Candidate Highlight: Spokane City Council Candidates!
Written by Kendra Allman
The Housing Alliance Action Fund is proud to endorse three strong candidates for Spokane City Council: Naghmana Sherazi, Zack Zappone, and Betsy Wilkerson. Ballots will be arriving in mailboxes next week. If you are a Spokane voter, we encourage you to vote for Naghmana, Zack, and Betsy who are committed to addressing Spokane’s affordable housing crisis, one of the worst in the nation.
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Naghmana Sherazi, District 1
Naghmana was generous enough to sit down for a quick interview with me to share her thoughts and goals on housing and homelessness. I am extremely appreciative of how open she was about her own experiences with housing insecurity; as an immigrant and single mother, she described her struggles in finding housing and paying rent. “I work my backside off to make ends meet,” she said. As one of many who has been having trouble making her rent payments in the chaos of the pandemic, Naghmana understands the intense fear around housing insecurity that so many of Spokane’s most vulnerable community members are currently experiencing, as well as the frustration many feel with the lack of proper support available to them. She stressed her belief that safe and affordable housing is a human right, as basic a need as food and water, and emphasized the urgency with which Spokane needs realistic solutions to its current housing crisis.
On the City Council, Naghmana plans to address the city’s housing needs by bringing developers and stakeholders together to construct multifamily housing, use Spokane’s developable land to build affordable homes, and pressure the Mayor into making housing a greater priority.
Naghmana also stressed the need to address housing holistically, acknowledging the many facets of the housing crisis and how it intersects with other pressing issues. In particular, she addressed the importance of bolstering Spokane’s local workforce and ensuring that the city is able to provide all of its residents with well-paying work.
“If we plan for the next 50-60 years,” she said, “we can make this city something remarkable.” Naghmana has spent 10 of her 13 years in the US in Spokane, and her optimism for Spokane’s future, and the passion she showcased for how to achieve her vision of that future, speaks volumes.
We are so happy to be supporting such a passionate housing advocate for Spokane City Council! If you’re interested in donating to Naghmana’s campaign, you can do so here: https://www.peoplefornaghmana.com/ If you’re interested in volunteering, Naghmana stressed that she can always use extra help canvassing. Please consider signing up with our volunteer form!
Zack Zappone, District 3
Zack is an experienced community leader, volunteer, and advocate. As a middle school teacher, he worked to implement curriculum changes, create after-school programs, increase family engagement, and all-around ensure that the needs of vulnerable or underprivileged students were addressed by and reflected in their school experience. As a City Council member, he promises to continue this work to remove obstacles to upward mobility across the community.
Zack notes the ways in which housing is not as high of a priority in Spokane’s current local government as it should be: “I see a lack of serious, coordinated strategies to ensure available housing options for all levels of income earners. […] I know the strategies that have been proven to work, and I’ll elevate them tirelessly on the Council and in our communities.” Zack recognizes the severity of the housing crisis currently plaguing Spokane, writing that, “families and individuals at the bottom of the income ladders, some of whom have been here for decades, are being priced out of neighborhoods.” He also acknowledges how such a crisis disproportionately affects certain communities: “Spokane’s future will be less bright if our families of color continue to get priced out of their neighborhoods and out of the city.” He hopes to invest in programs that would reach out and provide housing resources and education specifically to communities of color, as well as to investigate ways to help these specific communities build stable paths to homeownership.
Zack also recognizes how vital it is to provide those who have lost their homes an escape from homelessness: “We need to coordinate and do outreach to bring in people off the street – this means we need case management and to know every individual who is homeless in our community and what their next steps are to get out of homelessness.”
According to Zack, we need to change zoning to prioritize multifamily housing, streamline the permitting and application process, coordinate more thorough outreach to those who are currently homeless, and provide more transitional or bridge housing. Zack also recognizes the need to address the housing crisis by investing more in mental health and substance abuse services.
Zack has showcased an extremely thorough understanding of the complex and interconnected issues that lead to homelessness and housing insecurity, as well as the supports that are needed to best help the most vulnerable members of the community. We are so happy to be giving our support to his campaign!
Betsy Wilkerson, District 2
Betsy has already proved herself a true Housing Champion on the City Council and now she’s running to maintain her seat. Though she has already done some great work, she says that “the hard work has just begun.”
