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Five seek to replace Candace Mumm to represent northwest Spokane on City Council

A wide field of candidates has stepped forward to represent Northwest Spokane on the Spokane City Council.

Lacrecia “Lu” Hill, Karen Kearney, Mike Lish, Christopher Savage and Zack Zappone will appear on the August primary ballot for District 3 voters in Spokane, each offering a different vision of city government.

The winner will replace Councilwoman Candace Mumm, who was unable to run for re-election due to term limits. Mumm has served on the council since 2014.

In interviews with The Spokesman-Review, the candidates touched on different topics, but each highlighted the city’s struggles to address housing and homelessness.

As of the most recent report, Zappone led candidates with about $38,500 of campaign cash in hand. Savage has raised nearly $9,000, Lish has raised almost $25,000, Hill about $37,000 and Kearney more than $21,000 .

The Washington Realtors Political Action Committee has independently spent $20,098, and the National Association of Realtors Fund has spent $29,095, in support of Lish’s campaign.

Lacrecia “Lu” Hill

Lacrecia “Lu” Hill said she would never come back to Spokane.

But in 2011, she broke that promise when she took a job at the Boys and Girls Clubs. A decade later, she’s once again firmly rooted in Spokane and running for Spokane City Council.

Hill was a 16-year-old mom who grew up in Hillyard, but even then she saw a clear path for success. She could obtain a housing voucher. Public transit was reliable if her car broke down. A job waiting tables could pay the bills.

“When I look at the landscape of Spokane it concerns me that that path isn’t readily available anymore,” Hill said. “If I was a 16-year-old mom now, I would not be able to take care of myself.”

Hill’s campaign is centered on the issues of housing, infrastructure and homelessness.

She wants the city to incentivize builders to increase the housing stock and create additional pathways to homeownership, which could include changing zoning laws and regulations on building small residences on the same lots as other homes .

“Those are some of the ways we can increase wealth and help settle this awful increase that we’re seeing,” Hill said.

Still, Hill acknowledged the need to maintain neighborhood character.

“I’m not a supporter of high rise, big, huge affordable housing structures, but what I am really supportive of are small fourplexes. There’s tons of room, there’s empty buildings here that need to be utilized,” Hill said.

When it comes to homelessness, Hill described a holistic system that includes low-barrier shelters, transitional housing, and long-term supportive housing. Ultimately, she argued, what the city is doing now to address homelessness is not working.

She said shelters should be located in centralized areas with access to services, but acknowledged concentrating them can put an “additional burden on downtown.”

Hill highlighted the need to invest in road infrastructure and transportation. She also wants to focus on the health of the Spokane River and keep it as clean as possible.

In pitching herself to voters, Hill leans heavily on her personal and career experience.

Professionally, Hill has spent years focused on operations, regardless of what industry in which she’s employed, including having an ownership in cannabis brands and working for nonprofits. She’s currently a yoga instructor and owns a consulting business, Wake the Culture.

“I believe I’m the only person that is running for office that has this deep operations experience and understands how departments, budgets, (and) people work,” Hill said.

Karen Kearney

Five generations of Karen Kearney’s family have made their home in the northwest Spokane{%%note} {/%%note}.

She’s taken a leading role within the third City Council district in recent years, including serving as the Balboa/South Indian Trail Neighborhood Council chair. Now, she’s looking to represent the district on the City Council.

“I have a record of proven neighborhood accomplishment and leadership,” Kearney said.

Kearney said she supports public safety and would not endorse decreasing the police department’s budget. She would back increased funding for its community programs, like the Police Activities League.

“If you don’t have public safety, you don’t have anything,” Kearney said. “I want more traffic enforcement officers, more education and training for our police, and more personal events for citizens with more outreach.”

In a ride-along with police, Kearney said she saw how familiar officers are with people experiencing homelessness, and how they are treated with compassion and dignity.

The city’s need for affordable housing can be resolved by encouraging more density, Kearney said. Neighborhoods of tiny houses can be effective and reduce housing costs, she said.

Kearney also wants to provide developers with tax incentives to repurpose rundown homes. The city should incentivize development of cottages and mother-in-law units, Kearney said. She advocated for “a department within City Hall to work with first-time home buyers and help lead them to financial opportunities to be able to buy a house just kind of help them through.”

A similar level of service should be dedicated to small business development, Kearney said.

To address chronic homelessness, Kearney said she is not in favor of low-barrier homeless shelters being in a residential neighborhood. But she’s also spoken with businesses and heard about issues with trespassing, crime, and sanitation.

“We need a place out of the downtown core that can provide sanitation and security,” Kearney said.

Kearney decried what she believes is an “environment of political agenda” on the City Council.

“I think I can work with the mayor and I can work with the council. I have proven leadership and I have proven results,” Kearney said. “The bottom line is I want to do what’s good for the community.”

Mike Lish

Mike Lish wants to bring common sense to the City Council.

“We have a beautiful city and it’s a beautiful place to live, and I want my children to be able to live here when the time comes,” Lish said.

Lish grew up in Spokane and eventually began working in his family’s business, D.Lish’s Hamburgers. He’s taken time away from it here and there, but has always been pulled back.

