City Government

What About The Council Districts?

Idaho’s legislature passed a law mandating that cities of more than 100,000 population have to elect city councilors from districts within the city.

In Boise an inordinate number of councilors live in the “Northend.” The GUARDIAN inquired of City Hall as to the progress officials are making toward compliance with the districts which will need to be established in 2021. We anticipate some councilors will be either moving or not running for reelection.

There are also likely to be some legal challenges from incumbents, but the main argument will be that there is a new system and those running will have to comply with the new law.

Here is the reply: “As the City moves forward in beginning to address how to create voting districts for the City of Boise, we are working to address questions from our city legal department around the implementation timeframe and its intersection with reapportionment following the 2020 Census.

In the interim, we encourage folks to reach out to Boise City Council members who will be working to adopt an ordinance with the specific framework for how the City will create the council districts, including whether there will be a committee or council created. We also expect to engage in community outreach in the near future to hear from Boise residents and voters about their wishes regarding this process.”

We won’t be surprised of Councilor Jerry Mander drafts a district map with five districts north of the river and a single district for the rest of the city.

Comments & Discussion

20 comments for “What About The Council Districts?”

  1. I haven’t looked at the new law. Does the requirement restrict voting to within the district, similar to ACHD or is residency the qualifier and the candidate runs city-wide. I don’t see any legal hurdles to this system. I also don’t think it will solve anything.

    EDITOR NOTE–TB Boy, I wanted districts and at-large voting, but those lobbying sought to make it easier and cheaper to run in just one neighborhood. My problem with that is the councilors make laws and budget for the ENTIRE city and we are 85% disenfranchised, voting for only one of six.

  2. Bieter IS Gone
    Sep 22, 2020, 6:31 am

    Leave it to the City of Boise to come up with such a high falutin answer that says nothing. They haven’t done squat except try to figure out a way not to obey the law.

    Already we’ve seen them try to come up with a property right argument. They have no right to a seat since they can be recalled.

    And there is nothing that says they can’t run citywide from a district. They’ll just choose not to. In fact, they will wait until the very last minute to do anything the law says.

  3. Simon de Montfort
    Sep 22, 2020, 6:56 am

    Thanks for the update! The advocates for Districting, which included George Moses who has served on the State committee to draw Idaho districts, suggested a mechanism for drawing the lines: have the Boise neighborhood association presidents, all 30+ of them, choose three trusted members among that group to draw the lines. Seems as good a method as any, and better than most.
    Otherwise, if left to the incumbents, if not 5 districts north of the river, perhaps a sliced pie with the center at Hyde Park?

  4. Kent Goldthorpe
    Sep 22, 2020, 8:34 am

    There is absolutely nothing preventing the district in from occurring today. Waiting for the census results is merely an excuse to drag their feet. Populations and population centers are already well known to anyone interested in that process. The model of districting and being elected from within your own District as followed by the Ada County Highway District has worked very well. In the six years I have been on the commission I have not seen even one time where members of the commission have tried to favor residents of their own district and ignore for the county at large. Not one is disenfranchised when there is integrity in the governing process.

    My hope is that, if legal action is required, it comes from the people to force compliance with this new requirement.

  5. Sooooo, we all just skipping over the FAILED recall effort?

    Instead of recognizing 2/3 of Boise voters support McClean and Sanchez.

    EASTERNER–You got it wrong. In fact 2/3 voted AGAINST Bieter. Neither Bieter nor McLean understand that. Same will happen with Trump and Biden. The Biden vote will be AGAINST Trump and not necessarily FOR Biden, however it turns out.

