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Mayoral candidates discuss policing, homelessness and housing affordability

Aaron Reis (left) spoke at the mayoral candidates forum organized by City Club Boise. He was joined on stage by former Boise police chief Mike Masterson (center left), Joe Evans and incumbent Mayor Lauren McLean (right).
Aaron Reis (left) spoke at the mayoral candidates forum organized by City Club Boise. He was joined on stage by former Boise police chief Mike Masterson (center left), Joe Evans and incumbent Mayor Lauren McLean (right).

The four contenders to the mayor’s office shared their visions for the city at a debate on Thursday, at a forum hosted by City Club and the League of Women Voters.

Incumbent mayor Lauren Mclean was joined onstage by former Boise Police chief Mike Masterson, Aaron Reis and Joe Evans. The discussion focused mostly on rising homelessness rates, housing affordability and policing, with candidates also sharing their thoughts on abortion rights.

Masterson said public safety was the most urgent issue facing the city, adding he would be able to work closely with law enforcement if elected.

We have seen the police department demoralized over the last two years. That was the reason that I entered the race,” he said, criticizing McLean’s hiring of former police chief Ryan Lee, who was asked to resign in 2022 following a series of controversies.

On her end, McLean said she was proud of the city’s efforts to address homelessness and its latest zoning code rewrites,

“Housing, housing, housing is imperative when it comes to homes and through public private partnerships. We are advancing solutions for folks exiting homelessness,” the mayor said.

Joe Evans, who has run in previous statewide elections as a Libertarian, pointed to the mounting number of issues he said comes with growth. .

“With growth comes displacement, homelessness, as well as concerns about the education of our children, the safety of our children, and for the future of Boise and the Treasure Valley as a whole,” he said, “Because where Boise leads, the Treasure Valley follows, and the rest of Idaho is not far behind.

Newcomer to Boise Aaron Reis’ campaign has focused on a person’s right to bodily autonomy, which he discussed at the forum.

“Everyone needs their bodily autonomy. And medical privacy is as important as every other bit of it,” he said. “Roe v. Wade underwrites Brown versus Board of Education, Griswold versus Connecticut, Oglethorpe cases, all those things we need to use, whatever resources that we're talking about to just to protect our citizens and individuals in their bodies.

When asked about whether the city should take a stance on abortion rights in Idaho, Masterson and McLean disagreed.

“I hope we can all agree that women are not safe when politics becomes involved in medicine,” said Masterson, though he criticized the mayor’s decision to pass a resolution stating the city would not prioritize investigations of abortion cases.

“I think it's a mistake to use the mayor's office to publicize issues that are within the purview of our state and national governments,” he added.

“When we have a state that says they will criminalize our doctors, criminalize our daughters, maybe even us, if we have problems with our pregnancy,” McLean said.

“I'm going to be clear that there is a place for everyone here and we will not prioritize resources to help with those investigations.”

All four candidates had different ideas on how to address challenges but agreed to stay clear of attack ads and keep the race civil.

The election will take place on Nov. 7.

You can listen to the entire mayoral candidates forum here.

I joined Boise State Public Radio in 2022 as the Canyon County reporter through Report for America, to report on the growing Latino community in Idaho. I am very invested in listening to people’s different perspectives and I am very grateful to those who are willing to share their stories with me. It’s a privilege and I do not take it for granted.

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