Governing as an Eastern WA Democrat with Spokane City Council Member Zack Zappone

Governing as an Eastern WA Democrat with Spokane City Council Member Zack Zappone

On this midweek show, Crystal has a conversation with Spokane City Council Member Zack Zappone about his approach to politics and policy as a Democrat in a more conservative area of Washington state. Council Member Zappone speaks to the importance of connecting with voters on their issues, the focus he brings to making sure everyone has a fair shot, and how Spokane is leading the way on affordable housing and zoning policy.

Crystal and Zack then dig into public safety - fearmongering and inaccurate perceptions surrounding crime statistics, how best to address open drug use, and concerns about Spokane Police giving special treatment to downtown business owners. The show wraps up with discussion of how an old guard resistant to change stands in the way of progress and how Council Member Zappone is working to disrupt systems with new ideas to make Spokane a vibrant urban center inclusive to everyone.

About the Guest

Council Member Zack Zappone

Council Member Zappone represents northwest Spokane. He is a sixth-generation Eastern Washingtonian, teacher, and public health worker. He is dedicated to advocating for all people.

Zack saw first-hand that no matter how hard his students worked, they continued to face obstacles to upward mobility outside of the classroom. He saw that the lack of access to healthcare services, safe walking routes to school, or living-wage jobs continued to be a barrier to equity and a stronger community for his students. He currently teaches English part-time at his alma mater, North Central High School.

Zack is passionate about serving our community, volunteering with community vaccine clinics like the Native Project. He also served with the Spokane Food Fighters during the Coronavirus pandemic, witnessing the extent of income inequality and hardship in the community while helping to deliver over 100,000 meals to Spokanites in need.

Zack graduated from Georgetown University and has a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University. Zack is focused on creating ways to lift up working and middle class families, and to serve our community to make sure everyone has a fair shot.

Find Councilmember Zack Zappone on Twitter/X at @ZackZappone.


Zack Zappone for Spokane City Council

Zack Zappone assumes office as first openly bisexual candidate elected to Spokane City Council” by Ian Smay from KREM

‘Suddenly, there’s options’: Spokane City Council OKs one-year zoning change allowing multi-family housing, townhouses in all residential zones” by Greg Mason from The Spokesman-Review

Property crimes are way up, violent crimes are down, and politicians and business owners are waging a war of perception over the safety of downtown Spokane” by Nate Sanford from The Inlander


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

Today I am very excited to be welcoming Spokane City Council Member Zack Zappone to the podcast. Welcome, Zack.

[00:01:02] Council Member Zack Zappone: Hi, thanks for having me.

[00:01:03] Crystal Fincher: Thanks for being on the program. So you are a Spokane City Council Member. What made you decide to run for office, and what was your path to becoming a City Council Member?

[00:01:14] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, I would say I didn't have the traditional path. I was born and raised here in Spokane, and grew up and attended the same high school as my grandfather. Now I teach at the high school - I'm a part-time teacher still to this day - I teach 10th grade English. I always struggled with pathways to opportunity and inequalities in our system, in the school education system. A lot of my peers and coworkers and students would work really, really hard and there were always more barriers to success and opportunity outside the classroom. No matter how hard we worked, we felt like we were coming up short. There were transportation issues - I had students that would get hit by cars in front of the school - three times in three years and no one at the City felt like they were doing anything. A lack of healthcare and medical needs and dental needs that were being met that were interfering with their school life, or job opportunities, or just all these different issues.

So I got involved in public policy and got my Master's degree in Public Policy and then came back home to Spokane right before the pandemic. And was getting involved in local politics, looking and applying for jobs. And as I was applying for jobs, the pandemic hit. And so that was 2020. I was substitute teaching at the time so there was no need for substitute teachers. So I was unemployed, I was living with my parents. And like anybody else unemployed and living with their parents, I said - What am I gonna do with my life? I'm gonna run for local office. And so I actually ran in 2020 for State Representative - saw my representative at that time didn't match the values that I had and actually was making it a lot more challenging for education and educators. And so I ran against him - I knew it was gonna be a tough race in a swing year district - and came up short but had a really strong race. And then I saw the next year, in 2021, there was a city council race and knew that was gonna be open - the next year was an open seat - and it overlapped with where I was running. So I really did my campaign in 2020 with an eye towards 2021 - just in case. And knew there were a lot of important issues at the local level that we still deal with when it comes to creating opportunity and making sure everyone has a fair shot.

[00:03:04] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And your path is a path taken by several others in that you have a first run. That first run may not have won the race but did a really good job campaigning - built a lot of relationships, built a profile in the community and organized around that, built a bit of a movement - that you were able to leverage into another race. What lessons did you learn, and what do you think was most helpful about running a second time?

