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The Only Constant is Change

August 19, 2010

Author: Anne Erickson

The only constant is change.  This hit me again as I was working through our latest personnel changes at Empire Justice:  Kristin Brown Lilley, our wonderful Legislative Director who moved our legislative and administrative advocacy to powerful new heights and who was my “right hand man” for the past nine years, left this summer to take a great job closer to home allowing her more time with her young son; Mike Mulé, our incredible language access attorney who has been with us in one way or another since he was a law student and who helped put language access on the policy agendas at the highest levels in state government, is leaving to join the US Department of Justice - a great testament to his work while he was here at the Empire Justice Center;  Alexander Karsten, a young attorney working in our consumer law practice group in Rochester is taken on new responsibilities with LAWNY.

So many moving parts, so much change.  So, does it breed uncertainty or opportunity?  Both and more.  Just as the dramatic financial challenges we confront bring uncertainty or opportunity. Current fiscal realities have forced us to make some very tough decisions.  We are all taking unpaid leave and a number of staff have had their time reduced beyond the furloughs.  Very tough and painful decisions but ones that will help ensure our long-term financial health.

Uncertain times ahead challenge us to remain creative and open.  Fear could drive us underground, paralyze us and keep us from moving forward.  On the other hand, the way we act this year will determine what we look like next year.  If we hide, we will remain hidden.  If we maintain our passion and commitment and continue doing the work that needs to be done, we will continue to be needed and relevant, sought after as partners and looked to for leadership.

I am so proud to say that in the face of extraordinary sacrifice and challenge, our staff has remained passionate and committed.  We continue to serve our clients and our community with the best we have.  We have not been paralyzed; quite the opposite.  We have joined with others in launching major litigation across the state challenging illegal barriers and delays in the public assistance systems; we maintain an aggressive legislative and administrative agenda; our training and support to the community, while more targeted, remains robust and well-received.

We are forging new partnership and seeing new opportunities.  This summer for example, we joined in a new project with the New York State Community Action Agency Association (NYSCAA) funded by the Department of State to provide trainings across the state on how to access public benefits.  We completed a project funded by the Office of Children and Families Services that updated the ten-year-old Self Sufficiency Standard, a joint project with NYSCAA, the Fiscal Policy Institute, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, NYATEP, the Early Care and Learning Council, Everywoman Opportunity Center and the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement.  We are in exciting discussion now with potential new funders of our health care policy work and we’re involved in an incredibly exciting and powerful new effort launched by our new Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to finally get the State of New York to adequately fund the delivery of legal services in this great state.

Change is constant.  We can’t change or control that reality.  We can - and I’d say we must - control how we react to it.


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