The first hopeful to represent West Boise on the Boise City Council stepped into the ring.
Luci Willits, 45, filed paperwork to run to represent the city’s western section earlier this month. After living in the neighborhood for two decades, Willits said she is looking forward to the opportunity to earn the voters’ support to represent the neighborhood as the city splits into districts for the first time.
“One of the things that really drove me to run for city council is to be the voice of West Boise,” she said in an interview. “Now (with the districts), there’s an opportunity to hone in on neighborhoods and what those neighborhoods are really looking for.”
Willits, an eastern Idaho native, started her career in journalism after graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University. She eventually left journalism to work as Congressman Mike Simpson’s press secretary before launching a decades-long career in education with stints at the Idaho State Board of Education and as the Chief of Staff at the Idaho State Department of Education.
She is currently the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for North Carolina-based company MetaMetrics, which develops methods to study student achievement.
‘Extreme interest in homelessness’
Willits told BoiseDev she supports policies to keep Boise a “clean and safe city,” which includes funding more police officers to patrol the streets and investments in homelessness public-private partnerships. She would vote for more funding for police and believes they are instrumental in keeping the city safe as it grows. Willits lauded Boise Police’s record in the community – and also supports Mayor Lauren McLean’s recent revamp of the Office of Police Accountability to investigate complaints as long as the office is as transparent to the public as possible.
On homelessness, Willits said she wants to keep centering the city’s homeless community in as many conversations as possible. She said as rents continue to skyrocket, the problem will only grow worse, and the city should do as much as possible to support the homeless response system, particularly efforts to address family homelessness.
“There’s an extreme interest in (homelessness) because of what’s happening in our sister cities,” Willits said. “If you talk to someone from Portland and Seattle, they grimace because they’re struggling. People do not like to see tent cities. They don’t like to see the trash, and they don’t like to see the suffering.”
Seeking regional transportation solutions
Willits also hopes to kick the possibility of a light rail, or some other regional transportation system, into high gear if elected.
She would like to work with the Idaho State Legislature to try and find transportation solutions, look for potential funding mechanisms, and get the valley’s other government entities on board to make a large project a reality. But first, she said officials need to get more specific about what a light rail would look like and what it would take to build so voters can evaluate it.
“I am a big believer in taxpayers signing off on something before taxes are collected, but (the light rail) is something we’re talking about in the ether,” she said, gesturing broadly. “Where is the plan, and how can we say to Canyon County, Ada County, and folks in the surrounding areas ‘This is what we intend to do, and this is what it’s going to cost, are you in?’. That requires collaboration.”
Currently, local option taxes where voters have the option to approve additional sales taxes on specific projects (like public transportation) are not allowed outside of Idaho’s resort cities. The Idaho Legislature would need to make this change, but progress on the possibility was nonexistent in recent sessions.
In a text message, Willits told BoiseDev she called the local option taxing authority “dead on arrival” at the statehouse. She said her goal is to “craft solutions and ideas” to keep taxes low and allow voters to weigh in that will be successful at the capitol.
Wanted: Fourth of July Parade
Willits other major priority is for the City of Boise to support more patriotic based activities, like a Fourth of July parade. The twenty-year volunteer organizers of Boise’s annual parade discontinued the event earlier this year due to personal reasons, according to KTVB. Willits said the city should have stepped up in its place to coordinate more volunteers to keep the event running.
“The city does fireworks, and that’s great, but Boise needs to step up,” she said. “In the past, that’s been done by volunteers, and maybe it will be that way in the future, but we need to focus on that and have somebody to say ‘we’re running out of volunteers, help us do this.’”
BoiseDev will profile each candidate for Boise City Council, Garden City City Council and Meridian City Council as they announce they are running for office.