[00:03:29] Council Member Zack Zappone: I don't know if I would have won the second time if I didn't run the first time. So the second time for city council - I'm in again the swing district in the city council race, which came down to controlling the super-majority here on council. And so there was tons of outside money that was involved in that second race that really wasn't there in the first race. And a big smear campaign on TV. And the realtors and developers and special interests outspent my campaign - I think it was almost four to one that we were outspent. They spent more money attacking me through the PACs than I spent in my own campaign. And so there was a very different tone in that campaign. And it really escalated when the negative attack ads started on TV towards mid- to end of October. I ended up winning by about 1%. And so I don't know if I would have won if I didn't have - had two years of essentially campaigning.

The other big thing - the irony is I'm an English teacher, but I don't like to spell check or grammar check. And I learned that - not to engage with the trolls on social media. And that was - I think it played a factor, and I was very nervous on Election Night - how big a factor it was. But I made a typo on social media. Once the negative attack ads started happening, it really became tons of trolls and borderline harassment on social media of defunding the police and that stuff. And they were going back and commenting on posts a year ago - on my friend's posts - and they're like, Why are you supporting Zack? He's defunding the police. He's a defunder defunder defunder defunder. And I tried - I woke up one morning, I was still in bed and was writing a response. It was - Once again, let me restate my position. I do not want to defund the police. I want to invest and grow the police force, and reinvent it, and invest in social services and mental health and police accountability and all this stuff. Long, long paragraph. But I forgot a key word which was the word "not." And so they took a screenshot and cropped it and sent out text messages the weekend before the election saying - In his own words, Zack Zappone wants to defund the police. And the police guild was sending it. And when I was knocking on doors, people were getting the messages and they're like - I just saw this, you wanted to do this? And I was like - No, no. And there was no real way to respond and get your message out that late in the game. And this was their message from all along, so it just furthered it. And it's scary - from misinformation side - that this was super dishonest and they knew it was dishonest. And who's to say that it wasn't even Photoshopped and fake information in the first place. And what does that look like for future campaigns? I don't even know how we can protect ourselves against that kind of misinformation. Technically I did write it, but it was dishonest in the facts and what I'd been saying for months - and even in the context of the paragraph. So lesson learned there is - make sure to double check your social media posts or just don't engage.

[00:06:09] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that was a whole thing. Fortunately - somewhat fortunately - it's hard once you have an opponent who is so intent on misconstruing your words, twisting your words, and making it - just wanting to win at all costs basically, even if it means that they aren't being honest. The paper, The Spokesman Review, I think the Inlander covered it and said - Clearly, this was a typo. Clearly he has a long record and has been consistent in what he's been saying all along. But you ended up still prevailing.

[00:06:43] Council Member Zack Zappone: I won.

[00:06:44] Crystal Fincher: Yes - full disclosure - we also, our firm worked on this from an IE perspective. But you were an excellent candidate who really stepped forward with values and said - I'm a Democrat. Spokane is an area, unlike Seattle, that has a vibrant Republican Party and conservative movement - you did have a more conservative opponent. And people wanted to see a change. People were ready for that change. And you had made a connection with a lot of people in your district who, even though they may have been used to something different, were ready to try something new because they saw that the old type of solutions were not working out. What was top of mind for voters, and what is top of mind in Spokane and in your district?

[00:07:28] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, lots of things come to mind right away. But I think on the Democratic side, I am the youngest elected official - the only millennial in the County - that was elected. So I think from our party's perspective, it really was this generational shift. The conservatives - they had another candidate running at the same time who's conservative and a millennial - but this was a generational change. Kate Burke was before me, but she wasn't re-running, and so that was of changing - so it was this kind of generational change. And I heard a lot of people at the doors just saying - We're ready for change. We want young people. We want new energy, new ideas. We want that. There's always this debate in Spokane of how much do you lean into being progressive, and how much do you showcase that? And I don't think I shied away from it. I leaned into it. And we did some things that were untraditional - of doing mailers that were just directed towards Democrats, saying endorsed by Democrats. And that really hadn't been done for a city council race before.

