How does climate change affect us?
Candidates for Boise mayor will meet publicly Wednesday night for their first forum together. They will discuss the environment, climate, sustainability and plans for Boise’s future.
You can follow the event right here, with live updates to this story by the Idaho Statesman’s City Hall reporter, Hayley Harding.
The event, called the Boise Mayoral Candidate Conservation Event, will be put on by Conservation Voters for Idaho and Boise State Public Radio at the Linen Building in Downtown Boise. Gemma Gaudette, host of Idaho Matters, will be the moderator.
Four mayoral candidates are taking part:
▪ Mayor David Bieter, the city’s longest-serving mayor, who is seeking a fifth term in the Nov. 5 election.
▪ City Council President Lauren McLean, who has been on the council since Bieter appointed her in 2011.
▪ Adriel Martinez, who ran for City Council in 2015
▪ Cortney Nielsen, a political newcomer.
The latest posts appear at the top, with earlier ones at the bottom.
Washburn thanks Gaudette and says she looks forward to working with Boise’s next mayor. She said an endorsement will be forthcoming before thanking people for coming. The forum is over.
Nielsen goes first in final statements. She says she’s passionate about people, Boise and all of Idaho. Politics has lost the people perspective, she says. Nielsen says she wants to engage the public, which she said would impress her government teacher at Boise High School. Negative attitudes turn people off, she said, and it’s important to talk about possibilities and new ideas.
Bieter speaks next. He says the city has had some real successes in the past years, making Boise the envy of many cities. He’s consumed by the future, he said, and what life will be like for his 13-year-old daughter. Bieter says he’s shown he can make tough decisions in the long-term best interest. Leadership is about doing what’s right, he said. The rate of growth concerns him, he said. He then talks about his mother, who he says “led a Boise life.” People who make a difference matter most, and Beiter says he’s tried to focus on that and on being a welcoming city for everyone, from refugees to Californians.
Martinez speaks third, saying a lot of what has been discussed affects the world, not just Boise. He reiterates that change needs to happen tomorrow and continue to progress. The city needs to go 100% renewable, he said. He talks about his time in Afghanistan, where he served in the military. The air there is clean and the land there is beautiful, he said. Conservation matters all over the world, he argued. Martinez said it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. The city should lobby the state legislature to make better decisions, he said. He concluded by saying he looks forward to November.
Speaking last is McLean. She said it’s important to retain what is special about Boise, including the people and space. She says she is optimistic about building a new economy in a new world because future generations understand the value of conservation. She would have people-first priorities as mayor, she said. Conservation being front and center is key, and it’s important to make prosperous lives for people, she said. McLean called Boise a “shining city on a hill,” one with something to prove to people. Boiseans will be able to continue to enjoy clean air and water, she said, as long as people focus on what a bright future is.
The final question is what the candidates consider to be the most pressing issue facing the city’s air and water quality and how they would address it.
Martinez starts. He says cars and trucks are a huge contributor, and he wants to promote better public transportation that makes people more comfortable. He knows people who suffer when smog is bad, he said, and it shouldn’t happen that children can’t play outside because of bad air quality. The government should do its best to regulate while maintaining liberty.
Bieter speaks second, saying it relates to a lot of things discussed at the forum. Ideally people wouldn’t need to drive, he said. Compact development could help, along with the transition to clean and renewable energy. He’s optimistic on air quality as people transition to cleaner cars, he said, but water is an important concern moving forward. People who sell water aren’t invested in conserving it, he said.
McLean goes next, saying air quality is a health and economic issue. New transportation could help address it, she said. EPA and air quality restrictions have gone away in recent years, she said, and it falls on cities to make up the difference. She said Boise is doing “amazing work” on water renewal, and she wants to connect the environment to long-term prosperity. There needs to be bold action to ensure enough clean water, she concluded.
Nielsen answers last. She said she’s a huge advocate for emissions testing all over the state. She said she loves to drive, but she wants to pay for roads and clean the air at the same time. She also loves water, she said, and she likes being able to drink from her hose. “It’s only just going to get better with all that we know,” she said, and we will take care of our planet, she said.
Gaudette asks the elected officials if hearing from the public during town halls and open conversations have ever changed their mind.
Bieter said he would struggle to provide only a single example. Many have been environmentally oriented, he said. New ideas “bubble up all the time,” he said.
McLean said she can name several times it has happened. One is when she heard from high school students about their concerns on ther environment. It didn’t change her mind, she said, but she loved hearing from young people who expected the city leadership to lead the way. The second time, she said, was when she met with renters and learned that problems reported on high rents and other struggles were real and widespread.
Newest question is on how the candidates would incorporate diverse perspectives if elected.
Nielsen started by saying she’s hearing a lot of negativity and would want to focus on optimism and a positive attitude.
Martinez said next that he thinks the community needs to be better integrated, including those living paycheck to paycheck. He wants people to all have a say, and comments on how the size of the room is too small — the forum should be taking place on Boise State University’s campus, where 25,000 people could come, he said.
McLean, speaking third, said the public is key to policy making. It’s crucial to get people involved, she said, because there are many people she’s met while running that she’s never seen at Boise City Hall. If elected, she said she would make an effort to go to people rather than have them come to her.
Bieter speaking last talks about how he implemented open office hours on Saturdays a few times a year, including last Saturday. Community engagement is important, he said, and he’s made it a big part of his job. Multiple people have provided him with all sorts of perspectives, he said.
