Holding King County to a Higher Standard: 2021-2022 Anti-Racist Policy Priorities

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Some called COVID-19 the “Great Revealer” or the “Great Equalizer”. The COVID-19 pandemic has not equalized economic inequities, it highlighted them. It also has not revealed anything new that data, science, advocates, Black and Indigenous People have not been telling us for generations. The data, stories, and lived experiences demand real change.

In his State of the County address on July 24, 2020, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, talked about the reckoning taking place in America “to the brutal reality of racism and bias throughout our society.”

The death, injustice, and unrest we’ve witnessed locally and around the country in 2020 is a direct result of a refusal to eradicate historical systems, practices, and policies built and maintained by white supremacy. Post COVID-19 recovery in this region will not look like a return to business as usual for King County.

Our collective success across this region is dependent on acknowledging the specific ways in which Black and Indigenous People have been disproportionately affected and profoundly impacted by racially inflicted trauma and injustice. Inequity and injustice impact us all by threatening King County’s ability to create safe, healthy, hopeful, and happy communities.

Anti-Racist Policy Agenda Priorities:

In June 2020, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, and Public Health – Seattle & King County Director, Patty Hayes, declared that Racism is a Public Health Crisis. King County and Public Health have committed to implementing a racially just response to this crisis long-term.

King County will be rooted in racial justice, economic equity, and systems accountability. This is reflected in a new 2021-2022 policy agenda from  King County Government that intentionally centers the voices and acknowledges the lived experiences of Black and Indigenous People most impacted by systemic racism and economic inequity.

The Executive’s Office is prioritizing the following policy areas to advance the power, prosperity and well-being of all people, regardless of race, location, or economic status. These system changes and community investments focus on social, racial, and economic justice.

It ensures the equitable distribution of resources to meet the immediate and long-term needs of those most disproportionately effected in King County, particularly Black and Indigenous People.

  • Criminal Legal System
  • Economic Development
  • Public Health, Behavioral Health & Housing
  • Infrastructure and Environment
  • Internal King County Operations

The policy framework focuses on county-level changes across sectors as well as advocacy and partnership recommendations for City, State, and Federal level changes. These Executive proposals were developed based on the requests, immediate needs, and specific priorities expressed by local government, systems, and community.

The 2021-2022 policy and budget proposals include down payments for a long-term, permanent shift in the county’s operations to reflect anti-racist priorities and values. The goal of the proposed policy agenda and budget is to meet the needs of and implement positive changes for Black and Indigenous People, Children, and Families in King County.

The King County Executive Office and Public Health – Seattle & King County will continue to partner with and employ community led solutions as we make these investments. Over multiple budget and policy cycles, these efforts will continue to divert resources away from systems and services that only address outcomes, to community-based interventions that work to eliminate the root causes and avert recycling traumatic and harmful outcomes. 

Strengthening and supporting community-based efforts will prevent the need for legal system intervention, rebuild trust, and promote community well-being. The deliberate, long-term shift in resources and priorities will create healthier, happier, hopeful, safe, and thriving communities rooted in equitable and racial justice for all living in King County.

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