increasing from 3 mph walking speed to 30 mph driving is a 900 percent increase. In a similar vein, a Harvard analysis found that for those lacking high-school diplomas, owning a car increased monthly earnings by $1,100.

Cars are also the only practical way to assemble enough widely dispersed potential customers to sustain large stores with affordable, diverse offerings. “Automobility” also sharply expands access to social opportunities.

Attempting to force people out of cars and onto transit recycles earlier failures and harms the vast majority of citizens. As Randal O’Toole noted:

Anyone who prefers not to drive can find neighborhoods…where they can walk to stores that offer a limited selection of high-priced goods, enjoy limited recreation and social opportunities, and take slow public transit vehicles to some but not all regional employment centers, the same as many Americans did in 1920. But the automobile provides people with far more benefits and opportunities than they could ever have without it.

Gary Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University, an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, part the Foundation for Economic Education faculty network, and a research associate of the Independent Institute. His books include “Apostle of Peace” (2013); “Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies” (2014); and “Lines of Liberty” (2016).

Standing on the Shoulders of Diversocrats

Another academic year, another fattening of campus diversity bureaucracies.  Most worrisomely, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are now prime targets for administrative diversity encroachment, with the commercial tech sector rapidly following suit.

UCLAThe most significant new diversity sinecure has been established at the University of California, Los Angeles, where the engineering school just minted its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this new position is to encourage engineering faculty to hire more females and underrepresented minorities, reports the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. “One of my jobs,” the new dean, Scott Brandenberg, told the paper, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.”

The new engineering-diversity deanship supplements the work of UCLA’s lavishly paid, campus-wide Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, whose 2016 salary was $444,000.  Kang, one of the most influential proponents of the “implicit-bias” concept, already exerts enormous pressure throughout the university to hire for “diversity.” Even before his vice chancellorship was created, any UCLA professor hoping for the top rank of tenure had to write a “contributions to diversity” essay detailing his efforts to rectify any racial and gender imbalances in his department.   The addition of a localized diversity bureaucrat within the engineering school can only increase the focus on gender and race in hiring and admissions decisions. (Brandenberg, of course, expresses fealty to California’s beleaguered ban on racial and gender preferences in government. But it would be naïve to think that the ubiquitous mandate to increase “diversity” does not inevitably tip the scale in favor of alleged victim groups.)

No evidence exists that implicit bias is a factor in the engineering school’s gender and racial composition. Its percentage of female undergraduate and graduate students—about one quarter—matches the national percentage reported by the American Society for Engineering Education. I asked the school’s spokesman, Amy Akmal, if UCLA Engineering was aware of any examples of the most qualified candidate being overlooked or rejected in a hiring search because of implicit bias; she ignored this fundamental question. (She also ignored a question about the new dean’s salary.)  Every science department in the country relentlessly strives to improve its national ranking through hiring the most prestigious researchers. It would be deeply contrary to their interests to reject a superior candidate because of gender or race. And given the pools of federal and private science funding available on the basis of gender and race, hiring managers have added incentive to favor “diverse” applicants. Contrary to the idea that females are being discriminated against in hiring, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci found that female applicants for STEM tenure-track positions enjoyed a two-to-one advantage over similarly qualified males in paired résumé experiments.

The director of UCLA’s Women in Engineering program trotted out the usual role model argument for gender-and race-conscious decision-making. Audrey Pool O’Neal told the Daily Bruin that she never saw anyone who looked like her (black and female) when she was an undergraduate and graduate student. “When I do teach classes, the female students let me know how much they appreciate seeing a woman in front of their classroom,” O’Neal said.

Why not appreciate seeing the best-trained scholar in front of your classroom?  Any female who thinks that she needs a female in front of her in order to learn as much as she can, or to envision a career in a particular field, has declared herself a follower rather than a pioneer—and a follower based on a characteristic irrelevant to intellectual achievement. If it were really the case that a role model of the same gender is important to moving ahead, it would be impossible to alter the gender balance of a field, assuming such a mission to be worthwhile, which—absent a finding of actual discrimination—it is not. Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity; she was motivated by a passion to understand the world. That should be reason enough to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge.

The Columbia University Medical Center has just pledged $50 million to diversify its faculty and student body, reports the Wall Street Journal, part of a new $100 million diversity drive across the entire university. Never mind that Columbia University has already fruitlessly spent $85 million since 2005 toward the same end. Never mind that there is a huge gap between the MCAT scores of blacks and whites, which will affect the quality of subsequent hiring pools. Columbia’s vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion regurgitates another classic of diversity boilerplate to justify this enormous waste of funds. “The reality is that you can’t really achieve excellence without diversity. It requires diverse thought to solve complex problems,” says vice provost Dennis Mitchell.

