City Council Rejects Council Decision to Redistrict and Exchange for Zappone Card | Local News | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest


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Daniel Walters Data Visualization

City Council rejected council’s redistricting recommendation, choosing instead this map originally designed by Councilman Zack Zappone

A After being canvassed by agents on both sides of the political divide, the politicians chose new political district boundaries designed by one of their own politicians, while lamenting how the redistricting process had become so political .

JTo be clear, there has always been an inherent conflict of interest in the way the Spokane City Council redistricting process has operated.

While they turned the map design process over to a redistricting board, the final decision to approve or reject that map was left to the city council itself. Board members can choose limits that may impact their own re-election prospects.

During this time, the three members of the redistricting council had to make sacrifices to avoid the appearance of political influence. While political operatives, like Jennifer Thomas of the Spokane Home Builders Association, have served on the commission, they are barred from running for office — or even donating to any candidate — for the next two years.

The board ended up unanimously — albeit reluctantly — settling on Thomas’ “map #1,” a map that maintained much of the same boundaries. It’s the card Spokane’s GOP lobbied for, but it’s also a card that doesn’t help conservative candidates — it just doesn’t hurt them, either.

In contrast, every board member on the dais Monday night knew that “Card #2” benefited progressive candidates. If the Inslee vs. Culp race would have been run under Zappone’s card, Inslee would have seen a small but significant 1.5% boost from council member Zack Zappone’s District 2 and a 1.7% boost from council member Zappone’s District 3. of council Jonathan Bingle. Even if they didn’t I don’t read the inside reports, many commentators last night informed the board of this dynamic.

And every council member on stage Monday night knew that “Map #2” was designed by their colleague, Zappone. (While another board member also designed an almost identical card, Zappone’s card was the one that was officially passed down as one of the four finalists.)

Still, a majority of the council voted, 4-2, for council member Betsy Wilkerson’s amendment to override the committee’s recommendation, choose “Card #2” instead, rejecting the committee’s final recommendation. (Zappone himself abstained.)

Wilkerson, who was pushing for the No. 2 card back in september, argued that it had nothing to do with politics. Instead, she focused on the East Central neighborhood, which is currently split between South Hill District 2 progressives and the two conservative council members, Bingle and Michael Cathcart. On several occasions, there have been intense disagreements within the city council over which group truly represents the will of the neighborhood.

“I hear the voices of people in the neighborhood, especially voices that can’t be in this environment, that can’t come to city council and spend three hours there,” Wilkerson said. “They said they wanted to keep their neighborhood intact. They didn’t say anything about being a Democrat or a Republican. It didn’t come up.”

This is the argument made by progressive city council members: city council districts should follow ward boundaries.

Jhe limits of the neighborhood councils have been decided, over the years, by agreement of the neighborhood councils. Some of them are odd borders, like the West Hills neighborhood, which winds its way from the airport to Spokane Falls Community College. In some cases, like with East Central, the ward council president doesn’t actually live within those boundaries.

And normally borders like I-90 are supposed to use as boundary lines for things like wards and council districts. But here’s where it should be noted that there’s a genuinely charged history here, of a low-income neighborhood with a relatively high black population, crossed by an interstate highway.

Wilkerson does not live in the East Central neighborhood. But she grew up there and she’s very aware of the long-standing frustrations over the division.

Council Chairman Breean Beggs addressed similar themes.

“The commission is advisory,” Beggs said, explaining his vote to reject the commission’s finding. “It’s our vote in the end… At the end of the day, I have to decide what I think is best for the city.”

Beggs argued that having four members representing a single neighborhood meant those neighbors usually got less careful than having two.

Cathcart strenuously disagreed, arguing that he had heard the opposite from the neighborhood leaders he had spoken to.

“Four out of seven is a majority,” Cathcart explained. “East Central is one of our strongest neighborhoods because of this. I don’t want to take that power away.”

In fact, current East Central Neighborhood Council President Randy McGlenn writes in an email to Interior. “preferred the minimal change map that was recommended” by the redistricting board and found it ideal to have four board members representing them instead of just two.

“It gives us a bit more flexibility because many neighborhood meetings are stacked on top of each other and it would otherwise be very difficult for both council members to be at our meetings,” McGlenn writes. “That way we had a constant presence of the city council at most, if not all, of our meetings.”

He offered a compromise: stick to the less dramatic changes recommended by city council for now, then create a task force for the next round of changes in 2025, when cities will be allowed to make more sweeping changes. .

Council progressives did not accept it.

VSCouncilwoman Karen Stratton likened council’s decision to drop the redistricting council’s recommendation to when the public voted to put the Spokane Schools Sports Stadium in Joe Albi instead of downtown. The Spokane Public Schools Board ended up rejecting the public recommendation and chose the location for the stadium downtown anyway.

Similarly, Stratton acknowledged that she decided to reject the redistricting board’s recommendation to vote for map 2. This was despite listing map 1 as one of her best two choices, instead of Zappone’s. Ironically it was after table too recommended card 1 that she changed her mind.

She says she understands the frustration people may feel, but maintained it was not because of the politics. It was because of comments from people in his district.

“I was elected to serve the voters of District 3. They don’t care who I voted for president. They don’t care about my political leanings. They want their streets to be cleared. And their trash gets picked up and they know who to talk to if there’s a problem,” Stratton said. “I don’t like all this talk about political parties.”

The problem is that, increasingly, the candidate a council candidate voted for for president is a much better predictor of his victory in specific council districts than his views on fixing the streets. There’s a reason it’s hard to recruit Conservative candidates to run in South Hill District 2 – politics matters in politics.

The Conservatives said they were stunned by the council’s decision.
“I was up until two in the morning processing what happened last night, it blew my mind,” Bingle told the Interior later. Both he and Cathcart voted against Zappone’s card.

If a single Progressive or Conservative member of the board had broken ranks, it would be easier to believe that politics did not play a role in their decisions.

If, say, Jim Dawson of Fuse Washington or Paul Dillon of Planned Parenthood, both avowed progressives, had pushed for “Card #1” or if former conservative candidates for city council like LaVerne Biel or Brian Burrow had pushed for “Card #2”, it would be easier to believe that the lobbying efforts were not politically motivated at all. Yet many commentators on both sides of the ideological spectrum have lamented the politicization the other side has brought to the table.

“I am firmly agnostic when it comes to politics,” commented Spokane Association of Realtors government affairs director Darin Watkins, who ran for state representative as a Republican in 2009, served as director of campaign communications from Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2019, and donated $350 to the Spokane GOP this year. “Both sides drive me crazy.”

Watkins then cited Barack Obama on gerrymandering – twice – to oppose Zappone’s map.

JTwo additional things: first, the city council still has to formally vote to approve the new map. They will do so in two weeks, providing the opportunity for another marathon city council meeting. But given that they can’t change their chosen map without a special meeting, it’s unlikely anything will change.

He is not true that Zappone’s card guarantees him a landslide or that the card is a particularly wacky gerrymander. It’s less compact than any of the other maps on offer, the populations aren’t as equal, and it splits more neighborhoods, but it’s not the kind of snapping salamander we’ve seen in the worst examples of the genre. This, theoretically, does not prevent an extremely strong conservative opponent from beating Zappone in two years. It just makes things harder.


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