Working for a safe, affordable, vibrant, innovative, and interconnected city.
Learn More Home Page This Department
Link to Office for Civil Rights Home Page Link to Office for Civil Rights Home Page Link to Office for Civil Rights About Us Page Link to Office for Civil Rights Contact Us Page
Office for Civil Rights Patricia Lally, Director
About Us
What is Illegal Discrimination?
How to File a Complaint
Labor Standards
Rules, Ordinances, Publications
Title VI Plan
Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative
Disability Access and Services
Employing Immigrants
Contact Us
Newsletter Archive

May 2010 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter

MAY 2010

In this issue:

Improving competition for women and minority businesses

Race and Social Justice Summit Brings Together City Employees

RSJI Community Roundtable Update

Since its inception in 2005, the City of Seattle's Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) has focused on eliminating institutional racism within City government. That internal focus was intentional. Unless we could demonstrate commitment within our own institution, the City would lack credibility to engage with the larger community on critical issues of equal opportunity.

RSJI's ultimate aim, though, is to eliminate racial disparities across all of Seattle. As part of these efforts, the City has created the RSJI Community Roundtable - a forum for community leadership on racial and social justice. The Roundtable supports systemic change that reaches beyond City government. Coordinated by the Race and Social Justice Initiative, the Roundtable aims both to develop partnerships and resources to eliminate race-based disparities in the community, as well as to end institutional racism within their own institutions.

Roundtable members, who have been meeting for nearly a year, represent key community-based organizations, philanthropic institutions and other public entities:

  • Arab American Community Coalition (AACC) - Devon Abdallah
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) - Tracy Lai
  • Casey Family Programs - Lyman Legters, Senior Director
  • Children's Alliance - Paola Maranan, Executive Director
  • City of Seattle - Julie Nelson, Office for Civil Rights Director
  • City Councilmember Bruce Harrell
  • El Centro De La Raza - Estela Ortega, Executive Director
  • King County - Sandy Ciske
  • Minority Executive Director's Coalition (MEDC) - Dorry Elias-Garcia, Executive Director
  • NAACP, Seattle Chapter - James Bible, President
  • Nonprofit Assistance Center (NAC) - Vicki Asakura, Executive Director
  • People's Institute NW (PINW) - Sarah Freeman
  • Pride Foundation - Audrey Haberman, Executive Director
  • Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) - Tom Tierney, Executive Director
  • Seattle Indian Health Board - Ralph Forquera, Executive Director
  • Seattle Public Schools - Susan Enfield, Chief Academic Officer
  • Senior Services - Denise Klein, Executive Director
  • Solid Ground - Cheryl Cobbs, Executive Director
  • United Way of King County - David Okimoto, Community Services Vice-President
  • WA Community Action Network (WA-CAN) - Will Pitz, Executive Director
  • YWCA - Patricia Hayden, Senior Program Director

"The significance of the Roundtable is the members' shared vision and their commitment to collaboration," says Glenn Harris, RSJI manager for the City of Seattle. "Institutional racism creates disparities across the board. Organizing together has a greater collective impact than working within individual organizations. By joining forces, we will be better able to actually eliminate racial inequities."

Take education for example, which the Roundtable has chosen as its primary focus. In addition to developing collaborative strategies to create racial equity in high school graduation rates, Roundtable members also plan to look at the connections between education and other key impact areas, such as criminal justice, economics, environmental justice, and health.

The Roundtable recently took several visible actions. Members sent a letter to Governor Gregoire supporting her signing of E2SHB 3026, which grants new authority to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to enforce civil rights laws to protect students in public schools. The Roundtable also came together to condemn the attack on one of its members, Washington CAN! (Washington Community Action Network), whose offices were vandalized and tagged with neo-Nazi graffiti.

Roundtable members organized a caucus as part of Seattle Mayor McGinn's Youth and Families Initiative (YFI), and will participate in the YFI Congress on June 5. Estela Ortega, co-chair of the Youth and Families Initiative, also sits on the Roundtable.

