Housing and homelessness, public safety and infrastructure are the topics dominating a three-way race to represent northeast Spokane on the Spokane City Council.
Three candidates are vying to replace outgoing Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke.
Burke has represented the district since winning election in 2017, but announced earlier this year that she would not seek a second term, leaving the race wide open.
Luc Jasmin III, Naghmana Sherazi and Jonathan Bingle will appear on the primary election ballot.
The district includes neighborhoods such as Hillyard, Logan, Chief Garry Park and Shiloh Hills.
The candidates are close in terms of campaign fundraising, with Jasmin bringing in $35,553, Bingle $25,450, and Sherazi $21,240, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings. Bingle, however, has enjoyed the independent support of the National Association of Realtors Fund, which has put $33,231 behind his campaign.
Bingle didn’t let his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2019 dampen his political aspirations.
Now he’s set his eyes on a seat on the Spokane City Council, and the issues the city faces are similar to those it did two years ago, he noted.
Homelessness is again at the center of Bingle’s campaign platform, as he works to highlight “the tragedy of the situation: that we’re treating a human problem like it’s a housing problem.” For the chronically homeless, Bingle described many as “shelter-resistant.” He opposes the expansion of low-barrier shelters and said he does not think it is wrong to ask something of a shelter’s guests – in fact, he said, it is immoral not to.
“We need shelters to help take people from their brokenness into their healing,” Bingle said.
But while he sees chronic homelessness as separate from the issue of housing, Bingle also wants to address the city’s housing crisis.
The city is tens of thousands of units of housing short of where it needs to be, Bingle said, and people who are on a low or fixed income have fewer and fewer options. Little should be ruled out to incentivize development, he added, including zoning changes.
Bingle expressed dismay that the City Council has turned down proposals for new housing that would have required a zoning change.
“We need housing built right now,” Bingle said.
Housing is a key component in economic development, Bingle argued.
He wants the city to implement policies that are friendly to small businesses, a subject with which he is intimately familiar. Bingle operated an events and entertainment business prior to the pandemic, but pivoted when public health restrictions effectively put it on hold. Now, he also runs a general contracting company and hopes to keep both active as live and in-person events return.
Public safety is also at the core of Bingle’s campaign.
Although he said he’s “all for transparency,” Bingle criticized recent state police reform that limits when an officer can use force. He said he’s already fielded calls from people concerned about what the reform means for the future of policing.
Spokane’s police officers are “very good,” Bingle said, and reform that would “keep them from being able to do that job with excellence, I’m not for it.”
“I want a safer community, I want better police, and I’m thankful that I already have a tremendous police force,” Bingle said.
Bingle criticized the draft sustainability action plan proposed by the Sustainability Action Subcommittee, a volunteer group formed by the City Council. One of the subcommittee’s initial recommendations was to prohibit natural gas hookups in all new construction by 2028.
Bingle warned such a policy would “triple” homeowners’ utility bills.
“It’s the city giving them a middle finger and saying, ‘Hey, figure it out yourself,’ ” Bingle said.
He also said the city has ignored the will of voters.
The downtown stadium, recently approved by the Spokane Public Schools board, was ultimately located in the right spot but should have gone back out to citizens for an advisory vote, Bingle said.
When it comes to fluoride, Bingle said it should be put to voters for another advisory vote.
“Personally, we aren’t anti-fluoride, but I would not vote for anything along these lines that the voters have already turned down several times,” Bingle said.
Jasmin hopes his experience as a leader in the child care sector will win over voters in northeast Spokane.
Jasmin, owner of Parkview Early Learning Center and the president of the Washington Childcare Centers Association, is touting his deep community roots.
He also serves on the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission and numerous other local boards.
“Everything I do is community-focused and I see tangible things that we could do specifically in the northeast (part of town) to get out of the bind that we’ve had for so long,” Jasmin said. “I hope people notice that I do things right now, and just to be able to have that platform on city council to be able to expand it.”
Jasmin is fresh off the heels of helping to lead a successful advocacy effort in support of the The Fair Start for Kids Act, which was adopted by the Legislature this year and provides funding for early childhood learning and child care programs. As president of the Washington Childcare Centers Association, Jasmin said he has to balance the varying ideologies of its members.
“I’m not used to just dealing with one specific political ideology. It’s made me figure out ways to work with everybody,” Jasmin said.
Jasmin serves on the Ombudsman Commission and embraces independent oversight, but said he’s also had Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich read to children at Parkview Early Learning Center.
“We don’t have control of what’s happening nationally, but we can work collectively with law enforcement here so it represents what the community views safety as,” Jasmin said.
Jasmin said focus should also be placed on growing the ranks of law enforcement within the community.
