Samantha Levine, Founder
Experience & Expertise
From banning smoking in restaurants, posting calorie counts, banning Trans Fats, instituting restaurant grades and the soda "ban," Samantha has lived and worked through the arc of some of the most bold, effective and game-changing public health initiatives ever proposed in the U.S. - all of which required nuanced communication, public and community engagement, and an understanding of what levers to push to influence public opinion.
In addition to creating and executing the “I’m A Girl”campaign - which included campaign ideation and messaging, informal and formal focus groups, engaging community based organizations, identifying and recommending a curriculum, securing cross-agency city funding and support, overseeing the photo shoot and campaign creation, media buy and press rollout (including a New York Times exclusive and dozens of statements of support from stakeholders) - two other past initiatives in particular speak to the work she has done throughout her career in terms of changing a narrative and influencing the public conversation.
In May 2012, the City of New York, in an effort to combat the growing obesity epidemic, introduced a first in the nation proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages. Soda, we argued, was unique in that it had no nutritional value, did not contribute to a feeling of satiety; people consumed it as "empty calories" and ate as much as they would have had they not consumed soda. Additionally, studies showed a connection between amount of soda consumption and obesity rates. As the Mayor's representative overseeing the Health Department, Samantha was responsible for the roll-out and ongoing communications efforts behind this campaign.
Due to the influence of New York City's media market, and the singular attention Mayor Bloomberg commanded, this took on a national presence. Over the course of the two year effort (which ultimately did not become law due to what the Court decided was overreach by the Board of Health), we saw the media make a new and lasting connection between soda and obesity and changed the way people talked about sugary beverages; indeed, seven years later there are not many people in the country who are unaware of the NYC ban and why. Additionally, on the heels of the NYC proposal, Philadelphia, Seattle, Berkeley and Boulder have all passed taxes on soda, as has Mexico. Perhaps as interestingly, soda companies, which opposed the ban, began adjusting their advertising in response, encouraging the public to exercise, and ultimately began producing and promoting smaller cans.
As a consultant in the early 2000s, Samantha worked closely with the Russell Sage Foundation and author Beth Shulman in advocacy around income inequality and low-wage work. Beth's book - The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail Thirty Million Americans - challenged the idea that low-wage workers held "unskilled jobs," arguing that the characterization was insulting and an excuse to pay these men and women an unfair salary. Working together, we reached out to media and influencers behind the scenes, wrote rapid-response letters to the editor and OpEds, and highlighted individual worker's stories to correct this misperception and make the case that low-wage workers were quite skilled for the jobs that they held.
Over the course of two years, which included our publishing OpEds in the LA Times and the Washington Post and a Business Week cover story highlighting the contributions of low-wage workers and pro-actively challenging their characterization as unskilled, we slowly saw a change in the way the press characterized low wage work and a marked decrease in the use of "unskilled" labor. (Unfortunately, Beth passed away due to brain cancer and without ongoing advocacy in this arena, and a concerted effort to demonize immigrants and low-wage jobs, the pendulum has again swung).
Samantha has a strong history of working in women's health and rights. Prior to joining the Mayor's office, she was the director of marketing and media relations for NARAL Pro-Choice New York and communications director for Planned Parenthood of New York City.
Previously, Samantha was a consultant for Tina Brown Live Media Women/Women in the World and a writer for The Daily Beast and Women in the World and for SKDKnickerbocker where clients included the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Win (formerly Women in Need) and the Paradigm for Parity Coalition.
Marc La Vorgna, Founding Board Member
Marc La Vorgna most prominently served as Press Secretary to New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. As the Mayor and Administration's lead media strategist and chief spokesperson, he oversaw the media operations for the Mayor and all of City government, while designing and implementing the communications strategy for the initiatives undertaken by the Bloomberg Administration.
Marc led Mayor Bloomberg's media campaigns against some of the nation's most aggressive and well-funded political organizations - fighting national media engagements on left and the right - from battles with the NRA, Big Tobacco and the National Beverage Association on the right to the ACLU and American Federation of Teachers on the left, and many more.
He is the founder and principal of MLV Strategies, which provides assertive and effective overall media strategy, communications tactics, message development, crisis work and strategy on the often misunderstood - and poorly managed - art of navigating a regular pool of media covering an entity.
Marc's recent client work includes, but is not limited to: Mike Bloomberg's ongoing national political work on guns, the environment, education and a (brief) presidential campaign; the fantasy sports industry; ride-sharing leader Lyft; Jay-Z's RocNation business interests; the commission exploring the closure of Rikers Island; private equity giant KKR and crisis communications work related to the U.S. Attorney probe into New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration's Bridgegate scandal.
Evelyn Erskine, Founding Board Member
Evelyn Erskine is a communications expert with 15 years of experience in strategic planning, media relations, crisis management, social media strategy, project management, and event management in the public and private sectors.
As the Senior Communications Director for Corporate Philanthropy at Bloomberg LP, she leads the internal and external communications efforts for Bloomberg's corporate philanthropy and employee engagement programming across 56 countries. In addition to increasing awareness and engagement in Bloomberg's philanthropic program through outreach strategy and content development for engagement campaigns, she partners with marketing and social media teams to raise public awareness of innovative new programming and company initiatives.
Previously Evelyn was a deputy press Secretary for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and oversaw the communications staff for more than a dozen City agencies including Gracie Mansion, Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs, Immigrant Affairs and the Women's Commission. She also served as the Mayor's primary liaison to Spanish-language and ethnic press as well as local community media. She was a critical partner in the New York City Girls Campaign, helping to build out the vision, operationalize the components, and engage partners inside and outside government.