Council adopts legislation to ensure that “fairness and justice” are an integral part of County’s Strategic Plan
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously adopted legislation to incorporate the principles of the County’s Equity and Social Justice Initiative (ESJI) into the King County Strategic Plan (KCSP).
“The strategic plan recognized that every County resident benefits by protecting those living on the margins and working to create better lives for themselves and their families,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “With today’s incorporation of the equity and social justice principles, we have taken an important step in addressing the role that our government should play in addressing those impacted by race, class, gender, sexual orientation and ability.
“I am proud to be part of a government that recognizes and addresses the social inequities that exist in our region,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson, a sponsor of the legislation. “How we do business impacts social equity throughout King County, and we must be part of the solution in addressing social inequities.”
The adopted legislation incorporates the definitions and countywide approach for the “fair and just” principle of the County Strategic Plan adopted by the Council in July. Working together, the three branches of County Government—Executive, Legislative and Judicial—crafted the Strategic Plan as a roadmap to use in meeting the challenges facing King County over the next five years and beyond.
“In our county named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., equity and social justice must be part of our core mission,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Our strategic plan is a roadmap for accomplishing the important work of ensuring all residents of King County have access to fundamental services like transportation, healthcare, and public safety.”
“Far too often, one's race, class, or geographic location determines whether one has access to some of the most basic rights of human life, such as health, safety, education, and a living-wage job,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, chair of the King County Board of Health. “By implementing social justice and equity into the Strategic Plan, we take an important step forward to ensure County government carries out its day-to-day operations in a way that treats everyone equally – regardless of the color of their skin, their income, or where they live in King County.”
One of the goals of the KCSP is to provide equitable opportunities for all individuals to realize their full potential, which is also an objective of the Equity and Social Justice Initiative. The integration of ESJI’s concepts into the Strategic Plan clarifies the plan's fair and just principles through equity and social justice values.
The legislation calls for the County to increase its focus on the determinants of equity in order to make progress in the elimination of the root cause of those inequities. The county is working to identify areas where inequities exist and determine if those inequities increase the demand for, and the cost of, providing government services. The intent is to ensure that any potential issues of inequity in a program are discovered before the program is implemented.
The fair and just principle means that as part of an overall strategy, the County will now consider factors that include:
• If decisions made by the County increase fairness and opportunity for all people, particularly for people of color, low-income communities and people with limited English proficiency;
• When decisions that have a negative impact on fairness and opportunity are unavoidable, steps are in place to mitigate negative impacts;
• Fostering an organizational culture that promotes fairness and opportunity;
Launched by County Executive Ron Sims in 2008, the goal of the ESJI is to eliminate long-standing and persistent inequities and social injustices within King County by applying the principles of the equity and social justice in the County’s actions, decisions, and policies. Its focus is working toward providing individuals with access to a livable wage, affordable housing, quality education, quality heath care, and safe and vibrant neighborhoods.
The adopted ordinance advances the Council’s priorities of Equity and Social Justice, Trust in Government and Safe, Healthy and Vibrant Communities.