By increasing access to affordable health care, reducing bus fare for lower-income riders, addressing disproportionality in the juvenile justice system and more, Executive Constantine is taking action that confronts the root causes of inequities in King County, a new report shows.
King County has made substantive progress toward creating a more equitable community and workplace—including a significant increase in affordable healthcare coverage and the creation of a reduced bus fare for low-income riders—according to a new report on equity and social justice published by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“Our approach is based on the belief that people want—and should reasonably expect—a good and affordable place to live, ways to get around, a quality education for their kids, and fair access to the ladder of success,” said the Executive. “They don’t need anyone to carry them up that ladder, just a solid foundation beneath their feet.”
Addressing the root causes of inequities
The 2015 Equity and Social Justice Annual Report a range of bold actions taken by Executive Constantine to address the root causes of inequities, including:
- Increasing access to affordable health care: The Executive’s “all-hands-on-deck” approach to promote the Affordable Care Act helped more than 200,000 people enroll in the new healthcare insurance system—dropping the percentage of uninsured adults in King County from 16 percent to below 10 percent.
- Reducing the bus fare for low-income riders: Metro’s income-based ORCA LIFT program has grown at a steady pace since its inception in March 2015. The program, available to qualified riders with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, provides cardholders a savings of up to half off the per-trip cost on Metro and Kitsap Transit buses, Sound Transit Link light rail, the King County Water Taxi and the Seattle Streetcar.
- Addressing disproportionality in the juvenile justice system: Although King County's youth detention rates have dropped more than 60 percent over the last decade, the proportion of youth of color in detention continued to rise. Executive Constantine joined with Superior Court to convene the largest and most diverse group King County has ever assembled to recommend solutions to a growing racial disparity in the regional juvenile justice system.
- Investing in Best Starts for Kids: Secured voter approval for the most comprehensive approach to early childhood development in the nation. Performance-driven and science-based, the program starts with prenatal support, sustains the gain through teenage years, and invests in healthy, safe communities that reinforce progress.
- Establishing baselines: For the first time, King County created a “Determinants of Equity” report that provides baselines for measuring the status of equity in such community conditions as on-time graduation rates, access to affordable and quality housing, and access to public transit.
As documented in the report, inequities remain in King County across a broad range of areas. For example, the middle class is not growing, and 95 percent of the net new households created since 2000 earn either less than $35,000 a year, or more than $125,000. There are also race and placed-based income gaps, and since the Great Recession the average income for whites in King County has risen steadily and significantly, while blacks have experienced net average income loss.
The report also documents numerous efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
“As a regional government working in an increasingly interconnected world, a diverse workforce makes us more competitive, innovative, and nimble—
allowing us to provide the best services to the many communities we serve,” said Executive Constantine.
New this year is Executive Constantine’s creation of the Office of Equity and Social Justice, which works hand-in-hand with the Equity and Social Justice Inter-Branch Team to support the work of all County employees and agencies, and serves as the backbone and coordinator of key County efforts to advance equity in the organization and community.
The Executive is also developing the first-ever Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan to guide the County’s work in this area in the short- and long-term.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Matias Valenzuela, Office of Equity and Social Justice, 206-263-8697