I would also - when I talked to people at the doors, they'd ask you, they always love to ask what party you are. And I'm like - Well, I'm an Eastern Washington Democrat. It's different than a Seattle Democrat because a lot of the attacks were - Don't turn Spokane into Seattle. And so I had one person, only one person that ever - after I left the door, he chased me down, two houses later. He was - I went and talked to my wife - and he said, What's an Eastern Washington Democrat? I was - That's a good question. Thanks for calling me out on that. And so I told him, I was - Well, to me, an Eastern Washington Democrat is caring about working people, and giving people fair opportunities and fair shots. And that's what I'm here for - is making sure that if you work hard, you go to school, you work hard at a job - you get your healthcare taken care of, you're able to have opportunity, transportation's accessible. These are the things that we care about here. And these are the things that I wanna fight for - is making sure everyone has a fair shot. So he said, Okay yeah, that's good. But there's misconceptions, total misconceptions. Other people at the doors would be - Oh, I heard all Democrats are communists. And I'm like that's not true. And we have strong Republican arms that are getting out this misinformation here - Fox News - it sounds like you're coming straight from Fox News.

But it's really connecting to voters on their issues. And I think the surprising thing that came up to me - it was more in 2020 than '21 - 'cause the statewide race, we had more polling than we did at the local race. And one of the polling issues - you're trying to look for what are the weaknesses in my opponent. And the one that I never thought would happen was the biggest weakness - was conversion therapy. And my opponent had supported keeping conversion therapy for youth. And I was - Oh, he didn't vote to fully fund our schools on McCleary fix. Everyone cares about schools. But it was - nope, voters didn't care. It was conversion therapy. And here in Spokane, you're like, What? My attack - not attack - contrast piece showed our values on different things, like fully funding schools, supporting the environment, all these things. And then I added conversion therapy on there and said, Which candidate supports conversion therapy? And it was me and him. And that resonated with people a lot. And they're - That's so like medieval. I can't believe someone would even believe that. I was - I know, right? And he's your elected official. We need someone who matches our values and what we represent. And so some of those social issues are still top of mind for a lot of voters here in Spokane - people don't realize that.

But of course, big issues here in Spokane - like the rest of the state, urban places - homelessness and affordable housing rise to the top, and caring about infrastructure needs too. But there's definitely this division around housing and homelessness, and people feeling like there's been no progress and wanting to see progress on that front. And there's always a need. Our mayor won in 2019 on compassionate accountability. So there is this kind of accountability sense that people feel need to happen here, but they want to see action more than anything. People want to see something changing and something happening. Those are like macro, but there's also super micro things - in their neighborhood. And at the local level, what's super awesome is that people care about this trail around the corner from their street, or their local business district. And how do we get some infrastructure improvements in our local business district to grow and support it? And whether that's streetscape and growing that. So there's all - lots of little issues - but the big macro issues are, it comes down to affordability and working class people having a foot in the door that they can still have that opportunity.

[00:11:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and you've been active working on issues of affordability. Housing has been a big topic of interest, of concern. We just had the middle housing bill pass in our Legislature, which you were a supporter of - and also took local action. What have you been doing in Spokane in terms of housing affordability?

[00:11:56] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yes, we - our Council President loves to say that when Spokane leads, the state follows. And in this case, we here in Spokane definitely believe that we were leading the way on affordable housing and zoning changes on the missing middle stuff. So last year - '22 summer - we passed BOCA, which is Building Opportunities and Choices for All, which upzoned the entire city. We had some debate whether it should be along transit corridors or citywide. And I was the swing there that brought it to citywide. And for me, it was about creating neighborhoods that were accessible to anybody to live in those neighborhoods. And if we kept it in the transit corridors - I'm a teacher - I knew that would impact who would be able to live in certain neighborhoods. And we would have essentially exclusionary zoning - allowing single-family zoning in some areas, while you could allow up to fourplexes in other zoning - and I've seen the impacts of economic segregation in our schools, and I've worked in those schools. And I've worked in schools 90% free and reduced lunch, and a lot of that comes from the zoning policies that the City creates. And I know that a key to opportunity and success is when we have that diversity in our schools. And so I couldn't support something that would not allow anybody to live in any neighborhood in our City. And so we did it citywide up to fourplexes. The state did us one better and said, It's up to sixplexes now if you allow affordable housing. But we were definitely supportive of that. We know that here in Spokane, it goes beyond the city limits. It's a regional issue. So if we were the only ones to do that up-zoning - then Spokane Valley or the smaller towns around the area weren't doing it - we wouldn't be meeting the needs of housing in our entire county. And so we were super supportive of the state requiring that of all jurisdictions - or larger jurisdictions, I guess, is what they did. We supported it from the initial version that required it statewide. So that's one of our exciting policies. I'm proud to say that we've been at the forefront here.

