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NOV 2009 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter

NOV 2009

In this issue:

Professor Adrien K. Wing to speak at Human Rights Day

Understanding the Role of Service Animals

Enforcement Update:
No Child Left on Board (at this marina)

RSJI Update: The Future of the Race and Social Justice Initiative


Read SOCR's Community Report 2006 - 2008

SOCR community report 2006-08


Human Rights Day - Thursday, December 10th, at 7pm at Town Hall

Free workshop!Overcoming Barriers to Asset Building: Current Issues in Civil Rights

Foreclosure Prevention Event - December 5th, 9am-5pm at Cleveland High School

MLK Essay Contest - Deadline November 27th

New Report! High Cost of Being Poor
This report captures the input of hundreds of people from across the state, and finds that people with lower incomes pay more for transportation, housing, financial services & food.

The mission of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is two-fold: to help individuals by enforcing anti-discrimination laws, and to fight for racial and social justice within City government and across our community. In other words, to use the system to remedy injustice, and to change the system to create justice.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights recently released our latest Community Report, covering the years 2006 - 2008. The report highlights SOCR's work in enforcement, training, outreach, policy, and the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI).

In her Director's Message, Julie Nelson wrote, "No brief summary such as this report can do justice to the day-to-day work of our department - the thousands of phone calls answered and customers assisted. When I look back at the last few years, I am proud of how much the SOCR team has accomplished, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with such a fine team of professionals."

You can read the report online or download it as a PDF at The report also contains links to related statistics, brochures and other information mentioned in the text. If you have questions or comments, please call 206-684-4507 or e-mail Elliott.Bronstein@Seattle.Gov.


Professor Adrien K. Wing to speak at Human Rights Day

Adrien Wing

Professor Adrien K. Wing will speak at a free evening event to celebrate the 14th annual Seattle Human Rights Day on Thursday, December 10, at 7pm at Town Hall on 8th Avenue and Seneca.

Adrien Wing is recognized as an expert in international human rights and social justice. Professor Wing has advised the founding fathers and mothers of three constitutions: South Africa, Palestine, and Rwanda. She organized an election-observer delegation to South Africa, and taught at the University of Western Cape for six summers. She also advised the Eritrean Ministry of Justice on human rights treaties. Her international scholarship has emphasized two regions: Africa, especially South Africa; and the Middle East, in particular the Palestinian legal system. Professor Wing has authored more than 100 publications on topics such as constitutionalism, women's rights, rape in Bosnia, Muslim headscarves in France, Tunisian secularism, and Turkish democracy.

Her US-oriented scholarship has focused on race and gender discrimination, including the impact of Hurricane Katrina, gangs, mothering, affirmative action, the war on terrorism, and polygamy in Black America.

The 14th annual Seattle Human Rights Day event commemorates the sixty-first anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted December 10, 1948. The event also will include presentation of the 2009 Seattle Human Rights Awards and Youth Award.

For more information call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500 or check the web at . Human Rights Day 2009 is produced by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Seattle Human Rights Commission, the Bush School, United Nations Association-Seattle, and Amnesty International, with support from Seattle Women's Commission, King County Civil Rights Commission, WA State Human Rights Commission, and Youth for Human Rights.

Understanding the Role of Service Animals

What is the definition of a service animal? Service animals have been trained to assist people with disabilities to help mitigate the effects of their disability. Disabled people often consult with their health care professional / case manager to determine the type of service animal best suited to assist them.

John Denooyer

The type of animal that can be classified as a service animal is varied, and for good reason. Different animals have different abilities and can provide a wide range of services. Monkeys, for example, have greater tactile abilities than almost any other animal, thus they can perform more grasping or lifting tasks. Other animals have more acute hearing or increased capacity to be trained to detect physiological problems before they occur (such as detecting seizures). It is the unique range of services that animals provide that result in a myriad of species being designated service animals.

Many people find it hard to understand the relationship that exists between disabled individuals and their service animals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is an extension of the disabled individual. Anywhere members of the public are allowed, such as libraries, restaurants and movie theaters, disabled people and their service animals are allowed as well. To attempt to deny or separate them is a violation of the ADA.

While the law recognizes that service animals are important in allowing disabled individuals the ability to participate and navigate through society, it also places certain responsibilities on service animals owners. The appearance and conduct of a service animal are the responsibility of the person using it. If the service animal is unkempt or unruly, the owner may be asked to remove the animal from the premises. But note that while the animal may be removed, the disabled individual cannot be.

Additionally, service animals are required to follow almost all public safety and nuisance laws. For example, a blind person's guide dog that snaps at other people is a public safety problem, and its owner must take steps to control its conduct. A service animal that barks loudly at night receives no protection from noise citations, unless the barking is part of the service it provides to its disabled owner. Even then, the amount of barking must be reasonable and not excessive, so as not to infringe on other people's rights to enjoy their dwellings as well.

