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Report on integrating equity and social justice in King County services
While disparities of place, race and income still exist, King County has made significant progress toward creating a more inclusive and prosperous place for all by considering equity and social justice in the decisions that guide delivery of County services, according to a new report released today by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“Our core vision as a government is to make sure that every person has a fair shot at success, no matter where you come from or how long you’ve been here,” said Executive Constantine. “To have true prosperity, our economy depends on everyone being able to participate and achieve, based upon merit, drive, and determination.”
The Executive’s 2013 King County Equity and Social Justice Annual Report documents the strides that have been made to integrate equity considerations into all County decisions, policies and practices, as called for by the King County Strategic Plan and the County’s “fair and just” ordinance.
“This report is a ‘snapshot’ of the progress we have made in establishing an honest integration of equity and social justice principles into how we govern as a county,” said Metropolitan King County Council Chair Larry Gossett. “I applaud how far we have come a in a short time, but as the report shows, there’s still much work left to do.”
Demographers say that, in time, no single race or ethnic group will be the nation’s majority. King County is changing as well, having added 200,000 more people in the last decade – the vast majority of them people of color. Half are the children of current residents; half have come here from other states and nations. Bellevue and Redmond are now more racially diverse than Seattle. Tukwila, Renton, and SeaTac are majority minority cities.
“Each and everyone one of us has a moral obligation to address inequity in our communities,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, who chairs the King County Board of Health. “This report arms us with information we need to continue our efforts to ensure all King County residents have equal access to opportunity,”
Six stories in the report demonstrate how equity and social justice is now being integrated into the daily delivery of County services:
- Educating residents about hazards in creative and culturally-appropriate ways: Working closely with community members and partner organizations, the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program developed a series of telenovela-style public service announcements that reach the county’s Spanish speakers with vital information about hazardous household materials.
- Engaging immigrant and refugee communities: As the home to the third-largest Somali population in the United States, King County programs are now collaborating with Somali residents to improve both health and criminal justice outcomes. The Somali Health Board meets quarterly for a two-way exchange of stories and information focusing on a community-identified issue, while workshops are educating justice-involved Somali families about the juvenile court process and community resources that can provide support.
- Working to keep youth and adults out of jail: To reduce involvement in the criminal justice system and address racial disproportionality, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) allows police officers to divert those involved in low-level drug and prostitution activities to community-based services, instead of incarceration. A series of programs aim to reduce overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system and provide the conditions for youth to make responsible choices.
- Opening new roads for empowering youth: in partnership with the County’s Department of Transportation, the Cascade Bicycle Club now runs the Major Taylor Project, which introduces youth in underserved communities to cycling and all the accompanying freedom, social awareness, and exploration.
- Removing barriers to diversify the workforce: The County’s Emergency Medical Services modified its hiring and training strategies to eliminate barriers to recruiting a workforce of emergency medical technicians that better reflects the county’s population.
- Helping smaller firms compete for county contracts: The Small Business Accelerator Program offers opportunities for certified small contractors and suppliers to compete among businesses of like size for County contracts – part of the County’s procurement reforms to create a system that is more efficient and equitable, one that propels small businesses.
The report documents the changing populations of three communities – the city of Kent, the city of Bellevue, and Northgate in Seattle – to show how local communities are addressing equity, especially in education, housing and transportation.
According to the report, three ZIP codes in King County are among the 30 most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation – 98178 in Skyway, 98188 in SeaTac-Tukwila, and 98118 in Seattle’s Rainier Valley.
This diversity, however, is not evident throughout the county. While people of color make up seven of every ten in the ten ZIP codes with the greatest racial diversity, the ten ZIP codes with the lowest diversity have, on average, fewer than one of every 10 people as a person of color. These racial and ethnic differences by geography are shown to correspond with significant differences in opportunity, life expectancy and education. For example:
- When comparing the ten ZIP codes with the highest household incomes to the ten with the lowest, there is a difference of more than $100,000 in average household income.
- When comparing the ten ZIP codes with the highest life expectancy to the ten with the lowest, there is a difference of more than 10 years.
By applying a detailed analysis of equity and social justice to his proposed 2014 King County Budget, Executive Constantine arrived at several actions that consider disparate impacts and fairness to all people:
- Funding for artificial turf desired by residents of White Center for the athletic fields at Steve Cox Park, which serves a diverse lower-income part of unincorporated King County.
- Significantly advancing the 16-mile Lake to Sound Trail, a path that will link the shoreline of Lake Washington in Renton with the shoreline of Puget Sound in Des Moines, for walkers, runners and bicyclists in the underserved south County.
- Funding to coordinate the many re-entry and recidivism-reduction programs already in place, to break the cycle of people from disadvantaged communities coming back to County jails and reduce racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system.
- Support for staff and resources to help enroll the 180,000 residents of King County who will become newly eligible for affordable health insurance as part of national health reform.
The report acknowledges the work of County employees to promote equity and social justice on a daily basis; and the inspiration of Place Matters, an initiative of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies that convenes communities nationwide to address the social, economic and environmental conditions that lead to racial inequities.
The Executive’s 2013 King County Equity and Social Justice Annual Report was presented this week at a special meeting of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.