[00:13:49] Crystal Fincher: And this is an area which was - certainly excited to see that progress being made, excited to see the promise of a local elected official who would run, and - hey, who's a Democrat, who's progressive, who talks about living this policy, and then becoming a swing vote to make that policy happen. It seems like definitely a connection to being engaged in your community and on the ground really can usher in change. This is also an issue that Seattle has had its own challenges with and hasn't been able to make the kind of progress that Spokane has been able to make. What advice would you give people in Seattle who are looking to make progress on this? Obviously the state just stepped in and helped jurisdictions really bring in this decision. But overall in learning the lessons and building a coalition, your advocacy for this, facing the opposition - what do you think were the most useful things in successfully advocating for housing progress?

[00:14:47] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, it was really strange that - when it came to the vote, we actually only had one person testify against it. And seeing this in other places - you see tons of people just show up against it, and that did not happen here in Spokane. And I think we took a different approach and tried to do it more as an interim zoning change. So we did a one-year - this is what we passed - and we're like, let's see what this does and let's try that out for a year. And if the world falls apart during that year because of our zoning change, then we can undo it. We didn't think that would happen, and I think that helped build a lot of that community trust in that process is - Okay, let's try this out for a year. We all know the problem and identify that problem. Around missing middle, it actually became a unanimous vote amongst council and the mayor to support that. So it had bipartisan support here and people often joke - Once you go so far left, you're back to the right, it's a full circle. And in this case, we were able to partner up on that. There was division on how far it should go, but everyone thought we needed to take some action and to do that action.

And the division was more really between the neighborhoods - in people who didn't want change in their neighborhoods - and those who want to address the issue. And when I go around the neighborhoods to talk about it, and I hear lots of people who are angry about a new four-story apartment complex that's gonna go in - 60 units in their neighborhood - right along the business district. But I'm - Look, we have to either embrace change and be okay with things to change, or we have to be okay with not having our loved ones nearby us because they're not gonna be able to afford to live here. That means your kids, your parents, other people won't be able to afford to live nearby you and you're gonna have to commute to Idaho to go see them. Is that what you want? Or are you willing to make some changes in your neighborhood so that we're able to do it? What's more important to you - the look of the houses in your neighborhood or the people that you care about? And I think that does resonate with some people - obviously not everyone - but I think it's trying to focus on - What are our values? What is the problem? And how will this help those two together?

[00:16:46] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Another area, just like so many areas across the country, that is an issue of concern is that of public safety. And news that violent crime is down in Spokane, across the board. And property crime, while it is lower than it has been at other times, there has been a recent uptick. Although Spokane is also battling perceptions that differ from that are creating fear and causing people to want varying solutions. Where are you at in public safety? Where is Spokane at? And what do you think is most needed right now?

[00:17:21] Council Member Zack Zappone: Good question. I think there are so many misconceptions and [mis]understandings around public safety. It's even hard for me, as a Council Member, to make sense of this. And I have, I would say, more than most people's information on what's happening. And it's still confusing about what information's being shared and what statistics are being shared. And I've had a lot of challenges with our local law enforcement in getting information and being able to share that information. It's frustrating. I see the mayor and the police chief going on TV frequently to talk about problems. This last week, they were blaming violence on packs of juveniles in downtown. And I'm - Packs of juveniles that are roaming our streets and terrifying us? Interestingly enough, I'm trying to work on creating teen centers. So I guess we can invest in our teen centers and give programming to kids if this is where you're concerned about. But there definitely is this active, constant fearmongering that is being perpetuated. And it's really challenging - there is some truth to it, right? There is people - more and more people are experiencing more car robberies and more things like that. So -

[00:18:30] Crystal Fincher: Crime does exist.

[00:18:31] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yes, exactly. And people see that and then it resonates and they just keep growing on it. But there's things like when the mayor - we had an emergency warming shelter in the convention center right when I started in '21 - and we had 200 and some people that were sleeping on the floors of the convention center. And after that, the mayor's going on TV and briefing us about all the damages caused by these people who didn't know how to sleep or use the bathrooms - they're destroying the carpet. And I was - Yeah, these are nice convention centers. And when we're having 200 people sleeping on the floor, what do you think is gonna happen? We talked about - another Council Member said, If I had 200 Girl Scouts staying the night on the convention center for a week, it's gonna cause damage. This is what happens. But it's this fearmongering that creates more stigma that is not helpful for addressing root problems. And that's been really frustrating.

