Taking a knee for justice

Football teams and their fans are conflicted over the practices of kneeling, sitting, joining arms, raising a fist, or staying in the locker room during the National Football League’s (NFL’s) pre-game national anthem ceremonies. The protests began in the wake of the videotaped police shootings of 2 young Black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  To draw attention to these events and to issues of racism and injustice, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick declined to stand while the national anthem was being played at preseason games in 2016.  Over the past 2 football seasons, Kaepernick’s individual protest has gathered both support and condemnation.

Some wonder what the protests are accomplishing.  Back when it all started, in the summer of 2016, Garfield High School football team member Duncan King wondered the same thing. He offered some personal answers in his essay, “Kneeling for a Nation: How One Team’s Participation in a Nationwide Movement Developed into a Force for Local Civic Change.” The essay won a 2017 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage award – and a $5,000 scholarship – from the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

In his essay King discussed the aftermath of his team’s decision to kneel – media attention, Facebook likes, threats of violence (and actual violence), as well as shared introspection about why they chose to kneel: “Common themes were police violence against black males, school segregation and underfunding, and governmental and institutional racism.”  In addition to kneeling on the field, the Garfield team initiated an open discussion with the Seattle Police Department and were invited to the regional conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Local NFL players have also taken action.  Last month Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin joined NFL President Roger Goodell in a letter to the U.S. Congress that supported a bill to reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.  One quote from the letter emphasizes the deep connections between NFL teams and their home communities:

“When the hometowns of our players or the 32 communities in which our clubs are located are hurting – whether from natural disasters or those that are man-made – so too are our teams. And like most Americans, our owners, players, coaches and clubs spring into action to help. Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all…. The bottom line is, that we all want to make our communities better.”

To provide a platform for maintaining a clear focus on free speech and collective action, Seahawks player Michael Bennett joined other athletes in founding Athletes for Impact (A4I), a new organization to “build an inclusive and global network of athletes committed to equity and social change.” Bennett’s reach extends beyond an elite circle of athletes: a recent pregame ESPN video featured his volunteer work with youth at King County’s Juvenile Detention Facility.

On the field and off, in Seattle and across the nation, football players find themselves in an unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable spotlight.  American heroes by definition, until recently all they had to do was play the game.  Now, under intensive scrutiny by the media and even the President, they’re having to take a stand.


Essay submissions for the 2018 Stimson Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship Competition will be accepted from January 1 to March 15. More information can be found at the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Communities Count provides data on racial disparities for almost every indicator, including income, wealth, on-time graduation, and public safety.  In 2011-2015, the homicide rate among King County Blacks was 5.2 times the county average (forthcoming on Communities Count).  And in 2016, race/ethnicity/ancestry accounted for 62% of the motivations for hate crimes in reported by Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs. Communities Count will update hate crime data for King County in early 2018.

Welcoming immigrants and refugees

In King County, 1 in 5 adults was not born in the U.S. In light of the President’s executive orders regarding federal immigration laws, many in our immigrant and refugee communities are uncertain about the extent to which local governments cooperate with federal immigration agents. Across the US, cities, counties, and states have declared themselves “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Seattle and King County prefer the term Welcoming City and Welcoming County, respectively, which, according to Seattle’s broad definition, means prioritizing “policies, actions, and practices that help immigrant and refugee communities succeed.”

Q. What’s an example of these “policies, actions, and practices”?

Although details differ, a “welcoming” designation generally signals that a government does not use jurisdictional time/resources to target residents on the basis of immigration status. In most cases, government employees (including police) will not ask residents about their immigration or citizenship status. While these “don’t ask” policies protect residents’ privacy, they also protect government employees, who cannot be compelled to disclose information they do not have. This restriction can be negated, however, by a court order, or by “reasonable suspicion” that a person has been previously deported and has committed a felony.

Q. What policies are followed at King County detention facilities?

King County limits compliance with federal immigration requests to hold prisoners beyond the time when they should legally be released. The County will only honor “detainer requests” that are accompanied by a criminal warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate. This policy is consistent both with federal law and a 2014 King County ordinance.

Q: What is the intention of declaring status as a welcoming jurisdiction?

Backers of “welcoming” policies believe they make communities safer. Why? Because residents are more likely to report crimes, testify in court, and call for help when they need it if police are under orders not to ask about immigration status. In addition, welcoming jurisdictions want to assure people of different religions, races, and national origins that they are welcome and should continue to seek assistance at public health clinics and other government facilities.

Q. Do crime rates in these jurisdictions support the “safer communities” rationale?

Yes, according to a recent analysis of FBI crime reports. After controlling for population characteristics, sanctuary or welcoming cities averaged 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 population. These findings support the conclusion of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, representing the 68 largest law enforcement agencies in the country, that mixing local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement “would result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing future terroristic acts.”

Q. How can immigrants get accurate information about their rights?

This week the King County Council approved $750,000 to support immigrant and refugee communities’ needs for legal assistance, information about their rights, and (in partnership with The Seattle Foundation) capacity-building of community-based organizations. In addition, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance setting aside $1 million to create a legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees. Access to information about these and other resources is available through:
 Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
Welcoming Immigrant and Refugee Communities (King County)
 The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which has a wealth of information on its website, including a new advisory for non-profit and social service organizations seeking to protect their clients.
 A hyperlinked list of (mostly) King County cities with ordinances, resolutions, and proclamations that they “promote safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities.”

