King Conservation District (KCD) has had a long history of leading efforts in conservation across King County. KCD prides itself on its many accomplishments and will continue to work hard for greater accomplishments.
Recently, two challenges have landed at our doorstep: COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests concerning the death of George Floyd. KCD was in the middle of planning and organizing to address the pandemic, but unlike the prescriptive steps to address the pandemic, nothing was provided to address the issues around the death of George Floyd and the deep seeded issues of systemic racism. The only question that can be addressed is: What will KCD do to address systemic racism?
In order to take meaningful steps beyond words, it will require KCD to take a close look internally at our district and to make commitments to change that addresses the effects of systemic racism. There are three areas that can be closely examined: Employment, Leadership, and Elections.
Employment: KCD has always had a strong policy of non-discrimination in our hiring practice. However, diversity has been a challenge in the area of conservation. KCD will commit to increasing diversity through its recruitment and hiring practices and is willing to actively recruit a more diverse staff and workforce moving forward. This may entail engaging high schools in communities of color and ensuring that candidates representing communities of color are included in the interviewing and hiring process. This could also take the form of a scholarship for students of color studying environmental or conservation studies.
Leadership: The future of KCD is dependent on its leadership. KCD must acknowledge that as it advances, its leadership must reflect a greater level of diversity. Communities of color will not see KCD as truly meaningful if diversity is not reflected in our leadership. KCD has a responsibility to look closely at its leadership and ask the important question: How diverse is the leadership of KCD beyond gender? No organization can truly be committed to diversity and inclusion if its leadership lacks true diversity. KCD must take additional steps to be inclusive and recruit and retain a more diverse leadership. This may mean using community resources to recruit and retain members who represent communities of color.
Elections: Every year KCD holds elections to fill seats on its Board of Supervisors. Additionally, two of those seats are appointed by the state commission. KCD must develop a strong policy and practice to increase access to its elections. In 2020, KCD had twice as many voters participate than in 2019, however this still represents <1% of the electorate. No organization can celebrate <1% as a victory unless it is trying to prevent a disease or reduce absenteeism. King County has 1.2 million voters, and as such, each and every voter should have clear and unencumbered access to ballots to select the next Board of Supervisor. KCD has an opportunity to lead election reform. It begins with restructuring our election process with the help of King County Elections and driving a discussion of election reform at the state commission. KCD must also work with elected leaders to make meaningful changes in the RCWs that cover elections in our 45 conservation districts across the state.
KCD is going to make a commitment to address these areas in our effort to tackle systemic racism and increase diversity. For many organizations, this may mean making a statement to acknowledge these issues, but KCD will develop policy, procedures, educate staff and leadership, engage organizations and speakers from communities of color to present on relevant issues around systemic racism and engaging communities of color, as well as help the Board of Supervisors develop knowledge and expertise about how to confront and tackle systemic racism and exact meaningful change in our organization.
It is our belief that this organization cannot survive without bringing about meaningful change and to increase the voices of diversity in our district.