Right now we're considering - coming forward, the mayor's big proposal is open drug use safety - safe spaces is what they call it - to make it a gross misdemeanor to have open drug use. And there's a lot of questions about how this will be enforced, what would it do? And interestingly enough, we're seeing other places around the state, like Bellingham, just approve the same - they made it a misdemeanor. The state right now, in their Blake decision fix, is considering it. But this is what we hear a lot about is - what are we gonna do about drug use? And how do we handle this? We deferred it because the state might preempt us and what that would do. But if not, I think there is this intentional fearmongering around fentanyl and drugs to try to scare people. And don't get me wrong - nobody thinks that there should be safety issues when you're walking down the street with open drug use - that's not it. But people who use drugs on the street are addicts. And how do we get them the resources that will actually get them off the street and healthy and stable again? Jail's not gonna do that. We know it doesn't do that. The research shows it doesn't do that. So what would this actually accomplish? I don't know.

And we just had in our briefing this week, the police actually have the ability right now to take drug paraphernalia and drugs in possession cases. They have that ability. They admitted it. And then we said, Well, why aren't you doing it right now? And they said, Well, you know when we take those things, it leads to more use-of-force issues. And that causes more incidences between people - 'cause someone's on drugs that are high, they're gonna cause more issues when you're taking stuff away from them. Yeah - no duh. No one wants to have stuff taken away from them. And so the new proposal, and I don't know where this is gonna go, but it said the police shall take drugs and paraphernalia away. It's a requirement. What is that going to do? Is that going to create more escalation in tactics in our City? We don't know. And so there's a lot of concerns around that, but there's a lot of concerns - We gotta do something. We can't keep doing nothing.

So to answer your question, where is public safety? We don't know. There's also big issues with a Police Ombudsman report that just came out. Next week, we'll be looking at a resolution to do an investigation into the police chief and other officials about their actions around records and release of public records that have been used for electioneering - to influence and lobby City Council and influence elections - and whether they're treating people differently. This report had nothing to do with the police chief - it was just discovered, through a different investigation, that the chief had hundreds and hundreds of emails exchanges with downtown property owners. And was giving them special access and reports and information - information that I can't even get as a City Council Member - when I ask for police record updates, it takes me over months and they're giving it to these business property owners within days. Or they're creating new categories within their records because the downtown property owners have asked for it - for this crime, can you label it as a vagrant person - is what they asked for. And then the Chief's - We don't have that. Two days later, he's - Oh, we created a new category. Here you go. And then the person says, Thank you so much for that information. We're going to use that and let City Council know the next time when they need to pass this open drug ordinance, as an example.

And so lots of questions about - is law enforcement being fair to everyone and being responsive to everyone, or are there special access and special relationships established. And I've been in meetings with the police chief with local organization - healthcare organization - where he said, I will not sign a memorandum of understanding to share basic information, like when missing Indigenous women are gone - we won't share that information or have an MOU to share that information - because the leadership of this healthcare clinic has been disrespectful to me, the police chief, I will not sign it. I'm like, What?

[00:23:01] Crystal Fincher: Wow.

[00:23:02] Council Member Zack Zappone: You won't sign it there, but you will give this downtown property owner extra access and create - so we have a lot of questions about - about - just a lot of questions. I don't know how else to put it.

[00:23:13] Crystal Fincher: Lot of questions. And this is playing out - I see it playing out a lot of suburban cities, a lot of major cities across the country - where there's this old guard who's clinging to the way things have been, who's very invested in the way things have been - even though the general public is pretty dissatisfied with the way things have been and they want change. And the resistance to that and the length that people who are resisting it will go to, which becomes particularly concerning when you think about the access and the privileges and the power that these people do have. If you're coming with the force of law and making decisions based on whether you feel personally offended or triggered, it's just really problematic and is not treating people fairly in the community. And it's gonna bring up issues that really make people really concerned about whether they can trust the people who are there to enforce the law. What are the next steps that are happening with that?

[00:24:12] Council Member Zack Zappone: The next step that we're looking into is an independent outside investigation to see if - we don't have the full scope, this was just brought up in a different investigation. So we're just asking, Can you look into what happened and is it being fair? The mayor has said that she's fully supporting the chief and that she thinks it's just a matter of responding and good customer service. And so we're saying - There's just a lot of questions. The community deserves to know answers, and we want to know. And so we're looking at that - it's coming to committee next week and voted on the next week after that.

