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Talk Policy To Me
25 minutes | Dec 16, 2021
Episode 505: Talking Fair Chance Housing
In February 2020, the Oakland City Council passed Oakland's Fair Chance Housing ordinance. The legislation was the first in California — joining cities nationwide like Seattle and Portland — to ensure that people returning home from the criminal justice system can legally live with family members and access, on their own, nearly all other forms of previously off-limits rental housing. In this episode, Talk Policy to Me host Amy Benziger talks to housing activists Margaretta Lin and Lee “Taqwaa” Bonner about the fight to bring this legislation nationwide. To support fair chance housing, visit fairchance4all.org.
27 minutes | Dec 1, 2021
Episode 504: Talking Vaccine Deniers
With 59% of the US population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the increased availability of booster shots, and the rise of a new variant, having a highly vaccinated public is incredibly important to the fight against COVID in the months ahead. In this episode, Talk Policy to Me reporter Noah Cole talks to psychologist and behavioral scientist Philipp Schmid and public health expert and data scientist Crystal Son about the do's and don'ts of effective vaccine communication. Referenced in the Podcast The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook- A practical guide for improving vaccine communication and fighting misinformation World Health Organization Best Practices- How to Respond to Vocal Vaccine Deniers in Public The remaining mile: How do you persuade uncertain Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19? (Civis Analytics Report)
18 minutes | Nov 18, 2021
Episode 503: Talking Oakland A’s—Will they still or will they go?
The A’s proposal for a new waterfront baseball stadium at Oakland’s Howard Terminal is a multi-use development site that would include shops, parks, and housing. As the City of Oakland and Alameda County negotiate with the A’s over how these benefits are paid for, much has been made about the impact that sports stadiums have on communities. In this episode, reporter Noah Cole speaks with Dr. Richard Noll of the Stanford Economics Department and Veronica Cummings of the Oakland’s City Administrator’s Office about the economic impact of sports stadiums on cities and the equity-focused community benefits process for engaging the community in the proposal. Additional Reading Oakland City Council approved a Howard Terminal ballpark roadmap, but not on the terms the A’s want- https://oaklandside.org/2021/07/21/oakland-city-council-vote-athletics-howard-terminal-ballpark-term-sheet/ Sports stadiums do not generate significant local economic growth, Stanford expert says-https://news.stanford.edu/2015/07/30/stadium-economics-noll-073015/ Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal Community Benefits- https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/community-benefits-agreement-cba-for-the-oakland-as-waterfront-ballpark-district-at-howard-terminal Community Benefits Agreements - https://www.forworkingfamilies.org/cblc/cba Alameda County votes Yes to help fund Oakland A’s Howard terminal ballpark project- https://www.athleticsnation.com/2021/10/27/22748993/oakland-as-howard-terminal-ballpark-alameda-county-vote-tax
24 minutes | Nov 4, 2021
Episode 502: Talking Trade-offs and the Electric Grid
As Congress struggles to pass a spending bill that includes some of the biggest climate legislation the U.S. has seen, there’s another big hurdle the country needs to clear to make big moves on climate change —the electric grid. In this episode, reporter Elena Neale-Sacks talks to energy policy expert Steve Weissman, environmental scientist Grace Wu, and energy equity researcher Daniel Raimi, to better understand how the grid needs to change to better adapt to the effects of climate change and mitigate future effects. Transcript Noah Cole: [00:00:01] Hey, Amy. [00:00:01][0.2] Amy Benziger: [00:00:01] Hey, Noah. [00:00:02][0.1] Noah Cole: [00:00:02] Today we're talking about climate change. [00:00:04][1.4] Amy Benziger: [00:00:05] We have the most progressive president on the environment in decades, but we still can't seem to get anything done on the local or federal level. [00:00:11][6.1] Noah Cole: [00:00:12] It's easy to blame the lack of progress on right wing holdouts in Congress, and that is a big part of the equation. But it's not the focus of today's episode. After listening to the experts on today's podcast, one thing should be clear. There are a range of tradeoffs at every step of the way that well-intentioned actors are considering. [00:00:28][16.6] Amy Benziger: [00:00:30] So today, our reporter Elena Neale-Sacks is breaking those tradeoffs down for us. You'll hear from a UC Berkeley professor who's going to lay out the fundamentals of the electric grid. [00:00:37][7.6] Noah Cole: [00:00:38] An environmental scientist whose work analyzes the effects of energy infrastructure on land use and wildlife. [00:00:43][4.4] Amy Benziger: [00:00:43] And a researcher focused on the legacy of environmental racism. [00:00:46][2.4] Noah Cole: [00:00:47] Let's kick it over to Elena, and we'll be back at the end of the pod with some thoughts. I'm Noah Cole. [00:00:50][2.8] Amy Benziger: [00:00:51] I'm Amy Benziger, and this is Talk Policy To Me. Today, we're talking trade offs and the electric grid. [00:00:56][4.4] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:01:06] We're starting off the episode talking to Steve Weissman, a lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, who worked at the California Public Utilities Commission for 30 years. I wanted to talk to Steve to better understand the grid's history, how it works, and how climate change has shifted the way we think about energy. [00:01:25][19.4] Steve Weissman: [00:01:27] It's really been over the last 140 years or so that we've evolved to the grid that we have now. Initially, when there was electricity needed for some type of of commercial process, then the company itself would would get a generator and create the power that they needed. When it became commercial, you still had had power being provided on pretty much of a neighborhood basis. There'd be one small generator and some poles and wires delivering the power to people within that neighborhood. Over the course of time, as you had more and more of these small generating companies doing business, they started to combine into one larger company. And as the technology improved, we learned how to have much larger power plants, which nobody would really want to have close to where they live or work. And so they they were put in a distant location. We determined that you could have high voltage lines that can carry the power in to where people live and work. [00:02:25][57.6] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:02:26] OK, I'm going to pause here for a minute because these high voltage lines, or transmission lines, are a super important part of the conversation when it comes to adapting the grid to better withstand the effects of climate change, as well as making it more reliant on renewable energy and less reliant on fossil fuels. [00:02:44][17.4] Steve Weissman: [00:02:45] Not all parts of the country are equally blessed in terms of strong wind or a lot of solar energy available. And so there's a desire to be able to move this power longer distances to serve people in other locations. Solar and wind are intermittent. The