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Our pick in Boise City Council race that has turned ugly with ‘conservative’ attack ads

·4 min read

Boise City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sánchez is being targeted by an ugly smear campaign by the political action committee Conservative Citizens for Thoughtful Growth.

That PAC raised and spent $83,000 last year on similar vicious attack ads against Democratic Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, who lost to Republican Ryan Davidson, who has since made some horrible and consequential decisions on the commission.

We’ve seen this movie before, and we don’t need a sequel.

In the four years that Sánchez has been on the City Council, she has grown into an important and necessary voice, demonstrating a broad knowledge of issues facing the city of Boise and championing underrepresented voices in our community.

In an interview with the editorial board, Sánchez provided a depth of understanding of the issues, including police funding, property taxes, zoning and urban renewal districts, while her opponents gave less detailed, vague answers.

Because of that, the Idaho Statesman editorial board endorses Sánchez for reelection to the Boise City Council in District 3, which includes north and northwest Boise.

Sánchez’s opponents are Greg MacMillan, Maria Santa Cruz Cernik and Nick Domeny.

Domeny did not show up for a scheduled interview with the Idaho Statesman editorial board. The Idaho Statesman will not endorse a candidate who does not interview with the board.

Santa Cruz Cernik, an owner of a local hair salon, is enthusiastic and has a unique background that would benefit City Council, but she did not demonstrate a deep knowledge of several key issues, including affordable housing, property taxes and the proposed water renewal bond on the Nov. 2 ballot.

MacMillan, a real estate agent, seems to be a one-issue candidate trying to play on the issue of police funding that’s being used as a political weapon against Sánchez.

We give MacMillan credit for his support for an urban renewal district along State Street, which he said could be an opportunity to accommodate higher-density development, affordable housing and public transportation along with it.

But MacMillan said his main reason for running is because he didn’t feel District 3 had “adequate representation,” and when asked about specifics, he cited relations with the Police Department.

He said his No. 1 priority is public safety and making sure the police department is adequately staffed. He suggested that the Boise Police Department is short 40 officers and that the department needed more training.

Sánchez, the first Latina elected to Boise City Council and the only minority on council, drew criticism and a failed recall effort last year when she wrote an open letter questioning the police handling of a white teenager who accidentally fired a gun at a protest in public in city limits. Her open letter suggested that a person of color would have been treated differently by police.

The ad campaign from Conservative Citizens For Thoughtful Growth appears to be seizing on that to attack Sánchez.

“Stop the division, stop crazy wokeness, stop higher taxes, stop Lisa Sánchez ,” says one ad, calling her “a left-wing radical.”

The campaign also falsely states Sánchez “voted to defund the Boise Police Department.”

Sánchez last year voted against the city budget, which included increased funding for the police department. Sánchez supported a motion to hold the police department budget flat at $70 million, while city officials heard more feedback from community members about their concerns.

In her interview with the Idaho Statesman editorial board, Sánchez said calls to “defund the police” are not about being “anti-police.”

“All that means is ... people wanting us to invest more in enriching amenities that create a healthy environment, so we don’t need the police to be so prevalent in our lives,” she said. “It’s nothing against police officers, it’s nothing against police departments. It’s about the fact that people want a higher quality of life, and they want to have those resources funded. It’s not about being anti-police; it’s about being pro-quality, healthy community.”

Sánchez said her top three issues are affordable housing (as the only renter on the City Council, she said brings a needed voice to that issue), improving diversity, equity and inclusion at the city level and increasing transparency at City Hall.

She cites the passage of her rental application fee ordinance in 2019 as one of her top accomplishments in her first term. The ordinance, which caps application fees at $30, is a good example of the type of representation she brings to the council.

Voters in District 3 should keep Sánchez on the Boise City Council.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members J.J. Saldaña and Christy Perry.

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