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Equity and social justice

Equity and social justice


Pro-Equity Policy Agenda:

King County is expanding access to opportunity in eight areas—child and youth development; jobs and economic development; environment and climate; health and human services; housing; information and technology; transportation and mobility; and the justice system.

Goal Areas:

We are advancing pro-equity policies, systems and practices in six areas of governance—leadership; operations and services; plans, policies and budgets; workforce and workplace; community partnerships; communications and education; and facility and system improvements.

Regional Equity Collaborative:

Given the need for increased coordination and cross-sector solutions that match the scale of inequities we face, King County is committed to regional collaboration on equity issues for greater and more sustained change.

Inherent in our True North – making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive – is our collective work and accountability as government to advance equity, racial and social justice. On the ancestral lands of the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Tulalip, and Suquamish Tribes, and the Duwamish people, it is the responsibility we have taken on to truly honor and continue the work of our county’s namesake, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

King County is a prosperous and resilient region for many communities who live here. Our region benefits tremendously from the generations of Native people on whose land we currently live, and who today continue to fight for their rights, and to protect and promote their culture, language, customs, and values – and their future. We are a stronger community because of our growing diversity of all kinds.

Yet, the brutal reality of racism and bias throughout our society and institutions continue to harm and hold back Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) nationally, and in different ways, all people in Washington State, and in King County. BIPOC people experience disproportionately worse outcomes in our community: health, access to housing and good paying jobs, educational attainment, income, incarceration rates, and more. That is why we are deliberate, urgent and steadfast in our commitment to become an anti-racist and pro-equity government.

In order to address this deep rooted societal sickness, as one important step towards what our namesake called ‘the beloved community’, we have declared racism as a public health crisis, and identified a “down payment” of budget and policy investments that among other things, begins to transform the criminal legal system.  This down payment also funds ongoing work to become truly pro-equity, anti-racist and accountable to historically marginalized people including Black, Brown, and Indigenous People of Color, with a deliberate focus on Black and Indigenous people, children, and families.

Our work to center equity and become pro-equity, continues through our Strategic Plan for Equity and Social Justice (ESJ), co-created with employees and community partners. The Plan is a blueprint for action and change that guides our pro-equity policy direction, our decision-making, planning, operations and services, and our workplace practices to advance equity and social justice within County government and in partnership with communities:

  • We are applying a theory of change that fundamentally shifts the county away from policies and practices that react to problems and crises toward investments that address root causes.
  • We are balancing a bold vision with actionable and measurable objectives.
  • We are creating space for innovation and adaptability across our government to help us be more dynamic, culturally responsive, and racially just.

Our strategies as One King County are to invest upstream and where needs are greatest—in employees and community partnerships. We will do this with accountable and transparent leadership.

  • Best Starts for Kids invests in prevention and early intervention for children, youth, families, and communities.
  • The Road Map to Zero Youth Detention is King County's strategic plan to not only further reduce the use of secure detention for youth, but to launch this County on a journey to eliminate it.
  • Metro Mobility Framework reflects the principles and recommendations co-created with community and sees mobility as a human right that allows communities and individuals to access the opportunities needed to thrive
  • Metro Subsidized Annual Pass is a partnership between King County Metro and Sound Transit to create a new, subsidized annual pass program, allowing qualified riders to travel on select transit in our region with 100% subsidized fares.
  • Open Space Equity is a framework developed by regional leaders and King County for creating a more equitable distribution of open space throughout King County, and begin the work of reversing inequitable access to health-promoting open space and address historical inequities.
  • Communities of Opportunity, launched with the Seattle Foundation, addresses inequities in health, social and economic outcomes via place-based and policy/systems change solutions with partners playing key roles in shaping solutions.
  • Familiar Faces is a community partnership focused on improving systems of health and social support services and crisis prevention for jail-involved individuals who have mental health or substance use conditions, and often experience homelessness.
  • Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee consisting of community members, youth, local leaders, law enforcement, school district superintendents, faith-based representatives, judges, prosecutor, and public defense are establishing short- and long-term actions to end disproportionality in the juvenile justice system.
  • Through a broad partnership, King County has implemented ORCA LIFT reduced-fare program, providing low-income populations more equitable access to public transportation and other services.
  • Creating a "Welcoming King County," Executive Constantine has led the creation of a rapid response fund to protect immigrants and refugees amid rising concern for their safety and well-being plus a pledge among elected leaders to create inclusive communities.
  • King County has expanded voting access to immigrant communities by having voter registration and information printed in Spanish, Korean, and other languages, and has drastically increased the number of drop boxes throughout the county.
  • King County is prioritizing racial justice as part of our government work overall and implementation of our Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Strategic Plan.
King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography