City Government

Former Boise Councilor Seeks City-wide Reps

By Sara Baker

For years, we Boiseans have been represented on the City Council by those who live basically within spitting distance of each other, the North and East Ends. Those council people never wanted to create districts by geography. So finally, the legislature in 2020 changed the law to require cities over 100,000 to have geographic districts.

Idaho code 50-707A states
(2) Each district shall consist of one (1) or more contiguous election precincts as established pursuant to the provisions of chapter 3, title 34, Idaho Code, and each district shall, to the nearest extent possible, contain the same number of people based upon the MOST RECENT FEDERAL DECENNIAL CENSUS (which is 2010).

But now, S1111 puts that effort on hold for two more years AND allows those elected who don’t live in the new district to serve another two years pushing it out to 2025! The reason? The 2020 census results are delayed. But will it really make that much of a difference to do it now? Hardly. Only Boise would be covered by the 2020 statute change stated above. Meridian and Nampa (maybe) would automatically geographically district when they receive their 2020 census results.

Putting together a district map isn’t rocket science. It’s only complicated by politics. All one has to do is take the total population, divide by six, carve out contiguous and compact districts and then adjust precincts in or out to allow for a population deviation of no more than 10%. Ideally you want the deviation to be as close to zero as possible. That could be done today. When the 2020 census results come out, the district population could be tallied up and precincts adjusted. It can be done quickly with a calculator.

I don’t know why the legislature is even contemplating doing this. I know why the Boise Council wants to delay as long as possible, it fixes things in place without having to change and provide representation to ALL parts of the city. In fact, they haven’t taken any steps as yet to comply with the 2020 law.

Legislators are required to be elected from a geographic district as well as County Commissioners and in Ada County, ACHD Commissioners. Heck, even the West Ada School district has geographic boundary representation. Shouldn’t we expect the same of the City Council of the largest city in Idaho?

I plan on making my feelings known to the senate State Affairs Committee and if it survives to go to the floor, I’ll be contacting many other senators as well.

It’s time for those of us in Boise who don’t live in the North End to have some representation as well.

Sara Baker is a long term resident of Boise. She served on the Boise City Council for 16 years and at the time advocated for geographic districts. Most recently she was an Ada County Highway District Commissioner until 2020 and helped redistrict the ACHD districts for the 2012 elections.

The City of Boise released a “legislative Update” after this opinion was posted. See it HERE.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Boise Lawyer
    Feb 18, 2021, 3:27 pm

    What Sara’s guest article leaves out is that the original version of HB413 was literally impossible for cities to comply with. It required districts be drawn based upon precincts but before precincts were completed. It also required six districts be implemented at once even though a separate statute requires elections to be staggered. There was no path for cities to implement the law without violating other laws. S1111 fixes those things. Do I love the timeline? No. But is anyone here acting in bad faith? No. They’re not.

  2. It should be pointed out that S.1111 is sponsored by GOP Sen. Chuck Winder of Boise and GOP Rep. Joe Palmer of Meridian. It makes some needed revisions in the poorly drafted legislation passed last year. I suggest reading the bill before posting some knee-jerk reaction to Ms. Baker’s letter.

  3. Boise Lawyer. Of course Boise could comply with it should they so choose.

    Use current precincts which are based on the most recent decennial. census.

    Elections can still be staggered. It’s actually not the elections but the terms. Those districts that don’t have a proper incumbent can elect new people for two years.

    That might break some rice bowls but the point of better representation is more important.

    And once the Census is actually released and the new precincts formed, then redistrict. But that will literally be just at the margins.

    Again, Boise has done nothing to meet the statute. In fact, weren’t they at one point talking about suing because the council thought they had property rights in their office? Laughable of course, since they can be recalled.

  4. WHAT?
    Let’s start here:
    “All one has to do is take the total population,”

    From 2010?

    So use the 2010 population to divide up today’s Boise? There are a lot of people and neighborhoods here now that were not here in 2010. Granted, that is the law, but certainly not the intent.

    Does ACHD use data that is 10 years old? Looking at parts of Cloverdale would suggest yes. But imagine going to the Board now and asking for road improvements based on data from 2010. Denied!

    But whatever works, let’s just get a map of Boise and make some lines. Anyone got a crayon? It’s not rocket science.
    I bet that message would go over real-well at the Commission for Reapportionment.

    And make the effort twice within 2 years?

    The former ACHD clan must want to get into Boise City Hall. Ha!

  5. “It’s time for those of us in Boise who don’t live in the North End to have some representation as well.”

    Well, you DO have representation. YOU just don’t like it.

    EDITOR NOTE–(off topic comment was omitted)

  6. Boise Lawyer
    Feb 18, 2021, 7:26 pm

    Sara, with all due respect, just saying stuff doesn’t make it true. Nobody cares about “rice bowls,” the serious people who are working on this care about how to implement this law in a way that will not result in lawsuits and expense.

    That’s why Senator Winder and Representative Palmer (the sponsor of the original districts bill, remember!) are now sponsoring these amendments. I can tell you’re frustrated, and I can see you feel strongly, but the facts don’t care about your feelings. The uncaring facts are that the original bill was a poorly-thought-out, impossible mess and now people — the very same people who wrote the original bill! — are trying to fix it.

