REPORT: ‘Systemic Inequalities’ Plague South King County Residents
by Jack Mayne
The first-ever Equity and Social Justice report reveals King County is now nearly half populated by non-whites and those living in the south part of the county face inequalities because of not only where they live but because of race and income.
The first report of King County Equity and Social Justice shows the county is increasingly diverse, with a non-white population that has grown from 13 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in the 2010 census. The document says that trend is expected to continue, as nearly half of all county residents under 18 are non-white. More than 100 languages are spoken in King County, and 11 percent of those over age 5 have limited-English proficiency. The full report is available here: www.kingcounty.gov/equity.
“It’s a basic American ideal that personal success should be based upon merit – talent, drive, determination – not upon race, or class, or zip code,” said County Executive Dow Constantine in a news release. “Our economy depends on everyone being able to contribute, and we must remove the barriers that artificially limit the ability of some to fulfill their potential. Only when all can fully participate can we have true prosperity.”
County Council Chairman Larry Gossett said the report makes it “painfully clear that the lives of far too many people in our county continue to be impacted by systemic inequities. “In 2008, we made a commitment to reduce these inequalities. King County has accomplished much in a very short time, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to achieve the ideals supported by Equity and Social Justice.”
The report highlights the 14 determinants of equity, or the conditions in which county residents are born, grow, live, work, and age. These are baseline markers to assess progress and areas for improvement in creating a fair and just society. The report (here) includes maps and other statistics that reveal inequities across King County.
South King County and south Seattle have the greatest concentration of households below the median household income, the report says. In 2010, African American and Native American households earned just over half of the median income of white households.
The largest decline in home values has occurred in South King County communities, low-income areas and more racially diverse communities.
The incarceration rate for African Americans in King County is roughly eight times the rate of incarceration for whites.
Food hardship has increased by half since 2007 in King County and varies significantly by race. Nearly two in five Latino adults and more than one in five African American adults report food hardship.
“As the report shows, dramatic disparities continue to exist in King County, particularly in South King County,” said King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, 5th District, which includes part of South King County.
“These findings will direct us in identifying solutions that increase the quality of life for all people regardless of your zip code, the size of your bank account or your ethnicity.”
Mia Gregerson, deputy major of SeaTac said she thanked the county “for its leadership on equity and social justice, and in South King County many of our leaders are coming together to work on these issues to create a more inclusive and responsive government.” said Mia Gregerson, deputy mayor for the City of SeaTac.
Nathan Phillips, director of the South King Council of Human Services, said, “Equity can only be achieved when all of our King County communities have similar access to the jobs, schools, housing, services, parks, and transportation that create pathways for people to reach their full potential,” said “While we have made some progress, this inaugural annual report shows we still have a tremendous amount of work to do, and I commend the County for raising this as a priority.”
Affordable housing and more housing choices, along with ending homelessness are “are key elements in assuring equal opportunity for a successful and prosperous community,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, an independent municipal corporation.
Constantine said the report also highlights King County efforts to promote fair and just conditions for all through the siting and delivering of services; policy development and decision making; education and communication within county government; and community engagement and partnerships. For example, the budget office held all agencies accountable for considering equity impacts in their 2012 budgets and business plans.
The executive said Metro Transit included social equity as one of three criteria in its new Transit Strategic Plan, which determines how transit services are allocated in King County.
King County Elections expanded voter registration and education outreach activities through partnerships with ethnic communities and other underserved populations,” he said.
“In our work to provide voter awareness and participation we are fortunate to have partners helping us to expand outreach to communities eager to connect with each other and a broader network of services and opportunities,” said King County Elections Director Sherril Huff. “We are growing connected communities through uniting with the purpose of being active, being heard through voting and supporting the inclusion of every voice.”
The Metropolitan King County Council in 2010 adopted legislation integrating the principles and practices of equity and social justice into all agencies and branches of County government. The ordinance establishes definitions and directs implementation steps related to the “fair and just” principle of the King County Strategic Plan that guides all county activities and functions.