wind blows when it's going to blow and the sun shines during the daytime. And yet people need power at many other times when those resources aren't available. The more you can spread out the resources across a broad region, the greater reliability you can have because the clouds will roll by or or you may be in a different time zone so people's needs for power at a particular hour may be different. And so this has made the notion of building out the transmission grid to move power long distances a lot more appealing. [00:03:33][48.5] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:03:35] And this is where tradeoffs come into play. In one camp, people argue it would be way more cost effective to build more transmission lines to get electricity from point A to point B, to take advantage of the natural cycles of solar and wind power, especially because we still haven't found a great way to store energy and save it for later. But there's another camp that wants to bring the focus back to localized power sources. [00:03:59][24.3] Steve Weissman: [00:04:01] One vision is to make buildings energy neutral. You build a new building, make it very energy efficient, maybe put solar on the roof and maybe have some some battery storage. And hopefully the building basically takes care of itself. What normally happens is every time you create a new building, it creates a new burden for the greater grid. So the extent to which we can have new construction incorporating these, these opportunities for self generation and greater efficiency, and the more we can retrofit existing buildings to be able to do the same thing, the less we're going to have to rely on these long distance lines. But it also provides the opportunity that if there's a blackout in the broader grid, that that particular location can be isolated or islanded from the major main grid and continue to provide service to people. [00:04:55][54.5] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:04:57] I wanted to know, what's a situation where the grid would experience this kind of shutdown. [00:05:01][4.1] Steve Weissman: [00:05:02] In a place like California, where you have the potential for these dramatic wildfires. We've all experienced these public safety power shutoffs or times when involuntarily the grid goes down as a result of of severe conditions. If people could have their own system to use, then they have their own form of reliability. We talk about combining the ability of various people in a particular area to to have rooftop solar, to be able to share storage, et cetera. [00:05:35][32.6] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:05:36] All right, so that example has to do with adapting the grid to better deal with the effects of climate change we're already seeing. [00:05:43][6.8] Steve Weissman: [00:05:44] Adapting the grid to a changing climate requires a recognition that hotter temperatures and lower supplies of water in some areas, and flooding in other areas, all three of those things can have a dramatic impact on the ability of particular generating resources to function. In the West, we rely significantly on hydroelectric power. But this year, for instance, the Oroville Dam, one of the major dams, is at about 25 percent of average and average isn't even full capacity. So it's really reached a point where it may not be able to generate electricity at all and where it can produce electricity, there's going to be less there to provide to the grid than there would have been otherwise. [00:06:29][45.1] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:06:30] There's another piece of the puzzle too: changing the grid to prevent the worst case climate scenarios. Also known as mitigation. [00:06:36][6.0] Steve Weissman: [00:06:38] Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is another critical component, of course, and there are tremendous opportunities related to the electric grid that come in two flavors. One is it's possible to take a lot of things that generally rely on fossil fuels, like transportation, and electrify them so that they won't be directly burning fossil fuels anymore. But then the other important flavor is you can take that grid and decarbonize it. Try to do everything you can to eliminate the use of fossil fuels for generating electricity. And so then what you've done is you've created a much greater reliance on the electric grid, but it's going to be a cleaner grid providing a product that's going to be more favorable for the environment. [00:07:18][39.6] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:07:19] So, with a baseline understanding of the technology of the grid, I wanted to understand the decision-making behind where that technology goes and what happens when it's installed. So I called up Grace Wu, an assistant professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Barbara. Grace's work has focused on the impacts of clean energy infrastructure on land use and conservation efforts. And she co-founded this tool called the Map R-E Initiative. [00:07:44][25.4] Grace Wu: [00:07:45] The Map R-E initiative is essentially a way to help policymakers, decision makers plan where to put these types of wind and solar and transmission lines, and these criteria really need to be based off of who lives there. So, you know, is it a community member? Is it industry like, you know, a coal mining plant that needs this electricity? We need to bring all these different voices to the table and consider all of their needs when siting huge landscapes of infrastructure. [00:08:24][38.3] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:08:25] Just a quick note. Grace used this word "siting" a lot when we talked. It just refers to the placement, or site, of some type of energy infrastructure, like a transmission line, wind farm, that sort of thing. If you already knew that, cool. Now back to Grace. [00:08:39][13.7] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:08:40] Could you kind of tell me just a bit more about your research on the impact of clean energy infrastructure kind of in general? [00:08:47][6.8] Grace Wu: [00:08:48] So the enormity, the scale and the pace of this transition and the transmission, the power plant infrastructure that's required to achieve this is entirely unprecedented and will have significant impacts on our land resources because all of this infrastructure needs to be sited somewhere and where that somewhere really dictates the ecosystem impacts, the community and social impacts, job implications. So the geographic and spatial component of this transition is extremely important and has, you know, social, environmental, economic ramifications. [00:09:31][43.4] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:09:33] This research is clearly very interdisciplinary. So what are kind of all the different fields of study that come into play? [00:09:40][7.3] Grace Wu: [00:09:43] Academically, we work with models, but from a practical perspective, trying to use the results of the, of the research, we work really closely with energy planners. So the Public Utilities Commission, for example, at the state of California and the California Energy Commission, they they work together, these energy principles within the state, to implement these short term energy plans that ideally eventually achieve these mid-century ambitious targets. And so our, my goal in my work is to improve upon their planning process in a way that helps us integrate a lot of important spatial information, and