This has been in the works for a while, but now it’s formally out: I’ll be leaving UCLA after 19 years (that’s one Great Year, if you’re keeping lunation score at home) and moving to the Marron Institute on Urban Management at NYU. I’ll be working on crime control and drug policy, with a visiting appointment at the Wagner School, where I’m hoping to teach in the new undergraduate public policy major. The Institute is the brainchild of Paul Romer, based around a simple proposition: while the major worldwide social process of the century 1950-2050 is the migration from villages to cities, no one has a clue about how to run those cities. My job is to figure out the public-safety part of that challenge, and in particular how to massively reduce incarceration while keeping crime trends headed downward.
I’m looking forward to: working with Paul Romer, pursuing projects with the city and state governments, living in Manhattan, spring, fall, thundershowers, sunsets, broad-leafed trees, bookstores, and being in the right time zone for national news and only a comfortable train ride away from DC, Philadelphia, or Boston.
I’m not looking forward to: summer, winter, and East Coast manners.
I’ll miss: great colleagues and students at UCLA, hiking any day of the year, beaches.
I won’t miss: watching the California budget process destroy the University of California. Pat Brown’s creation of the UC system was one of the greatest public-management triumphs of the 20th Century. (It’s not well known, but in the Shanghai rankings UC holds four of the top 20 slots worldwide.) There’s a way to prevent the legislature and the governor from pounding UC back into mediocrity – a constitutional amendment ballot initiative requiring the state to spend at least as much on universities as it does on prisons – but after ten years of failing to get anyone at UC to take the idea seriously (even after getting endorsements from LA Police Chief Charlie Beck and SF District Attorney George Gascon) I’m giving up.
The public policy department I’ll be leaving is, in my carefully considered – though of course not unbiased – view, the best, pound-for-pound, in the country. That is, if Kennedy or Goldman or Harris or Sanford or Wagner offered to trade one of their faculty, selected at random, for one of ours, also selected at random, I’d advise UCLA to turn down the offer. There aren’t enough of us – see complaint above – but we’ve managed to mount a first-class MPP program, and in recent years we’ve been able to attract an excellent group of students. It’s agreed that I’ll stay connected to UCLA in some capacity.
In the meantime, the Big Apple beckons. As a way of dealing with a midlife crisis, a new job beats a Miata. And once I have Manhattan apartment with a guest bedroom, I expect to see a lot of my out-of-town friends.