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May 2008 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter


May 2008

In this issue:

40th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

2008 Legislative Highlights

Introducing Glenn Harris, RSJI's new manager

SOCR Receives New Information Management System

Staff Profiles

Kudos Corner

From the Director - Working towards equal rights and social justice for all in 2008
Julie Nelson, Director

Julie Nelson was confirmed by City Council on March 17, 2008 and sworn in as Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

SOCR is taking on a number of new challenges in 2008, as well as continuing our work towards equal rights and social justice for all of Seattle.

Our enforcement of civil rights laws resulted in record settlement dollar amounts in 2007. In 2008, in addition to investigating complaints of discrimination, we are developing strategies to address the more covert forms of discrimination that serve as barriers to equity in housing, employment and public accommodations.

SOCR is continuing our outreach and education to communities informing residents of their civil rights and developing new training models, including on issues impacting people with criminal records and predatory home loans. We're also working in the community with immigrant and refugee business owners to spread information regarding civil rights laws and serve as a resource on questions around the American with Disabilities Act and related state laws and city ordinances.

In 2008 we are embarking on the next phase of the Race and Social Justice Initiative, which will include working with partners to address racial disparities in the community, and ensuring that the City's public engagement and outreach processes are culturally competent. I am excited about the recent development of a budget and policy filter that requires City staff to analyze policy and budget requests using a racial justice lens.

The three commissions staffed by our office; the Seattle Human Rights Commission, the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities and the Women's Commission are working on a number of issues including public safety, homelessness, and health disparities. The creativity and commitment of all three commissions is much appreciated.

2008 promises to be an exciting year for SOCR and I look forward to working together to ensure that civil rights and social justice remain a priority in the City of Seattle. Together, we are more likely to make progress towards equal rights and social justice for all of Seattle.

 


40th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act
Curtis Salazar, Enforcement Division

On April 11, 1968, the U. S. Congress approved Public Law 90-284, the Civil Rights Act of 1968. A small portion of that Act contains the Fair Housing Act.

Passage of this legislation was the culmination of two years of attempts by some members of Congress to protect individuals from discrimination in housing. Due to strong opposition, the bill did not pass the first two years it was introduced. While today the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a strong advocate of Fair Housing, at the time Congress was considering the act, NAR actively voiced opposition to it. NAR's opposition reflected a common sentiment across the country.

During that same time period, racial tensions in the United States were high. Unrest in several US cities led to riots in Watts in August 1965, and Newark and Detroit in1967.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was scheduled to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers.

One week later Congress passed the Fair Housing Act. The question remains whether the passage of the act was due to fear in white America that the loss of such a greatly respected and loved leader might lead to greater violence throughout the country.

The Fair Housing Act was part of the larger civil rights movement occurring across the country. In Seattle, activities had begun as early as 1956 when the Civic Unity Committee created the Greater Seattle Housing Council to encourage dialogue between proponents of open housing and the real estate industry.

The struggle for fair housing would continue in Seattle for many years. On March 1, 1964, an Open Housing Ordinance was defeated by Seattle voters 115,627 to 54,448. J. Dorm Braman, an opponent of open housing, was elected Mayor of Seattle, defeating John Cherberg, a supporter of open housing.

On April 19, 1968, two weeks after Dr. King's assassination, the Seattle City Council passed the Fair Housing Ordinance unanimously (Ordinance 96619). It passed with an emergency clause, making it impossible to appeal by referendum by the voters. The bill was sponsored by six Council members, including Sam Smith.

For those born in the mid 1970's who never experienced life without civil rights laws, it might be easy to forget just how recent the year 1968, and the passage of the Fair Housing Act was. Yet the daily news stories of predatory practices in mortgage lending, the high number of discrimination complaints that come through our office and the experiences of friends, family and community reveal that fair housing is something we are still hard at work on forty years later.

For those born in the mid 1970's who never experienced life without civil rights laws, it might be easy to forget just how recent the year 1968, and the passage of the Fair Housing Act was. Yet the daily news stories of predatory practices in mortgage lending, the high number of discrimination complaints that come through our office and the experiences of friends, family and community reveal that fair housing is something we are still hard at work on forty years later.

As the Fair Housing Act turns forty, we look back and remember the struggle and commitment of all those in the civil rights movement including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who fought hard for these protections. While we still have a ways to go in terms of changing attitudes and practices in this country, we who came after the civil rights movement are the beneficiaries of the struggle for policies of racial and social justice.


For more information about the timeline of Civil Rights activities leading to the creation of the Seattle Human Rights Commission and related anti-discrimination laws please visit http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/doclibrary/OHousing/timeline.shtml

For more general information about fair housing, visit the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website at http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/yourrights.cfm

If you feel you have been discriminated against in housing or you would like more information on Fair Housing laws please contact SOCR at 206-684-4500.