2016 City Health Profiles reveal little-known facts

The newly updated City Health Profiles are filled with fascinating details about King County communities.  For example, did you know that …

  • … residents of Northeast Seattle live an average of 9.9 years longer than those in South Auburn (86.2 versus 76.3 years, respectively)?
  •  … Seattle’s Queen Anne/Magnolia area ranks #1 for excessive drinking in King County (37% of adults, compared to 10% in the west section of Kent)?
  • … King County islands are magnets for seniors:  On Mercer and Vashon Islands, 1 in 5 residents is 65 or older, compared to only 1 in 14 in Sammamish?
  • … 88% of Mercer Island/Point Cities adults saw a dentist in the past year, compared to only 44% of adults in SeaTac/Tukwila?

In this year’s companion Appendix, you can find neighborhood-specific data from King County’s 7 largest cities (Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent, Kirkland, Renton, and Seattle).

Coming soon:  An interactive version of the 2016 City Health Profiles and Appendix will be posted online.  New features for the appendix include maps and automatic rank-ordering of demographic and health information across 48 geographic regions in King County.

Two King County cities designated Walk Friendly

Seattle and Bellevue are among 58 U.S. communities that have earned 2016 “Walk Friendly” status from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC).  According to PBIC, the Walk Friendly Community designation is awarded to applicant communities on the basis of “a comprehensive assessment tool that evaluates community walkability and pedestrian safety through questions related to engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation and planning.”

SDOT photo showing reroute around work project that doesn’t force pedestrians to cross the street.

Seattle is the only Walk Friendly Community to reach Platinum-level recognition “due to top-notch planning and engineering, outstanding outreach and education, and strong enforcement and evaluation practices.”  Highlights noted by PBIC include:

  • Evaluation practices, including multiple pedestrian counts each year at almost 50 locations.
  • Web-based Pedestrian Master Plan with clear goals and performance indicators (for example, reaching out to 10 new schools each year).
  • Clear new directives for pedestrian mobility around work zones.
  • Installation of speed enforcement cameras at 14 schools.
  • Seattle Summer Parkways, free summer events that keep cars off several miles of city streets so people can walk, bike, dance, eat, and play in safety.
  • Adopting a complete streets ordinance that “directs SDOT to design streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and persons of all abilities, while promoting safe operation for all users, including freight.”
  • Reducing the speed of vehicles on city streets by: (a) installing thousands of traffic-calming devices and (b) starting in 2016, lowering speed limits on 10 arterial corridors, the central business district, and selected residential streets.
  • Managing parking by: (a) abolishing minimum parking standards in downtown and (b) providing parking-reduction incentives for large development projects.

Bellevue’s designation as a Silver-level community is based on its “excellent engineering practices, planning programs, and high mode share for transit and walking.”

For King County data on commuting by public transportation, walking or biking, see Community Health Indicators.  In its Transportation section, Communities Count posts data on commuting, neighborhood connections, and traffic safety (including traffic collisions and injury/fatalities in King County cities).

Zooming in on neighborhood inequality – by county, city, and ZIP code

Recent reports paint very different pictures of health and wellbeing in King County. According to the 2016 County Health Rankings, King County is the 2nd healthiest county in Washington (San Juan County is 1st).  Looking for details behind the promising headline, however, King County’s 2016 City Health Profiles reveal deep disparities.  For example, 5% of Sammamish residents report that their health is “fair” or “poor,” compared to 23% in Burien – almost a 5-fold difference.  Similarly, average life expectancy ranges from 76.3 years in South Auburn to 86.2 years in Northeast Seattle.  Across 26 King County cities, wide disparities for everything from obesity and teen births to diabetes- and Alzheimer’s-related deaths are the norm, not the exception.

But these disparities do not occur in isolation. They develop in communities, often over generations, in a context of economic inequality. A new interactive tool, the Distressed Communities Index , enables users to zoom all the way down to ZIP codes in assessing key components of economic distress.  As shown in recent Communities Count updates on food, housing, and income, recovery from the Great Recession has been uneven at best.  Offering a closer look at economic inequality, the Distressed Communities Index is based on 7 complementary measures:

  • Adults (25 and older) without a high school degree
  • Housing vacancy rate
  • Adults (16 and older) not working
  • Poverty rate
  • Ratio of an area’s median income to its state’s median income
  • Percent change in jobs from 2010 to 2013
  • Percent change in number of businesses from 2010 to 2013

In the Auburn area, one of King County’s most distressed ZIP codes, 98002, is flanked by more prosperous neighbors – 98092 to the east and 98001 to the west.  The distress score of 80.8 indicates that ZIP code 98002 is more economically distressed than 80.8 percent of 26,000+ ZIP codes nationwide.  The much lower distress scores of nearby ZIP codes (see table) reveal that these next-door neighbors, although spatially close, are economically far apart.

Almost 1 in 5 adults in the central Auburn ZIP code (98002) do not have a high school diploma, more than double the rates of its immediate neighbors.  Similarly, the poverty rate in ZIP code 98002 (26%) is more than double the rates in adjacent ZIP codes.  Elsewhere in King County, distress scores are as low as 0.7 (ZIP code 98065) in Snoqualmie and as high as 93.3 (ZIP code 98134) in the SoDo/Harbor-Island/Duwamish industrial area south of downtown Seattle.

Distressed Communities Index and selected measures for King County ZIP codes

ZIP Code

98001 Auburn  west

98002  Auburn central

98092 Auburn  east

98065 Snoqualmie

98134 Industrial Seattle

Distress Index 






No High School diploma












Median Income Ratio (ZIP code/state)







Offering a new way to look at “spatial inequality,” this tool could prove useful to regional projects focusing their efforts on discrete geographical areas.