Mitchell’s statement is ludicrous on multiple fronts. Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do Mitchell and his compatriots in the diversity industry believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians? A core plank of left-wing academic thought is that gender and race are “socially constructed.” Why then would females and underrepresented minorities think differently if their alleged differences are simply a result of oppressive social categories?

Columbia’s science departments do not have 50/50 parity between males and females, which, according to Mitchell, keeps them from achieving “excellence.” Since 1903, Columbia faculty members have won 78 Nobel Prizes in the sciences and economics. The recipients were overwhelmingly male (and white and Asian); somehow, they managed to do groundbreaking work in science despite the relatively non-diverse composition of their departments.

The only thing that the academic diversity racket achieves is to bid up the salaries of plausibly qualified candidates, and redistribute those candidates to universities that can muster the most resources for diversity poaching. The dean of UCLA Engineering, Jayathi Murthy, laments that of the 900 females admitted to the undergraduate engineering program in 2016, only about 240 accepted the offer. “There are (about) 660 women there that are going somewhere else and the question is . . . is there an opportunity for us to do something differently,” she told the Daily Bruin.  Presumably, those 660 non-matriculants are getting engineering degrees at other institutions. If the goal (a dubious one) is to increase the number of female engineers overall, then it doesn’t matter where they graduate from. But every college wants its own set of “diverse” students and faculty, though one institution’s gain is another’s presumed loss.

The pressure to take irrelevant characteristics like race and sex into account in academic science is dangerous enough. But Silicon Valley continues to remake itself in the image of the campus diversity bureaucracy. Dell Technologies announced in September a new “chief diversity and inclusion officer” position. Per the usual administrator shuffle, the occupant of this new position, Brian Reaves, previously served as head of diversity and inclusion for software company SAP. Reaves will engage the company’s “leaders” in “candid conversations about the role of gender and diversity in the workplace,” said Dell chief customer officer Karen Quintos in a press statement. “Candid” means:  you are free to confess your white cis-male privilege. “Candid” does not mean questioning Dell’s diversity assumptions, as this summer’s firing of computer engineer James Damore from Google made terrifyingly clear to any other potential heretics.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, over the last three years Dell’s existing diversity programs have not changed the company’s gender and racial balance. Dell’s share of women (28 percent) and “people of color” (27 percent) is consistent with the academic pipeline. But magical diversity thinking holds that adding another administrator will somehow conjure forth previously overlooked “diverse” hires. If they don’t materialize, one can always fall back on racial and gender double standards.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has similar confidence in the power of diversity bureaucrats. Cook said in 2015 that diversity is a “readily solvable issue,” according to CNN, and announced that he would hire more women. Failing that, he can at least hire more diversity functionaries. In May, Apple created a new vice president of inclusion and diversity, who will report directly to Cook. This new executive position comes in addition to Apple’s existing director of inclusion and diversity.

Official scientific organizations have all turned obsessively to the diversity agenda. Any academic scientist who wants to move up in administration—or apply for grants, leave, or access to the conference circuit—must be on a crusade against his fellow scientists’ microaggressions and implicit bias. This is good news for the diversity industry, but bad news for America’s scientific competitiveness.

NY Times blames climate change for NorCal inferno

Powerful, hot and dry winds like those that have fanned the deadly wildfires now raging in California are a common occurrence in the state, a result of regional atmospheric patterns that develop in the fall.

The impact of climate change on the winds is uncertain, although some scientists think that global warming may at least be making the winds drier. “That is a pretty key parameter for fire risk,” said Alex Hall, a climate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The winds, known as Diablo winds in Northern California and Santa Ana winds further south, have their origin in the high desert of the Great Basin of Nevada and parts of Utah. High-pressure air that builds over that region flows toward lower-pressure air over California and the coast.

Along the way the air descends to lower elevations, which causes it to compress and become hotter and drier. The air picks up speed as it descends and funnels through canyons or across peaks that are lower than their neighbors. …

Click here to read the full article from the NY Times

In California, the Anniversaries of Two Big Ballot Initiatives Go Unreported

University-of-CaliforniaThe media usually love to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of a major law or policy shift. During 2016 in California, however, they took a pass on mentioning two key milestones.

