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Boise Mayoral Candidate Conversations 2019: Lauren McLean

Courtesy Lauren McLean

Boise City Councilwoman Lauren McLean said people had encouraged her for years to "step into the arena." But it wasn't until this past May that she formally decided to challenge Boise Mayor Dave Bieter in this year's general election.

McLean talked about what ultimately drove her decision to mount a campaign and her high hopes for Boise's future with Morning Edition host George Prentice.

"For 16 years, there's been no competitive race in Boise, and we have one today."

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: Municipal elections are not partisan. That said, I'd be interested in how you might describe your politics to a stranger.

LAUREN MCLEAN: Sure, our races at the city level are nonpartisan, but I've always been clear about my values. I register and vote as a Democrat. I believe that the policies that look at human rights, the environment, economic development, all together, build strong cities, and, you know, create the opportunity that residents need in our community to thrive.

PRENTICE: What was the tipping point? And if you can be as specific as possible, what was the tipping point of your decision to run for mayor?

MCLEAN: Oh, George, that's such a hard question. Especially when you asked me to be specific. I'll say this. People have encouraged me over the years to step into the arena. And I felt as though the time wasn't right. If you'd asked me in January, February, March, beginning of April this year, I have said the same thing. For me the experience of going out into community as an elected official and hearing the stories of folks around the city and their concerns about growth, the impact of the rising cost of living traffic and congestion made me realize that the policies of the last 16 years don't work for a city that's changed. And I ought to jump in if nobody else would.

PRENTICE: Incumbents are rarely unseated, especially in city elections. My experience in covering a lot of elections is that incumbents are usually only unseated when there's a scandal, or if there's a public safety issue, or if the economy is tanking. And I don't think any of those three are happening in Boise.

MCLEAN: We didn't take this decision lightly. And we know that to win requires hard work. I have been astounded by the level of support that we received from the moment we announced because we're talking about things that matter in ways that haven't been talked about in a long time. For 16 years there's been no competitive race in Boise and we have one today. And with the number of volunteers we have showing up, the folks that are digging in and helping think about policies of the future. And the fact that we need a city that's built for everyone and that means that while many of us have benefited from the economic boom, there are so many in the city that haven't. And people were ready to dig in and have conversations and lift up the issues that need to be lifted up to create a city where everyone can truly thrive.

PRENTICE: So if elected, what might you do in your first year of office that the current mayor hasn't done?

MCLEAN: I have said from the get go, we must reset regional relationships, build relationships you know, with a new with a new generation of leaders, in many instances, but build the relationships and trust needed in this valley to tackle the big issues of building a regional transportation system that works for a valley that is truly our size, partnering with the state to come up with economic development solutions, funding for transportation and bolder ideas around affordable housing. From my first year to do that, I have to reach out, work with the highway district, local governments, etc, to build new relationships and start to have a conversation about what that vision is as a region and then set to work to implement it.

PRENTICE: How might you vote on the initiative on the ballot requiring voter approval of a library project?

MCLEAN: Well, as you know, I have been a loud advocate for the right to put initiatives on the ballot. It's a constitutional right we as citizens have, and I believe, as an elected official, that I should not mess with that process. If it's a tool that I would like to use for something that I support. And I say that because, you know, we saw democracy at its best citizens engaging and putting something on the ballot. Personally, as a citizen, I'll be voting no on the measure because of the question that's asked. But that by no means reflects the value that I placed on the conversation that the initiative has forced, and the process that we as citizens have a right to go through.

PRENTICE: There's a separate initiative, but to the same point and that initiative is in regards to possible stadium project, can I assume the same answer

MCLEAN: You can assume the same answer. But I'd also say this on the stadium. If when asked between the about the two projects where I stand on them, I think a library is fundamentally important to a city. But given the state in which we're in with initiatives, and the contention, that what should have been a positive project for our city has developed, we've got to have new conversations about how we move forward on a library and what that looks like at this point in our city's history. The stadium is not nearly as higher priority for me. And but yes, I'll be voting no on the initiative. But I just want to make clear that of the two projects, I believe that a downtown library is so much more important than a stadium. And but welcome, you know, the developers interest in coming up with a place to have a stadium here in the city don't necessarily think it's the right role for the city to play at this time, given all of the issues that we need to deal with, especially the pricing, the investments that a city automate, and affordable housing and transportation

PRENTICE: For the first time in almost anyone's memory, we have a lot of names on the ballot. Are you ready for a possible runoff?

MCLEAN: We are seeing democracy at its best right now, after 16 years of elections that haven't been contested or contentious in this way. in Boise, we have a competitive race. And many people interested in jumping in I think that speaks to the angst that people are feeling about our future here.

PRENTICE: And again, a lot of folks don't recognize or maybe don't even know that a runoff would happen if someone does not get a simple majority.

MCLEAN: Oh, sure and that's a great point. While, of course, we are working on winning on November 5. This would be a historic election in two in two ways. One, if I win, I would be the first elected female Mayor with a nod to Carolyn Terteling-Payne, who filled a spot by appointment. And then if there is a runoff, it would be the first run off in Boise's history because the mayor has to get a majority of the votes. And isn't that great that in an instance like this, when there's a lot of interest, the person that wins has to get 50% plus one votes. And if it doesn't happen on November 5, then the two of us that get the most votes would move onto an election within the next 30 days.

PRENTICE: Lauren McLean. Best of luck.

MCLEAN: Thank you very much, George.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

George Prentice has been honored for his decades-long career in broadcast and print journalism. As news editor of Boise Weekly, he won multiple awards for his investigative reporting and took home top prizes in the fields of crime/courts, environmental, health, religion and feature reporting.