Law Center Mourns Passing of Jerry Balter

Jerry Balter and Michael Churchill
Our former colleague Jerry Balter has died at age 94. His contribution to the Law Center and to the development of environmental law to serve our community during the 28 years he spent at the Law Center was extraordinary. Jerry was a friend, a support for communities without much hope, and an inspiration about what activism, organizing, and optimism could accomplish. In all of his cases, there was a passion for justice--that the law should respect the needs and rights of those outside the power structure. We invite you to read more about Jerry's extraordinary life on our website and head to our Facebook page, where we put up a small album from Jerry's time at the Law Center.

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DHS Held in Contempt in our Right-to-Know Case

In June 2016, we secured a Commonwealth Court ruling that found the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) in contempt for failing to comply with the PA Supreme Court's decision requiring the release of documents showing the rates paid to certain dental providers to treat children enrolled in Medicaid. This decision is part of our ongoing work to use the state's Right-to-Know Law to promote public scrutiny of the payment rates in Pennsylvania's Medicaid managed-care program. From our experience in Pennsylvania and other states, we know that low reimbursement rates can result in systemic lack of access to care. Following the contempt ruling, DHS must produce these documents to us by the end of August.

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2016 Annual Event: Of the People, By the People, For the People
Annual Event
Join us on Thursday, October 6 for our annual event to celebrate the core conviction of democracy: "of the people, by the people, for the people." We will honor Soil Generation (left), a black-led coalition of urban farmers and community gardeners; longtime board member Nick Chimicles (center) of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP; and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP (right), our dedicated co-counsel in our case on behalf of children enrolled in Medicaid in Florida. Sponsorships available. Tickets $150.

Briefing Continues in Class Action Against SEPTA

In April, we filed a class action lawsuit against Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for willfully violating federal and state laws when conducting criminal background checks of prospective employees. We are bringing this class action suit on behalf of three individuals, including Frank Long, a 55-year-old resident of Philadelphia and a commercially licensed bus driver. SEPTA offered Mr. Long a job in October 2014 as a bus operator, but then rescinded the offer because of a drug-related conviction on Mr. Long's record from 1997. In June, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, and we responded in July

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Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition Seeks Zoning Relief

Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition
We are supporting a group of neighbors in South Philadelphia to intervene in a matter regarding a 32-story mixed use development proposed by Tower Development and developer Bart Blatstein. Like many non-affluent neighborhoods, the community was not consulted and its desires were disregarded in the planning process for this unwanted development. The residents would like to have the empty lot transformed into a productive use of property, but they are concerned about the extreme height, traffic congestion, the environmental hazards associated with building on a former industrial site, and other issues, given examples of Blatstein's and other surrounding developments, many which remain vacant.

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New and Departing Board Members

Donald Joseph
Jennifer Clarke, Donald Joseph and Brian Feeney
At our annual meeting in June, the board elected Daryn Rush of White & Williams LLP to its membership. We are pleased to welcome him to the board! Also at the meeting, the board and staff expressed gratitude to departing members Lexa Edsall and Alan Sandals. Special recognition was given to departing member Donald Joseph, who leaves the board after more than 30 years of service. Finally, the board re-elected the current slate of officers for a second term. Brian Feeney remains board chair, Lea Knight vice chair, Ellen Friedell treasurer, and Marc Topaz secretary.

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Let City Council Know What You Value About Urban Agriculture

Soil Generation
Hoodstock is an annual music, art and food festival hosted by Philly Urban Creators at "Life Do Grow" farm in North Philadelphia. At this year's event in mid-July, the black-led coalition of gardeners and farmers, Soil Generation, hosted a policy table and asked attendees to fill out a survey to collect data for the City Council hearings on urban agriculture scheduled for this fall. If you are a resident of Philadelphia, we encourage you to take the survey and let your councilperson know what you value about urban agriculture in this city and what you think we need to do to make urban agriculture more accessible.

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