A political newcomer hopes to shake up Boise City Hall this year.
Maria Santa Cruz-Cernick, 56, is running to represent Boise’s North End and Northwest Boise in a two-year term with the hopes of raising awareness for housing assistance programs and holding regular listening sessions with constituents. She is running against incumbent City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez, Nicholas Domeny, and Greg MacMillan.
She got the encouragement to run from her clients at the men’s hair salon she owns, Stag Hair Care, on State Street. Santa Cruz-Cernik said in recent years they have been pushing her to and she finally relented this year as her passion for politics grew.
The tipping point came in August 2020 when a Black Lives Matter rally was scheduled for downtown Boise and she was planning to go and counter-protest in support of police officers to support friends of hers in law enforcement. As she was getting dressed in pro-law enforcement clothing, she changed her mind and opted to try to use her perspective as a woman of color to talk to people at the event she didn’t agree with.
“I changed and went in neutral (clothes),” she said. “I wanted not to be intimidating to anyone so they could talk to me normally and without reservation. I told my customer this and said he ‘Gosh we need more people like you to be able to talk to people with an open mind and understand and not be judgemental in that way’ and that was the kicker for me.”
More promotion for housing help
Santa Cruz-Cernik was born in the Philippines before moving to Seattle where she lived for 35 years, including a period of time when she was a single mom. She eventually moved to Boise and was able to get a leg up with the help of a variety of social services and a Section 8 housing choice voucher. If elected, she said the City of Boise should do more to promote the program to low-income Boiseans and try to recruit more homeowners to participate and open their homes the way someone did for Santa Cruz-Cernik.
“People have a stigma of being on welfare and I don’t think they should,” she said. “We’ve all paid our dues. We’ve all paid our taxes and if we have fallen onto hard times we should be able to use it and not feel bad…Do homeowners know they could be part of this program?”
Her campaign Facebook page largely references national political issues, including opposition to vaccine mandates, masks and other COVID-19 safety requirements, criticisms of President Joe Biden and critical race theory. When asked about her incumbent opponent, Santa Cruz-Cernik said she doesn’t have anything against Sanchez and doesn’t know her.
More meetings and promises on parks kept
Regular meetings with the public are one of Santa Cruz-Cernik’s priorities. She said if she gets a spot at city hall she plans to have monthly meetings to hear from constituents.
“This is the first year with boundaries and districts so I thought I will have meetings every month with those heads of subdivisions and associations and whoever wants to participate,” she said. “If they have something to say within the walls of the city council that’s where they can find a venue for it. It will be a direct line (to me) as opposed to waiting.”
The possibility of the City of Boise developing on land once planned for parks, like the Murgoitio park site, is also a big concern for Santa Cruz-Cernik. She said the city should keep its promises to Boise and build parks where they planned.
“As far as something that has been documented, recorded, it came out of your mouth it has to be kept up,” she said. “For it to be flipped, you kind of have to wonder…Your word is your bond. That has been my issue. If I say it, I mean it.”
BoiseDev will profile each candidate for Boise City Council, Garden City City Council and Meridian City Council as they formally file to run for office.