USC Price School of Public Policy

Trojan League of Los Angeles Benefit

Trojan League of Los Angeles Showcases SPPD at Annual Benefit

By Cristy Lytal

Dean Jack Knott Dean Knott addresses audience at Trojan League of Los Angeles annual benefit at Town & Gown

The Trojan League of Los Angeles showcased the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development on Feb. 27 at its annual benefit, which was themed “Creating Ideas that Shape the World.”

Each year, the TLLA alumnae group selects a distinguished department, school or individual at USC to honor and support. Funds raised at this year’s benefit included a $10,000 gift from the Stanley and Joyce Black Foundation.

In his opening remarks, Jack H. Knott, SPPD’s C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Dean and professor, addressed a crowd of more than 200 attendees in Town & Gown.

“Our students are tomorrow’s leaders. They are studying at SPPD to help shape our world for the better,” he said. “I’m sure that you will agree that, now more than ever before, it is critical to find lasting solutions to society’s biggest challenges. And at SPPD, that is fundamentally what we strive to teach.”

Attendees learned in-depth information about several of the major challenges facing our world during SPPD faculty presentations in Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall. Topics covered our nation’s health care reform efforts, governance issues with the state of California, housing and transportation, and immigration and the implications of changing demographics.

SPPD professor Michael Nichol and associate professor Darius Lakdawalla led the session on our nation’s current health care reform efforts. They discussed reasons why health care costs are outstripping inflation, for example, new technologies, demographic changes and longer life expectancies; and how the healthcare market differs from other markets in the United States.

Across the hall, SPPD professors Dowell Myers and Harry Pachon gave an eye-opening lesson on immigration and California’s new demographics. Myers explained that California needs young immigrants to balance the senior population, which will skyrocket as the baby boomers turn 65.

Pachon contended that immigrants are crucial to our state for other reasons as well: “When you look at the immigrant barrios, there’s hope there, because as bad as things are, they’re worse in the home country. We need to feel that optimism that is there. They’re willing to work harder.”

In “California in the 21st Century: Are We Governable?,” SPPD professor Elizabeth Graddy and associate professor Juliet Musso examined the Golden State through a different lens. Graddy discussed many of the state’s challenges – revenue volatility, the two-thirds majority requirement to enact a budget, policymaking by initiative, term limits and political polarization. Musso turned the discussion to possible remedies and suggestions for reforms.

It was standing room only in professors Richard Green and Genevieve Giuliano’s presentation on “Real Estate Development, Transportation and Communities of the Future.” Green discussed two primary determinants of property values: “amenity effects,” which refer to features that can’t be reproduced like ocean views or quality of schools; and “convenience effects” that include elements like travel time to work.

Attendees expressed surprise as Giuliano revealed that Los Angeles has the highest average population density – 7,000 people per square mile – of any U.S. metropolitan area. Among the solutions discussed for the resulting traffic congestion were higher taxes on fuel, cars, parking and roads.

“We pay about half as much per gallon of fuel than most Europeans and the difference helps to fund their public transportation networks,” Giuliano noted. “If we pay more directly for transportation, we could become better consumers of transportation.”

Dean Jack Knott with Trojan League Speakers From left: Mark Kroeker, Jack Knott, Lisa Broderick, Curtis Conway

Two outstanding SPPD alumni – Mark Kroeker, vice president of threat analysis and crisis management for the Walt Disney Company; and former college and pro football star Curtis Conway – spoke to the full crowd over lunch.

Kroeker addressed multinational organizations and companies, and Conway talked about mentoring kids in the Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up. However, both stressed the importance of education.

“In this world – a world in conflict, a world that is in crisis, a technological world, a global world, an asymmetric world, a sometimes hysterical world – we need good people,” Kroeker said. “As I look at the foundation of clear critical thinking skills, where do you go for this but to the university?”

Conway put it a different way: “Every time I talk to kids, I say, ‘You guys watch MTV Cribs?’ And they all go crazy. And I tell them, ‘Look, do you think Shaq lives next door to Kobe? No. It’s probably some successful businessman with an education that has the same kind of house that Kobe has, but you don’t see him on TV. What does this mean for living? Well, when you go to college and you go to school, it just opens up doors of opportunity for you to branch out and really find things that you enjoy other than sports.’”

Benefit chairperson Lisa Broderick, vice president of TLLA’s Ways and Means Committee and an employee of the Boeing Company, recalled the doors that SPPD opened for her and was happy to be able to give back.

“Thirty years ago, I was interning in the Pentagon as part of my requirements for the School of Public Administration, as SPPD was then called,” she said. “I was working for Colonel Leon Pfeiffer, who had flown over 50 missions in Vietnam and was head of the international security affairs European division of NATO. This experience laid the foundation for my entire career.”

She added, “I know of no nobler mission than to improve the quality of life for people and their communities, here and abroad. So I am grateful that SPPD got this exposure today.”


Photos by Tom Queally