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December 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Data can track how people these days are likely to die in King County. We now also know some of the leading causes of death are more prevalent in some parts of the region than others.
King County public health officials should be commended for mounting an ambitious effort to leverage data, dollars and services to produce healthier communities.
Earlier this month, the county convened more than 100 advocates and experts from the health, human service and community development sectors at a hotel in SeaTac. Their goal? To raise awareness of the challenge before them and to discuss a common path forward.
Just glance at the county maps below (from the presentation slides shown at the forum), and the health disparities between north and south King County become startlingly clear. (Note: The red areas signify where death rates are highest; blue signifies where the rates are lowest. Darker shades represent the best and worst outcomes.)
Seattle-King County Public Health Director David Fleming and King County Department of Community and Health Services Director Adrienne Quinn are leading the county’s efforts to do something about addressing these (often preventable) health disparities. Their message is common sense. Now is the time for advocates to break down silos and start forming new partnerships. Government can’t solve every problem or fund every solution, but it can collaborate with the private sector more effectively and direct investments into local communities that “have the most to gain.”
Closing the gaps means connecting public health with community development. It means taking steps to change environment and human behavior (see the chart below). It also underscores the need for affordable housing to be strategically located near jobs, health service providers, fresh food, transit, parks, libraries, schools and other amenities that are common characteristics of healthier, more affluent communities. (more…)
December 6, 2013 at 10:57 PM
We’ve gotten quite a few responses to our post this morning about which city is better, Seattle or San Francisco. We trumpeted our beautiful summers and our liberal social policies. The San Francisco Chronicle retorted, calling Microsoft a “lumbering” enterprise and poked fun at Amazon.com’s drone idea.
Our readers are having their say as well, with 49 (coincidence) in support of S.F. and 34 in favor of Seattle. That’d better not be the final score of the game. Keep the responses coming. Here’s the best of what has been submitted so far (note, load times may vary):
December 6, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Seattle has for too long been labeled a “smaller San Francisco.” We see the similarities. Like San Francisco, Seattle is made up of neighborhoods on hills. Both cities are shrouded in grey. The politics of both are proudly left.
But Seattle is not a lesser San Francisco. It’s a better San Francisco.
A San Francisco editorial writer seems to think differently in a post that went up this morning. As if. We’ll still continue to proclaim our superiority this week as the Seahawks prepare to take on the 49ers. Seattle trounced San Francisco earlier this season at CenturyLink Field, when the fans broke the sound record. Two S.F. fans called for the NFL to punish a team for fan noise in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. I called the letter-writers wussy babies in an earlier blog post. We’re not only louder, Seattle is better in a number of other ways:
San Francisco, we have news for you. You’re no longer the leftiest city on the left coast. In 2012, our state voters legalized same-sex marriage with Referendum 74. (California voters rejected same-sex marriage with Proposition 8.) Washington state also legalized recreational marijuana with Initiative 502. Eat your liberal heart out. (more…)
November 21, 2013 at 6:25 AM
Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray did a B-grade Cory Booker impersonation Wednesday morning when he stopped in Capitol Hill to help mop the face of a crashed cyclist. The heroic story appeared in The Seattle Times 46 minutes later.
That’s nice timing for a mayor-to-be who comes into office with some skepticism about his enthusiasm for bikes. He helped create that impression during the mayoral campaign with muddled opinions on the city’s plan for closing the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “missing link.” (I wrote a column about this last May.) Murray was vague enough that Mayor Mike McGinn’s supporters portrayed him (inaccurately) as being against the planned Westlake Avenue North cycle track.
In his post-campaign analysis, Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog (who endorsed McGinn) said Murray’s “anti-bike” reputation is wrong:
Anyone who voted for Murray because they think he will fight bike lanes is probably in for a disappointment. They are not just pet projects of a cycling mayor.
But Murray is in for an early test of his stated support for cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from traffic) thanks to the Seattle City Council. On Monday, when the council votes on the 2014 budget, it will include $1 million to speed up planning on a cross-downtown cycle track. That puts the project on a downhill slope toward a 2015 launch date, with the wind of the City Council at its back. (more…)
November 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM
I’m not always in lockstep with MSNBC ‘Hardball’ Host Chris Matthews’ on-air commentaries, but I do think he’s that rare pundit-journalist with so much experience behind the political scene in Washington, D.C., that you can’t ignore what he has to say.