  6. Very frustrating subject! Yes, the City is doing what it can to delay and make this as complicated as possible. Of course they defer and punt the issue over to legal. I suggested that they use some GIS mapping software that I am sure planning and zoning has access too, TO BEGIN the process. Boise has specific geographic areas that just make sense for boundaries. SE, Bench, North Boise(at least 2 districts), SW, West. Of course there would need to be some tweaking once the census data is out, but it would be close. The city’s response was that they HAVE to use the census so they would default to the 2010 census, which of course is outdated due to growth. The issue is that the new census data won’t be available and new precincts redrawn in time for the fall 2021 election. Additionally there is the dispute about how to implement with current existing councilors. My suggestion was to randomly assign councilor seats by lottery to districts. That way some current councilors could retain their seats through their current term. Once their term ends, they would have to run or wait to run in a district they reside in. Of course that would be too easy. The issue with city wide voting, is what does that change? Councilors would still be elected by the north end. With voting by district, the district decides, the candidate only has to campaign to his district, which is the core of the whole issue. How many have the $$$ and time to run a city wide campaign. Or should they just campaign in North Boise at a disadvantage. Senator Fred Martin and Chuck Winder will be picking this up during the upcoming session. I’m not sure how Meridian and Nampa are approaching this.

  7. District by zip code. It is a step in the direction of taxation with representation.

  8. Eamonn Harter
    Sep 23, 2020, 9:07 am

    The Council voted to raise the police budget, and the new chief supports adding 40-50 new officers to the department. Therefore the recall effort had no reason to proceed.

    The converse is also true about the upcoming election: there are many otherwise apolitical types who will turn out to vote not necessarily FOR Trump, but AGAINST the riots, looting, communism and overt corruption of the Democrat party. Biden was a total zero even before the dementia set in.

  9. Editor’s Note. Nope, not wrong.
    I didn’t write anything about Bieter.
    I say, currently, 2/3 of Boise voters vote liberal and generally support the mayor and councilmembers.
    It’s not an opinion- that’s what the numbers say.
    “Boise is Blue; Ada County is Purple; and we’re in a state run by a Religion.”

  10. Hmmm…it really, really bothers me that districts were imposed by the state instead of coming organically from within Boise. I don’t have any problem with districting per se, but I see this as another attempt to punish Boise by the Legislature. All you need to know in this case is that the bill was introduced by a non-Boise Ada County legislator with a known list of grudges against Boise.

    I find myself wondering where candidates for all these “districts” will come from, and why none of them have been successful in reaching the council if there truly is a majority of Boiseans who don’t support the current composition of the council.

    In short, heavy-handed pushdown by the same State government that complains about the Feds doing similar things to them, to solve what truly appears to be a non-problem. Typical.

    EDITOR NOTE–JoJo you are spot on. However, Boise has a history of trying to get around state laws rather than figuring out how to comply. Police Bldg., airport parking garage, library, 10 commandments, ACHD control of streets, the list goes on and on regardless of administration.

  11. There is an area in Nampa (where I live) that it commonly referred to as the Northside. This area is bordered on the north by I-84, on the east by Happy Valley, the west by Northside Blvd. and the south by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Yes, it has been referred to that side of the tracks etc. The area is also known for its blight, poor and poverty stricken and until recently predominately a Latino population. Has very little services, is considered a food desert, and has the highest industrial area of the city and because of developers, the highest traffic areas for people living on the southern part of town that was once very productive farmland.

    This area is also underrepresented in the Nampa City Council and people I know have talked that they hope the new law for council districts will finally give them a voice. It is doubtful that Mayor Debbie Kling will allow a representative from this ares of town, they’re dirty, they’re poor, but rest assured the areas around the damn golf courses are well represented on the council and so are the more exclusive subdivisions in town.

  12. For the few who would like to review the law before blindly posting a comment, the following is a link to HB413.
    https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sessioninfo/2020/legislation/H0413.pdf

    It mandates districts for cities of more than 100,000 based on the most recent decennial census. Each district must consist of one or more election precincts, which must contain to “the nearest extent possible” the “same number of people.”

    Election precincts are established by the county commission. When setting the precincts, consideration is given to legislative districts but not necessarily to city boundaries or population. They must be set by Jan 15 of a general election year.

    The law appears to require that the city wait until the precincts are set in Jan to establish the districts for the fall election but not later than 120 days before the election.

    Of note, the 2020 census count is supposed to be available for redistricting purposed by March 31, 2021.

    The fools in the legislature have made this issue much more complicated than necessary and ensured that there will be litigation.

  13. Boise Voter
    Sep 27, 2020, 4:40 pm

    Jojo,

    I understand your concerns but publicly available information appears to suggest a different story.

    First, it seems election by District is really a locally grown organic process.

    Election by District was raised in the 2015 Boise City elections by Judy Peavy-Derr (https://boiseguardian.com/2015/10/28/peavey-derr-calls-for-council-districts/).

    In July 2019 a Boise citizen raised the issue of election by District at a City Council meeting. At that meeting Councilperson Sanchez voiced her opposition to Districts saying Districts would put her out of a job. She expressed similar comments to the Senate State Affairs Committee during its hearing on HB413 (the Districting Bill).

    Then in early October 2019 a City Council candidate, at a press conference, proposed election by District complete with a draft Bill for the Legislature. That candidate also made election by District part of their campaign agenda.

    Meridian officials are on record supporting election by Districts, Boise officials are on record opposing it. Councilperson Bageant opposed HB413 during House State Affairs Committee hearings on HB413. Councilperson Clegg is also on record as opposing Districts. What was that the City said about citizens reaching out to City Council members about Districts?

    Second, a citizen cannot introduce a bill in the Legislature, only a member of the Legislature can. Yes, HB413 was introduced by a Meridian Legislator – probably because none of the Boise Legislators were willing to. Just look at the voting records of Boise area Legislators on HB413. Almost all, if not all, voted no on the bill in both Houses of the Legislature.

    Third, legislation targeting a specific City is unconstitutional under the Idaho Constitution. Yes, Boise is affected now by the Districting requirement but Meridian, and possibly Nampa, also will be affected once the 2020 Census is completed. The Statue is a statewide one. It provides the option for cities under 100,000 to elect by District and requires those over 100,000 to elect by District. So I suggest there is no attempt to “punish” Boise by the Legislature.

    Fourth, candidates for District seats will probably came from all over the City if the 2019 Boise City Council Seat 1 race is any indication. That race had candidates from The Bench, West Boise, East Boise, North Boise, Northwest Boise, and the area near HP all vying for that seat. The 2019 Seat 5 race had a candidate from the Collister area and two candidates from the North end vying for that seat. I expect to see some of those same individuals running again for District seats.

    As to your comment “why none of them have been successful in reaching the council if there truly is a majority of Boiseans who don’t support the current composition of the council.” it may be because of a private political campaign management organization in Boise.

    As noted at a City Council candidate forum last fall, that organization, for a price, seems to have an uncanny ability to provide winning campaign strategies to include obtaining candidate endorsements. As one candidate put it, you’re virtually “guaranteed” a win if you use them. That candidate didn’t and lost. Maybe that organization is one of the reasons, in addition to low voter turn out in some areas, why City Council representation is not geographically diverse.

    Fifth, I suggest the Legislature creating a law requiring City Council elections by District is not a heavy-handed push-down by State government. It was not a non-problem.

    It was a problem because Boise City Council representation was becoming more concentrated in one area and the City refused to address that problem despite having tools available to do so. Since the 1980s Boise had the option to conduct City Council elections by District but chose not to. That little fact came to light during the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on HB413.

    Boise had the option to elect Council members by District, chose not to do so, and allowed representation to became less geographically diverse so, in my opinion, the State was pretty much forced to step in, at citizen request, and provide tools for more geographic representation not just in Boise but statewide.

  14. David, I grew up in Nampa. And yes, the Northside was always underrepresented. And that sucked, because I had a lot of friends from that side of town, and everyone looked down on that area.

    In case it wasn’t clear, I do support districting. I just think it should come from the community, and not be imposed from the state level, unless all communities would be subject to the same requirement (Caldwell is one that would benefit from districts, for example).

    I just hate the hypocrisy of the state legislature. I’d love to see more diverse city councils (read diverse as geographically diverse), but I think the people of the city should take the first crack at it.

  15. Editors Note:
    Editor, we could replace a couple words in the note and see the outcome is exactly what JoJo in pointing out:

    “[Idaho] has a history of trying to get around [federal] laws rather than figuring out how to comply.”

    Smoking age to 21: Opponents said “it’s not necessary for the state to match federal law.” that was this year.

