Weekend Reads: An Equitable Future for Washington

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s long reads include a comprehensive and sobering look at racial inequities in Washington State, as well as an inventory of Seattle’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

An Equitable Future for Washington 

Two associations of Washington business executives, Challenge Seattle and Washington Roundtable, have partnered together to publish a report on the structural inequities facing Black Washingtonians. From the report:

The data confirm that Black Washingtonians experience inequity in all aspects of life. There is clear and compelling evidence that racial bias and structural inequities exist in our country and our state. To combat it, we must all act together.

What follows is seven pages full of sobering charts and statistics looking at a variety of outcomes for Black youth and adults and how structural inequities consistently leave them behind white youth and adults.

While there is some value in having members of the state’s business executive community — by definition, people in positions of power — raise awareness of these issues among themselves, at the end of the day it’s just talk if they don’t resolve to do something to remove the inequities. Here’s what they claim they will do:

As a first step, Challenge Seattle and Washington Roundtable are sponsoring a statewide coalition of employers committed to a racially equitable future. Washington Employers for Racial Equity will work collectively to achieve parity in hiring, pay, and promotion for Black Washingtonians, support Black-owned businesses, and invest a combined $2 billion over the next five years to support racial equity. The coalition will set measurable targets, assess progress, and publicly report its collective results.

The coalition will use its voice to advocate for policies and actions that support racial equity, beginning with our schools, supporting Black-owned businesses, and closing the homeownership gap. It will push for better data and research to ensure our community is clear-eyed about the drivers and effects of racism, the actions needed for change, and whether we are making progress.

According to the report, the $2 billion will be invested in corporate, community, and philanthropic efforts to support racial equity over the next five years. Other goals for the group include the following:

  • Fostering an inclusive corporate culture that pervades hiring evaluation and promotion processes
  • Employing a workforce that reflects the community, including mirroring the percentage of the working-age population that identifies as Black within their companies
  • Achieving racial parity in compensation
  • Increasing internships and work-embedded learning experiences for Black students
  • Increasing diversity and racial equity among their contractors, vendors, and supplier networks
  • Increasing investment in Black-owned businesses

Realistically, this is not the first business association to set these kinds of goals, and the facts and figures in their own report tell the tale of how successful the past efforts have been. Let’s hope this one has more success.

The Commitment to Progress: An Equitable future for Washington

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Earlier this month, the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment published its biannual Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory detailing estimates of how the city is doing in reducing its emissions to help reduce climate change.

Up to 2016, the city was making steady progress on reductions, though admittedly at a slower pace than would be required to meet its 2030 goal. But between 2016 and 2018, as the city saw massive growth and a building boom, many of the metrics went the wrong way: up in absolute numbers, though still down a bit in emissions per capita.

In total, we generated 5.76 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2018, nearly flat from 2008 — though a 3.3% increase from 5.58 million in 2016. That works out to 8.2 metric tons per person in 2018, still well down from 9.7 metric tons in 2008. Here’s a breakdown from the report, in which you’ll notice that much of the increase ties to natural gas usage in buildings, supplied by Puget Sound Energy (PSE):

Also interesting: the University of Washington’s steam plant, which heats the buildings on campus, generates more emissions than the electricity usage of all the commercial buildings in the city combined.

Nearly a quarter of the city’s emissions are from buildings; 17% is from industry; and well over half is from transportation.

In 2018, the average residential household emitted 46.43 metrics tons of CO2. Almost a quarter of that was automobile fuel. You can see a full breakout below (with more detail in the report), though the report notes that the electricity figures are likely wrong because they don’t account for Seattle’s carbon-free hydroelectric generation capacity.

There are detailed tables at the end of the report with the full inventory of emissions — including carbon sequestration credits. We have a long way to go before Seattle hits its greenhouse gas emissions goals, and we all need to be looking for opportunities to contribute.

2018 Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Survey

Kevin Schofield is a freelance writer and the founder of Seattle City Council Insight, a website providing independent news and analysis of the Seattle City Council and City Hall. He also co-hosts the “Seattle News, Views and Brews” podcast with Brian Callanan, and appears from time to time on Converge Media and KUOW’s Week in Review.

Before getting into journalism, Kevin worked at Microsoft for 26 years, including 17 in the company’s research division. He has twin daughters, loves to cook, and is trying hard to learn Spanish and the guitar.

Cleven Ticeson and his grandson Ezra, 3, listen to the speakers at the Ribbon Cutting for the new Liberty bank Building on March 23. (Photo: Susan Fried)