But to go to your point about this old guard and changing - as a new person on the political scene here, not just at the City, but we sit on other boards and commissions. One is transit, and the transit here in Spokane has been the same people on the board for 20 years. And I've been trying to bring up new ideas and it has come to conflict with some of them. I'm trying to push forward low-income fare fee passes that we don't have in Spokane - similar to ORCA LIFT program, where it'd be income based. We don't have that in Spokane, and I am getting a lot of resistance from other board members and staff about - We just don't do that, that's not something that we do here in Spokane. I'm like - Well, why not? What does it take to do it? Things can move quickly if there's a will to make that move quickly, but I'm seeing lots of barriers and obstacles of people on it. And it's just - Well, why? What is our reasons for not considering these new things to make it accessible and easier for people to make that change? And so we have some other great, great Council Members that I work with and we're looking at how do we institute equity policies that have to be frameworks that we have to operate under. So we're not doing these one-off battles all the time - whether it's the $5 administrative fee for cards that creates a barrier, whether it's certain routes, or if it's how youth are able to access the Zero Fare program, creating barriers of having to go online to sign up, creating language access barriers for people who don't have that - what can we do so we're not picking one-off battles to create a framework that moves these institutions to meet the needs of everyone in our community and create those low barriers and creating more opportunity. And we're getting there, but it definitely hasn't come without some pains and some - there's been incidents where I've been called young by other people lots of times, a disruptor telling people that I don't like systems and stuff like that. So those come up - I'm sure those weren't meant as positive things, but I think it's a good thing. I'm disrupting a system that needs to be disrupted.

[00:26:40] Crystal Fincher: You mean disruptor, Zack Zappone - my goodness. How dare you bring new ideas.

[00:26:47] Council Member Zack Zappone: I know. It's terrifying.

[00:26:49] Crystal Fincher: So what does the state of public transit, access, mobility for people walking, riding - what does that look like in Spokane and what are you working on?

[00:26:59] Council Member Zack Zappone: I think that we're on the cusp of a lot of great things. And there are a lot of great people - as much as I'm talking about some frustrations right now, I think that staff is doing a lot of great work and we're moving forward. So this summer we're gonna be opening our very first bus rapid transit line in Spokane - City Line - that's gonna run across downtown between the community college and Browne's Addition. It's gonna run every 15 minutes to start and then every seven and a half minutes when it's done. And that's gonna increase development along there - we're changing the zoning laws around there to increase that transportation oriented development, creating these pocket neighborhoods, and trying to grow that urban feel. We're working on expanding our neighborhood business districts to use some American Rescue Plan money to invest in our neighborhoods so it's not just downtown - but people can go and stay in their neighborhoods, walk to their neighborhoods, and have that restaurant feel, shopping and not having to go. But it also helps with tourism too, making it more urban.

I've been in talks about how do we look at a free zone on our transportation so people can hop on the bus at one end. If you do park downtown, you only have to park one spot and then you can ride the bus, the City Line. Or trying to look at an event shuttle that would go around the North Bank to our arena and our sports complex and shows, and how that shuttle could be free too. And you can have this dynamic urban life that a lot of people don't even think exists in Spokane. But I'm born and raised here - I love to talk about how great Spokane is, especially for all the West siders who just think we're cow tippers - but there is so much exciting stuff going on that - you can go whitewater rafting out of downtown Spokane. I can see them from City Hall - and you can get on the river and you can go rafting, come back, and you can go to a concert. You could see shows from - Shania Twain's coming next week, Paul McCartney, Macklemore's coming - we get the big shows. Theater - Phantom of the Opera before, but Hamilton, and Wicked I saw last year.

And so we have great urban culture. And then we also have that quick and easy access - within mile of downtown - that you're out in nature. And that, I think, is super unique to other places around the state in that we are investing and growing that. There's definitely a car-centric history here in Spokane and a suburban feel within our neighborhoods. But there is a lot of energy and excitement about how do we do that both for the environmental impact, health impact, the social determinants of health, and how do we create that? And it's just the quality of life - that people don't have to spend more time in their cars. Of course, this comes with affordability issues and we're seeing growth into Idaho - Coeur d'Alene and along the corridor - and that's creating more congestion out that direction. So how do we address our housing so that people don't have to keep moving out that way. And keeping it affordable for builders so that they can continue to build and we can keep making Spokane a more urban, denser, vibrant community. We're investing in our bike infrastructure. We're creating our first protected bike paths here in Spokane. I got another one started up as a starter pilot. So we have one that cuts across downtown and we're trying to go out of downtown into neighborhoods. We're looking at finally getting the infrastructure for plows and street cleaners for bike lanes, getting some full-time employees dedicated to bike lane infrastructure and growing it.

But there's definitely challenges, like anywhere. But I think we are really in the next couple of years - I've learned quickly that things seem to take years in government to build and construct. I think of my own classroom and I'm - If I want to change it tomorrow, I change it tomorrow - doesn't seem to happen in a larger bureaucracy, but that's cool. We have a street mural painting program, taking off a community crosswalk program like Seattle - we're implementing it here. And this June we'll be painting our first rainbow pride crosswalk in Spokane in a full intersection downtown, and trying to create a program that makes our neighborhoods more inclusive and more vibrant and more reflective of the people here.