November 5 marked 20 years since California voters approved Proposition 209 — also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative — by a margin of 54 to 46 percent. This measure ended racial, ethnic and gender preferences in state-college admissions, state employment and state contracting. Opponents claimed that Prop. 209 would bring on the end of affirmative action, but state colleges and universities could still cast the widest possible net for admissions and extend a hand to minority students on an economic basis.

The disaster that opponents predicted would result from Proposition 209 never occurred. As Thomas Sowell noted in his 2013 book Intellectuals and Race, declines in minority enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley were offset by increases at other University of California campuses. More important, the number of African American and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system went up, including a 55 percent increase in those graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Still, critics maintain that Proposition 209 harmed “diversity.” In bureaucratic parlance, “diversity” means that all institutions should precisely reflect the racial or ethnic proportions of the population. If they don’t, the reason must be deliberate discrimination, and the only remedy is government action — namely, racial and ethnic preferences of the type that the University of California imposed before Proposition 209.

The proportionality dogma isn’t law, yet politically correct administrators believe that some groups are “overrepresented,” that is, there are “too many” of some kinds of people on campus. This usually means Asians, targets of much discrimination in California history. In recent years, UC campuses have bulked up on high-salaried diversity bureaucrats. In similar style, the city of Sacramento has created a new position for a “diversity manager.” Politicians have also deployed measures such as the 2012 Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, sponsored by West Covina Democrat Ed Hernandez, who claimed it would ensure that universities would “reflect the diversity of the state.” Asian groups cried foul, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, returned SCA 5 to the Senate without a vote.

The 30th anniversary of another historic California ballot measure passed without notice in November. On November 4, 1986, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Official Language of California Amendment. This measure directs the state legislature to “preserve the role of English as the state’s common language” and refrain from “passing laws which diminish or ignore the role of English as the state’s common language.” Seventy-three percent of California voters approved the measure, a landslide by any definition, and it’s still on the books. So what has the government of California done over the last 30 years to ensure that the democratic will of the people was respected? Nothing; they ignored it. “In short, state legislators and public officials acted as if Prop. 63 never existed,” wrote Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow in 2006. As this writer, an immigrant, can testify, some level of proficiency in English is a requirement for American citizenship, which, in turn, is a requirement for voting. Yet, in 2016, the California voter guide came in English and, count ‘em, six other languages: Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. With 17 propositions to translate into seven languages, the voter guide packed the heft of a phone book.

A raft of stories accompanied October’s tenth anniversary of the passage of California’s “historic climate law,” yet not a single one commemorated the passage of successful propositions to end racial quotas and establish English as the official state language. Sadly, the Golden State’s political class and old-line establishment media remain out of touch with the people.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation.

This piece was originally published by City Journal online

Driverless vehicles and the future of L.A. transportation

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Gabe Klein knows a few things about commuting. At 44, he is an author, futurist, government consultant and former head of the Chicago and Washington, D.C., transportation departments. He grew up in his family’s bicycle business, eventually became a vice president of Zipcar, the car sharing company, and is now with Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm co-founded by William C. Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford and executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. Fontinalis focuses on technology and transportation-related start-ups.

Over the years, Klein has become an advocate of alternative modes of transportation, which, he says, are now entering the mainstream. Among other things, he set up bike-share operations in Chicago and the nation’s capital. At Zipcar, he built one of the largest car-sharing systems in the country in Washington. Klein’s ideas about urban transportation are contained in his new book “Start-up City,” published by Island Press.

Last week at a presentation and panel discussion for students at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, The Times talked to Klein about one set of wheels he prefers — the self-driving car — and how it might be used to improve mobility in Los Angeles and other cities …

Click here to read the full article

California’s Uber Hunt

uberThe way things are going, Uber may soon face a court challenge in California over its failure to use an umlaut. The popular ridesharing startup has already been hit by an administrative law judge’s recommendation that the company pay $7.3 million in damages and suspend operation in the state. At issue: Uber’s alleged failure to provide the California Public Utilities Commission with internal data about how many customers with service animals or wheelchairs Uber drivers serve, along with time, location and fare data.

This decision came just a month after the California Labor Commission redefined the app-based ride-hailing service’s business model. In that case, San Francisco Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick demanded that the company reimburse $4,000 worth of expenses. The commission ruled that Berwick, a transsexual who previously operated a phone sex business — Linda’s Lip Service — was a full-time-equivalent employee during four months of sporadic driving for Uber. (Berwick, now a financial consultant, expressed disappointment with the money an Uber driver makes.) The decision directly threatens Uber’s business model, in which drivers sign up as independent contractors with a minimum of the fuss and paperwork associated with modern hiring, choose their own hours, and are clearly remunerated on a piecework basis.

