Policy Leaders and Students Come Together for Bay Area Policy Forum
By Matthew Kredell
For 10 years, graduate students at the USC Price School of Public Policy have brought together policy leaders in the Bay Area for a conversation with fellow Price students and alumni. For the 2019 Bay Area Policy Forum, the students chose to focus on themes of urban equity and smart cities.
Under the guidance of Suzanne Alexander, the Master of Public Policy Program Administrator, Samuel Worley a first-year Master of Public Policy Student, took the lead in a 14-student committee planning the event, which was held at SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association.
“The appeal of doing it up there is that students get a different environment to explore policy issues as San Francisco faces different problems than L.A.,” Worley said.
For their first task, students on the organizing committee chose the panel topics. They polled the Price School MPP and MPA cohorts, narrowed down the options and focused on picking two that were broad enough to touch on a number of different issues.
Urban equity allowed them to get into housing affordability, homelessness and environmental justice in the area, while smart cities created a discussion on the myriad ways technology can help and hurt a city.
The committee then went about identifying and reaching out to candidates in the region to speak about their personal experience working within the policy areas.
“It’s a student-driven event,” said Justin Dewaele, a first-year MPA student. “We came up with the topics ourselves and reached out to the panelists ourselves, and it was just a gratifying experience to make it all come together.”
Edmundo Diaz, a second year MPA student and president of the Price Graduate Policy and Administration Community organization, served as the event emcee, adding value to each event transition while expressing appreciation toward each event participant for selflessly donating their time to enlighten students and stimulate possible solutions for urban issues in Los Angeles.
USC Price Professor Richard K. Green, chair of the Policy Analysis and Real Estate Department, set the scene for the panels in his opening remarks. He relayed findings from his research on how living in a high-skilled city increases one’s earning potential, but also cost of living. At the same time, as cities such as San Francisco grow exponentially, other cities and regions get left behind.
Tomiquia Moss, CEO of Hamilton Families, an organization committed to ending homelessness for families in San Francisco and Oakland with a comprehensive approach including a shelter, transitional housing, prevention and children’s services, gave the keynote address.
Worley moderated the urban equity panel, which featured Jovan Agee, Deputy Treasurer on Housing and Economic Development for the California State Treasurer’s Office; Gina D. Dalma, special advisor to the CEO and vice president of government relations for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Sheryl Davis, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission; and David Rosen, founder of David Paul Rosen & Associates.
“It was a really good conversation about what are the root causes of urban equity in San Francisco and what we can do to combat them,” Worley said. “The panelists from the private sector, state government and public sector each gave a unique lens into how they address this problem, how they work together and how they sometimes even disagree.”
Dewaele moderated the smart cities panel, which featured Aurelle Amram, manager at Third Sector Capital Partners; David Ernst, founder and CEO for Liquid US; Mathew Magno, CEO of Japa; and Amardeep “Dee” Prasad, director of partnerships for the City of San Francisco.
“The panelists emphasized the need for technological innovation in government agencies and how technology is disrupting traditional modes of governing and policymaking, but also technology’s potential to make government work better and foster collaboration at different levels of government that weren’t possible before,” Dewaele said.
USC Price Professor, Dr. Juliet Musso, Vice Chair of the Governance Department, closed out the event by highlighting the major themes of the panels in her closing remarks, reiterating student takeaways and posed a question to students as to why poverty is such an intractable problem.
70 students from the Price School went up for the event, which also doubled as an alumni mixer. Following the Forum, the students had the chance to meet with 25 USC Price alumni based in Northern California as well as newly admitted MPP and MPA students.
“The alumni involvement is really fun because the people who are there want to give back, are stoked to talk to students and love being around that environment again,” Worley said. “Being on the committee also was a great way to get introduced to panelists, people you’ll want to know after you graduate. It was a great opportunity for connecting with alumni and professionals.”