“I enjoy coaching employees and helping them move on and figure out what they want,” Lish said. “That’s very important to me, bringing people up, to give them the power to control their own lives and improve themselves. There’s a real power to it when you see (that) employees 10 years later moved on and did grow.”

The city’s approach to homelessness has not been effective, Lish argued.

“It is time for us to take a deeper dive into it, so to speak, and either pivot or change what we’re doing to actually be compassionate and help with the homelessness,” Lish said.

He has demanded a “regional approach” to homelessness, and to address the housing crisis, Lish said “we need to get creative.”

“What I think would be a big help is more workforce housing,” Lish said.

Lish’s employees are being forced to pay $1,000 a month for a studio apartment, Lish said.

“That’s not sustainable,” Lish said.

Regarding policing, Lish does not want reform discussions to get out of hand, asking “what do we replace the police with?”

“I think that people have gotten these ideas and they’ve run with them, but they haven’t based them in any sort of reality at times,” Lish said.

Lish has gone on ride-alongs with police that demonstrated how the department needs additional funding, as officers are constantly diverted to high-priority calls and may “never get to the low-priority” aspects of police work.

“It’s more funding – we need more police officers,” Lish said.

Lish also lamented that the condition of the city’s roads continues to be a major issue.

“I feel that this is something that should’ve been taken care of years ago,” Lish said. “We need to identify the biggest problem areas and start with those.”

Christopher Savage

Christopher Savage was motivated to run for City Council after attending council meetings in-person before the pandemic, voicing his opinion during open forum.

Watching the council in action, he felt the members would either delay action {%%note} {/%%note}on an issue or rubber-stamp the proposal without fully understanding its implications.

“They are given enough info every week to make a decision and vote,” Savage said.

Savage ran in 2019 but fell short. Now, he’s running a second time.

Since his last bid for the council, Savage said the city’s struggles to deal with homelessness have only gotten worse.

Savage said he is not a proponent of low-barrier shelters for the homeless, citing a pop-up shelter that opened in the Garland District earlier this year. The operator “overpromised and underdelivered,” Savage said, leaving “the citizens and business owners to become the police officers.”

“I’m more for high-barrier shelters or charities such as (Union Gospel Mission),” Savage said.

Savage described the Growth Management Act as creating an “artificial ring around Spokane” that was supposed to curtail suburban sprawl and curtail decay of the urban core.

But instead of prompting developers to focus on infill in the urban center, it made them look to “viable land” well outside the city and limited inventory inside the city’s borders.

Until the city can address the Growth Management Act, Savage said it has to focus on buying and redeveloping “zombie houses” as well as green-lighting construction of smaller houses on lots with existing homes{%%note} {/%%note}.

Savage suggested the city should fund the police “a little bit more,” particular in the lower ranks. The city needs more traffic officers, he said.

“We have no cops out and the word is getting out,” Savage said. “It’s unfortunate that there’s this narrative that we need to reduce our police funding, because they’re hurting.”

Savage also pledged to be fiscally responsible if he wins a seat on the City Council.

He criticized the city’s recent decision to reduce recycling collection to a biweekly schedule.

The city justified the change by citing the increasing cost of recycling materials, but Savage argued that “If you’re providing less of a product, you have less of a cost for it” and rates should have been lowered.

Zack Zappone

Zack Zappone’s bid for state Representative in 2020 didn’t end the way he had hoped. But Zappone has channeled that energy into a race for the Spokane City Council, making a case that the same skill set would apply to a different office.

“A lot of the issues facing our city right now are around smart growth, urban planning issues, housing and homelessness; I really believe I am a candidate that has that unique set of skills,” Zappone said.

To improve the housing situation, the Spokane native said the city must focus on providing protections to tenants and ensuring rent is affordable while also increasing the inventory of housing in a way that doesn’t increase congestion or harm the environment.

It’s a tough needle to thread.

Thus, according to Zappone, the city should focus on encouraging development along its “Centers and Corridors” where people can live, work, and have access to public transit. Center and Corridors is a strategy of focusing growth in certain neighborhood centers and arterials.

Zappone wants to fast-track permitting that promotes development of affordable housing. He also wants to “fill in that ‘missing middle’ market of smaller houses,” such as townhomes and duplexes, that are affordable to millennial buyers.

Sound housing policy should help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, Zappone said. But once someone is on the street, Zappone said the city needs to {%%note} {/%%note} conduct {%%note} {/%%note} case management and track its attempts to offer help.

“We should know exactly who is homeless in our community, why, and what interventions have been done,” Zappone said.

Zappone supports low-barrier shelters as a “stopping point” in a person’s transition out of homelessness.

“I’ve met several people who have been formerly homeless and they talk about how important (of a role) the shelter and transition programs play in getting them back on their feet,” Zappone said.

Zappone also is focused on public health and community safety. He wants to ensure that the criminal justice system is not a revolving door, and that’s why he supports the new Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Facility to stabilize people in crisis and direct them to resources as a diversion from jail.

He also wants the city to focus on ensuring everyone has access to broadband internet and providing small businesses the tools they need to be successful.

When it comes to calls for police reform, Zappone said “you don’t want one bad police officer making a bad name for everybody else.”

To support police, Zappone said the city needs to invest in more programs around mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well make sure police have the proper training to deal with those issues.

Adam Shanks can be reached at (509) 459-5136 or adams@spokesman.com

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