King County Executive

Dow Constantine

Question

Black wealth remains near zero due to centuries of systemic anti-Black racism and is on a trajectory to only worsen. In Seattle, white wealth is nearly 20x more than Black wealth. What specific actions will you take to close the Black-white wealth gap?

  1. How much of the Black-white wealth gap will you close while in office? 

  2. Who are you working with in the Black community to close it? 

  3. How will you support investing federal funding directly and specifically into the Black community in the next two years?

Answer

The wealth gap between Black and white households is totally unacceptable—the result of hundreds of years of systemic racism embedded into our economy, housing market, and systems of government, further exacerbated by worsening income inequality. While fundamentally changing the drivers of the problem is outside the scope of influence that one local government can deliver, King County can—and has—taken important steps to create equity and opportunity for Black King County residents.

In June 2020, I joined Public Health Director Patty Hayes in declaring racism a public health crisis for this very reason, recognizing the economic and health issues facing Black communities. In doing so, working with a core team of predominantly Black, Brown, and Indigenous employees, I proposed an Anti-Racist Policy Agenda and funded community partners to share expertise, hone the agenda, and ensure we were prioritizing the right actions. Some of the leaders and groups we have worked with defining this effort include Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Urban Family, United Indians of All Tribes, Choose180, and the Freedom Project.

In May, we passed my seventh COVID supplemental budget, funded through the initial distribution of the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which includes tens of millions of dollars of investment to support this agenda and an equitable, lasting recovery for Black communities. Included is $25.6 million for a BIPOC business and economic resiliency fund, to be allocated through a community-led process and invested in new economic opportunities. Additionally, I supported the creation of a BIPOC economic recovery alliance for Unincorporated King County, and in my latest COVID supplemental budget have proposed investments in the newly-formed Equitable Recovery and Reconciliation Alliance (ERRA). Investing in these community-driven solutions demonstrates my commitment to putting our money where our values are. Millions more will be directed toward building economic equity in the Black community through the second distribution of ARPA funds next year.

Beyond this, I recently announced and issued a Pro-Equity Contracting Executive Order with the distinct purpose of increasing contracting opportunities between minority- and women-owned businesses with King County. I-200 impedes our ability to engage in affirmative action, but we’re taking our own direct action. By doing so, we are working to break down those barriers that have prevented Black and other historically excluded business owners from building and expanding their business, growing their network and regional exposure, and creating generational impact and wealth.

For example, over the next 20 years there will be more than $100 billion dollars in publicly funded design and construction contracts in this region through local infrastructure projects. Through my Executive Order, King County is making a strong commitment to build Black wealth and power through public contracting, and inviting other governments to follow suit. We are taking active, intentional steps to improve contracting, address longstanding systemic barriers, and create a new generation of successful businesses that better reflect our community.

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Rod Dembowski

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