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Boise Mayoral Candidate Conversations 2019: Dave Bieter

Courtesy Dave Bieter

Mayor Dave Bieter is already Boise's longest-serving chief executive. But he says his public service is far from over. That's why he's running for a precedent-setting term of office.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Bieter talked with Morning Edition host George Prentice about the surprises and non-suprises from his opponents, public safety in the City of Trees, and the best advice he was ever given from his father.

"My father was a track coach and used to tell us, 'Run through the tape. Finish strong.' That's what we're going to do."

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: I'd like to ask a little bit about your challengers. And the first thing that I've been meaning to ask you for some time is can you give me your initial reaction and it's been several months now, when Lauren McLean announced her canvas. I have to assume that surprised you.

DAVE BIETER: It did. Not fully it's fairly common for council members to run against mayor's Jim Tibbs was a council member and challenged me in the past. We have had a conversation, you know, years ago when I appointed her and she said, Well, I won't run against you while you're still running and I expected to have a conversation about it. And there never was one. I got a call. Literally 15 minutes before she announced and was on the phone. There was no message and that's what happened. You know, but it we're big boys and girls, and like I said it's fairly common wasn't fully unexpected.

PRENTICE: The big surprise among your challengers is former mayor Brent Coles.

BIETER: That was legitimate surprise. He had been attending some council meetings. And, you know, at that time I thought I wonder if he’s running. And then sure enough that that was a very big surprise.

PRENTICE: Rebecca Arnold is a familiar face in the Treasure Valley. She's run for a few offices. She's held a couple including she's currently a commissioner of the ACHD. I'm assuming that she's a formidable foe.

BIETER: You know, Rebecca and I have been around the block, too. So that also, well, that was not unexpected. I had heard about that possibility. She's run for a number of offices. For treasurer and clerk, I think, for judge for a lot of other offices, so it wasn't a surprise.

PRENTICE: On the ballot also this November are a couple of city initiatives asking for voter approval for a proposed library project or a separate initiative for proposed stadium. Is it your sense that, to some degree, those initiatives are shackled to whether people support or don't support you?

BIETER: It’s not my sense. I don't know, I think their, you know, their issues of importance, but there are many issues in this election. Many important issues. I think, you know, the most important issue, I think is always public safety and always how we're doing in keeping you safe. You know, we had crime go down 17% last year, 45% since I came into office, we've had two police chiefs in a row, Mike Masterson and Bill Bones that have really changed the way we police in the city of Boise. Community engaged, always looking to de escalate situations to the point that our police oversight person is now a part time job when there were not only was it full time but there were incidents and and i would say even some fear out there of the police and I think that's such an important thing. This election is about who chooses the next chief. I want one in align, like Mike Masterson and Bill Bones,

PRENTICE: Can I pause you on that? Because I think one of the things that surprised me this past week was I heard from a number of your challengers say the same thing that we need to hire more police officers and Boise.

BIETER: Police have asked for a number of officers over the next few years. And our proposed budgets include every one of those hires. It's mostly a demographic shift as the baby boomers and that generation, which makes up a lot of the police force start to retire, you need to fill them. And we have factors of growth that we're addressing. But well, just let me say this, you know, it's I don't think it's a good idea to take advice on policing from the mayor that went to jail. I think that's not really where we ought to be. And like I said, you know, many more times the complaints, many officer involved shootings that were that were questionable. A real discord between a real poor relationship between the community and the police. At the time it came into office, one of the first things that I had to do was to let the police chief go and then begin, like I said, getting the right people in the right places, establishing a culture in the police department of community engagement of de escalation of the kinds of things that we've seen.

PRENTICE: To be clear, are you stating that our police force is properly staffed at this moment?

BIETER: We will, you know, should I be elected, and it's in our our budget forecast, we add many more police officers over the next five years. But when you've got crime down, like we've seen, you know, like I said, 45% since I came in, you're doing it right. You need to continue that. You know, I also have the endorsement of the police union, if they thought that things were skewed, they're not going to be doing that. We want the right number of police. We want to make, you know, we'll take a look at calls for services is one of the things that we look closely at we look at at it an hour of police time, do they have the time to do the touches and community contacts that aren't initiated by calls for service? And we look closely at that, and I meet with the with the officers real regularly. And that's one of the things they tell me in Boise, we get an opportunity to do that we need we can spend part of our hours doing just that. What I told Mike Masterson in our first meetings, your job is to lower crime. And it is a legitimate request of a police chief to do that. And look at the results that we've seen. You know, there are a number of factors. You know, you want to be humble because you don't know exactly what's what's happening. But this is not the case in many cities.

PRENTICE: Other than the fact that you have six challengers what's different this year? You've seen your fair share of campaigns, what's different?

BIETER: I think the differences is at least one of the challengers has been in the city for a decade. And saying, you know, it's time for new things. Yeah. It's a real odd kind of dynamic there, I think. And, you know, you've got individuals and groups that have been, that I've worked closely with, and it's, you know, it's causing some turbulence within their so that's, that's somewhat different.

PRENTICE: Is it you're sense that the voter turnout might be a bit higher this year?

BIETER: Well, I really don't have any idea. And you know, we've talked about that a little in the campaign and then we just, you know, we always make projections on a height turnout higher than you expect. So you can be ready for that, but I really don't know you, like me, George, you know, we're in some bubbles of information and, and issues. And I think by and large, the rest of folks are not in those. You know, we've had some great things going on in the city of Boise, you know, some that are more directly related to city government, but certainly a lot of good things. A lot of good news over time. So I think, you know, people are pretty happy. And maybe that results in the lower turnout, but I just really don't know,

PRENTICE: Do you think at all about a possible runoff?

BIETER: I don't think at all about it. Certainly, it's a possibility. Really, this reminds me of fair amount of my first campaign and we just said, we are going to go with everything we have on, in this case, November 5. And really that's it. You know, I spent a lot of time playing sports when I was growing up. And, you know, they sound kind of cliche, but they are true, there's only one game and that's the game in front of you. And that's what you focus on and don't think about anything else, or anything that might come after that. And that was that was really important, in that first campaign. My opponent started talking about the runoff scenarios. And I thought that's good news, because, you know, they're thinking about other things and my opponents this time are talking about it again, so we just really don't engage it at all. My father was a track coach and used to tell us to run through the tape. Finish strong. That's what we're going to do.

PRENTICE: Your dad ran for office long before you did, I assume that you think of him. Particularly in an election year.

BIETER: It would have been great to talk to him about this because he was a very bright, very bright man. 25 years as a professor at Boise State but even more I think about my mom. She was a Boise native, really lived a Boise life. She was the daughter of Basque immigrants and she was the gold standard in our family and high bar for us to live up to but she felt deeply about this city. My dad used to say when they first married he asked Where do you want to live? And she said, Pat, we can live anywhere you want to as long as I can see the Boise River from there and only only partly kidding, I think or at least it was pretty clear they were going to be here. You know my daughter is the represents the fourth generation of my family that’s called Boise home.

PRENTICE: How old is your daughter now?

BIETER: She's 14. And that really is more than anything what motivates me every day is, you know, to leave the city in as good a place as we possibly can for her and for her children. I think that's the overarching dynamic for me.

PRENTICE: Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. Thank you.

BIETER: Thank you, 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.