Last week, a U.S. district judge in San Francisco allowed a group of cab companies to proceed with a false-advertising lawsuit against Uber. The same judge also greenlit a suit against Uber claiming that it spammed potential drivers with recruitment text messages. That suit was dismissed when electronic records showed that one of the plaintiffs had begun pursuing the company herself.

Notably, complaints about Uber typically aren’t coming from customers, and even among the firm’s drivers, crusades like Berwick’s are rare. In fact, what’s striking about the various campaigns against ride-sharing is their reliance on paperwork and credentialing instead of outcomes. The CPUC, for example, doesn’t assert that Uber is harming actual handicapped people, only that the company has failed to produce paperwork that proves the absence of harm. Similarly, the cab companies’ speech-related lawsuit — which focuses on safety claims made in Uber ads — does not claim that traditional taxis are safer than Uber rides. The plaintiffs assert instead that cab drivers are subjected to more paperwork than Uber drivers.

The anti-Uber campaign’s reluctance to assess outcomes is understandable, given the public’s strong revealed preference for the company. Interest groups can complain, but drivers and customers continue to vote for Uber with their time and money. In a free country or a sane state, a clear market decision in favor of a business would be the end of the discussion. But Uber is increasingly under pressure to furnish evidence that its model works in theory as well as in practice.

The company recently commissioned Los Angeles-based BOTEC Analysis to measure service in low-income neighborhoods — a market in which anecdotal evidence already suggests that Uber’s influence has been positive. BOTEC compared UberX with taxi services in Van Nuys as well as Central and East Los Angeles. The median wait time for an UberX ride in L.A. neighborhoods was five minutes and 52 seconds; for a taxi ride, it was 14 minutes and 33 seconds. The maximum recorded wait time for UberX was 20 minutes; for a cab, 57 minutes. Despite Uber’s widely maligned practice of “surge pricing” — a concession to the law of supply and demand that is for some reason considered outrageous — UberX also soundly beat traditional cabs on price, with a median cost per ride of $6.28, versus $15 for taxis. Surge pricing didn’t even produce a higher maximum price. UberX’s max cost per ride was $11.68, against $22 for cabs.

BOTEC is led by UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman, a thoroughly un-libertarian, good-government figure. Nevertheless, Uber opponents have dinged the study as free-market propaganda from the Uber central command. SHOULD YOU TRUST UBER’S BIG NEW UBER VS. CABS STUDY? New York asks. (Answer: a definite maybe.) Meantime, L.A. Weekly wonders, “Is Uber really being straight-up about its commitment to serve folks other than young, white professionals and party people?” But defenders of the taxi status quo face an even bigger hurdle: Uber’s very existence is an advertisement for the free market. It’s an obviously less-regulated initiative that has produced measurable, positive outcomes across a wide spectrum. No wonder people hate it so much.

Can L.A. Afford Another Olympics?

Boston bailed on hosting the 2024 Olympics when Mayor Martin Walsh refused to sign a host city contract with the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) that would have put Beantown (and possibly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) on the hook for any cost overruns associated with this 17 day extravaganza. But Walsh’s refusal to mortgage Boston’s future was understandable given the unfavorable economics associated with this over hyped event.

According to an article in Harvard Magazine, “A Fiscal Faustian Bargain” by Professor Andrew Zimbalist, perhaps the foremost analyst of public investments in sports facilities and global athletic competitions, the cost is expected to exceed $15 billion.  This includes operating costs during the games, the construction of new venues, infrastructure improvements and security.

However, revenue expectations from the media rights, domestic and international corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, licensing agreements and “other” revenues are projected to be less than $5 billion.

This shortfall of more than $10 billion horrifies frugal New Englanders, so much so that a referendum banning the expenditure of public funds was favored to pass next year.

The last minute withdrawal of Boston’s bid to represent the USA has put the USOC in a difficult position because it must submit its proposal to the International Olympic Committee by mid-September. A final decision by the IOC is due in September of 2017.

The question for the USOC is whether it will submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympics, and, if so, which city.

In January, Boston was selected over L.A., San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  But even then, everybody knew that Los Angeles was the best place to host the 2024 Games.  We have an existing infrastructure: the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Staples, Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, USC, UCLA and many other quality sporting venues.

We have a captive audience of 20 million people in Southern California and a history of supporting our teams and the most successful Olympics ever in 1984.