"As a community organizer, I know how important it is to reach out in different ways to ensure that all voices are heard," says Ortega. "We are a great city when we work together to end race-based inequities."


Improving competition for women and minority businesses

By Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith

On Monday, April 26, 2010, Mayor Mike McGinn issued an executive order that requires City of Seattle departments to increase contracting with, and purchasing from, women and minority-owned businesses (WMBEs) by expanding outreach efforts, creating new opportunities, and establishing direct accountability.

The intent is simple: Giving Seattle's women and minority businesses a fair way to compete for City contracting and purchasing opportunities. Although City budgets are smaller, the City of Seattle intends to continue and strengthen our pursuit of a fair playing field and successful outcomes for our women and minority companies when they compete for city business. We all benefit when everyone in our community has a meaningful chance to compete for these opportunities.

This Executive Order puts City department heads on notice that they are directly accountable to the Mayor for not only outreach to the WMBE community, but to increase the successful award and participation of WMBE firms in City contracts.

For example, under this Executive Order, City construction contracts will not only require a WMBE outreach plan for subcontracting, but we will expect and require compliance. Departments will also be required to consider size and scale of bid opportunities, to ensure WMBE firms will not be shut out from a chance to directly compete for prime contract awards or to participate in meaningful subcontracting opportunities.

We also know that what gets measured can be improved, which is why this Executive Order requires each City department to establish specific aspirational WMBE goals. Departments' performance will be tracked and if they're falling short, we'll look for ways to improve their performance.

You can find the full text of the Executive Order here.

Race and Social Justice Summit Brings Together City Employees

The 2010 Race and Social Justice Initiative Summit titled, Lens of Power: Skill-Building for Change and Collaboration was held on April 29th at the Seattle Center.

This was the second biennial summit bringing together 300 hundred City employees to share the work they are doing in their departments to increase racial equity in their lines of business, build skills to eliminate institutional racism and learn about resources to deepen their understanding of race and social justice.

The event kicked off with Mayor Mike McGinn and Councilmember Bruce Harrell providing welcoming remarks and expressing commitment to the Race and Social Justice Initiative.

A moving keynote address was delivered by Gerald Hankerson of the NAACP and a member of the RSJI Community Roundtable. Gerald was falsely accused for a crime when he was 18 years old and sentenced to life without parole. In 2009, at the age of 40, he was granted clemency by Governor Gregoire after a long campaign led by the NAACP, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and the leaders of many faith-based communities who came together as the Coalition to Free Gerald Hankerson in an effort to encourage Governor Gregoire to reconsider her initial denial of the State's Clemency Board's unanimous decision to grant clemency. Gerald was released from prison after serving 23 years. Today he works an Americorps volunteer in the community for Village of Hope, helping people find resources to transition back into their community after being released from prison. He is also a part of the RSJI Community Roundtable where he and the group is working together to end the achievement gap that negatively impacts students of color in Seattle schools.

Throughout the day participants attended workshop sessions on everything from building community accountability to applying racial justice best practices to City budget decisions to creating greater racial equity in hiring practices. The afternoon plenary featured a conversation between former SOCR Director Germaine Covington and current SOCR Director Julie Nelson on navigating power within institutions.

The Summit was coordinated by a planning team comprised of staff from across City departments and made possible by contributions from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Seattle Center, Seattle Parks and Recreation, City Auditors Office, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, Department of Information Technology, Ethics and Elections Commission, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, Department of Planning and Development and staffing support from the Mayor's Office for Arts and Culture and the Personnel Department.


Gerald Hankerson, keynote speaker and member of the NAACP and RSJI Community Roundtable shares his story

Mayor McGinn welcomes Summit participants

Workshop participants from Seattle Parks and Recreation's Change Team and the Seattle Office for Civil Rights engage in small group discussions

Afternoon plenary on Navigating Power within Institutions featuring Germaine Covington and Julie Nelson and moderated by Kathy Hsieh

Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

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