Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New podcast focuses on hyperlocal Spokane Valley issues

Two-time Spokane Valley City Council candidate Al Merkel has started a podcast that will focus on Spokane Valley government and politics.   (COURTESY OF AL MERKEL)

Thousands of podcasts are vying for your attention.

There’s a podcast where a comedian interviews everyone from physicists to mixed martial arts fighters.

There are podcasts put together by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists. If you want a podcast for profane rants, reality TV show analysis, Seahawks talk, crime, daily news, economics or virtually anything imaginable, you can probably find it.

But anyone looking for a hyperlocal, Spokane Valley-centric podcast about government and politics has been out of luck.

Until now.

“If you wake up and see holes in the street in front of your house, this is the podcast for you,” said Al Merkel, host of Spokane Valley Speaks.

Merkel, who has run for City Council twice, said he started Spokane Valley Speaks because local news outlets mostly cover Spokane and overlook the Valley, even though the city now has more than 100,000 residents.

That lack of coverage has a cost, Merkel said. It makes it more difficult for people to understand and participate in Valley government.

“We don’t necessarily have a developed political news culture,” Merkel said. “I think it makes it really hard for citizens to make good choices about voting issues and about who they elect.”

Spokane Valley Speaks will focus on big topics such as housing, homelessness and crime.

Merkel said he’ll also be looking at city parks, school district issues, City Council, taxes and Sprague Avenue building use, to name a few.

Merkel, who is currently treating the podcast as his main job, said some episodes will feature his personal analysis of local issues. Those episodes will also have a “Council Corner” segment, wherein Merkel will break down the latest City Council news and why it matters. Since Spokane Valley Speaks debuted in mid-February, Merkel has covered housing, homelessness and Ukraine.

Other episodes will be long-form interviews with local politicians or experts.

So far, Merkel has published multipart, two-hour interviews with John Nowels and Craig Chamberlin, each of whom is running for Spokane County Sheriff.

Other interviews with prominent politicians are forthcoming. Merkel said he has interviews lined up with Spokane County Prosecutor candidate Stephanie Olsen, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and former Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.

Listeners are encouraged to email ideas or questions to Merkel at

New episodes will come out weekly, typically on Thursdays. You can find the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and other podcast platforms.