City council hopefuls share their perspectives on Boise’s direction

By Lindsay Atkinson | SMART Boise project leader

The city of Boise has a six-seat city council. Presently, those positions are filled by: Lauren McLean, Elaine Clegg, Scot Ludwig, Lisa Sánchez, TJ Thomson, and Holli Woodings. 

The composition of city council is guaranteed to change next year, no matter the outcome of the upcoming November 5 election, because two of the three current incumbents are not seeking another term. Lauren McLean is running for mayor and Scot Ludwig is leaving elected office. Only Elaine Clegg is running to reclaim her seat. 

RELATED: City Hall has wasted more than $144 million taxpayer dollars in the last two years. Click here to download our free report that exposes the appalling waste.

With less than a month before the November 5 election, a total of 11 candidates have entered the city council race, competing for three different seats. However, the candidacy is not an even split for each seat. 

Six candidates are running for Council Seat 1 (currently held by Lauren McLean): Chris Moeness, Patrick Bageant, Karen Danley, Tecle Gebremichael, Ryan Peck, and Brittney Scigliano. 

Two candidates are competing for Council Seat 3 (presently held by Scot Ludwig): Jimmy Hallyburton and Meredith Stead. 

And, three candidates (including the current incumbent) are in competition for Council Seat 5: Elaine Clegg, Debbie Lombard-Bloom, and Brady Fuller.

SMART Boise reached out to each city council candidate, with questions submitted by our readers. Unlike the overwhelming response of our mayoral survey, only two out of eleven candidates responded: Chris Moeness and Debbie Lombard-Bloom. Two others had the courtesy to respond that they were overwhelmed by comment requests from various outlets and could not meet our deadline: Brittney Scigliano and Jimmy Hallyburton. The other seven candidates did not respond to our multiple survey requests.

Below are the responses of candidates Moeness and Lombard-Bloom.\

If you are elected to office, how will you hold property taxes in check to help make housing more affordable? 

Chris Moeness, Seat 1

“In order to hold our property taxes in check, we must make sure we spend tax dollars on the priorities such as transportation, police and firefighters and housing affordability. Spending money on projects such as the Main Library project, stadium, or the downtown circulator is not a priority and will cost taxpayers more money every year.”

Debbie Lombard-Bloom, Seat 5

“The City Council has a fiduciary duty to have a balanced budget. The current council holds to this statement but fails to take into account the housing burdens most of the residents are feeling with over-taxation on their property when they approve the budget.  It will be my priority to look at each department and see how we can be more efficient and reduce overall spending.”

Will your tax policy include taking the full three percent property tax increase allowed by law each year?

Chris Moeness, Seat 1

“No. I do not support using the full 3 percent property tax increase.”

Debbie Lombard-Bloom, Seat 5

“As many of our local governing agencies do, I will advocate for not taking the full 3 percent and work within budgetary constraints necessitated by our current burden to the residents on their property tax bill. Something I ask myself frequently is, ‘just because we can do it doesn’t make it right.’”

Author’s Note: Under state law, cities can only raise city property taxes by a maximum of three percent each year. However, there are other factors in the tax equation that lead to taxes growing more rapidly than just three percent. For instance, the rising appraised value of homes has made it so tax collection by the city of Boise has actually increased by an average of 4.9 percent each year for the past five years.

What would your top two budget priorities be?

Chris Moeness, Seat 1

“I will work to make sure our police and firefighters are staffed at appropriate levels and have the resources needed. In reviewing the City budget and spending habits, I’ve identified millions of dollars in pointless spending that could be put to better use. The cost for many of these items could be reduced through partnerships with local businesses, and schools. I plan to reduce spending by further evaluating the Boise City budget.”

Debbie Lombard-Bloom, Seat 5

“Once we have found the areas of overspending outside of our critical safety services, we will be able to pivot and adequately fund the essential services more appropriately. We will satisfactorily staff our police officers and fill the gaps in fire coverage by building new fire stations where there is a lack of service.”

What do you believe the role of urban renewal districts (URDs) are?

Chris Moeness, Seat 1

“Urban renewal districts are a great tool to help revitalize certain parts of the city.  However, they also can be easily overused or misused in order to bypass voter approval. I believe Boise and CCDC is currently doing both and by doing so, are hurting the very people this tool is supposed to help. The use of urban renewal districts must be used mindfully and sparingly.”

Debbie Lombard-Bloom, Seat 5

“Urban Renewal Districts are a tool we currently have available in the State of Idaho to help entice investment in underperforming areas of our state that would benefit our citizens. It is not a tool to be manipulated for gain by either an independent developer or bias of the municipality on large scale civic infrastructure. We need to be very mindful of the power tax increment financing has and the trickle-down effect on our property tax burdens while the city is heavily using this tool for economic development. I question why this particular tool is necessary within the City of Boise in a time of exploding growth when the intended use is to spur growth where it is otherwise not occurring. I fear the overuse of this tool will result in the need for legislative correction and will advocate for scrutinizing our use as a municipality to keep this economic development tool available for when it is genuinely needed statewide.”

Author’s Note: The city of Boise and the city’s urban renewal agency (the Capital City Development Corporation) are two seperate taxing entities that both collect money from Boiseans. They are often linked together, teaming to fund projects that one entity alone does not have the money budgeted to complete. Though the CCDC commissioners are appointed by the Boise mayor, the laws governing urban renewal agencies are created by the state Legislature.

What is your vision for Boise 10 years from now?

Chris Moeness, Seat 1

“I am optimistic that 10 years from now, Boise will continue to be an amazing city to call home. I’d like to see higher density in specific areas, through form-based zoning districts, which will support the live/work/play lifestyle that many people want, while also preserving our open space. Our transportation options will include a robust, efficient bus system, wider roads, more roundabouts, and a monorail system connecting Caldwell, Nampa, and Meridian to Downtown Boise. I envision the entire Treasure Valley working together and following a comprehensive growth plan. We have a lot of work to do when addressing our most pressing issues, but I believe Boise and The Treasure Valley have a very bright future.”

Debbie Lombard-Bloom, Seat 5

“My vision for our city ten years down the road is for the citizens to have their voice and preferences heard and held in high regard as to the direction they would like to grow.  We are a unique, vibrant city that would like to forge our path in a manner that represents our culture. Aside from the role of a municipality to govern, our elected officials are also the mechanisms for the public and private partners to implement the types of amenities and cultural structure that best suits our community’s needs.”

Note: SMART Boise edited candidate responses for the sake of formatting consistency (we removed indentations and bullet points). We did not alter spelling. If we receive late responses from other council candidates leading up to the election, we will update this article to include their perspectives. 

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