2008 Legislative Highlights
Jacque Larrainzar, Policy and Outreach Manager

The Washington State Legislature introduced 1,492 new bills for consideration during this short 60-day legislative session. Some of those bills impacted a number of areas that are closely related to our work to end racial disparities and advance civil rights for all in Seattle.
Headlining the accomplishments were family medical leave, domestic partnership benefits and medically accurate sex-education.

    Family Medical Leave
    This year's Legislature made Washington State the second state to offer new parents paid family leave. The benefits need to be more generous, but it's still landmark legislation. (The Governor is planning to sign the bill on May 14th.)

    Domestic Partnership Benefits
    SB 5336 created a domestic partnerships option for same-sex couples, giving such couples legally recognized hospital visitation, autopsy authorization and inheritance rights.

    Sex-Education
    Senate Bill 5297 requires school districts to offer medically accurate sex-education curriculum, including information on contraception, not just abstinence-only propaganda.

    Other Legislative Issues
    Healthcare
    On health care, the state failed to tackle comprehensive reform of the state's health care system, but it did pass some solid reforms:

  • The Legislature enacted Senate Bill 5093, extending health coverage to all children in families earning up to 300% of the poverty line by 2009 - and extending coverage to 38,000 children, including undocumented immigrants, in the next two years.
  • House Bill 1460 extended the mental health parity law to smaller businesses and individual health plans - bringing mental health coverage to 540,000 people.
  • The state enacted health care cost control measures to provide incentives for more cost-effective procedures and encourage use of electronic medical records.
  • Bridging the Digital Divide
    Washington funded a mapping of the broadband digital divide in the state to prepare for comprehensive legislation in 2008 to move towards universal build-out.

 


Introducing Glenn Harris, RSJI's new manager
Elliott Bronstein, Policy & Outreach

Welcome to Glenn Harris, the Race and Social Justice Initiative's new manager. Glenn comes from the Department of Neighborhoods, where for the last four years he has worked as the SE District Coordinator.

"As the liaison between the City and communities in southeast Seattle, I have worked with a diverse range of residents, neighborhood groups, business associations, and nonprofits," said Glenn. "My job was to let people know what the City was doing, while also responding to residents' concerns. District Coordinators serve as the City's 'eyes and ears', so I learned a great deal about the potential - as well as the challenges - in building partnerships between the City and neighborhoods."

Glenn came to the City after five years with Western States Center, a Portland nonprofit that provides training and technical assistance to organizations working to achieve social change in an eight-state region. Glenn was the Center's development director, as well as a trainer. As the new RSJI manager, Glenn takes over from Mickey Fearn, who is now the Manager of Community Connections in the Department of Parks and Recreation.

As part of his new position, Glenn will focus on public engagement goals of the RSJ Initiative. He hopes to foster broader and more effective City engagement, especially with communities that historically have had less access to government decision-making. "How City government engages with our residents is critical. We already work actively with many homeowners and businesses through neighborhood planning, economic development and other programs," Glenn said. "Where we struggle is to develop that same ongoing relationship with communities of color and other marginalized communities."

Glenn sees the RSJ Initiative as a chance to build these relationships. "I am very excited to be able to work on the Initiative full-time," he said. "We have the opportunity to make a real difference in our city. There are too many areas, such as health, education, economic security, environmental justice and criminal justice, where inequity is the norm. I look forward to partnering with groups across the city to change this, and to make a real impact on people's lives."


SOCR Receives New Information Management System
Eddie Ferrer, Information & Technology/Administrative Division

Meeting our department's business needs and processing critical data just got a whole lot simpler. Because of the collaborative efforts of the Department of Executive Administration Technical and Project teams, we have launched the first phase (business requirements gathering) of developing our new Case and Outreach Management System. The team unanimously voted a name for the system; appropriately, we chose MARTIN in honor of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.

In January of this year the team launched the project. The team, which represented the core of SOCR's knowledge, experience and skills on case processing, drew up our goals:

  • a. To replace the SOCRATES System with a new Case Management System that would allow Administrative, Enforcement, and Policy and Outreach staffs to track, coordinate, assign, correspond, and monitor all requests or complaints that are received through the office. We will build a new intranet web-based application that is contained within the City's network.

  • b. The replacement system will ensure that Case Management information tracked by SOCR be accessed quickly, more intuitive, more effective, and that confidential information shall be protected and accessed by authorized users only.


  • Two months after launching the project, excitement continues to grow and we are now on the design and construction phase of the web base application. The project is scheduled for completion in Fall 2008. We continue to meet regularly and look forward to the successful completion of the long-awaited system.