    Anyway. To move the conversation along, here are two much bigger and more interesting questions about districts in Boise:

    1. Right now Boise voters get to vote for all six council seats, and they get to vote every three years. After this is fully-implemented (yes, in 2025), every Boise voter will only be allowed to vote for ONE council person, and only once every SIX years. In other words, 5/6 of the city would have NO vote and NO say in whether, for example, Lisa Sanchez gets to retain her seat. How will people feel about that? I predict they will hate it.

    2. Did the Idaho Legislature just give the political left more power in Boise? The left is more organized, and more neighborhood-specific than the right. Localized groups of lefties (for instance, NW Boise, SE Boise, the North End, and possibly the bench) may now get political control over “their” seat.

    I think number 2 is likely and I think voters will be very upset when 1 dawns on them, but I could be wrong. Both of those topics are more interesting than Sara’s self-serving guest article and her willful blindness as to what S.111 is about, and why it’s being passed.

  7. Concerned Neighbor
    Feb 18, 2021, 8:26 pm

    I see a bunch of lawyers and marxists making irrelevant arguments against democracy.

    Implement the districts. Use what data you have now, then rebalance as new data arrives. There is no real reason to delay. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  8. Branden Durst
    Feb 18, 2021, 8:47 pm

    HB 413 was incomplete. During its formulation I said as much on many occasions. However, I didn’t want that to get in the way of getting the bill killed.

    It is the case that the bill was lacking a provision to describe how and who should draw the new districts. I believe that the proposed solution to this issue is problematic. For those who do not know, the bill would allow the cities to create their redistricting procedure by city ordinance. There are many reasons why doing so could be ripe with conflicts of interest.

    Instead, I have proposed that council districts be drawn by three people appointed by the county commission in which the city resides. I’d give one appointment to each commissioner. That would adhere more closely to the way we redistrict the legislature and congressional districts.

    The sooner the North End monopoly ends the better.

  9. City Council terms are for four (4) years, not three.

  10. This whole thing is just stupid, and reminds me about all the complaining about the mayoral race…

    If there is truly a “silent majority” that resents North/East End control of Boise (and please note, I don’t live in either of those areas), I would think they could find some decent candidates who wouldn’t have any trouble gaining support.

    Take a look at the count of people who vote in what precincts for city elections, and I think you’ll see the real problem is that lots and lots of people in Boise don’t participate. Drawing lines is only going to result in council members who get elected with very small amounts of support, because people aren’t engaged.

    Solve the engagement problem, and the “need” for districts in the city would disappear!

  11. Boise Lawyer
    Feb 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

    XX — doh! You’re right:

    Currently Boise voters vote three times, and every two years. That means ever voter has a say as to who holds each of the six council seats.

    After this is implemented we will only vote once, every for years, for just one seat. 5/6 of the city would have no say about who 5 of the 6 council people are.

  12. I strongly supported the original bill and still do. However the city did not and came up with a myriad of reason to not implement it. In the end yes, they could have found a way to implement the bill. It would not really have been that complicated. Now we have an amendment to correct all the “in justices” of the first one. I have not read it yet. To Boise Lawyer it really does not matter how many times you get to vote, if you’re voting into a large pool. The candidates know very well where their votes come from. The current locations of our current councilors mirror that very well. The expense and effort required to run a citywide campaign is very daunting. Those from outside of the north end don’t really stand a chance. Where as candidates in a smaller geographic pool stand a better chance, voters have a local representative, it costs less. Our current legislative process works very well, I see no reason it won’t for city council either. Yes you will end up with a different mix of political ideology, but that’s the way is it supposed to be.

    EDITOR NOTE–For the record, we support district residency with citywide vote just like we do with County Commishes. Conversely, would you want councilors to be limited to voting on issues and amounts only within their geographical district rather than the entire city? The council is such a small group–as opposed to congress or the legislature–that the actions of all should be subject to the entire electorate.

  13. This amendment will have council by district fully implemented for the 2023 election cycle. Any council elections in 2021 will only be for a 2 year term. in the 2023 election half of the council seats will be for 2 year terms initially. Thereafter all seats will be for 4 years. A committee has to be formed to determine the districts by 2023. I’ll support this amendment. It is not worth the fight to contest it. IMO

  14. The amendment addresses the delayed census — allows the districts to use this new census, and completes districting, and district elections for the entire cities of Boise, Meridian, and Nampa, by 2023. It avoids needing to truncate any current City Council term to two years, which may have been a poison pill, and it gets districting completed two years earlier than other plans thrown out there. All good.

  15. Karen Danley
    Feb 19, 2021, 4:04 pm

    S1111 completes the transition to districts by the 2023 election.

    You are welcome to read the bill directly.

  16. I am not surprised by this when they mayor of Boise refers to white water park as WEST BOISE?

  17. Boise Model
    Feb 21, 2021, 3:24 pm

    West Boise? That’s better than the West END!

  18. western guy
    Feb 21, 2021, 9:43 pm

    And an Idaho Press reporter referred to the Ustick/Cloverdale area as being in ‘Central Boise’

  19. Is there a map showing the districts? If so please share it.

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