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Political newcomer seeks to unseat Debbie Kling as mayor of Nampa. Here’s our choice

·3 min read

Nampa has an excellent leader in Mayor Debbie Kling. Voters would serve themselves well by electing her to a second term.

Her opponent, Jerrold Smith, made our job easy when he didn’t show up for an endorsement interview. But the decision would have been easy either way.

Kling has accomplished a great deal for the city. Crime has fallen sharply in recent years. The city has worked over its zoning code to allow strategic denser development while preserving green space. And Nampa has raised impact fees to ensure that new growth pays for the additional infrastructure and demand on services that it creates.

Kling is not only an asset to the city but to the state. She provides a clear voice in the Idaho Legislature, at a time when the Republican majority seems bent on exercising ever-tighter control over city policy — often without much understanding of the impacts their decisions will have.

Kling, as well as or better than any mayor in the state, understands the complex knot that binds the issues of growth, property taxes, city budgets and the state tax code. Kling understands what she can fix and what the Legislature needs to fix for cities to be effective.

That’s particularly important with last session’s House Bill 389 — a bill that penalizes cities for growing; kicks low-income seniors out of the circuit breaker program, putting them at risk of losing their homes because they’re unable to afford rising property taxes; and ensures that the residential portion of the property tax bill will continue rising as the commercial portion continues to fall. It’s a bill that will make governing a growing city increasingly impossible the longer it remains the law.

Kling has worked with the Association of Idaho Cities and other municipalities in the Treasure Valley to communicate with lawmakers about the impacts of this disastrous bill, and to advocate comprehensive property tax reform.

The percentage of people in poverty has fallen from roughly 17% the year before Kling took office to about 14%. That certainly isn’t all Kling’s doing — the statewide poverty rate also fell about three percentage points over the same period — but the city isn’t missing out on economic growth.

Kling, the former director of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce, said one of her strengths is her ability to collaborate. One of her first challenges when she became a first-time mayor in 2018 was the daunting task of getting voters to approve a $165 million bond to finance needed upgrades to the city’s wastewater system. Through her leadership, planning and, yes, ability to collaborate, the bond passed with 86% of the vote, nearly unheard of in Nampa.

As Nampa has grown quickly, so has its need for housing. Kling seems to understand her community’s need to provide a wide variety of housing options for people of various income levels.

Kling has worked to engage with and represent her constituents in Nampa, performing surveys of public opinion to guide priorities for governance.

In interviews with the editorial board, what stood out most was both the breadth and depth of understanding Kling has on all these issues. Not everyone on the board agreed with every piece of her vision for Nampa. But the decision to endorse her in the race was unanimous.

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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