The three candidates for Boise mayor were very civil Monday at a forum hosted by the City Club of Boise.
They all agreed on several points, such as the City Council’s controversial approval of a St. Luke’s expansion plan and the belief that supplying stable housing is the first step in addressing homelessness.
Challenger Judy Peavey-Derr repeated her campaign’s central talking point: The cost of government that taxpayers bear is too high, and it threatens the well-being of seniors. She also suggested a public planning process for determining the details of how refugees settle in Boise.
Mayor Dave Bieter defended his record, touting the successes from his nearly 12 years in office, such as recovering from the scandal that unraveled his predecessor’s administration, weathering the Great Recession and the flurry of Downtown development in recent years.
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Holden, a Boise State University student, staked out a middle ground between Bieter and Peavey-Derr. He talked at some length about his work with refugees, especially those who speak French, which he speaks fluently.
Below are summaries of where they stood on four main themes that came up during Monday’s forum. Be sure to check out our Voters Guide for more information on this and other elections this year. You can also find earlier coverage, analysis, videos and other details at IdahoStatesman.com/elections.
Peavey-Derr: Boise needs a more robust public transportation system. A rubber-tire system is the best and most cost-effective option. A rail-based system is not appropriate for Boise. Instead of spending money on lawsuits against Ada County Highway District, the city should cooperate with the district to improve transportation in the city.
Holden: Someday, Boise should have a rail-based public transportation system. That time is not now. Boise needs to work better with the highway district and other agencies to find transportation solutions.
Bieter: Boise must accommodate all modes of transportation — cars, bicycles, pedestrians, etc. The city needs a local option tax to pay for a new transit system, whether that’s a train or something else. ACHD is a failed model. The differing missions of the city government and the highway district show the flaw in taking power over transportation away from the city.
Peavey-Derr: First, homeless people need stable homes. Boise should pursue public-private partnerships to make that happen, and to address related issues, such as mental health and addiction.
Holden: Food and shelter are only the first step. Homeless people need a path back to becoming contributing members of society. Mental screenings should be used to determine which people are fit to work, so that they can get jobs and progress toward independence.
Bieter: The most important step is a supply of free, permanent, supportive housing, so that homeless people can have safe places to live and receive the treatment and counseling they need. The city of Boise needs help from the state and other local governments to better address homelessness.
TAXES AND FEES
Peavey-Derr: Boise taxes are too high. Fees keep going up. These increases hit hardest on seniors who live on fixed incomes. The city needs to stop getting involved in so many lawsuits and explore cost efficiencies through partnerships with other governments in the Treasure Valley.
Holden: Boise needs to cut the fat out of its budget, looking at every department for ways to reduce spending.
Bieter: Some fee increases are unavoidable, such as the cost of removing contaminants from sewage at the city’s wastewater treatment plants. Lawsuits are sometimes necessary to protect Boiseans’ interests. City residents overwhelmingly say in city surveys they’re receiving good value for their taxes.
Peavey-Derr: Boise needs to have a public-engagement process on the future of refugees in the city. There needs to be a plan for how many refugees will come, where they’ll live, where they’ll work and what the cost to the community is.
Holden: Boise needs to focus on integrating refugees into the culture, economy of their new city.
Bieter: Boise must continue to be welcoming to refugees because they bring vibrancy and diversity that might otherwise be lost.