namely, from my perspective, this ecosystem impacts into that process so that we can plan with those considerations. [00:10:35][52.5] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:10:37] So you mentioned that part of what you do is collaborating on finding kind of what are some of the best and worst places to build infrastructure? So what are some of the best and worst places? [00:10:48][10.6] Grace Wu: [00:10:49] We really are trying to target what we call low impact areas. These are brownfield locations, ideally, or areas that have been previously degraded by prior land use like agriculture. [00:11:06][16.4] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:11:07] Another quick, explanatory comment here. A brownfield location is an urban planning term for any previously developed land that is not currently in use, and Grace said there are two primary criteria for identifying a brownfield location. The first is some kind of land degradation, so think abandoned farmland that was flooded. The second is somewhere that's close to a power plant that already has transmission lines to make sure there's as little destruction to the land as possible. [00:11:34][26.7] Grace Wu: [00:11:35] Bad places, worst places are what we would call greenfield development sites. So these are areas that have had very little human impact, and we want to maintain the quote unquote intactness of these landscapes because it has ecological value. There's very little intact landscape actually left. And so any incremental damage that we do to those landscapes is a fairly large impact on the whole, ecologically speaking. So it's not in terms of the absolute, you know, acres damaged, but it's really we've kind of already brought it to the brink and now we're pushing it even more in terms of of available habitat. [00:12:23][47.5] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:12:29] Yeah, I'm curious, is there a lot of differing ideas about how to go about this or is there a good amount of consensus in terms of like, "all right, this is what we need to do. This is where we need to do it. Let's go."? [00:12:42][13.7] Grace Wu: [00:12:43] Yeah. The conflict that you're mentioning, it's got multiple names now. So there's a green versus green, that's been coined and then the Green Civil War, because this is really kind of infighting between people who really want renewable energy development from a climate perspective, and environmentalists who are really thinking about land use change like I am who are more traditionally from a conservation background. But nonetheless, we're all in this green camp together. [00:13:15][31.9] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:13:16] Can you kind of talk a bit about comparing the impact of the current grid versus some kind of predicted or possible impact of a cleaner grid? [00:13:28][11.5] Grace Wu: [00:13:29] Yeah. So it would be helpful to bring in some numbers to give you a sense of the scale of this impact. So what we're seeing in the Western states, some preliminary analysis has shown that we need to increase the transmission infrastructure by between 50 to maybe 80 percent. I should also add that the location of the power plant matters for the transmission impacts. As I said earlier, it's not just the distance, but if you cite a power plant in a very pristine or intact landscape, you're you're going to have to put up a new transmission line, presumably much longer, because that area is relatively underdeveloped. [00:14:11][41.7] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:14:13] OK, OK. We know we need to increase the size of the electric grid. So I asked Grace, how does that happen? [00:14:19][6.3] Grace Wu: [00:14:21] Oftentimes, people refer to this problem as a chicken and egg issue because we don't know what should come first. Should we put the power plant there and then plan the transmission? But then transmission takes so long, like five to 10 years. We really need to put the transmission there before putting the power plant. But then who do you, what do you incentivize first? Because project developers are independent power producers, right? We can't dictate where they should really go. But then transmission planning, especially the interstate, is a multi jurisdiction, this very difficult, convoluted process of of multiple dozens upon dozens of landowners involved. So it's challenging just to get one line, you know, sited. And even though I said, you know, 50 to 80 percent, that's dozens upon dozens of large lines that will need to be sited by mid-century to achieve these goals. So yes, there's a lot of transmission. We still need a lot more, but we built all that transmission in the last, you know, 60, 70 years. We're going to have to do that in a much shorter amount, half that amount of time. [00:15:26][65.8] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:15:31] So along with Grace and Steve, I talked to one more person for this episode. And if you're thinking, OK, Elena, you must be about to explain how all these puzzle pieces fit together, not quite. There are still more tradeoffs, and a big one is that both the tech and environmental footprints of the grid are going to have a human impact too, especially when it comes to equity. [00:15:52][21.0] Daniel Raimi: [00:15:54] My name is Daniel Raimi, I am a fellow at Resources for the Future. I also direct our Equity in the Energy Transition Initiative. [00:16:02][7.8] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:16:03] Daniel's work focuses on making sure that in this race to net zero, we don't leave people and places behind. [00:16:09][5.8] Daniel Raimi: [00:16:10] So we all know that we need to reduce emissions quickly and deeply, greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other air pollutants, to avert the worst impacts of climate change and to reduce the burdens on public health from energy use across the economy. We also know that it's not easy to do that and that doing so has the potential to create new challenges. For example, transitioning quickly to clean energy has the potential to raise energy costs for consumers. And so it's important that as we reduce emissions, we don't at the same time increase the energy burden for low income households and others that might struggle to pay their energy bills. In addition, there are many communities around the United States where fossil fuels provide an economic backbone in terms of jobs, in terms of tax revenues for schools and roads and bridges. And as we transition away from those fuels, it's important that those communities are able to succeed in the future and that communities that currently rely on, let's say, coal mining or coal fired power plants or oil production or oil refining or even natural gas production, looking forward can have more diversified economies and more diversified sources of public revenue so that they can develop new economic drivers as fossil fuels recede into the background. [00:17:42][91.4] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:17:43] Something else Daniel brought up while we were talking is that each local context is different when it comes to the clean energy transition. [00:17:49][6.3] Daniel Raimi: [00:17:51] The issues that are experienced in, let's say, Appalachian coal communities are really different from those that you would see in the Permian Basin in West Texas or the Four Corners region in New Mexico, or, you know, the coal fields in Wyoming or Kern County in California, which is the leading