Matthews witnessed the democratic machine function time and again throughout a decades-long career that included stints as a Capitol Hill aide, presidential speechwriter and chief of staff to the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
On Tuesday, he spoke at a Town Hall Seattle event to promote his new book, “Tip and the Gipper.” I was struck by Matthews’ assessment of how the two-party political system used to be. Yes, there was a time when elected officials set aside their differences long enough to craft bipartisan budgets. None of this government shutdown stuff.
His basic argument is he wants our politicians to work together again. And I’m definitely on board with that view, whether we’re talking about Congress or Washington state’s Legislature. We can agree to disagree on a few issues— and still get the job done.
Though he was brought on to help O’Neill fight President Ronald Reagan’s small-government agenda, Matthews admits he admired Reagan’s unique ability to project his power to Congress.
“Reagan really respected Congress, and he spent a lot of time with them,” he said. “We’ve lost the ability to listen to each other and to keep the channels of communication open.”
(If you weren’t at the Tuesday talk, watch his “Charlie Rose” interview in the video below.)
During the Town Hall talk, Matthews recalled how President Ronald Reagan and O’Neill regularly “would go in the back and shout at each other,” but they never lost respect for their elected positions. Together, the political rivals managed to forge alliances to protect Social Security and a handful of other signature issues throughout the 1980s.
“They really were grown-ups,” he said, adding politicians are elected to reach deals, not to find compromise on everything.
November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs. People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs.
These points rest atop rigorous research and public policy advocacy by Alan Berube, a senior fellow and deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. He is co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Brookings Press, 2013). Berube was in Seattle early Monday to talk about the poverty’s shift beyond urban centers. There are now four times as many people living in poverty in the suburbs compared to a decade ago. Indeed, there are more poor people in suburbs now than in cities. Part of the story is the migration of low-wage jobs, chiefly in hospitality and fast-food restaurants, as well as limited affordable housing in cities like Seattle.
Berube’s talk was sponsored by the Equity kNOW project, a smart partnership between King County and Futurewise to promote more understanding of poverty and general agreement on solutions. I’m encouraged by all of this. King County has the capacity to offer forward-looking mapping and analysis of changing demographics countywide. Anti-poverty efforts need this type of regional leadership, Berube notes. He also credits smart regional cooperatives around the country, giving a nod here to the Road Map Project, a nonprofit organizing South King County communities around improving public education.
Poverty will always exist, just as there will always be unemployment. Efforts to raise incomes should be joined by efforts to ensure everyone, regardless of income, lives in communities helping them not simply survive, but thrive. That means close residential proximity to healthy and fresh foods, public parks, quality schools and reliable bus service. There is a large correlation between people who do not have access to these things and their race, ethnicity and income.
Consider the following in King County:
- The number of people of color has quadrupled over the last 30 years.
- People of color account for more than half of young people under the age of 18.
- Tukwila, Renton and SeaTac are majority minority cities.
- Three ZIP codes – Skyway, SeaTac-Tukwila and Seattle’s Rainier Valley – are the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation.
The YouTube video by the Brookings Institution below offers a vivid snapshot of poverty’s changing face nationwide.
November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Really, Washington? I know ballots are still being counted, but the latest results as of Saturday evening indicate a 46 percent voter turnout in this year’s elections — statewide and in King County. As Seattle Times news reporter Jim Brunner pointed out in this Friday news story (when state turnout was reported at 44.5 percent and King County turnout was 47 percent), we’re seeing the lowest voter participation numbers in a decade.
Washington voters are not exactly living up to their reputation as the 13th most active electorate in the nation in 2012 with a 65 percent voter turnout rate, according to this March 2013 report in The Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ blog.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect between voters and the issues, and that’s too bad. People either don’t care or don’t believe they have a voice in the democratic process.
Or maybe they agree with British comedian Russell Brand, who delivered a stinging criticism of voting (seen in the video below) in an October interview with BBC’s “Newsnight.” It went viral on the Internet. I suspect that’s because many subscribe to his view that he never votes “out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit from the political class that’s been going on for generations now.”