New question is “If you were elected, how would you manage growth and protect open space?”
Nielsen starts, says she uses and loves the city’s park. She says it’s crucial to have balance — if people don’t like the development, how does it keep popping up in the news, she asks. She said she’s all ears on what other people have to say on it. Her dad has a development he worked on for years, she said. She finishes by saying that she probably didn’t answer the question but did her best.
McLean takes it next. She says everyone in the room cares about open space, starting with the foothills levy. As we grow, she said, it’s important to use tools to ensure design is more compact while creating open space within it and giving a nod to the landscape in which it is built. The city needs to set aside open space as quickly as it develops, McLean says.
Bieter answers the question third. He starts by saying the more thing people dislike more than sprawl is density. It’s a tough decision, but the city is making them, he said, saying it “can’t always be a win-win.” The foothills aren’t negotiable, however, he said, which angered developers when he first proposed it at his State of the City address last year.
Martinez is the last to answer the question. He said perhaps the city should set a code to have so much open space per person. “We have to be smart about it,” he says, saying the city can’t keep annexing more in Ada County. Boise is a big city, which means less space, Martinez said.
After Bieter mentioned sprawl, Gaudette followed up and asked the other candidates about it. Martinez says suburban sprawl is one of the worst things the U.S. did after WWII and that we have to control it.
McLean said it’s one of the most important questions of the election. She says we need to figure out how to design with the landscape.
Nielsen said she just heard about sprawl in this way for the first time tonight. She said she doesn’t have a comment because she has to research sprawl.
Martinez gets the question last. He says Boise puts out more emissions than other cities in the state. We should look to a 100 percent electric busing system, he said.
“We have to make Boise more livable for the people moving in because it’s only going to get bigger,” he said. The city must start tomorrow, he said, not in January when the mayor is inaugurated.
Bieter talks about how sprawl uses resources up in ineffective ways. He also says it’s not possible to conserve without keeping development out of certain areas.
He said conservation is “inherent” in everything the city does.
Nielsen is next. She said she doesn’t believe a goal is necessary, calling it “pre-meditated resentment.” She said instead, she does what she can for today.
She loves the “beautiful” wind turbines on the drive to Pocatello, comparing them to daisies blowing in the wind.
She said she is looking forward to what the city can do together.
McLean gets the first question, which is how conservation plays into livability and Boise would remain so liveable if she is elected.
“How we build on that ... is to double down and do more than we’re doing right now when it comes to clean energy,” she said.
She talked about the city’s clean energy goal and how she’d like to create a solid plan for better transit system in her first term.
Bieter is the last to introduce himself. He says it’s been an honor to be the mayor of his hometown.
He’s talking about successes in his time as mayor, including libraries, parks, new free pre-K programs and the city’s green programs. He also values that Boise is a safe city, including a strong fire department and a crime rate that he says has dropped 45 percent since he took office.
People come to the city because Boise is successful, he said. He says Boise is a “strong, vibrant city ready for the future.”
McLean is next.
McLean says she’s loved Boise since the first time she was here, when she visited with her husband who was interviewing with local computer companies. She went for a run along the Boise River and fell in love with the city, she said.
“What’s so special about this place is our connection to the people in it and our connection to the place itself,” she said. The city runs the risk of losing that with the intense growth it has gone through lately.
Martinez is next. He says he’s running on housing, transportation and the economy/jobs. He says anyone from any state (even California) can move to Boise and should be welcomed. He’s almost 29, he said, and he’s focused on conservation because “we’re destroying the world slowly.”
Conservation starts at the local level, he said. He also said he supports the mayor and council president and that Boise is innovative.
Nielsen kicks off opening statements. She says her top three priorities are transportation (she wants to provide a passenger train for commuters), emissions tests and livable wages — she wants all city employees to make at least $30,000 annually.
“As mayor, you represent not only everyone who lives here but also everyone who commutes here for work and play,” she said.
Gaudette is introducing the candidates alphabetically, providing a pretty comprehensive biography for each candidate.
Courtney Washburn, executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho, kicked off the event and talking about what her organization does, including elect pro-conservation candidates.
She noted that not everyone who is running is on stage, but rather only those who had filed as the organization set up the event. She’s referring to Wayne Richey, who filed his declaration of candidacy Tuesday.
Gemma Gaudette is explaining to the audience that candidates will be strictly timed.
The livestream has started, and all candidates are at the front of the room. The event itself doesn’t begin until 7 p.m.
Lauren McLean is walking around the room and greeting people. No other mayoral candidates are here yet, but there are several members of their staffs.
The audience is filling up quickly, and organizers confirmed it’s not just hype — the event is actually sold out. Several local officials are also in the room, including Sen. Maryanne Jordan (D-17) and Rep. John Gannon (D-17A). Others in the audience since the last update include Brittany Scigliano (running for Seat 1) and Jimmy Hallyburton (running for Seat 3).
Hallyburton said he showed up because, since filing began Monday, “the race is on.” He has not yet decided who to vote for in the mayoral race or for other council seats.
“I think tonight is going to be interesting to see what sets Lauren apart from the mayor,” he said. “I think a lot of people are interesting to see that.”
Doors are open, and people are starting to stream in. Tickets for the event (organizers are not calling it a debate) are sold out, and organizers anticipate it will be standing room only.
Some of those in the audience include City Council candidates Karen Danley (running for Seat 1) and Meredith Stead (running for Seat 3).