oil producer in California. And so every local context is different, which means it's really hard to find a one size fits all solution. What the federal government has started to do in the Department of Energy and what our research has found is that the most successful approaches are likely going to rely on bottom up approaches, that is local experts, local economic development professionals, local businesses identifying what is going to succeed for their communities and then the federal government can help empower and enable those local solutions to grow. I think it's pretty clear that a one size fits all top down approach from Washington, D.C. First of all, it's not going to work. And second of all, it's not going to be welcomed in many of these communities where there's already a healthy skepticism of the federal government. In the past, we have not done a good job of siting infrastructure in a way that is equitable. The legacy of environmental injustice and environmental racism is all around us, particularly in cities. And so we need to make sure that the siting of this new infrastructure does not overly burden certain communities. The last thing I would say is that we can't forget about tribes. There are a substantial number of sovereign tribes in the United States where fossil fuels play a major role in the local economy. This is true, particularly in the Southwest, but it's also true in parts of Wyoming, North Dakota, other parts of the United States. And so tribes are also going to need to identify their own strategies for economic diversification. And those are probably going to look a little bit different from what you would see at the county or state level as well. And then again, the federal government, I think, can be supportive of tribes in those efforts. [00:19:54][123.0] Elena Neale-Sacks: [00:19:57] What are some of the specific primary concerns you have about the kind of current trajectory of the energy transition? [00:20:06][8.8] Daniel Raimi: [00:20:08] Oh, we have a lot of challenges right now. One big challenge is just the political environment is very difficult to to achieve the emissions reductions that we need, particularly in the United States. And another thing that worries me is that often when we do energy policy in the United States, our main form of energy policy is done through the tax code and it's done through subsidies. We subsidize every major energy source that there is in the United States. We subsidize oil, we subsidize gas, we subsidize coal, we subsidize wind, we subsidize solar. We subsidize electric vehicles. We subsidize carbon capture and sequestration. And you know, a more rational energy policy would not just subsidize everything, but it would also tax things that we don't like. Carbon, in particular, a carbon tax or a cap and trade system is the solution that, you know, most folks would say is ideal. Is it politically feasible? Not right now. Might it be politically feasible in the future? I think we can hope so, and we can try to push towards that. The end result of subsidizing everything is you get more of everything. And so when you look around the world at our global energy system, we have been adding to the energy system over time. We essentially use, you know, as much coal as we ever have in the world today. We use more oil than we ever have. We use more natural gas than we ever have, we use more wind, we use more solar, we use more nuclear. And so looking forward, we need to do more than just add to the energy system. We also need to start taking stuff out of the energy system, and our policies today are not really enough to get us there. [00:21:53][105.1] Noah Cole: [00:22:12] Those of you that made it to the end, thanks for staying with us. [00:22:14][2.3] Amy Benziger: [00:22:15] This is complicated. [00:22:16][0.8] Noah Cole: [00:22:17] Right, and complicated in so many ways, just as we suggested in the intro. Technologically, politically, environmentally, the list goes on, and the major looming question is how this is going to get solved on the U.S. national stage and even local stage. So Amy, time for a prediction. A year from now, what's going to happen? [00:22:34][17.4] Amy Benziger: [00:22:35] Well, this is less of a prediction and more of a dream. But man, do I hope Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema leave the Democratic Party. We've got a president who's making climate change a priority for the first time, so something's got to give in that a handful of folks have the power to stop that progress in its tracks. [00:22:49][13.9] Noah Cole: [00:22:50] This is a tough issue. So let's stay in that dreaming mindset. What I hope is that we're talking about this as more of a local issue next year. Steve spoke about the value of a locally controlled grid, while Daniel spoke about environmental racism on the local level. There's a long history of Black and brown movement leaders doing environmental justice work in their own communities. So I hope that a year from now, their voices are more uplifted in the conversations around climate and energy. [00:23:14][23.6] Amy Benziger: [00:23:29] Talk Policy To Me is a co-production of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans. [00:23:34][4.7] Noah Cole: [00:23:35] Our executive producers are Bora Lee Reed and Sarah Swanbeck. [00:23:39][3.3] Amy Benziger: [00:23:40] Elena Neale-Sacks produced and edited this episode. [00:23:41][1.5] Noah Cole: [00:23:42] The music you heard today is Blue Dot Sessions and Pat Messiti Miller. [00:23:45][3.1] Amy Benziger: [00:23:46] I'm Amy Benziger. [00:23:47][0.4] Noah Cole: [00:23:47] And I'm Noah Cole. [00:23:48][0.5] Amy Benziger: [00:23:48] Catch ya next time. [00:23:48][0.0]
16 minutes | Oct 21, 2021
Episode 501: Talking "Your Neighbor, the Bounty Hunter"
Today's episode explores the new wave of "rights suppressing laws" with New York Times Op-Ed writers and legal scholars Jon Michaels and David Noll. Reference: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/04/opinion/texas-abortion-law.html Transcript Noah Cole [00:00:02] I'm Noah Cole. Amy Benziger [00:00:03] And I'm Amy Benziger Noah Cole [00:00:05] This is talk policy to me. [00:00:12] So these mining communities are being bullied. Just like we are. Bullied by the police. Bullied by the tabloids. Bullied by the government, and we now need to know what they need is touch and. [00:00:25] Gays and minors not exactly the first thing most people associate with Senate Bill eight, which effectively bans most abortions in Texas. As of this recording, SB eight has been passed, paused and reinstated to huge controversy. As I was reading about SB eight, I thought about a film I saw recently called Pride. Pride is the true story of lesbian and gay activists in the early 80s. They were unlikely allies and some of the largest fundraisers for the families affected by the British miners strike. These activists saw miners beaten on TV and essentially starved out by the government. They saw a common enemy. The miners ended the strike after three hundred and sixty two days. But this incredible bond was formed. Noah Cole [00:01:02] Miners marched in gay pride parades, which, as you can guess, was unheard of at the time. They fought against Section 28, a law introduced by Margaret Thatcher's government to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality. The law even banned teaching material that implied being gay was acceptable. Amy Benziger [00:01:18] So we thought about this when I read an op ed for