[00:30:46] Crystal Fincher: Lots of exciting things going on there. Also want to talk about - you mentioned a little bit about environmental and health impacts - know that you, especially in Eastern Washington dealing with wildfire smoke, dealing with all of the issues that we're dealing with, and trying to hit climate goals. What is it like being on a mixed council with both progressives and conservatives there? What is the conversation around reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving health impacts like, and what are your priorities?

[00:31:16] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, that's a good question. They can definitely be a little more contentious. For some reason, it always seems to show up the most in Spokane with our electric vehicles and City fleet. And I think - the state provides a lot of goals and requirements, and so a lot of what we're doing here, we lean on and say, We have to do it. The state is requiring it. And then we have to implement those standards and those goals. And it's also the right thing to do. And so all City fleet has turnover to electric vehicles, but we're just - are getting a lot of resistance from police about turning into electric vehicles. And it becomes a weird thing that now all of a sudden you don't support the police because you don't support the type of car that they want. I don't understand it. And this actually - electric vehicles of the police fleet was an issue that the chief was sending to the business owners to try to get them to lobby us about. Was about electric vehicles of the police fleet. And yeah, I get it. Some models don't work. So we got some Teslas to pilot out and they were too small for officers to fit comfortably in them with their gear and stuff like that. So it's - Okay, great. Find the specs that do and other cities are moving that way too. And so we ordered some Mach-Es and Ford F-150 Lightnings to test those out too, so we can transfer over and hybrids in between. But then we find out - they just keep saying that they don't work and they canceled the order on the Ford F-150 Lightnings 'cause they became more expensive without telling us that they canceled the order. And I'm - That just seems like lack of transparency and more barriers for the administration. I was - You didn't ask us if we would pay for more money. Where's our priorities? And actually, electric vehicles save money in the long term too. And so that's part of it. And so there's a lot of struggles around electric vehicles.

Talking about building code standards and working on those. But also, like I mentioned before, the walkability and less reliance on cars is a big factor too. We're talking about our urban forest canopy and heat zones, and trying to support street trees and growing that especially in neighborhoods that have been under-resourced historically. We have a sustainable action plan that has been developed and supported by - actually - diverse members of our community. And that's a subcommittee out of City Council that brings forward issues. We have a lot of water issues. Our aquifer is great and plentiful, but we haven't - it's very, very cheap. And so people have very large lawns, and in the summers it's really hot and they just water the heck out of it. So we passed an ordinance last year to limit watering during the week to every other day and not during the hottest part of the day - and that was pretty controversial. I don't remember if the mayor - I think the mayor did veto that too, and we had to override the veto. There's just accusations of you're penalizing, and we want to focus on encouraging people to do these things instead of penalizing. It's - Yes, we want to do incentive based program, but we also have to have accountability too sometimes. So it's interesting about when they choose who is accountable and who the conservatives here don't think is accountable. And that shows up both in public safety, but also in environmental policy and other areas too.

[00:34:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's always interesting - those conversations around accountability. We hear that word a lot when people want punitive, carceral solutions and - hey, we got to crack down, people need to be accountable. Yet that doesn't seem to apply across the board equally when they don't feel like having it apply. Appreciate you looking into these issues and hopefully the City will get to the bottom of all of that.

I also want to talk to you just about what we're dealing with across the country - we're seeing hate take roots with different communities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community and trans people, seeing legislation being targeted at basically their existence and going far beyond some of these little quibbles. And ultimately with the goal of just not having those people in our community and continuing to go further and further. You made news is the first openly bisexual candidate elected to the Spokane City Council. As we talked about, there is a vibrant conservative movement, MAGA movement. This is the land of Matt Shea and others who agree with him. How do you address people who are trying to limit the rights of others, limit the ability of others to just live their own lives and be themselves and not bothering anyone else - but are being targeted by people in the community in everything from banning books to banning drag shows to targeting just the way people can live their lives. How do you address that and how does the council address that?

