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Boise Mayoral Candidates Spar On Environmental Policy

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Candidates for Boise mayor shared their vision for the city Wednesday night. Clockwise from top left: City Council President Lauren McLean, Adriel Martinez, Cortney Nielsen, incumbent Mayor Dave Bieter.

Four candidates for Boise mayor tried to win over an environmentally-conscious crowd Wednesday night during the race’s first debate hosted by Conservation Voters for Idaho.

Incumbent Mayor Dave Bieter and City Council President Lauren McLean outlined similar policies – including getting city facilities to run on all renewable energy. McLean wants to accomplish that by 2030 – five years sooner than Bieter.

All four of the candidates called for improving the transportation system, though Adriel Martinez, who has worked on several political campaigns, pushed it the furthest by advocating for a bus system running 24-hours a day, Monday through Saturday.

“I actually wouldn’t mind riding the bus, but our busing system isn’t very good compared to other cities in this country and we have to make the busing system work for the people,” Martinez said.

By investing in a beefier public transportation system, including a more robust bus system or light rail system as proposed by Martinez and Cortney Nielson, who works in sales and marketing, the candidates hope to combat sprawl.

Bieter referred to sprawl as “poison” and an “enemy” and for many of his goals.

“Conservation and preserving areas are important, but you can’t preserve them if you don’t keep development out of them,” he said.

His office has pushed back against those forces, including a ban on further development in the Boise Foothills.

Earlier on Wednesday, McLean released a sustainability plan that focused on weaning the city from fossil fuels and investing in more parks and open spaces. Boise’s air quality on bad days is eighth-worst in the nation, she said, and boosting investment in transportation, as well as focusing on cutting single-person car trips in Boise by 20% by 2029, will help curb air pollution.

“Dense development, especially in city limits is really important, but if we want to tackle public health issues and protect the air we breathe … transportation is the answer,” McLean said.

Despite calling for a light rail system and advocating for implementing a statewide emissions check, Nielson said she would take things more slowly.

“We all want to save our planet and we all want to take care of it, and I think baby steps are ideal,” she said.

Voters will head to the polls November 5.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!