Larry L. Berg

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July 30, 1939 - November 28, 2013 Dr. Larry L. Berg, long-time commentator on California and national politics and founder of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Southern California, passed away at his home in Calabasas, CA on Thanksgiving. Dr. Berg succumbed to complications associated with lung cancer. As Executive Director of the Unruh Institute, Dr. Berg acquired a reputation as one of the most insightful political analysts of his era. Under his leadership the Unruh Institute of Politics hosted forums on a variety of public policy issues attracting both national and state political and policy leaders as well as leading state and national experts. One of Dr. Berg's students, Senator Martha M. Escutia, later to be elected to both Houses of the California legislature, remembered that the only B she received at USC was from Dr. Berg. She said, "Now I realize what that B meant. It meant that Larry didn't want me to settle for the easy path. He expected more and encouraged me to always aspire for better. Many years later, he appointed me to a special committee with the Air Quality District, and from there, my sense of civic engagement was born." In 1983 Dr. Berg was appointed to the Board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District by then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. He held that post for ten years during which he was a leader in the effort to expand pollution control regulations across the Los Angeles Basin. He was described by then District Executive Director Jim Lents as "both highly engaged in the process and very committed to making the lives of others, especially the less fortunate, better off socially and environmentally. His presence in the clean air fight will be sorely missed." At the time of Dr. Berg's retirement from the Board, the Los Angeles Times described him as "a strident critic of industry, particularly oil companies and power utilities, and spent much of his time on the board promoting innovative anti-smog technologies, including a hydrogen-powered bus unveiled earlier this week." Dr. Berg fought unsuccessfully to prevent adoption of the District's failed emission trading program (RECLAIM), arguing that "market mechanisms" for controlling air pollution were "nothing more than a license to pollute." He was also an early advocate for and supporter of Southern California's "Environmental Justice" movement, motivated by his conviction that minorities and low-income people were most likely to live in and be adversely impacted by air pollution. Dr. Berg had a lifelong commitment to civil rights and civil liberties. It was this commitment that caused him to run and be selected to serve as a Robert F. Kennedy delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Born on July 30, 1939 in Rockwell City, Iowa, Dr. Berg attended the University of Iowa where he received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master's degree in Political Science. During his matriculation at the University he became acquainted with Professor John R. Schmidhauser (D/IA) who was elected to Congress in 1964. Dr. Berg joined Rep. Schmidhauser's staff and accompanied him to Washington, DC. Later Schmidhauser joined the Political Science faculty at the University of Southern California where Dr. Berg had joined the faculty in 1970. In 1972 Drs. Schmidhauser and Berg coauthored a seminal work entitled, "The Supreme Court and Congress". In 1976 they coauthored "Corruption of the American Political System". In 1982, with others, he wrote "The United States and World Energy Resources". He was known for numerous publications on corruption in financing of judicial political campaigns in California. After leaving the congressional staff, Dr. Berg attended the University of California at Santa Barbara where he received his doctorate in Political Science. Berg also was an advisor to Senator Edmund S. Muskie (D/ME) who was the author of the Federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In addition to Senator Escutia, many of his students became involved in politics. He was a frequent visitor to Sacramento and Washington, DC managing legislative and political intern programs and advising several generations of Democrat State legislators. Dr. Berg was an expert on the "initiative" process and for many years published the Voter's Guide explaining the pros and cons of California ballot questions. He also served for a number of years on the Board of Directors of Ballard Power Systems, where he was an ardent advocate for development of fuel cells to power motor vehicles. In retirement, he was an avid birdwatcher and supporter of the National Audubon Society. Dr. Larry L. Berg will be well remembered for his contributions to public and collegiate affairs, his loyalty to family, and his love of a good political fight. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Anita Kieffer Berg; his four children, Andrea Berg-McKinney and her husband Jerry, Michelle Berg, Scott Miller and his wife Angela, and Dariel Miller; and his four grandchildren, Odin, Aidan, Devon and Cassidy. Memorial service to be announced.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 8, 2013
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