By Lilia Cabello Drain, Communications Specialist, Department of Executive Services
Back in 2013, the Water and Land Resources Division wanted to find a more efficient way of determining the characteristics and statistics of the populations they serve or would impact when doing capital projects. The information is critical to supporting King County’s equity and social justice goals and better project or program outcomes.
Developed over the last three years through a partnership with King County GIS Center, the Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) iMap application was developed to allow employees to access and view census and demographic data with a geographic context for their projects, programs and reporting.
“If employees want to know about capital projects and programs that the Department of Natural Resources and Parks is providing to the public, they can see it here,” said Larry Jones, Senior Water Quality Planner in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP).
Using a database called PRISM that draws information uploaded by program managers on Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), the map also shows many relevant spatial data layers about stormwater, flooding, land use, administrative areas and King County demographics data, including age, sex, income, race and language.
While an exciting accomplishment, Larry explains that initially people were unsure how this tool could benefit their work. Therefore, it was necessary to secure employee input and involvement, along with management buy-in, and provide demonstrations of the tool’s ESJ relevance. So in 2016, Harkeerat Kang, GIS Application Developer, and Larry began showcasing the tool.
“We basically just went out on the road and did the ‘circuit’ to sell it,” he said. “We shared it with other teams and groups within DNRP.”
Larry Jones and Harkeerat Kang worked together on the ESJ iMap tool.
Since then, people have recognized the value of the tool and are investing in it by providing project data and identifying relevant information, thus making the ESJ iMap tool more relevant and an evolving mechanism, meaning it could eventually expand to include more data and projects.
“We met with Public Health — Seattle & King County to consider adding their projects into the iMap,” said Larry. “There’s also a big move to reach out to school districts and include their data, but currently the application isn’t designed for that.”
“We still have a lot of homework to do, more people to accommodate and other relationships to pursue, but right now we want to get program managers and employees who do any manner of community outreach using the system,” he adds.
Getting his start in Metro in 1982 before eventually finding his way into the Water and Land Resources Division, Larry works on water quality projects, and coordinates ESJ activities for the Water and Land Division within DNRP. He enjoys his work and sharing the impact of this project with the people around him, looking forward to how King County can continue expanding on its promise to prioritize equity and social justice.
“We don’t know all the opportunities this tool will allow us to pursue, but we can guess some by putting on our residents’ hats,” he said. Currently project managers are using it to assess if certain communities are being inequitably impacted or what languages should information be translated in to better serve all residents.
Harkeerat agrees. Beginning with King County in 1999 as a DNRP intern, she has been in her current role since 2006 and is passionate about working on issues of equity and social justice.
“I love what I do, King County has been very good to me,” she said. “So I get the importance of working on equity because King County has definitely been equitable to me.”
The ESJ iMap tool makes a clear connection between the community and King County employees who use it, providing both a direct link between project management decisions and how they will impact real people, residents and the environment.
It is still in development, with a final rollout intended for later this year or early 2018. As employees use the tool, it will continue to be revised with new features or data to make it more robust, responsive and relative to King County projects and programs. Training will begin in late 2017 with project managers and outreach employees in DNRP initially. Eventually other employees and everyday King County residents will be able to examine or assess who a project will impact, the result of long range project plans, the proximity and type of nearby projects and how best to work with specific communities to successfully complete a project.
King County employees can access the ESJ iMap tool here. For more information about the ESJ iMap project, contact Larry Jones at Larry.Jones@kingcounty.gov or Harkeerat Kang at Harkeerat.Kang@kingcounty.gov.