The New York Times written by our guest today, John Michaels and David Knoll. It's called We are becoming a Nation of Vigilantes. The piece is incredible. It helped me look at SB eight, otherwise known as the Texas Heartbeat Bill, as part of a series of laws affecting vulnerable communities across the US, including marginalized voters, transgender folks and the teachers of critical race theory Noah Cole [00:01:39] in the case of SB8. Anyone can bring a lawsuit against someone who assists in an abortion before six weeks. This means doctors who perform the abortions, but it also means front desk workers at clinics and even family members that drive a sister or a daughter to get an abortion. SB8 incentivizes those lawsuits with a minimum payout of $10000. We start to see this in other areas as well. Teachers can be sued for incorporating race into their study of history. Coaches can be sued for letting transgender girls play soccer. The common thread among these laws is that they're being enforced by private lawsuits among citizens rather than through government action. Amy Benziger [00:02:16] So John and David are pushing for people to view this not only as a pro-life or pro-choice issue, but an issue of pro or anti-democracy. Noah Cole [00:02:24] It sounds like you've covered a lot of ground, Amy. The Texas abortion bill, vigilante justice and building a multiracial democracy. Amy Benziger [00:02:32] Yeah, I thought I'd pick a light topic to kick off the new season. Noah Cole [00:02:35] Let's get to it then. Amy Benziger [00:02:37] Today, we're talking your neighbor, the bounty hunter. John Michaels [00:02:48] Hi, my name is John Michaels. I teach public law classes at UCLA School of Law. David Noll [00:02:53] Hi, I'm David. No. I'm a professor of law at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. Amy Benziger [00:02:58] Thank you both so much for being here. In your piece, you use the term right suppressing laws. You talk to these new wave of laws as no longer looking at protecting personal rights and more as protecting our right to be offended. You call them part of a campaign to make us forget what rights really are. Can you talk to how, from a legal standpoint, this can be happening? David Noll [00:03:16] The precedent that the law's defenders point to most commonly is federal environmental legislation. If you look at the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, those laws are passed in the 1970s. The claim is that first I will be injured by the construction of a factory or the pollution of a river. But notice also that the suits are serving as a check on governmental enforcement. And so folks who have put together the rights suppressing laws point to those as a precedent. So using those as a model, they say, Aha, right? I don't like abortion. I don't like critical race theory. I don't like a trans kids using a bathroom that matches their gender identity. I can copy the technology from these older laws where injured parties actually are the ones bringing suit to enforce their rights. As if anybody performs an abortion in Texas, any person may bring suit against that person. But notice you've completely disconnected the connection between suffering an actual violation of your rights and your ability to go into court and bring suit. And it's for that reason that we and others have described this as bounty hunter regimes as vigilante regimes in a very literal way. They are encouraging a posse to make use of the civil justice system and come into court and enforce these laws. Amy Benziger [00:04:41] Exactly. And it is anonymous is the idea of an enforcer, so everyone is scared to put their neck out there to protect each other because you never know who's going to be offended or look at it as an opportunity to make money. When I first read about the lives, scary to think that my mind immediately went back to the Fugitive Slave Act, which is one of the most shameful laws in America's history David Noll [00:04:59] for folks who aren't familiar with it, the Fugitive Slave Act is enacted as part of the compromise of 1850. So the way that the law worked is it created special judges who are known as commissioners. The commissioners got dollars. If they found an alleged fugitive and ordered the fugitives return, they got five dollars if they found that the proof was insufficient. There was a thousand dollar fine for people who aided and abetted in section five of the statute, it says. All good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law whenever their services may be required. Just a completely striking parallel with the language of SB eight that says any person may drag an abortion provider or anybody who aids in assists or attends to aid and assist an abortion provider to court. Amy Benziger [00:06:07] And that number a thousand dollars was essentially what enforce the law, because for so many of those folks who wanted to help escape slaves, that type of money at that time was so financially catastrophic that it would be impossible to act for almost anyone. And that makes me think you just can't stifle people's beliefs in a supposedly democratic system for very long before it erupts. David Noll [00:06:32] The Fugitive Slave Act did not resolve the question of slavery. It was an incredibly contentious piece of our politics in the 1850s. It's part of the sequence of legal enactments that lead up to the Civil War. We don't want to overstate what these laws are doing, but at the same time, we want to be very clear that there is a historical analog for these laws and it doesn't lead to pleasant places. And so you should absolutely reject the idea that these are simply a conservative version of the Clean Air Act, or they're completely different and they threaten civil society in a way that established private enforcement statutes don't do at all. Amy Benziger [00:07:17] I think there's been a universal humbling among many Americans and the understanding that history does repeat itself. Many of us have had the luxury of thinking this was impossible. But after January six, I think our belief in the stability of a never ending democracy in America started to feel really shaky. What do you point to is the roots of this instability in our lifetime? John Michaels [00:07:38] There is a universe of vigilantism that, as we've seen, it has been on the rise for some period of time. We market roughly from the early part of this new century, where it became most apparent in the private policing of the southern border under the belief that the federal government is not doing enough to protect the homeland as it were. And we've seen over those periods of time armed patrols and. And the second area is the mobilization of every American to fight the war on terror at home. And so there's been this rise of policing, one of the neighbors policing those who seem like they don't perfectly quote unquote fit into our community. And this isn't the same story. This teacher is not doing what we expect the teacher to do, or these kids should use the bathrooms in which their gender birth directed them to do so. It's all about kind of enforcing conformity, but not even having the state do it. But to have individuals do it creates a situation where it's not big government doing it. It's almost like a grassroots movement, and this makes it look like these are just legal issues. And should this be in state court or should it be in federal court? And David, in our lifetimes, like, whoa, slow down. Let's not lose sight of the fact