Meet Boise's City Hall monitors

After a decade of watchdogging the Legislature, two octogenarians have turned their attention to Boise’s government.

sberg@idahostatesman.comAugust 26, 2013 

  • WATCH THE COUNCIL YOURSELF

    You can join Felts and Frazier at Boise’s City Council meetings.

    The council meets most Tuesdays at 6 p.m., and at noon the fourth Tuesday of the month. Meetings take place in the council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd. This week’s Tuesday meeting starts at noon.

Katherine Frazier and Pat Felts don’t match the City Hall watchdog prototype.

They’re not jaded.

No one pays them to attend meetings.

They’re sharp dressers. They’re both north of 80 years old.

They’re entertaining. They love to laugh. Especially when they’re together.

Here, for example, is a brief exchange in their discussion of Boise City Councilwoman Elaine Clegg:

Felts: “She’s very inquisitive and, you know, right on the ball.”

Frazier: “Well, she bicycles to the meetings, so I think she’s got oxygen in her mind.”

Felts: “That keeps her mind sharp.”

Felts and Frazier started attending the City Council’s regular weekly meetings this spring. It wasn’t suspicion of malfeasance that drove them there.

They wanted to improve themselves, to get a better handle on how their local government works.

“It’s easy to pick up national news, especially if you’re interested in wars and stuff like that,” Frazier said. “Most people know something about what’s going on in Washington. … And then they get less and less informed until you get down to the city level, and they don’t know much of anything. And I was one of those.”

Over the past five months, the women have become a fixture at council meetings.

“We just enjoy having them there,” Council President Maryanne Jordan said. “Now, when we don’t see them for a few weeks, we get a little concerned.”

Councilman Ben Quintana said he’d like to see more people follow their lead.

“Engaged citizens would be a goal of any city council, I would believe. I think having more people just actively participating, learning about how the city is functioning, helps everybody,” Quintana said. “I think it would be fantastic to see more of those people, more of anybody, showing up.”

Councilwoman Lauren McLean said the public, whether it’s two women who haunt City Council meetings or people she bumps into on the street, helps shape her opinions and decisions.

“It’s vital. We can’t do what we do without engagement from Boise citizens,” McLean said. “And there’s really nothing I like more than to hear from citizens, whether they agree with me or not.”

Frazier and Felts met each other almost 40 years ago at a Christian Women’s Club meeting.

Felts, 83, grew up in a family of farmers in Illinois. She majored in home economics at Iowa State University before moving to Idaho with her husband. She moved to Boise for good in 1955.

Frazier, 85, is a native of Georgia. She met her husband at the University of Idaho and settled in Boise in 1964. She has three children, 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Felts has three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“So I’m not as prolific” as Frazier, she said.

The women didn’t always have time for government meetings, or even to pay that much attention to what was going on.

“When we were younger and raising families, you’re so absorbed. You’re going to your children’s events,” Felts said. “So you don’t have this time to spend … You just don’t have it.”

They’re making up for lost time. At most council meetings, they’re the only ones in the room except for a reporter, the mayor, city council members and city staff.

Frazier said the council and mayor have been “more than courteous.” Both of them like Mayor David Bieter’s jokes.

Felts said she’s impressed by the range of issues the council deals with and its members’ even-handedness.

“They are courteous to all people testifying, no matter whether they agree with them or not. So I can admire them for their balance, I guess,” Felts said.

Like a true watchdog, however, Frazier acknowledged they’re a little skeptical. A few in-person meetings with council members and the mayor may be in order before they etch their opinions about city leaders in stone, she said.

“We’ll probably know more about what we think about them when we get to discussing something, maybe, in an office,” Frazier said. “We haven’t done that.”

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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