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City Council 4

Political newbies come out swinging

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Of the three races for Boise City Council, the one lacking an incumbent--David Litster vs. TJ Thomson for Seat 4--has become the bell weather contest of the season.

Though he entered the race just a month before the Tuesday, Nov. 3, election, Litster has made headlines with his opposition to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's plan for a downtown streetcar. Litster intends to file a petition with the Boise City clerk in an effort to force a vote on the proposal. If Litster can gather the approximately 6,465 necessary signatures, the initiative would force the City Council to put the streetcar to a public vote before making a decision.

"A plan this dubious, expensive and unpopular should proceed only with a vote of the people," Lister said.

Thomson endorsed a vote on the streetcar plan and said he'd sign the petition.

"I think a vote is a good idea," he said. "Let's go ahead and have a vote. It's a good way to gauge how people feel."

But Thomson added he believes Litster's mind is already made up.

"He's already taken a stand, and yet he's also calling for a public vote," Thomson said.

He said the City Council campaign needs to focus on the local economy, not just the streetcar initiative.

"[The streetcar] is just one issue--an important issue--but it's just one of many issues that the City Council will face," Thomson said.

Both candidates are rookies in the political sphere, but are relying on their extensive resumes to net them public support.

Thomson has a masters of public affairs from Indiana University, worked as a NASA policy analyst for the Government Accounting Office and currently works as an internal auditor at Idaho Power. He has secured endorsements from organized labor, public safety workers, conservationists and a laundry list of Idaho Democrats, including Bieter.

Litster, a Harvard MBA and self-proclaimed "fiscal hawk," who works in human resources at his sister's law firm, sports a freshly inked endorsement by the big-spending Ada County Association of Realtors and outgoing Councilman Jim Tibbs. Litster spent time in real estate development before working at Micron PC in Nampa, and then at Micron Technology in Boise.

In 2001, according to a public court document obtained by BW, Lister filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with more than $80,000 in credit card debt, and more than $250,000 in overall debt.

Litster explained that he moved back to Boise in 1995, with plans to invest in Lanson Enterprises Inc., a local food technology startup. The founder promised him that financing would materialize after a planned expansion, but that Lister's funds were needed to make it happen.

"Unfortunately, I ended up helping fund various substantial ongoing expenses on my credit cards in an effort to help the business succeed. I was reassured that when the financing arrived, I would be reimbursed," he said.

However, the funds never materialized. Litster said he believed that he could pay off the debt, but when his salary was cut and one of his sons was diagnosed with cancer, he and his wife filed for bankruptcy.

"This whole experience has given me a deep appreciation for the struggles the average small business owner and local families have to deal with," he said. "That is why I am so committed to reducing the size of government and our tax burden."

Thomson had no comment on Litster's bankruptcy filing, but said he had never filed for bankruptcy.

Ask the candidates your own questions at electionland.boiseweekly.com.

*Clarification: Dave Litster's $80,000 credit card debt was discharged in his bankruptcy filing, but the remainder of his personal debt was reaffirmed, meaning he continued to pay off his mortgage, car loan and other items.