we're mobilizing some group of individuals against another group of individuals. Amy Benziger [00:09:11] For many, the last five years have felt like a breaking open of an ideological divide in the United States over the basic human right to freedom, to live the way you want to have the same opportunities as your fellow citizens and to have control over your own body. What is set the stage for these rights pressing laws to take hold is a federal judiciary fundamentally reshaped by Donald Trump. In many ways, Trump convinced a lot of single issue voters who may not have liked him for many reasons to vote for him for a single one. The U.S. Supreme Court, the three Supreme Court justices he appointed Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are all under the age of 55, with the lifetime appointments and the power to control the court for decades. Throughout his term, he also appointed over 200 judges, fundamentally shifting the courts across the United States to the right. Let's talk about the role of the courts in 2021. It felt like when the Supreme Court declined to rule on SB eight, there was massive outrage, but it was also such a blatant Partizan play. It felt like we all sort of gave up on the court. John Michaels [00:10:12] Just to be clear, Congress could pass a federal law that protects the right to abortion, and it's not that hard in the same way that Congress could do something to further protect voting rights. I mean, it might be hard to enforce, but it's not that hard to legislate if they if they are of the mind to do so. So I do think keeping attention, not assuming as I think progressives or liberals of earlier generations assume that the courts would bail us out. And I think people recognize that that's not true anymore. And so it puts more pressure on the political branches to do what's right. Quite frankly, it's a real it's a gut check moment for the Democratic Party. David Noll [00:10:50] I would push back on the framing of your question because giving up on the Supreme Court suggests the image of a heroic Supreme Court that is willing to go to bat for the little guy and correct defects in the political process. Time and again, the court has acted in ways that privilege the rich and that undermine equality and that undermine the functioning of a fair democratic process. I would say certainly don't look to the Supreme Court to save us here, but also revel in that because as scary as things are. It is a moment to participate in democratic politics. And, you know, in this deeply ironic way, the best response to anti-democratic politics is more democratic. Politics is democratic engagement. Amy Benziger [00:11:42] What about individuals? Where do we go from here? John Michaels [00:11:45] Maybe this idea that individuals are policing one another could be a new political front to essentially take stock of who we are and who we want to be. That may be too optimistic, but this seems like a rallying cry. David Noll [00:12:01] Historically, there's been sort of a tendency to splinter into interest groups, right? So that you have the environmental movement and you have anti-discrimination movement and different interest groups within democratic politics. And what we're seeing is that all of that stuff is connected, and the demands of these different interest groups are not attainable without good democracy, without fair electoral rules, without fair elections. It's extremely hard to predict how it's all going to unfold, but we do think that in a more democratic society, you would have less space because there's just not broad, popular support for turning neighbors on neighbors and undermining the principles that are that are recognized in ROE. Amy Benziger [00:12:44] So we're trying something new at the end of every show. We're asking all of our guests for a prediction one year from now, what's changed with this issue? John Michaels [00:12:51] I would say one year from now, we will see more copycat state legislation on a broader range of issues. It'll be increasingly dividing the world between blue and red. David Noll [00:13:02] A year from now, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit that has a high likelihood of resulting in SB eight, not the entire category of laws, but but SB8 being struck down. Congress, for all its flaws, is working on historic legislation, part of which is voting rights legislation. A year from now, we will be in in the midterm campaign if the stakes weren't clear. Surrounding reproductive justice prior to the enactment of SB eight, the fact that Texas has effectively shuttered every abortion provider in the state with threats of massive civil liability directed against abortion providers and people who aid and assist them, makes clear the stakes just in a tangible way that no law professor could ever do because this is affecting people on the ground and it is having direct impacts on how they live their lives. Amy Benziger [00:14:03] Few movements for equality have happened without the solidarity of multiracial multi issue and multiparty groups across society. John and David made that clear. Noah, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Amy Benziger [00:14:14] So what stood out to me, Amy, is that we started off with an interest in the Texas abortion law, right? But eventually we ended up with our need to improve democratic systems in the U.S. overall. Initially, I thought that fighting against abortion laws would involve striking the laws down through Congress or the Supreme Court. But according to John and David, we should focus on being proactive about passing pro-democracy reforms alongside striking down the laws. That way, these bills could never be passed in the first place. Amy Benziger [00:14:44] So a year from now, what's your prediction, Noah? Amy Benziger [00:14:47] I'm going to go ahead and cosign John's prediction. I think we'll see more copycat laws passed around the country a year from now. Since we're heading to the midterms, I think red state politicians will be looking to rally up their base with divisive social issues like these. What about you, Amy? Where are we at a year from now? Amy Benziger [00:15:03] I think a year from now we see record breaking participation in women running, canvasing and voting for pro-choice candidates. You know, the day after Trump was inaugurated, I marched on Washington with hundreds of thousands of women, and what we later found out was the largest single protest in U.S. history. Right now, we have a heartbeat bill moving through the Florida Legislature that's going to be signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. If that happens, that's 50 million people in America across these two states alone without access to abortion services. You know, I think one state is scary. Two states are trend and people are going to rise up. Miners Clip [00:15:36] Congratulations on two years. You are the founding members of lesbians and gays. Support the miners. Terrific. That's great. Oh, government by. Amy Benziger [00:15:59] Talk policy to me is a co-production of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans. Amy Benziger [00:16:07] Our executive producers are Bora Lee Reed and Sarah Swanbeck Amy Benziger [00:16:11] Editing for this episode by Amy Benzinger, and Elena Neale-Sack. Amy Benziger [00:16:15] The music you heard today is Blue Dot Sessions and Pat Kenny Miller. Noah Cole [00:16:19] I'm Noah Cole. Amy Benziger [00:16:20] I'm Amy Bezinger. Amy Benziger [00:16:22] Catch you next time.
