Leading with Racial Justice in King County

On June 11, 2020, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, and Public Health Director, Patty Hayes, declared racism is a public health crisis. They heard the call-to-action from the community and have resolved to hold all of King County to a higher standard.

King County is committed to providing the resources needed to equitably address the damaging effects of racism and will do the necessary work, long-term, to create and affect tangible change.  

These commitments are grounded in the following values:

  • Be intentionally anti-racist​ 
  • Focus efforts on the area’s most harmful​ to Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Center the voices and lived experiences of BIPOC​ 
  • Be equitably responsive, adaptive, transparent, and accountable​ 
  • Address the root causes of racial injustice and inequities

Since the declaration, in partnership with system advocates, community members, and public servants throughout King County government, Executive Constantine put together a package of proposals that reforms the criminal legal system, and funds ongoing work to confront racism as a public health crisis.

Today, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, outlined the key investments and reforms in the criminal legal system, as well as funding priorities for anti-racism work. The detailed policy agenda will be released after the budget is announced next week.

The 2021-2022 budget focuses on criminal legal system reform to reduce recidivism and end involvement in the system for youth and adults through the development and implementation of alternative public safety models, partnering with the community to create solutions, funding the ongoing work of effective community-based organizations, and supporting BIPOC employees.

Budgets reflect values. The 2021-2022 proposed budget includes investments that emphasize equitable justice and prioritizing resources to meet the areas of need disproportionately impacting Black and Indigenous People of Color in King County most.

2021-2022 Budget and Policymaking Principles:

  • Lead with racial justice, prioritize the voices and lived experiences of the most impacted
  • Ensure Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are represented at all levels of decision making
  • Reallocate funding from police & legal system to community investments
  • Invest in community-based organizations and partnerships
  • Driven by Community Policy and Budget Priorities

The current County budget proposals include down payments for a long term and permanent shift in the county’s operations to reflect anti-racist priorities and values. Over multiple budget cycles, this effort will redeploy resources from services that address existing problems to programs that invest earlier.

The goal is to strengthen community efforts that prevent the need for future intervention and promote community well-being.  Continued long-term efforts will move resources away from unjust systems, policies, and programs that harm BIPOC to invest resources upstream into community programs and interventions.

For every proposed budget, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, seeks input from various stakeholders and community members. However, the plan that will be present next week was drafted with a greater sense of urgency and collaboration, particularly regarding criminal legal system reform and prioritizing anti-racism work.

This budget essentially coalesced around three specific principles: invest, divest, and reimagine.

Actions in the 2021-2022 budget include:

  • Divest $4.6 million of marijuana tax revenue
  • Invest $6.2 million in Restorative Community Pathways
  • Invest $750,000 to co-create and implement an alternative to policing in urban incorporated King County
  • Divest $1.9 million in detention by continuing limits on jail population
  • Invest $600,000 to a Regional Approach Method for responding to gun violence
  • Invest $2.7 million to divert first-time felony filings from the judicial system, offering services to break the cycle of chronic offenses
  • Invest in community engagement
  • Reimage fare enforcement on Metro

We will continue to co-create with and employ community-led solutions as we make these investments. The deliberate, long-term shift in resources and priorities will create healthier, happier, safe, and thriving communities that are rooted in inequitable and racial justice for all BIPOC living in King County.

Read the Executive Press Release to learn more information about these and other proposals as part of King County’s commitment to be more racially just.

The highlights will be included in the 2021-2022 Proposed Budget that Executive Constantine will present to the King County Council with a formal speech on September 22.

Following the budget announcement on September 22, a King County team will engage with the community and community-based organizations to ask for input on the proposed policy agenda and how to effectively advance racial equity together for the future.

In November, King County Council will approve the budget and determine which proposals to accept.

Policy Framework:

Policy matters because it impacts peoples’ lives. From school to transportation to business and everything in between, public policy guides systems, programs, and services that directly interact with King County community members. Public policy can effectively problem solve challenges and improve the quality of life; alternatively, it can harm individuals and communities.

King County is prioritizing the following policy areas to advance the power, prosperity, and well-being for Black and Indigenous People of Color, so all King County residents and communities thrive. The data demands change. More in-depth policy actions and comprehensive policy agenda will be shared in the next few weeks.

  • Criminal Legal System
  • Economic Development
  • Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Housing
  • Infrastructure and Environment

Additional details, policy agendas, programs, and specific investment information will be made available on the Office of Performance, Strategy & Budget website following the release of the 2021-2022 budget on Sept. 22. 

Originally published on September 16, 2020.