[00:35:53] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, it's definitely something out there. I know during my campaign, there was - on the same day, there was a bomb threat at Planned Parenthood and a arsonist at the Democratic headquarters on the same day. And I'm - I go to Planned Parenthood for healthcare, reproductive healthcare, and I'm - Wow, I feel really targeted as a candidate. And last year during Pride, first - one, public - I'm in the Pride Parade and we're getting intel beforehand about issues that might come up and we're getting contact from the state about that. And it turned out it was all Idaho, but we're still here at the frontline and I'm - I'm gonna be up on stage, I'm in the parade, and I'm an out elected official here. I feel a little targeted about it and sometimes do. And we have people come to City Council meetings and they're protesting the rainbow crosswalks and telling us it's a giant waste of money and stuff. And so there are definitely these issues of - we're at the forefront, like I said earlier - you mentioned, in Matt Shea country, and that definitely exists. We just last week had students at a local high school in the Valley that were arrested for threats made towards LGBTQ students in their school that were actionable, and a Snapchat thread of a hate group. And so there's some scary, scary stuff out there.

But I also wanna focus that it's not all that way. There are a lot of out and proud people and safe communities here in Spokane. The high school that I teach at - the principal has a Pride flag in her office, and this is the high school I attended. And when I was in high school, I knew one person who was out. And now we have vibrant clubs for LGBTQ students. We have - during a conference for our freshmen coming in at the beginning of the year, just asking them - Why'd you transfer to this school? What was it? And they're - We heard that this was the best school for LGBTQ students and it was a safe, inclusive space. And that is super heartwarming and felt incredible to hear. And so there is a lot of great people doing great work around this.

Like you mentioned, I am the first out person elected. We had one appointed 20 years ago, and one person came out in office a couple minutes before she left office. So I'm not alone, but I do think it's about continuing to make your presence known. And there is some of that representation that is important and that's why we passed - the first community crosswalk needed to be a rainbow for Pride, to honor that and making that to be known. And there's also the history around painted crosswalks really starting with LGBTQ community and painting rainbows and so there's a lot of history there too. But we're looking at it - as a city, have gender affirmative healthcare that we implemented this last year that - we were already moving that way but I kept pushing the needle, making sure that it happened. And so there are white supremacists and they're very close to us and they're real threats, and they're showing up at community centers and hate flyering neighborhoods. But if you come to Spokane - you West siders, it's not what most people see when they come here. It does exist, but that exists in every community and I think that's a reflection of 2016 and Trump that a lot of these people feel more emboldened and more aware. I know when I was running, I talked to the former Council Member who was appointed in 2001 about what it was like to run as an out candidate. And he said, It was very overt back in 2001. People just emphasize - family and here's my children and my straightness - but it wasn't like ever overt. And he cautioned me and said, You know - I think people are more emboldened now, so be aware. And I actually didn't experience any of that in my campaign - no hate - never really came up in my campaign and I think that was remarkable. I actually ran against another queer person in my primary. Right now in 2023, we have two more queer people who are running for city council in my district. And we're not the South Hill - people are like, What? I was like, Yeah, we're the gay district apparently.

So I think people are feeling there is more representation, there's more ability, but there is always more work to be done. How do we do that? I think is always a good question. We have centers - in graduate school, I had a friend who mapped out incidents of hate and hate crime across the country and mapped it with organized groups that combat hate. And he mapped this across the whole country and found that Spokane was the second area that had the most incidences without the most resources. You would think it'd be the South, but they actually have a lot of resources in the South that are combating it. And we don't really have these institutions. We have a couple - we have Human Rights Commission and the other human rights group that I can't remember the name, that's Human Rights Task Force. And those are incidents of reporting hate and crime and going after it, but it's continuing to represent that, speak out, and not be afraid either. I think that's a key part - is that we still have to represent and not be afraid. And create policies that are more inclusive of all people. And so at City Council, we created an equity subcommittee and are actively trying to recruit different ways to have people from impacted communities represented in giving their voices, we're creating navigator programs to try to reach out to more communities and networks. And trying to show that here at the City and the government - we care about you, we care about your opinion, we care about your experience - and getting people with lived experiences on more advisory committees and groups. And we're trying, and there's always, always more work to be done.

[00:41:22] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. I thank you so much for taking this time to speak with us today, to let us know a little bit more about what's happening in Spokane, and we're certainly gonna stay tuned to see how things unfold.

[00:41:34] Council Member Zack Zappone: Yeah, well, thanks for having me and always come out and visit. We got some great stuff going on.

[00:41:38] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. I am actually a fan of Spokane and will definitely be back out there. There is a ton to do in Spokane, so yeah - you are a Spokane evangelist and have successfully - have many converts.

[00:41:52] Council Member Zack Zappone: Thank you.

[00:41:53] Crystal Fincher: So much appreciated. Thanks so much, Zack.

[00:41:56] Council Member Zack Zappone: Thank you.

[00:41:56] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.