Summertime Success Stories from CEO Jamienne S. Studley
Developing a stream of skilled social justice advocates is one of our core values and favorite pursuits. We love spotting and nurturing talent. And the quality of exceptional Public Advocates-trained lawyers and other leaders — now and in the past — testifies to our success.
We’re proud to share three stories about some of the remarkable people behind Public Advocates’ success:
Tara Kini and Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, valued members of our legal team, have just been promoted to senior staff attorney.
Distinguished Pillar/alumnus Tom Williamson (pictured), like Tara and Sam a former intern here, is now president of the second-largest bar association in the United States, the District of Columbia Bar.
And speaking of interns, we are thrilled to have eight outstanding law students and two undergraduates joining our team for the summer. Each shares the passion for social justice that infuses our organization.
Menlo Park Puts Out the Welcome Mat for Facebook — and Affordable Housing
Our 2010 victory paving the way for affordable housing in Pleasanton was a tough act to follow. But in May, our housing team came through with a stunning encore.
In response to our advocacy, which we launched in collaboration with Youth United for Community Action, Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA), Urban Habitat and the Public Interest Law Project, the Menlo Park City Council unanimously approved a settlement agreement that will allow more of Silicon Valley’s many low-income workers to live in the community. It opens the door for the future development of roughly 1,000 homes affordable to very low-, low- and moderate-income families — as well as to Facebook’s new corporate headquarters in Menlo Park.
Like Pleasanton, Menlo Park had been among the communities most resistant to affordable housing development. But this time, we achieved comparable advances for low-income housing in just four months instead of the five years it took in Pleasanton.
The win will have repercussions across the state. As Managing Attorney Richard Marcantonio explains, “Laws requiring affordable housing are not optional; they are mandatory. Jurisdictions that fail to follow Menlo Park’s lead and continue to drag their feet should be aware of the consequences they face for being out of compliance.”
Litigators Pull Together to Push for Education Reform
State constitutions across the country feature language guaranteeing students’ right to a meaningful public education. But many states, including California, guarantee no such thing. Their failure to provide adequate school funding leaves millions of children — especially low-income and minority children and English learners — unprepared for college, work and life.
How can education litigators make states fulfill the promise of our nation? Public Advocates has long been focused on this question. And while we’ve enjoyed our share of successes enforcing low-income students’ rights, the fight is far from over. We are always on the lookout for new strategies.
That’s why, on June 7-8, members of our education team joined over a dozen organizations from around the country at the 2012 Education “Litigators Workshop,” an annual event organized by the Education Law Center in New Jersey. At the suggestion of Public Advocates, it was held in San Francisco for the first time. We co-hosted, along with Arnold & Porter and Bingham.
Allies working on statewide school finance lawsuits shared legal and courtroom strategies, and identified new and effective approaches to protecting and expanding critical school funding. Managing Attorney John Affeldt presented on our work on Campaign for Quality Education v. California.
Our team left the event inspired by fellow litigators from key battleground states, including Washington, Florida, New York, Colorado, Texas and Illinois. We look forward to applying these insights from around the country to strengthen our efforts at home.
Managing Attorney Richard Marcantonio has strong views on how to plan for growth in the Bay Area in a way that will benefit all residents — including low-income people and people of color. On June 15, he expressed those views live on one of KQED’s most popular Bay Area radio programs: Forum.
Richard joined fellow panelists Steve Heminger from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Ezra Rapport from the Association of Bay Area Governments, and Laurel Prevetti from the City of San Jose to discuss the future of transit, housing and land use in the Bay Area.
Listen to their lively conversation, including Richard’s powerful argument for regional planning that provides more affordable housing options for low-income workers and puts more bus service on the streets, rather than building transit cuts into our future.
Barnard College Honors Jamie Studley
In our first item, Jamie shared some successes about others. Now it’s our turn to share one about her. On June 1, our visionary president and CEO received a Distinguished Alumna Award from her undergraduate alma mater, Barnard College in New York City. She's pictured at the event (second from left) with her husband, Gary Smith, as well as Associate Provost Hilary Link (on Jamie's left) and Dean Avis Hinkson (on her right).
Barnard honored Jamie for her formidable achievements as president of Public Advocates Inc. and former president of Skidmore College, and as former deputy and acting general counsel at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton Administration. President Debra Spar specifically mentioned Jamie’s advocacy for need-based financial aid and public interest fellowships, noting that she’s a “leader in the halls of academia and advocate for the rights of women.” Spar also thanked Jamie for her “endless commitment to social justice and excellence in education, and the inspiring example [she sets] for us all.”
In her acceptance speech, Jamie explained, “I am hardwired to ask, ‘Where am I needed? How can I make this place, this world, fairer, better, wiser?’” Luckily for us, she’s doing that right here at Public Advocates!
What does local bus service have to do with questionable Wall Street deals? More than you might think.
The Refund Transit Coalition, one of our allies, has been campaigning hard to let taxpayers and transit riders know that bad interest-rate swap deals are taking a toll on transit systems in 12 U.S. cities.
The coalition’s new report, "Riding the Gravy Train" (endorsed by Public Advocates, among others), asserts that transit agencies across the country are overpaying more than $500 million to Wall Street banks in these deals. That's money that could be funding more transit service for people who desperately need it to get to jobs, health care providers, grocery stores and other vital destinations.
Do you know a bold and brainy third-year law school student or judicial clerk who gets as riled up about social justice as those of us at Public Advocates do?
Send that person our way! We’re looking for dynamic and dedicated advocates to apply for project funding with us through the Equal Justice Works and Skadden post-graduate fellowship programs. Fellows would work out of our offices in San Francisco or Sacramento.
Read the job description, and please share it with your professional network.