LETTER: A letter to the County Council and Executive

In 2012, we honored the groundbreaking contributions of former Seattle Councilmember Cheryl Chow and in 2008 the first and only Asian American King County Councilmember Ruby Chow, who retired 28 years ago. These two trailblazing leaders remind us how much difference one person can make. Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 15.8% of King County residents, the biggest minority group in King County. 20.1% of King County residents are first-generation immigrants, and 35.6% are persons of color.

King County businesses have demonstrated that as global technology and innovation leaders, we value diversity as a strategic asset. King County government has demonstrated its commitment to Equity & Social Justice, seeking to be inclusive to those it serves and those it appoints to serve.

Rep. Cindy Ryu reflects the changing demographics in King County. She is a first-generation immigrant and a minority woman small business owner, who is an inspiration to those who are seeking their American Dream. King County Council has an opportunity to take its commitment of diversity to the next level by appointing Representative Cindy Ryu as the next King County Councilmember in District 1.

2013 can be a transformative year in engaging with minorities and immigrants on a substantial level to help solve key challenges facing King County:

1. Human Services. This recession has forced King County government to slash human services funding from $25 million in 2006 to just $2 million in 2012, and these cuts have disproportionately affected immigrants and communities of color. As a state representative, Rep. Ryu is working on developing sustainable revenue sources for human service programs, at both state and local levels.

King County would benefit from Rep. Cindy Ryu, who as a former farm worker, nursing assistant, a microbiology major, and a Medicaid Intake worker, understands what it means to be poor, uninsured, a woman of color, and an immigrant facing tough economic situations.

2. Health. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013 brings special opportunities and challenges for immigrants. Because the initial version of Washington State Health Insurance Exchange is only offered in English and Spanish, special effort will need to be made by King County agencies to ensure that Asian and African immigrants are able to access the health benefits in an equitable manner. 24.8% of King County households speak a language other than English at home. As the former mayor of Shoreline, Rep. Ryu helped locate the next International Community Health Services Clinic in Shoreline. The clinic will provide dental and preventative health services through culturally competent, language accessible care. As a state representative, Cindy has also been instrumental in reinstating Medicaid interpreter funding, which made medical care accessible, while reducing medical errors, risk, and cost.

3. Public Transportation. Minorities and immigrants comprise a loyal customer base for King County’s Metro and Sound Transit system. King County has an opportunity to engage with diverse communities to understand the vital role that public transportation plays in their livelihood and lifestyle, and to ensure that funding is appropriated in an equitable manner. Rep. Ryu served on the SeaShore Transportation Forum, King County Regional Transit Committee, House Transportation Committee, and PSRC Transportation Policy Board. She advocated vigorously for local options funding for transit and was the first Transportation Benefit District Chair in the City of Shoreline. Cindy has extensive experience lowering barriers to civic engagement for those who traditionally do not participate in public discussions.

4. Economic Development for Small Business Owners. Minority small business owners make up 18.2% of King County business owners.  As former mayor of Shoreline, Cindy implemented an environmentally sustainable and business-friendly economic development initiative to reinvigorate Aurora Avenue and local businesses. With her experience on the board of enterprise Seattle and as a two-term president of Shoreline Chamber of Commerce, Cindy can serve as a bridge to this important local small business community and ensure that business owners receive the practical and culturally appropriate support needed to create jobs.

We honor Martin Luther King this month and remember his message that when leaders from different backgrounds and experiences come together, our community is stronger as a result.  “No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”

However, as compelling as these reasons are, we do not ask members of the King County Council to consider Cindy Ryu based solely on diversity. Rep. Cindy Ryu is, in fact, the best candidate for the job based on traditional measures. She has experience winning votes as an elected official, winning re-election for her 32nd Legislative District seat in 2012 with 72% of the votes.
Rep. Ryu understands that being a King County Councilmember is not just about crafting policy. It is about going out into the community and talking with the residents, understanding their concerns, and earning their trust.   Cindy Ryu has experience shaping these community insights into state legislation.

And as the former mayor of Shoreline, Cindy Ryu has experience governing at a local level and managing a budget. She understands the implications of managing costs and requesting revenue, and how to prioritize programs. Rep. Cindy Ryu has served among and alongside the north King County suburban cities and Seattle as city councilmember, mayor, and At-Large Western Washington State Board Member of Association of Washington Cities in 2008 and 2009.

These are the qualifications that should make Cindy Ryu the best candidate, regardless of whether she is a woman, a minority, or an immigrant.  We ask that King County Council provide Rep. Cindy Ryu an equal opportunity in your considerations.

Most Sincerely,

Suzanne Pak
CEO, immersion FORCE

Co-Signers:
Ron Sims
Former King County Executive

Margarita Prentice
State Senator

Bob Hasegawa
State Senator

John McCoy
State Representative

Luis Moscoso
State Representative

Bruce Harrell
Seattle City Councilmember

Chris Roberts
Shoreline City Councilmember

Estella Ortega
Ruthann Kurose
Debadutta Dash
Kristina Logsdon
Akemi Matsumoto
Sandra Englund
Monisha Harrell
Shari Song
Laura Flores Cantrell
Cherry Grace Cayabyab

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