    Gay marriage. Millions of Idaho$ wasted.
    AffordableCareAct (now TrumpCare).
    Medicaid expansion.
    Hemp production.
    Mental illness.
    Birth certificate gender.
    MLK Holiday.

    Gun laws: The law, which criminalizes the enforcement of federal gun laws, passed both the House and the Senate. that was 2014.

    and to pass over the many federal court ruling contrary to Idaho legislation and administration.

    AND Now and upcoming is the effort to by the legislature to make it more difficult for citizen initiatives.

    –It’s just a matter of history and perspective.

  16. Branden John Durst
    Sep 30, 2020, 9:00 am

    What is getting lost in all this is that while Boise is definitely going to have to move to council districts, it is certainly true that Meridian will as well, and given Census response rates in Canyon County, it is highly likely Nampa will as well. The legislation and now the law was never just about Boise. Of course, Boiseans, primarily those in the North End, just assumed that this was about them, just as they do with everything. As far legal challenges are concerned, I have no doubt that they are forthcoming. However, given the number of other places in the country where this has happened, Seattle is a good recent and local example, there is not much legal ground to dispute this new law. With regard to how the lines are drawn, while I always preferred that to be specifically identified in code, and perhaps there will be changes forthcoming to do so, I believe that the default is to allow the county commission to do so.
    Ultimately, I am excited to see an end to the North End monopoly in Boise, and hopefully the enfranchisement of the North Side in Nampa and South Side in Meridian, both areas where representation has been scant.

  17. Quote of the day: “Boiseans, primarily those in the North End, just assumed that this was about them, just as they do with everything.” So true.

  18. Mr. Durst. First, I agree with you that districts are a good thing. I wish it also required cities over 50,000 to have district elections.

    You should re-read HB 413. The default is not to have the county commission draw the districts. Also take a look at sections 34-301 to 34-307, Idaho Code.

    Under HB 413, the city ,not the county, establishes the districts with each consisting of one or more
    contiguous election precincts. Each district shall have, to the nearest extent possible, the same number of people based on the last federal census.

    The county commission does establish election precincts. It must set precinct boundaries by Jan 15 of even numbered years and has very limited authority to alter those boundaries until Sep 15 of odd-numbered years.

    Election precincts are a poor means to implement city districts. Population is not generally a consideration in their creation. Legislative districts and physical features are.

    While the intent of HB413 is laudable, the execution is a pathetic example of legislative ineptitude.

    Implementation will prove problematic. I do not feel sorry for Boise; the city council deserves it. I do feel sorry for Meridian and Nampa, and for the county for being dragged into this mess,

  19. RECALL EFFORT

    The organizers had to contend with a Covid managed arena where areas of large gatherings were sparse. MOST people in Boise are not even registered to vote and not everyone who is registered, votes. People shut in their homes don’t go out and try and seek canvassers to sign recall petitions. There were several Boise businesses offering their locations for petition signings but that doesn’t get the job done. I have personally done petition collection. You have to go where the masses are. That didn’t happen. So you cannot claim that 2/3 of Boise supports McClean and Sanchez until we get a fair shot at petition collection. I can tell you this much, that eyesore billboard by Black Lives Matter with the burning police car on it didn’t last long. How many Dems and liberals want to defend that openly? I watch the Progressive City burn fests like Portland and Seattle and Kenosha et al closely and listen for any applause from local leaders. SILENCE is what I hear most.

    VOTING DISTRICTS

    We very much need real representation from all points on the compass for Boise. West Boise is conservative and getting more so every day. With people getting out of Dodge (Portland et al) as fast as they can, Boise is a definite choice for those who are sick of CHOP/CHAZ lovers. I just hope we don’t get liberals who want to escape the chaos, and then vote for the SAME policies over again, expecting a different outcome.

  20. Now Forced Air, wait just a minute…the contradictions in your post are just crazy. You can’t complain the recall effort failed because “most people in Boise aren’t even registered to vote” and at the same time claim establishing voting districts is going to provide better representation!!!

    Based on your claims, I’d make the argument that districting would result in less representation for people who actually care to vote. Spend your time finding candidates and getting people registered to vote instead of spending so much effort to undo past elections!

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