February 2012 message to staff
WLRD Director Mark Isaacson on Equity and Social Justice
I want to take a moment to talk about what the Water and Land Resources Division is doing relative to Equity and Social Justice (ESJ). You likely have heard about this initiative. Have you wondered what our division is doing?
In this context, “equity” means everyone has equal access to opportunities that enable them to attain their full potential. And, "social justice” requires the fair distribution of public goods, institutional resources and life opportunities for all people.
Since 2007, all King County departments and the Council have been working to help ensure that every resident of King County has the same opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation or disability. King County’s goal is that all residents in our county have equal opportunity to receive the same quality education, access to basic health care; affordable housing and healthy food, opportunities to work for a living wage, and the same ability to live in safe neighborhoods and enjoy the natural environment. Three objectives are identified to help meet this goal:
- Consider equity impacts in all decision making;
- Build community trust, improve customer service and institute robust civic engagement; and
- Promote fairness and opportunity in County government practices.
If you want more information on the countywide program check out the Equity and Social Justice Initiative. But, please know that WLRD staff has already begun to implement specific actions to meet the intent and purpose of the ESJ objectives. Specifically, we have made significant progress in our flood awareness program, local hazardous waste service delivery, and agriculture program.
Specifically, WLRD’s agriculture team embraced the action of “promoting inclusion and fairness” and worked to ensure that WIC program participants (Women, Infant, and Children) are able to use their monthly benefit checks to purchase produce at local farmers’ markets. Staff also worked with market vendors so that recipients of food benefits can use their electronic benefit cards to purchase food directly from farmers at the farmers markets and other locations. This program shows that with a little creative thought we can embrace equity and social justice and provide fairness in delivering services and products to all our customers.
We can make equity and social justice a routine part of our operations and social interface. If we give a little time and thought we can create other actions and effective ways of eliminating bias or exclusionary practices. I encourage each of us to make suggestions and have discussions with co-workers, supervisors and managers.
Together I am sure we can come up with new ways and activities to embrace ESJ. Thank you.