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Smart Growth as a Driver of Equity



Equitable Opportunities for All People and Communities


[1:50] Introduction of Ron Sims.

[3:36] Ron describes his background and his motivation for his work on the environment and social justice.

[5:26] Ron talks about the history and current status of the name change of King County.

[9:21] Clarification that the official name is still King County, but it is now named after Dr. Martin Luther King, but the area also recognizes the role that other races and cultures play.

[12:03] Ron will be giving the keynote address at the 2016 New Partners to Smart Growth Conference and a panel discussion.

[12:26] Ron shares the major themes of his keynote.

[14:02] Why do you think those who have been focused on improving the built and natural environments are only now realizing that the key to improving our physical environment is greater economic and social inclusion for under-served and disadvantaged communities?

[17:09] Where have you seen the biggest advances on issues of access to economic and social inclusion?

[23:40] Ron discusses how we can make investments that will fundamentally make a difference.

[29:00] Ron shares what the Equity and Social Justice Initiative is trying to accomplish and how it’s working.

[33:38] Ron shares one change that would lead to more sustainable and more equitable communities.

[33:58] What one action could listeners take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future?

[34:12] What does Martin Luther King, Jr. King County, Washington look like 30 years from now?



Ron Sims is a civic volunteer active in health, education, environmental and social equity issues. Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee, Sims serves as the chair of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board. The board is responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State.

Sims is on the Board of Regents of Washington State University. He was appointed to the board by former Governor Chris Gregoire. The Board of Regents is the university’s governing body. Sims is on the Board of Directors of the Washington Health Alliance, formerly the Puget Sound Health Alliance, a nonprofit organization he helped found where employers, physicians, hospitals, patients, health plan providers and others from throughout the region come together to improve healthcare quality.

Sims served as the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2009 to 2011. He was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As the second most senior official at HUD, Sims managed the day-to-day operations of an agency with 8,500 employees and an operating budget of nearly $40 billion.

Prior to his appointment at HUD, Sims served for 12 years as the elected Executive of Martin Luther King, Jr. County (also known as King County), in Washington State, the 13th largest county in the nation with over 2 million residents and 39 cities, including the cities of Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. As County Executive, Sims was nationally recognized for his work on the integration of environmental, social equity, and public health policies that produced groundbreaking work on climate change, health care reform, affordable housing, mass transit, environmental protection, land use, and equity and social justice. Born in Spokane, Washington in 1948, Sims is a graduate of Central Washington University.


The Equity and Social Justice Initiative of King County, Washington recognizes that economy and quality of life depends on the ability of everyone to contribute. They will work to remove barriers that limit the ability of some to fulfill their potential. They are committed to implementing their equity and social justice agenda, to work toward fairness and opportunity for all.


“It’s something my parents taught: always work collaboratively—you can be surprised at who your friends are.”

“If smart growth does what it’s supposed to do and really changes how we impact the lives of other human beings, we would see some really radical changes and results in every community because, all of a sudden, you would see people flourishing.”

“The people who now are in the smart growth movement, the opportunity’s never been greater to see a transformation of this country in ways that are going to be stunning.”

“King County adopted an ordinance, and the ordinance basically says one never makes somebody else’s life worse. And our goal is to make sure that everybody would have a high quality of life, no matter what neighborhood they’re in.”


King County, Equity and Social Justice

New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

Local Government Commission