Brand is always charming, but there’s just no excuse to not vote. Citizens are still responsible for putting good — and, yes, sometimes very bad — people in public office. Indifference allows those bad apples to stay in power.
Here in Washington, counties send those ballots right to our mailbox. Each name printed on those sheets of paper has the power to change the way we live. (more…)
November 15, 2013 at 6:00 AM
If you haven’t seen the “The Purification Process,” at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, your chance ends this weekend. The dramatic-comedic play tackles everything from breast cancer to work, marriage, friendships and those cringe-inducing mother-daughter tensions - all of this viewed through the lenses of African Americans.
There’s a reason to focus on black women. While white women are more likely to get breast cancer than any other group, African American women are more likely to die from the disease. Race is appropriately inserted into this conversation. Racial differences in breast cancer survival rates are real and are attributed by researchers to a number of factors, including access to health care and the biology of different kinds of breast cancer. Research into genetic links may also help explain some of the differences.
Local theatre should serve a dual purpose, at once entertainment but also a reflection of the dialogues and tensions of its surrounding communities. Langston Hughes is a small theatre in the Central District fulfilling its role as a venue for art, ideas, politics and pop culture. ”The Purification Process,” will have you laughing at some parts, crying at others. I’m compelled to write about the play and recommend it because of its power to inspire important conversations, and action, about cancer and health in African American communities.
There is a lot to discuss. Consider that:
Breast cancer diagnoses are on the rise in black women.
A Harvard study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research medical conference last year reported that within three years of a breast cancer diagnosis, black women were 50 percent more likely to die than white women.
In June, a Journal of the American Medical Association study found that black women are less likely to survive a breast cancer diagnosis within five years because they undergo fewer screenings, have poorer health and by the time the breast cancer is found it is often at an advanced stage.
Check out the You Tube clip below as one couple, Nate and Leslie Miles, offer their post-performance view of the play.
November 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Mayor-Elect Ed Murray has promises to keep. This Seattle Times news story suggests the powerful Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 NW, which endorsed Murray over Mike McGinn, won’t let their man forget a SeaTac Prop 1-like citizen initiative could come to Seattle if leaders don’t take legislative action to increase the minimum wage to $15. The groundswell movement around socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant adds another voice to the debate over income inequality. (ICYMI: Read my colleague Bruce Ramsey’s column on the Sawant effect on Seattle liberal politics.)
But what about the rest of Seattle’s less-vocal voters? Between Oct. 14 and 16, consulting firm Strategies 360 released a survey based on 400 interviews among likely voters in Seattle.
The results indicate minimum wage as a standalone issue is not at the top of peoples’ agendas. Seattleites care more about the economy, jobs, education, public safety and road infrastructure. Here’s the chart:
View the complete survey on Strategies 360′s web site. With a 4.9 percent margin of error, the results also showed 48 percent of respondents think Seattle is heading in the right direction. Perceptions of the local economy are 73 percent positive — with 64 percent saying it’s in “good shape.”
Of course, none of those rosy numbers equaled votes for Mayor Mike McGinn. Voters found him to be a “more divisive figure” than Murray.
Here’s another telling visual: (more…)
October 31, 2013 at 6:04 AM
“Connecting neighborhoods with rail,” says the email message from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. The mayor talks up Sound Transit’s idea of rail from downtown to Ballard, not coincidentally during his campaign for reelection.
Seattle progressives love rail. They don’t have much of it, though, because it is so expensive. Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail, which is 13 stations plus about 20 more under construction, uses up most of the agency’s 0.9 cent addition to the sales tax. Coincidentally, King County Metro, which serves thousands of bus stops all over, also costs 0.9 cents on the sales tax. The difference is that Central Link Light rail is running at about 9 million boardings a year, and Metro runs about 115 million.
McGinn’s message says Sound Transit is asking the community where “regional high-capacity transit” should go next. The high capacity per dollar service is buses, but that’s not what he means. In government-speak, “high capacity” means rail. In that regard, his message says, “A transit package… could go to voters as early as 2016.”
A “package” means taxes. Already the sales tax in Seattle is 9.5 percent, one of the highest in the nation. It is a regressive tax. Do our progressive politicians really want to raise it? (And to say, ‘We hate to do it but it’s the only tax we have,’ means, ‘Yes, we want to raise it.’)