The race for Spokane city council in the northwest features two newcomers to city politics.
Mike Lish trumpets his background as a small businessman, while Zack Zappone is an educator and nonprofit worker who believes he is the best fit to represent District 3.
The pair are in the running to replace outgoing city councilor Candace Mumm, who has reached the term limit after eight years on council.
“People are concerned about their public health and safety, housing and homelessness, infrastructure… people really want real action taken now, not just statements and plans, but real implementation.” said Zappone, substitute teacher and program director for Better Health. Ensemble which unsuccessfully presented itself to the State House of Representatives last year.
Lish, president of D. Lish’s Hamburgers, said he had spent the weeks since the primary elections ringing doors, connecting with voters and small businesses.
“Things went really well. It was an incredible experience and it will be a very competitive race, ”said Lish. “It really relates to voters, I get ‘yes that’s what worries us – homelessness, public safety, small business.’
Here’s how the candidates stack up on key issues.
Roaming and housing
Zappone said he wanted the city to base its homeless services on models that have worked elsewhere. It supports low-barrier shelters, those that do not impose demands such as sobriety on their guests.
“A low barrier shelter is necessary for our shelter system to be effective,” Zappone said. “If you create a lot of barriers to shelters, it doesn’t help people get the resources they need.
The alternative, he argued, is worse and “keeps them on our streets”, leading to problems when “they go to our parks, they go to our alleys, they go to our streets”.
Lish said the city’s current approach to roaming is clearly not working.
“It’s time to pivot and reassess and try to come up with different creative solutions to help solve this problem and give people the resources they need,” Lish said, though he declined to cite a policy. or a specific decision he disagrees with.
To resolve its housing issues, the city needs to focus on changing some of its zoning laws, Lish said. That doesn’t mean an apartment complex on every block, but the city should find ways to enable creative housing options like allowing for the construction of smaller residences on lots with existing residences and condominiums, Lish said.
“Not everyone needs a house with a frontage and a backyard,” Lish said.
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zappone said the city must ensure it has protections for tenants as the state rolls out of the moratorium on evictions, and distribute the millions of dollars of rental assistance available locally.
“We have to make sure that we give people enough time to get rent assistance so that they don’t get evicted,” Zappone said.
Zappone embraces the growth of the city, but wants it done in a thoughtful way.
“On the supply side we have certainly seen a shortage of inventory in Spokane and we need to promote smart growth and filling and make sure our region remains competitive,” Zappone said.
Economy, infrastructure and growth
Zappone would like to see the city embrace the sectors in which it already excels, including healthcare and education, and build an economic development plan around them.
The city needs to invest in its existing infrastructure – “it’s investing in the regular problems of our streets and potholes,” Zappone said – but also in the future. For example, the city should ensure that everyone within its borders has access to broadband internet.
“Distant jobs are here to stay, so how do we create the infrastructure we need to promote these types of jobs? Zappone asked.
Having taken over the helm of her family owned restaurant, Lish is very familiar with the challenges of running a small business.
Lish said he was concerned about the amount of paperwork, fees and inspections required of a small business.
“A lot of people assume that if you own a business, you make these big profits; this is not always the case, and often these fees come out of pocket, ”said Lish.
Businesses are struggling to find employees, so much so that many are closed on Sundays, Lish added. He would like the city to prioritize business sectors affected by COVID-19, such as entertainment and food, for US bailout funds.
The city received an unprecedented windfall of around $ 81 million thanks to federal pandemic relief approved by Congress in March.
Lish said he would also like it to be spent on infrastructure projects.
“We have to make sure that we have a robust public contribution period, we have to make sure that voters have the opportunity, or that city residents have the opportunity to say how they want it to be spent,” said Lish.
Zappone agreed it would be important to hear from residents and said the city should look to spend the money in ways that improve infrastructure and lead to economic growth.
“It’s important to get feedback and feedback from the community on how this money should be spent. I think it’s an important process, but I don’t think we should sit on it for months and months and years to come, ”Zappone said.
Many people don’t bother to report petty crimes because they know they are unlikely to get a response from the police, Lish said.
“One of the most basic functions of local government is to protect us,” Lish said.
Lish would like to see an increase in neighborhood policing efforts and for officers to build relationships with residents, which he says “would go a long way in protecting our city.”
“I think we’re going to have to increase our police budget to be able to attract good candidates,” Lish said.
Zappone supports the region’s new Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Center, which aims to get people out of jail, and believes it will save taxpayers money in the long run.
While Zappone has said he wants to continue strengthening oversight of the police department, he also pleaded for “helping the police to do what they do best, which is to enforce the laws and deter criminality”.