Since 1976, Betsy has run a family business that houses individuals with disabilities. She writes on housing, “as someone who was once homeless, housing justice is near and dear to my heart. Having a place to reliably call home lets families develop, children grow, and parents engage more with their community and local economy. I’m proud to be a leader on this issue in our community, running a small business that houses individuals with disabilities and being an ardent advocate for housing justice during my first year on the Council. During my first full term, I’ll continue to elevate this issue in the Council’s deliberations.”
Betsy is well-aware of the current housing crisis currently gripping Spokane: “As demand for affordable housing outstrips supply and more and more families move to Spokane, the housing market continues to climb, excluding the life-long residents – especially those with lower incomes – from affordable housing opportunities.” She also emphasizes the ever-pervasive element of racial inequality which contributes to Spokane’s housing injustices. “Our city needs to become more racially diverse, not less, if we want to grow into the vibrant urban center that I know we can become,” she writes.
To address these issues, Betsy stresses the need to bring affordable housing to those who are disabled, to youth and seniors, and to those under the poverty line. Betsy also expresses her desire to better address the issue of homelessness in Spokane and ramp up funding for shelter and community services, as well as to pressure the Mayor’s office to make homelessness a greater priority. She also wants to bolster paths for Spokane’s people of color to become homeowners, and to implement targeted programs and communications strategies to ensure that Urban Native communities have access to education and resources related to housing. She also writes that “we need to start treating mental health as public health and safety with broad investments in resources for disadvantaged communities and every school in our district.”
As someone with lived experience of homelessness, and someone who clearly showcases a passion for and deep understanding of housing injustice issues, we believe Betsy is a fantastic candidate to lend your vote to.
Hugo Garcia, Position 1 and Sarah Moore, Position 5
Written by Irene Basloe Saraf
Voters in Burien are very fortunate to have three candidates seeking seats on the City Council who care deeply about their city and the people who live there. The Action Fund is pleased to endorse Hugo Garcia (Pos. 1), Sarah Moore (Pos. 5), and Krystal Marx (Pos. 7) for Burien City Council. To learn more about Krystal Marx, see this article written by Mindy Woods from our August newsletter.
Both Hugo and Sarah are acutely aware, as Sarah put it, “of all the different ways local government impacts people’s lives.” And while it can be “very challenging to do things at national or state level,” according to Hugo, “we can have an impact on our local communities.”
And these two candidates have already been active in Burien in ways that will enable them to hit the ground running after the election. Hugo serves on the city’s Planning Commission and the Burien Economic Development Partnership (BEDP). Sarah is a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and a co-founder of the ACLU Burien People Power. They engaged in other volunteer work in the community as well.
Both candidates want the city to increase the amount of affordable housing and to ensure that new transit opportunities and zoning changes do not cause hardship or displacement. Sarah points out that Burien needs “more multi-family zoning but [has] a lot of places without services [to] support denser populations.” She suggests density could be increased in places that already have services and transit or there could be a focus on increasing service, transit, and job opportunities in neighborhoods where they are lacking in order to increase density effectively.
Hugo likewise knows that the Burien “desperately needs [more] multi-family housing” so it should not “underutilize the land space we have by having too much single-family housing. We can’t create more land so we have to make sure we’re efficient.” Hugo believes the city must also “prioritize and respect our environment because of climate change.” He notes that Burien has a wonderful tree canopy that “needs to be protected.”
In addition to his experiences on the Planning Commission and BEDP, Hugo brings insights gained growing up in Burien as an immigrant from Mexico. In a diverse city like Burien, “[i]f we don’t have people who have lived that path on the City Council, it’s that much harder.” He is mindful of how his restaurant worker father and part-time lunch lady mother were able to support his family’s life in Burien. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure that other families that are similar to mine, BIPOC, immigrant families, have the opportunities to live here.”
During the first half of 2021, Sarah worked for King County as an isolation/quarantine site manager. The role showed her the benefits of providing housing and wrap-around services, leading her to believe that “housing and access to support needs to continue after the pandemic is over.” And she recognizes that Burien has “[a] lot of different neighborhoods with different needs” and the city must address those needs in a way that is equitable.
On Election Day, we encourage voters in Burien to cast their votes for City Council for three thoughtful and dedicated members of the Burien community, Hugo Garcia (Pos. 1), Sarah Moore (Pos. 5), and Krystal Marx (Pos. 7). To learn more about Hugo, his policy recommendations, and how to support him, visit his website at https://www.hugoforburien.com/. Sarah’s website is https://sarahforburien.com/, where you can find out more about Sarah, her vision for Burien, and how to support her campaign. For more information on Krystal’s housing and homelessness priorities, and to support her campaign go to https://www.krystal4burien.com/.