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America Walks Twitter Chat with Ron Sims on January 20

RonSimsAmerica Walks was excited to host Ron Sims on January 20, 2016 for our first-ever Twitter Chat. The chat took place over an hour and offered participants a chance to get insights from Ron on his experience and expertise on walking, walkable communities and how to build a walking movement. A selection of questions and responses are posted here.

Questions and Answers with Ron Sims

“Cities need to ask citizens if their communities are walkable. That doesn’t happen right now.” – Ron Sims 

You say the issue of walkable communities is a civil rights issue. Can you explain what you mean?

Communities of a color are seldom beneficiaries of walkable investment.

Poor communities and communities of color seldom receive the paths and wide sidewalks needed for safe walking.

At the 2015 National Walking Summit you challenged us to turn walking advocates into a movement. How do we build a successful movement?

Movements require us to make alliances with smart growth and healthy community programs.

Walking advocates need to educate the health care system on the benefits of walkable communities.

People need to meet with health care leaders in your communities- doctors, hospitals, clinics, insurance companies.

When you talk to health care professionals, tell them why they should do this and where in the community it should be done.

What are the two major things that the walking movement needs to do be successful?

Understand it is going to be a marathon not a sprint.

Celebrate victories big and small. If we celebrate the changes, momentum will grow.

What do you see as the major challenges or obstacles to the walking movement?

People think walking is for people with small kids or elderly, it’s for everyone. No matter your age, you should be walking.

What is your advice on engaging health care professionals in pushing for walkable communities?

The most effective way to reduce health care costs is to have a walkable community. There’s no debate.

If people walk they’re healthy.

What are the most effective arguments in engaging city, county and state officials for creating walkable places?

Walkable communities are safe communities. Walkable communities are the best investment a public official can make.

Who do you think should be the next set of natural allies for the walking movement? How do we engage them?

Spend time with diverse and immigrant advocate groups, civil rights groups, groups promoting sustainability.

What in your career helped King County take steps to become a walkable, livable place? What can other communities do?

King County analyzed every zip code on the basis of health outcomes. Data can be found with public health systems, US Census.

Zip code data will disturb you. You will see right away the advantages of walkable communities.

You will see obesity and diabetes, thing that are largely preventable today.

What challenge have you had to overcome in your efforts to create walkable, livable communities? What can we learn?

I had to learn to wear people down and get them to yes.

As walkable neighborhoods become more desirable, areas gentrify. What can protect long-time residents and small businesses?

I’m not worried about gentrification because poor neighborhoods are entitled walkable communities.

You build walkable communities for every neighborhood.

Gentrified neighborhoods are usually already walkable communities.

Do you see ways the walkable community movement and transit expansion movement can work together or complement each other?

I don’t know how they can avoid working together. They are twins, interdependent on each other.

What role does walkability play in some of today’s big equity conversations- reacism, economic discrimination and policing?

When walking you interact with other walks- older, younger, different races or religions, those walking for health or fun

Walking ties a community together

About Ron Sims

Mr. 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. Mr. Sims also serves on the Board of Regents, the university’s governing body, of Washington State University and 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 health care quality.

 Sims served as the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2009-2011. 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 in Washington State, the 13th largest county in the nation with 1.8 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.