“As a person of color – and it’s just human nature – if I see somebody that’s familiar and I can see that police officer as Steve, and Steve can see me as Luc, to me it brings that fear down, it humanizes things a lot,” Jasmin said.
As the North Spokane Corridor is built over the coming years, Jasmin wants to ensure that it does not harm neighborhoods like Minnehaha and Hillyard in the way that Interstate 90 did when it tore through East Central decades ago.
“East Central is still reeling from that, and when you look at (Washington Department of Transportation), they still have some land that they’re holding that we could potentially see how we access to work on affordable housing,” Jasmin said.
When it comes to housing, Jasmin said the city needs to support development of the “missing middle,” such as duplexes and triplexes.
“We need to prioritize Spokane, put Spokane people first so they’ll be able to purchase homes here,” Jasmin said.
The northeast is also in dire need of infrastructure investment, Jasmin argued, and the city should tap into its more than $80 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to invest in paving unpaved streets.
“We have the highest concentration of unpaved roads,” Jasmin said. “That is a fact.
“I know there’s work being done to main arterials, and I want to expand that.”
Child care is also an infrastructure investment, according to Jasmin. Although the Legislature allocated substantial funding for child care this year, Jasmin said it will be important to make sure it’s distributed correctly at the local level.
Jasmin also spoke about the need to improve internet access in northeast Spokane, which can be critical to stem summer learning loss for students and help adults with basic tasks like applying for jobs.
“We have funds federally and statewide to be able to work with CenturyLink, to be able to work with Comcast,” Jasmin said.
Just hours after taking the Oath of Allegiance and officially becoming a United States citizen in 2018, Sherazi remembers sitting down for a celebratory lunch surrounded by friends and community members who urged her to run for office.
Sherazi, who immigrated from Pakistan 13 years ago, had ingrained herself in the community by building a successful coalition against Proposition 1, a 2017 initiative that would have removed limitations placed on city police officers’ ability to inquire about a person’s immigration status.
She agreed to run for Spokane City Council in 2019 but fell short in the primary by about 500 votes, a loss she attributes to the last-minute influx of spending from real-estate agents in support of opponent – and current council member – Michael Cathcart.
She didn’t plan to run again in 2021, but jumped at the opportunity when Burke – who has since endorsed Sherazi – announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.
“I’m progressive. We need progressive people on Spokane City Council right now to continue bringing District 1 into the mix and make sure the city progresses the way we need it to progress,” Sherazi said.
Sherazi is already trying to embody progressive values in her campaign, which is unionized, she said.
“I’m the only woman running in the race and the only woman running in the race with the lived experience of having a majority of people in this district connect with me,” Sherazi said.
As the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is facing a “massive crisis” in housing and homelessness, Sherazi said. She supports development of affordable housing along the North Spokane Corridor.
Sherazi understands housing instability firsthand and being forced to “live with the insecurity of having missed a paycheck and being on the street.”
But she noted not every landlord is a bad one.
“We need money for rent and utility assistance to be going into the landlord’s pocket also, so people who need the help can stay in their house,” Sherazi said.
Sherazi believes the city needs more low-barrier shelter space and blasted the city for “chasing the weather” every year with its plan for homeless shelters. She argued the council should use its fiscal powers to pressure the mayor into presenting a concrete solution.
Sherazi’s campaign platform is also focused on infrastructure. The northeast has more unpaved miles of road than any other district despite being the largest generator of sales tax revenue for the city and containing several of the poorest ZIP codes in all of Washington.
“Why isn’t that money coming back to us?” Sherazi asked.
As the area grows, Sherazi said it needs to invest in the infrastructure in advance.
“It’s going to grow overnight, it’s going to mushroom in a big way, so we need to prepare for that. Why aren’t we investing in the infrastructure?” she asked.
The Spokane Transit Authority’s Central City Line will extend to Spokane Community College, but Sherazi argued it shouldn’t stop there.
“We need to do a beltway and connect the entire city and do a peripheral connection with the Central City Line,” Sherazi said.
When it comes to ongoing community conversations on police reform, Sherazi noted Spokane’s police department has the third-highest per-capita rate of fatal police shootings of the 100 largest departments nationwide, “so what I want to see is more accountability and more transparency,” Sherazi said. “The City Council coming up will need to make a lot of decisions, and I think the community has a huge responsibility to make sure they have their voices heard.”
Sherazi advocated for a full office of Civil Rights in City Hall that would include the Office of the Police Ombudsman, sheltering it from the influence of the executive branch or City Council.
Sherazi supports adding fluoride to the city’s water supply, saying it “does not cause the kind of repercussions” people fear. She noted the dental health disparities caused by a lack of fluoridation in Spokane.
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