1 minutes | Oct 19, 2021
Season 5 Trailer
Season 5 of Talk Policy To Me is dropping soon, with new hosts Noah Cole and Amy Benziger. Listen and subscribe!
21 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
Episode 406: Talking Urban Agriculture & Food Policy
During the holiday season, food is often central to the celebration. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are experiencing hunger for the first time, and food insecurity has become a daily reality for many. Today, we’re talking about what some say is a practical solution to rising hunger—urban agriculture and the policies that shape and support it. If you live in the Bay Area and are experiencing hunger this holiday season, check out these resources that may be able to offer help: (San Jose) West Valley Community Services (https://www.wvcommunityservices.org/) (Berkeley) Berkeley Food Pantry (https://www.berkeleyfoodpantry.org/) (Peninsula) San Francisco-Marin Food Bank (https://www.sfmfoodbank.org/) (Oakland/Alameda) Alameda County Food Bank (https://www.accfb.org/) (Richmond) Richmond Emergency Food Pantry (http://www.refp.org/) If you live outside the Bay, you can visit https://www.feedingamerica.org to find your nearest food bank.
30 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
Episode 415: Talking with David C. Wilson
In this final episode of TPTM Season 4, we say goodbye to hosts Reem and Colleen and hello to the incoming Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, Dr. David C. Wilson.
43 minutes | May 20, 2021
Episode 414: Talking Lies Your High School Econ Teacher Told You
Cash transfers discourage work, price ceilings and floors (like the minimum wage) are economically inefficient, and trade makes everyone better off. If you’ve ever taken a basic economics course in high school or even in college, these were probably the major takeaways. But these are myths --dire oversimplifications at best, and outright inaccuracies at worst --that often represent the most basic building blocks of conservative arguments against critical safety net policies. In this episode of Talk Policy To Me, GSPP economist Hilary Hoynes and TPTM reporter Reem Rayef unpacked the most nefarious myths to surface the truth about the impacts of economic policies, and imagine a better way to teach and learn economics.
26 minutes | May 6, 2021
Episode 413: Talking Black Police Unions
CONTENT WARNING: This episode involves mention of police violence against people of color. Since the 1970s, Black police officers have formed informal unions in response to racism within their departments and in the greater community. In this episode, reporter Elena Neale-Sacks talks to an economist, a law professor, and a former president of a Black police union to better understand the purpose these organizations serve, their limits, and the ways in which they differ from police unions with bargaining power, like the Police Benevolent Association and Fraternal Order of Police.
17 minutes | Apr 29, 2021
Episode 412: Talking Public Spaces
As vaccine rates rise and health experts give more public activities the stamp of approval, people have begun shifting from private spaces to public ones. Today, we’re talking about what public spaces are and the policies that govern them. We’ll also talk about the unhoused folks for whom the distinction between public and private space is less clear. Archival audio from YouTube user Saul Rouda.
43 minutes | Apr 15, 2021
Episode 411: Talking philanthropy—yesterday, today, and tomorrow
On this episode of TPTM, we’re talking philanthropy yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Since the Gilded Age, philanthropists have positioned themselves as gracious, charitable forces in society who are experts in identifying and solving our social ails. But the institution of philanthropy has had its critics from day one. What are the origins of modern philanthropy in the US, and how did they lead us to where we are today? What role (if any) does philanthropy have in a democratic society? And if there are real problems with philanthropy, how should we address them? Should we focus our efforts on implementing regulations and reforms of modern philanthropic institutions? Is our goal to tear down the institution of philanthropy writ large, and put in place a (potentially erosive) wealth tax? Or should we rely on rich people to voluntarily spend down their wealth? Colleen and Reem will dig in to explore the past, present, and possible futures of modern philanthropy in the US. Want to learn more? Check out these follow-up resources: Resource Generation’s Class Privilege Quiz, Giving Pledge, and Class Definitions and Income Brackets Resource Generation’s National Partners, Movement for Black Lives and Center for Popular Democracy The Revolution Will Not Be Funded by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva Read Laila’s op-ed on the Goldman website Find Sophie Dover on Twitter Philanthropy and Social Movements podcast series by Harvard Kennedy School students
19 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
Episode 410: Tok Policy To Me—Youth Political Mobilization through TikTok
With over 100 million users and counting in the US, TikTok is beginning to play a major role in the political education and mobilization of its young user base. In this episode, which was written and recorded in the aftermath of the November 2020 election, Talk Policy to Me reporter Noah Cole spoke with Aidan Kohn-Murphy and Toni Akande, two of the teens who run the “Gen Z for Change” TikTok page. Aidan and Toni touched on how they used traditional organizing practices to get out the vote through TikTok in the last election cycle, the tradeoffs between producing popular and substantive political content, and where they think the future of online political mobilization is headed. Noah also heard from four additional political TikTok creators during a speed round of questions on politics, policy, and online civic engagement. More info on: Gen Z for Change https://genzforchange.us/ https://www.tiktok.com/@genzforchange Quentin Jiles https://linktr.ee/Qrjiles https://www.tiktok.com/@quentinjiles Elise Joshi https://www.tiktok.com/@elisejoshi Matthew Rein “The Dem Hype House” https://www.tiktok.com/@thedemhypehouse Colton Hess “Tok the Vote” https://www.tokthevote.com/ https://firstname.lastname@example.org
47 minutes | Mar 11, 2021
Episode 409: Talking Anarchism and Direct Action