But does L.A. have the financial resources to pull off an Olympics where our cash strapped city is not responsible for operating losses, cost overruns, and excessive infrastructure improvements?

This will obviously be a concern for Angelenos as it was in the early 1980’s when the voters approved a charter amendment banning the use of public funds to support the Olympics.

More than likely, City Hall will leap at the opportunity to host the 2024 Olympics, touting all the great benefits that will accrue to all Angelenos. While some these claims may well be true, we must remember that today’s politicians will be termed out of office and long gone by the time the bill comes due.

Another Freeway Olympics would be a great event for the city, the county, and all of Southern California. But before the city puts in any bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, we need detailed financial information as well as ironclad assurances that our city – which cannot afford to repair and maintain its streets and sidewalks or properly fund its pension plans – and the taxpayers are not on the hook for any expenses unless they are approved in advance by the voters.

Let the games begin.

Originally published by CityWatchLA

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds – www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com

UC’s Perfect Storm of Unmet Budgetary Obligations Puts Pressure on Students

With the University of California system in the midst of a tense tuition standoff, budgets have come under renewed pressure in recent weeks. Not only schools, but students and parents, have felt the pain.

As CalWatchdog.com has been reporting, the UC system has been wracked with a series of fiscal setbacks, some self-imposed. A computer system overhaul designed to save $100 million through a $170 million investment has slippedout of budgetary control, currently two years behind schedule and $50 million in the red.

Meanwhile, UC President Janet Napolitano’s insistence on 28 percent tuition hikes over five years has spurred outrage and opposition from students across the university system as well as push-back from Gov. Jerry Brown, also a UC regent. Fueling the frustration, students and teachers alike have run up against such challenges as covering basic living costs.

Health care woes

As the Los Angeles Times reported, promises made to teachers about health care coverage have begun to go unmet:

“California Common Sense, a nonpartisan research group founded at Stanford University, estimates that state government, cities including San Francisco and Los Angeles and the University of California system contribute to $157 billion in statewide retiree health care obligations. Only about $7 billion has been set aside by those surveyed by the group, leaving $150 billion in debt.”

The problem extends throughout California governments. In a study released last December, Controller John Chiang (now the state treasurer) warned:

“The unfunded liability of providing health and dental benefits for state retirees under the current funding policy is $71.8 billion. The amount represents the present-day cost to provide benefits earned as of June 30, 2014, which is expected to be paid over the lifetime of current and future retirees.

“The total unfunded obligation grew $7.2 billion from the $64.6 billion obligation identified as of June 30, 2013.”

Faced with steep costs of living, including for health care, the student population in the Golden State has embraced the Covered California health exchange — the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

According to California Healthline, “Researchers released poll results that show dramatically low rates of uninsured students at California State University campuses, including a steep drop in the number of Latino students without insurance.” Since October of 2013, for instance, enrollment rates at Cal State Los Angeles dropped the uninsured rate from 41 percent to just 10 percent.

Free lunch

Just as students have flocked to subsidized health care, an increasing number have sought out free food options in an effort to balance out the cost of tuition and living expenses.

At some UCs, the cost of room and board alone exceeded $14,000 a year. At UC Berkeley, where housing is the fifth most costly in the nation, according to one survey, the figure topped $15,000.

As Southern California Public Radio reported, over the past four years about half of students polled “said they skipped meals to save money ‘occasionally’ to ‘very often.’

“And at UCLA, officials distributed in the last academic year some 3,884 meal vouchers for students in dire circumstances facing a food shortage. In 2012-2013, it gave out 7,562, and 4,652 the year before that. UC Irvine has budgeted for fewer than 100 in the first year of its voucher program.”

Ironically, SCPR observed, as the result of a hunger initiative spearheaded by Napolitano, most of the UC system’s campuses now offer students the use of food pantries.

Competing priorities

The perfect storm of budgetary strains has made its impact felt in Sacramento, where lawmakers haven’t made up their minds how much more cash to allocate to the UCs.

The most recent addition to the UC system, in Merced, opened its doors in 2005. Yet Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, has proposed a big new investment in yet another campus. According to the Sacramento Bee:

“The Los Angeles Democrat announced a bill Monday that would set aside $50 million for a feasibility study, land acquisition and initial building costs for a ‘UC-Tech’ campus centered on science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, as well as the arts.

“‘Now when we have these budget surpluses is the time for bold moves,’ Gatto said.”

But in all likelihood, for most Californians in and out of school, the state has already racked up enough unmet obligations.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com