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Politics & Government

Boise City Officials Racing To Meet Deadline To Draw City Council District Maps

City Hall, Boise, Fountain, People
Lacey Daley
/
Boise State Public Radio
Boise City Hall

Work continues on drawing temporary boundaries for Boise City Council districts as staff race to meet a fast-approaching deadline early next month.

Last year, state lawmakers required all cities in Idaho with more than 100,000 people to elect their city council members from different districts instead of having all at-large seats.

The move, according to supporters, would prevent city councils from being run by elected officials who live in a concentrated part of the city. Currently, most Boise city councilmembers live in the wealthier North End or East End neighborhoods.

But that law passed in 2020 gave cities little clarity on how to draw district maps.

A bill backed by Boise officials and Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) would’ve put guardrails in the law on how populations could differ across districts, among other provisions. It also would’ve given cities more time to draw their maps since the latest census data won’t be available until this fall.

But House lawmakers amended the bill to also shift the municipal election date to even-numbered years – something the city of Boise opposes – and the proposal failed in the Senate.

“We’re just, frankly, sad that we have to do this process twice,” said Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg.

So now, Clegg said, the city is trying to follow the spirit of the bill they backed by keeping district populations as equal as possible while factoring in cultural and demographic considerations.

The Seattle firm, Floyd, Pflueger & Ringer, hired by the city is also factoring in neighborhood boundaries and existing legislative district lines, she said. The contract cannot exceed $90,000, according to a Boise city spokesperson.

The city will also have to decide which seats will be up for election this fall based on the new districts. Seats held by councilmembers Lisa Sanchez, T.J. Thompson and Holli Woodings would’ve normally been up for grabs this year.

Clegg said city officials will take incumbency into consideration when deciding which districts will host elections in November.

No public input will be taken because of the condensed timeline, Clegg said.

“The law just doesn’t allow us to do that, unfortunately.”

Maps need to be in place by July 5 to comply with state code.

But she said the city will take public comment when it draws another set of maps next year with the new census data.

For these new temporary districts, Boise’s growth spurt and some annexations have complicated work by the contractors who are relying on outdated census information.

“We’ve just had to take our best data available in those particular areas of the city so that we could have a balanced population and demographic mix in each of the districts,” Clegg said.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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