The issues and questions surrounding service animals are many, and the answers are driven by the facts behind each issue. One certainty exists: call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights with any service animal question and we will provide you with the best, most current response possible.


Enforcement Update:
No Child Left on Board (at this marina)


Fair housing laws protect a person from discrimination in housing based on their status as a parent or having a family. SOCR recently closed an interesting case regarding parental status.

A Seattle resident was negotiating to buy a boat from an owner currently moored at a local marina. The buyer told the seller he planned to live aboard, and sometimes his young daughter would join him for overnight stays.

That's when the seller told him that the marina barred children from living aboard boats in the marina. The buyer bought the boat anyway, moved it to a different marina, and filed a fair housing complaint with SOCR. In his complaint he also alleged that the management of the marina had confirmed the ban on live-aboard kids.

Before SOCR could pursue its investigation, the agency first had to settle a more basic question: Did fair housing laws even cover boats? SOCR found legal precedent for considering a live-aboard boat as a "dwelling" under the Fair Housing Act if someone was actually using it as a place of residence. The situation is similar to hotels and motels: short-term stays usually are covered by public accommodation laws, but longer-term stays are considered to be residencies and fall under the jurisdiction of fair housing laws.

The investigator assigned to the case had to weigh differing accounts of the story. The charging party and the man who sold him the boat both confirmed the charging party's allegation; the manager of the marina denied ever saying that children were barred from living aboard. But another resident testified that the manager also had told her the same thing. Moreover, the manager admitted that he did tell prospective marina live-aboards about the dangers to children; he felt the need to "educate" parents about conditions in and around the marina. At the time of the investigation, no children lived aboard boats in this particular marina.

SOCR issued a reasonable cause finding, based on the credibility of the three witnesses and the respondent's admission that he "cautioned" parents about having children on board. The charging party received $500 in conciliation.

RSJI Update: The Future of the Race and Social Justice Initiative
By Glenn Harris, RSJI Manager


During the recent election, I was heartened by the community's support and commitment to addressing racial disparities and the acknowledgement by many candidates of the importance of working for racial justice. Even more importantly, however, I believe the commitment of the City and its workforce is both broad and deep; we have achieved significant traction in our RSJI work. The synergy of what we have already achieved would be difficult to take away.

The Race and Social Justice Initiative is already deeply embedded in the work of City government. Departments have increased contracting opportunities for communities of color. We now provide translation and interpretation services for non-English speaking customers. Many departments have started using the racial equity toolkit to analyze budget proposals, policies and programs. And we are starting to change the way we conduct outreach and public engagement, including using the City's new public engagement toolkit.

Those are a few of the changes that stand out - but I also want to talk about the small changes that are occurring as well. In my job I get to talk to people throughout City government. And I've noticed how deeply the RSJ Initiative has penetrated not just our work, but our culture. People in staff meetings and work sessions have started routinely asking, "What are the Race and Social Justice implications of that proposal?" or "How does RSJI affect that piece of work?"

In other words, Race and Social Justice has begun to be deeply imbedded in the policies, practices and procedures of City business.

During the next few months, SOCR will work with departments to develop 2010 RSJI work plans. Departments continue to conduct RSJI training sessions for employees and managers. The RSJI Community Roundtable, with members from non-profits, philanthropic institutions, and other organizations, is working to develop criteria and a model for working on race-based disparities across our region. We have significant community support for the Race and Social Justice Initiative.

Meanwhile, we are asking everyone involved with the RSJ Initiative to keep doing the work. The City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative has made us part of the leading edge of a national movement for social justice. Our commitment to RSJI is solid.



Our staff provides trainings and workshops in the community and for City employees on civil rights and racial justice. Below are some words of appreciation sent to our director Julie Nelson, and to staff members Glenn Harris, Elliott Bronstein, Greg Bell, Chenelle Love, Karina Bull and Brenda Anibarro. Great work!

Hi Julie,
Thank you for presenting and "mc'ing" the RSJ segment at SPU's L-ForumTuesday. Your presentation on the expanded Racial Equity Toolkit was very engaging and definitely sparked some interesting conversations among SPU leadership. We really appreciate your taking the time to share RSJI insights and helping us to keep the conversation going.
Thanks again!

Glenn and Elliott, I thought both of you did an excellent job in the Race Social Justice Initiative Training with Parks Management staff yesterday. Obviously, the subject is very complex and raises a lot of emotion. I thought both of you really presented information in a respectful way and there was room for meaningful and hard/difficult conversation. The work you do isn't easy but it is valued.
Thank you.

Greg and Chenelle,
Thank you so much for providing information and guidance about service animal accommodations. This information will enable us to give clear parameters to providers that will protect both clients and staff. It's great to have a resource that we can call upon and refer our providers to.
Thanks again.

Greg, Karina and Brenda,
Thanks so much for put up the training like this. It is very helpful for us, the direct service case managers. I am very glad with the info that I should know for a long time ago when I started my social career.


Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

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