    Staff Profiles

    Angela Dawson-Milton Angela Dawson-Milton

    What is your position at SOCR?
    Enforcement Manager

    What do you love most about working at SOCR?
    What I love most about working at SOCR is being part of a time full of such passionate and committed people. People who work at SOCR and have worked here in the past have always demonstrated their will to make Seattle better from a race and social justice perspective. I think that was true even before those words became the foundation of the RSJI Initiative.

    What are your hobbies or passions outside of work?
    I have a passion for working with young people. I am part of a service organization that sponsors a youth group for high school age girls. I love working with those girls because it is gratifying to watch them develop over the time they are with us. I also love working with children my son's age. He is in the fourth grade now, and I have enjoyed watching him and his peers grow from preschoolers to "big kids." It gives me a lot of joy.


    JT Delich

    What is your position at SOCR?
    Civil Rights Analyst, Class of '06.

    What do you love most about working at SOCR?
    I enjoy working with so many bright, knowledgeable and entertaining people here at the SOCR. I enjoy the relationships I have with my colleagues and the perspectives that each provides. I believe that the development of these relationships has helped to enhance my success, both as an individual, and within the team environment.

    I feel very fortunate for the opportunities of professional and personal growth that working here has provided to me. For example, race and social justice topics and discussions have been thought provoking, cultural luncheons have been enlightening and speakers/film/presentations have been very instructive.

    Who inspires you and why?
    Notable inspirational persons:

    1. My father, Samuel David Delich who went from the small town of Kemmerer, Wyoming (the fossil fish capital of the world), to achieving national and international renown as an expert in the intermodal aspects of the transportation (specifically, maritime) industry. He authored an amicus brief, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, which established principals relating to the preemption of state law by federal law in connection with the control of oil pollution in state waters.

    2. Dr. Edwin Coleman. Dr. Coleman taught Black Literature and Black Poetry at the University of Oregon. Dr. Coleman opened my eyes to literature that I wasn't otherwise exposed to. He pointed the way (and opened the door) to James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou and others. I recall Dr. Coleman, as a physically small man, who was jamming on stage with his bass guitar, and inciting the crowd with his cries of, "Viva Mandela!", at the rally to celebrate Nelson Mandela's release.


    Kudos Corner

     

    Hi Darlene,
    Our employees thought that you were the best trainer for RSJ. You helped them to better understand the initiative.
    Thanks again!
    Shena


    Hi Julie, Jacque, Rosalinda and Marta,

    -I wanted to thank you for all your support and advice while I was co-chair of the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities over the past two years. It has been a pleasure to work with each of you, and I think you would be hard pressed to find a better and more innovative Office of Civil Rights department in the nation in my opinion. I found that everyone in the Office of Civil Rights was responsive and engaged with the SCSM goals and work plans, which always contributed to our success. It was wonderful to co-chair a dynamic and active commission that had great support from you all.

    Thanks again and see you at the SCSM meetings!

    Joseph
    Exiting Co-Chair, SCSM


    Julie, Glenn,

    I want to take a moment to thank both of you for the great jobs you did yesterday that resulted in a most interesting, positive, and productive training experience. You were terrific and, despite all the obstacles that presented themselves, you were able to get the group talking openly about some difficult issues and thinking about race and institutionalized racism a bit differently by the end of the day than at the beginning.
    Thanks for your humor, candor, insight, and hard work. I know I'm not the only one who appreciates it.

    Lisa


    Jacque,

    I just want to give you a BIG THANK YOU for helping me to grow with RSJI. You never cease to amaze me with you commitment. The information you gave me at the program yesterday and today at the GAIA meeting was very helpful to me.

    Thank you!
    Malik


    Hi Elliott:

    Thank you for all you help with DoIT's RSJ event, "Byte of DoIT II." It was a great success.
    Because of your involvement and guidance, enlightening and highly appreciated facilitated discussions occurred at the tables. The feedback received was that your introduction to the topics was sensitive, informative and safe. Folks felt very comfortable sharing thoughts and ideas.
    You're definitely an asset to the City's Race and Social Justice Initiative.

    Ann


    We received the following kudos for a training provided by Jacque and a fabulous staffer from SPU, Michael Davis:

    I just wanted to drop a line to say "THANK YOU" for your presentation at the City of Seattle's Administrative Forum on April 23rd. I wanted to let you know that I really appreciated your work. I thought your workshop was fun, engaging and informative. I think that the two of you really balance each other out well and demonstrate and model respectful communication.
    Thanks!

    Sandra

     

    Seattle Office for Civil Rights
    Julie Nelson, Director

    For newsletter questions contact Brenda Anibarro, (206) 684-4514 Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.Gov