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‘Uncharted territory’: Sánchez’s future on city council unclear after announcement new home isn’t in council district

Boise City Council is set for another seismic shakeup. 

On Tuesday night, council members gaveled in 20 minutes late. They informed the audience city council member Lisa Sánchez would not be at the meeting. They said they had just learned she “may no longer be a legal resident of the district she was elected in.” It’s unclear exactly if she’s stepped down or will be forced to step down or what the next steps are for Sánchez. She appeared at a work session earlier in the day.

“This is new uncharted territory for us as a city and for her as a council member,” Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg said. “We know this was not intentional, and we are looking for a path forward and will work with Sánchez if we can find one.”

Sánchez is the only renter on Boise City Council and recently announced her lease at the duplex she’d been renting in the North End had ended, leaving her to find a new place to live. She said at the end of last year, her goal was to find housing in her district, which encompasses the North End and Northwest Boise after the city was initially split up into districts for the 2021 election

She won reelection in that district about a year ago, but since then, the city again went through a redistricting process after the 2020 census. All six city council members will be up for reelection during this cycle as the city transitions from an at-large system to districts, as required by state statute. 

Sánchez posted a Twitter thread responding to the issue late Tuesday night. She said after receiving notice the day after Thanksgiving her lease would end on New Year’s Eve, she worked to secure housing and consulted the City of Boise staff and Ada County elections so she could finish her term.

“I have acted in good faith,” she wrote. “I hope this situation will be resolved swiftly so that I may continue my work on behalf of the City of Boise. My only desire is to fulfill my oath of office, and I stand ready to take the appropriate steps to rectify this matter.”

What will happen next?

The Boise City Council moments after it convened Tuesday without Lisa Sánchez. Via City of Boise

It’s unclear exactly what could happen to her seat moving forward. 

The city has not said exactly what the issue is with Sánchez’s new address. The district she won election in changed somewhat through the redistricting process, and some areas are in the new district but not the old one – and vice versa. It’s also unclear what a “path forward” for Sánchez could look like. 

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean will soon appoint a replacement for Clegg, who will step down from the council this spring after taking a position as CEO for Valley Regional Transit. Unlike Sánchez’s seat, Clegg’s seat is at large. McLean could select someone from any part of the city, and Sánchez would be eligible.

But, McLean could also appoint someone else to Clegg’s soon-to-be-vacant seat. If Sánchez wanted to rejoin the council, she’d have to run for election this fall.

McLean’s picks for the open council seat or seats would need to be confirmed by the council.

And the show goes on….

Without Sánchez, city council members unanimously selected new leaders for the coming year. 

Council members selected Holli Woodings to replace Clegg as council president. During her remarks, she emotionally thanked her family for supporting her and the other council members for “making her a better leader.” She noted Sánchez was “such a big part of that.”

“As we look forward, we have a lot of preparation to do, and this is a great illustration of the issue we have to work through as we work toward a fully districted council,” Woodings said. “It’s going to require a lot of work of our office and a lot of work from us to make sure we have the policies and procedures in place to deal with our new circumstances the legislature handed to us. While I’m not looking forward to that work, I’m committed to the work so we can avoid situations like this in the future.”

Hallyburton also unanimously got the backing of his peers to join city council leadership for the first time as president pro tem. He also said he wished Sánchez was present and, earlier in the meeting, noted the difficulty of the district system for renters, in particular those who are prone to leases ending and vanishing affordable options. 

“This is a stretch and a challenge for me, and I’m going to need a lot of help from each one of you, and I will be asking each one of you for a lot of help as well, and I hope you expect that, but I’m really excited, and I’m excited to work with you Madam Mayor in building out this vision of building a city for everyone, and I’m honored to spend at least this last year working with all of you to do that,” he said. 

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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