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Mayor and Council Champion Renton's Diversity

March 3, 2010

Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director - 425-430-6569
Lisa Garvich, Communications Specialist - 425-430-6569

Our goal is to embrace the diversity in the Renton community. It’s the differences among the people of Renton that makes this city rich. It is my priority to create and sustain long term-relationships with Renton’s diverse communities.    

    -  Mayor Denis Law

Renton's Diversity Group

RENTON, WA — Renton has a very diverse population base and along with the rest of South King County continues to grow in diversity with significant shifts in communities of color, immigrants, various ethnic groups, and non-English speaking communities. The Renton School District reports that there are more than 80 languages spoken in the district and over 30% of the students speak a language other than English at home. These residents are typically underserved by traditional mainstream avenues, and are less likely to access information, and services that the city provides. Therefore they are at a higher risk of being disproportionately affected by disasters, and have greater need for human services and community services. They need to be more effectively engaged in efforts to promote crime prevention and safety, are more susceptible to inequalities and discrimination, and are less engaged in the civic process and in their government and community.

Several years ago the Council added a priority to the city’s business plan to embrace the diversity in the Renton community, and to create forums and strategies to better engage the city’s diverse populations. They recognized the challenges including communication challenges and language barriers, and a general distrust of government. Valuing diversity meant breaking down these barriers and building trust. 

Last year, the city set a goal to establish connections with the various ethnic, cultural and non-English speaking groups and to make the city’s programs and services more accessible. The city has also asked the various community groups to select members or leaders within their communities to take on a leadership role and be the liaison to the city and community.

This effort is particularly critical to meeting the city’s emergency preparedness objectives. Because many of these community groups have less access to information, resources and other services, and are at higher risk of being disproportionately affected by disasters.  By making connections with community leaders and assisting them to help their members be better prepared for emergencies, the impacts of disasters can be minimized.

The city is also looking forward to celebrating the diversity and the richness of the various groups. By showcasing the cultural richness of the different communities through performances at the IKEA Renton River Days festival or having a city-wide celebration, the city hopes to bring people together and dispel ignorance.

On February 25, Mayor Denis Law and several city Councilmembers hosted a meeting with various community liaisons to embrace the diversity in the Renton community. About 35 people from 11 different ethnic and cultural groups came together to meet with the city’s leaders, learn more about city programs, and share their stories.

“The Vietnamese American community shares the values and objectives set forth by the Mayor and the City Council of Renton,” said Linh-Thai, Vietnamese Community of Seattle and Vicinity.  “We strive to create lasting partnerships with local governments and other ethnic communities, to cultivate common issues facing our city and our society, create economic and educational opportunities, and foster public safety, cultural preservation and equal opportunities. We are committed to work with the City of Renton and other communities, to achieve these common objectives.” 

 “Being at this meeting gives me a sense of belonging,” said Violet Aesquival from the Filipino American Community of Renton (FACOR).

“Renton is my home, community and future and I’m here to stay,” said Tavy Aberion, FACOR.

 “Coming together like this makes me realize that it is not about our differences but about embracing our uniqueness,” said Dimple Thiara, with the Sikh community’s Gurudwara Singh Saba in Renton.

“We have so many things in common,” said Aden Hussein, Somali Youth and Family Club.

"The Samoan Community are very moved and motivated by the outreach efforts of Mayor Law and the Renton City Council.  The bridge that's being built between the barriers of communication, and identification with all the unique cultures that reside in Renton is a step in a very positive direction."  Ty Tufono-Director, International Samoa Health/Help Mission Alliance & Samoan Community Activist.

While a future meeting with all the members has not yet been set, the city is already responding to requests from some of the communities for workshops on emergency preparedness, information on the Small Business Development Center, and information on the Renton River Days parade. 

"I am very pleased that the City Council decided not only to value diversity but also to take action to engage and promote our diversity,” said Councilmember Greg Taylor. “It is very important that we bring everyone in Renton under the umbrella of our services and we need to engage everyone, especially those for whom barriers exist to receiving those services. I am thrilled to see the number of people who responded to our invitation and look forward to working with them on emergency preparedness, opportunities for small businesses and more.”

“I am glad that we are finally embarking on this exciting journey and look forward to a long-lasting relationship with all the communities in our city,” said Councilmember Terri Briere.

For more information, please email Preeti Shridhar or call 425-430-6569.