Last summer, as a part of the public reckoning with racialized police violence, chants and mantras like “Whose Streets? Our Streets” and “We Keep Us Safe” and “We Are The Change We’ve Been Waiting For” resounded in the streets and all over social media. What would it mean to take these slogans seriously? To actually imbue people and communities -- rather than political representatives and corporations -- with the power to create and change the world around them? Talk Policy To Me reporter Reem Rayef delved into the practice and philosophy of anarchism, in search of an answer. In this episode, Reem speaks with Bryce Liedtke (friend, anarchist, GSPP alum, and Policy Director of the Scout Institute) about how he reconciles the principles of anarchism with his work in the policy space. Then, we hear from Dana Ward (anarchist, professor emeritus at Pitzer College) about the historical and philosophical origins and transformations of anarchism, in the United States and around the world. Additional Reading The basics of anarchism as defined by Kim Kelly in Teen Vogue Dana Ward’s Anarchy Archives Are You An Anarchist? by David Graeber
17 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
Episode 408: Talking Black History Month 2021
Black History Month 2021 has been an eventful occasion at the Goldman School of Public Policy. One student organization, Black Students in Public Policy (BiPP) has been responsible for putting together a weekly speaker series on health and wellness, economic policy, politics, and social impact in the Black community. In this episode of Talk Policy To Me, we hear from 7 students in BiPP who share their path to public policy and the ways that they are celebrating Black History Month. For more information on the Black History Month Speaker Series, visit goldman.school/blackhistorymonth
18 minutes | Dec 31, 2020
Episode 407: Talking the U.S. Senate—Is It Still Relevant?
The highly contentious Georgia Senate elections are right around the corner. The results will determine which party holds a Senate majority for the next two years. In this episode, we take a step back and examine the Senate as an institution in the current political context of hyperpolarization. Is it still functional as a mechanism of effective government? Maybe. Or, maybe not. To help make sense of it all, we spoke with UC Santa Cruz politics professor and co-author of The Invention of the United States Senate, Dan Wirls, and senior contributor at The Appeal, Jay Willis, who has written extensively on the Senate filibuster. Both Dan and Jay discuss the most worrisome aspects of the Senate—equal representation of states and the filibuster as a mechanism for gridlock—as well as potential paths forward.
32 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
Episode 405: Talking The Future of Community Engagement
When shelter-in-place orders were mandated in cities across the US, city employees sprang into action to facilitate the transition. Day-to-day government happenings were instantly and radically transformed, but one thing that cities still needed to do? Community engagement. In the face of orders for folks to stay home and social distance, cities faced a reality where they needed to quickly and efficiently transition to new or unfamiliar modes of digital engagement. So… how’d they do it? In this episode, we hear from Meghann Lucy, a sociology PhD student who studied the transition to digital engagement in Boston this past summer, and Heather Imboden, an engagement practitioner and the founding principal of Communities in Collaboration in Oakland. Both Meghann and Heather discuss what cities are learning about how to meaningfully engage residents virtually, and how this moment is shaping the future of city-led engagement processes more broadly.
27 minutes | Nov 19, 2020
Episode 404: Talking Ballot Access & The Green Party
Nothing in the US Constitution mandates or guarantees a two-party political system. Yet Americans are accustomed to understanding the political landscape as a binary of Democrats and Republicans; third parties are rarely taken seriously, particularly on the national scale. Members and candidates of political third parties, like the Green Party, argue that this is bad for democracy. With an increasing share of the electorate -- particularly young people -- growing disenchanted with the existing parties, third parties represent an opportunity to re-engage independent voters in civic life by better representing their worldviews and preferences. That’s why the typical Green Party platform reads like that of a very progressive Democrat, calling for deep investment in transformative climate policy, an end to all wars, and major social safety net expansion, plus electrical reforms that make third party candidates more visible and viable choices in the voting booth. In this episode, which was written and recorded before the November 3 election, Talk Policy To Me reporter Reem Rayef spoke with Jake Tonkel, a biomedical engineer who ran for San Jose City Council as a member of the Green Party. Jake shared his perspective on the positionality of local and national Green Party candidates in the political sphere, the damaging narrative around spoiler candidates, and the Green Party’s theory of change. Jake also charted a course for elevating the profile of the Green Party, and other non-major parties, through targeted electoral and ballot access reforms. Related Resources Video from Vox on the benefits of multi-party systems Article by Briahna Joy Gray on “Vote Blue No Matter Who” politics, and their costs to democracy Document from the National Association of Secretaries of State detailing ballot access rules for every state CSPAN interview with Green Party Presidential Candidate Howie Hawkins Jake Tonkel’s campaign site
22 minutes | Oct 29, 2020
Episode 403: Talking Prop 22, App-Based Drivers, and Labor
On November 3rd, California voters will decide on Proposition 22. The Proposition aims to allow app-based drivers to maintain their status as Independent Contractors by carving out a special exception to Assembly Bill 5. We talk to Goldman Alumna Rebecca Stack-Martinez and the Chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center Ken Jacobs about the implications of Prop 22 on labor and the influence of money on the most expensive ballot initiative in California’s History. Gig Workers Rising Report- “The Uber/Lyft Ballot Initiative Guarantees only $5.64 an Hour,” Ken Jacobs and Michael Reich, UC Berkeley Labor Center
19 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
Episode 402: Talking Election Coverage
Talking: Election coverage—where’s the policy? Hourly breaking news. An endless stream of push notifications. A backlog of political podcasts (but not this one, right?). Today we’re talking about how the news media covers elections, and how voters can find real information within the sea of coverage in the final weeks before the election.
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