Unsurprisingly, the issue at the forefront of each candidate's mind in Spokane's District 3 City Council race is housing. Do we need more? How do we keep it affordable? What can we do to help people who don't have it?
There are five candidates hoping to tackle those questions this year. They're vying for a seat occupied by Candice Mumm, who is at the end of her term limit. District 3 encompasses northwest Spokane, which includes West Central, Indian Trail and the Shadle Park areas. The district's other council seat is occupied by Karen Stratton.
The Inlander interviewed all five candidates about their experience, goals and what it's like doorbelling in 100-degree heat. (Short answer: hot!)
'PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY'ZACK ZAPPONE has deep Spokane roots. He was born and raised in District 3, and his family has lived in Eastern Washington for six generations.
After completing a master's in public affairs, Zappone returned to Spokane to work as a middle school English and history teacher. He says his experience with Spokane Public Schools has given him a unique perspective on the issues facing the city.
"I see a lot of those challenges in our community day in and day out in our schools, issues around public health and safety, homelessness and economic opportunity," Zappone says.
Zappone says he wants to prioritize public health and safety, especially when it comes to mental health. He says that would include expanded services and shelter capacity for those experiencing homelessness. Doing outreach to make those services available to people is also important, he says.
At 30, Zappone is a millennial, which he says gives him a different perspective on the city's housing issues.
"I know too often many of my peers and my friends are having to move away from Spokane because they can't find good-paying jobs to pay for rent," he says.
Zappone says he's concerned about the large sums of special interest money in the race. His opponent Mike Lish has received a combined $50,000 in independent expenditures from the National Association of Realtors Fund and the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee. In 2019, the Realtors spent an unprecedented amount of money on then-mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward and three others on City Council.
'NOT GOING TO SELL MY SOUL'
"I've talked with the Realtors; I've been straight up about my goals. I'm not going to sell my soul to anybody to run, you know what I mean? But our values aligned," Lish says.
Lish says he's worried about the housing shortage in Spokane and would be supportive of more development and creative solutions. Lish is the president of D'Lish's Hamburgers. He says he has firsthand experience with the difficulties small businesses have faced because of COVID-19.
Lish is new to politics — "I never even ran for ASB in high school," he says — but he hopes that his status as an outsider will allow him to bring a breath of fresh air to City Hall.
"I didn't see anybody running in my district that was really going to represent myself, my family or the business," he says.
When it comes to homelessness, Lish says there needs to be a big push toward mental health facilities and rehabilitation. He argues that the city's current model is tolerant of bad behavior and sometimes draws homeless people to the city. He says he would focus on connecting people with services.
Lish says he wants to see more common sense and fewer political agendas on City Council.
'IT'S INFRASTRUCTURE'LACRECIA (LU) HILL grew up as a single teenage mother in Spokane. She balanced raising a child while attending community college and later transferring to Eastern Washington University. She says the difficulties she faced helped inform her decision to run for council.
"A lot of humans on our City Council don't know what it is to have a housing voucher, or to have to rely on public transportation, or even being a teenage mom and trying to juggle child care and a job and your educational pursuits," Hill says.
Hill has worked in cannabis, yoga and consulting. She's also involved in nonprofit work with Spectrum LGBTQIA2+, the center on the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition, the Black Business Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.
Homelessness is a big priority for Hill. She says the city needs to take a holistic approach — investing money in low-barrier housing and low-barrier supportive housing. She doesn't think people come to Spokane because of the city's services.
Hill says she is also focused on filling potholes and getting people to work on infrastructure projects.
"It's not deregulation that's going to save our city's money, it's infrastructure," Hill says.
When it comes to the disagreements between City Hall and the mayor's office, Hill says she would want to approach the issue from a place of mutual respect, while also focusing on modernizing the city's internal structures.
"Those technologies and communication patterns have not been upgraded in decades," Hill says. "I think that we would go far to really work together with City Council and the mayor to address those internal operational structures that can help our city flow better."
'A LOT OF GRIEF AND CONCERN'This is CHRISTOPHER SAVAGE's second time running for City Council. As with his previous run in 2019, Savage says he is motivated by discomfort over what he's seen happening at City Council meetings.
"I feel like they were rubber-stamping and approving a bunch of superfluous legislation that was just causing taxpayers a lot of grief and concern over what they were doing," Savage says.
Savage says his main concern is the housing and homelessness crisis. He says some of the organizations backed by City Hall haven't delivered on their promises. He cites the Union Gospel Mission as an example of a charity with a proven track record that he would want to support if elected.
"It seems like some of these organizations overpromise and undeliver, and it just causes a lot of animosity that should not be there," Savage says.
Savage is a board member for Spokane Meals on Wheels and has served on the Spokane Salary Review Commission and the Water Conservancy Commision. He says this experience building bridges and working with others has given him experience that will help navigate disagreements in City Hall.
While attending neighborhood council meetings, Savage says he has heard from residents who feel there aren't enough traffic and code enforcement officers. He says he would focus on filling those positions.
'YOU HAVE TO HAVE A MOUTHGUARD'A fifth-generation Spokane resident, KAREN KEARNEY has been chair of the Balboa/South Indian Trail neighborhood council for nine years. During her tenure, Kearney says she's helped the council work on numerous issues, including code enforcement, helping law enforcement close drug houses, creating a lit pedestrian crossing and founding a gathering place for seniors.
Kearney decided to run for office last winter because she saw that roads and other issues weren't being taken care of.
"If you go on Boone and Broadway, you have to have a mouthguard to be able to go on those streets, because they are so bad," she says.
Kearney says she doesn't support low-barrier shelters in neighborhoods, and that the city needs to find a more compassionate way to help homeless people into housing.
Kearney says she's concerned about the conflict and staffing shortages that have been plaguing City Hall. She says she would want to improve communication between the City Council and the mayor's office and to fill staffing shortages.
Kearney also says she wants to create a small-business department within City Hall to help encourage development. ♦