by Elizabeth Turnbull
Of late, King County councilmembers have called on Gov. Jay Inslee to get rid of an old governor directive that some activists have argued effectively banned affirmative action in the state — Seattle City leaders and others have also joined in the call.
In late October, King County councilmembers voted in favor of a motion urging Gov. Jay Inslee to rescind the 1998 governor directive called GD 98-01.
Directive 98-01 — which, according to Inslee’s office, is not currently used by state agencies — was issued by Gov. Gary Locke in the late ’90s and interpreted an initiative called I-200, later codified into RCW 49.60.400, which states that the State should not discriminate or grant preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender, and other factors.
Like the recent King County Council motion, a letter from Seattle city councilmembers also urged the governor to rescind the directive. Both cited a 2003 Washington State Supreme Court case and a 2017 Attorney General Opinion, saying the State only prohibits affirmative action programs from using race or gender to select a less qualified applicant for something like a university program.
King County councilmembers wrote that I-200 was misinterpreted by GD 98-01 to mean that race and gender could never be used to select candidates for a public contract, public employment, or public universities and colleges.
Activists at organizations like the nonprofit Washington Equity Now Alliance (WENA), which is set on getting the governor to rescind the order, were scheduled to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 7 to discuss Inslee’s position on the directive, but the meeting has been rescheduled to an undetermined date.
The motion, sponsored by King County councilmembers, such as Girmay Zahilay, Dave Upthegrove, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, is calling for Gov. Inslee to sign an executive order to rescind GD-98-01 and to, the motion reads, “restore race and gender-conscious affirmative action practices in the state of Washington.”
Apart from instigating a potential meeting with activists, it is yet to be determined how much the motion issued by the King County Council, and other efforts, have put pressure on the governor to implement changes.
“We appreciate the input from King County, but their actions do not require the state to act,” Tara Lee, executive director of communications for Gov. Inslee’s office, wrote in an email to the Emerald. “As you can imagine, a lot of local jurisdictions issue resolutions all the time.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
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