Almost from the beginning of her term, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean has had a target on her back. On Sept. 4, she returned replied to critics with an "Open Letter to the Most of Us," which includes some of the strongest language she has used to date against the criticism she has garnered, and to establish herself as an authentic voice for Boiseans.
"I've spent over 20 years working in and with this community, talking to thousands of Boiseans in every corner of this city, and I know who we are and what we want," she wrote.
Released on Facebook, the letter positions Boiseans away from the chaotic special legislative session, where citizens crowded the Statehouse, damaged state property and intimidated legislators. It also decries attacks on the face mask ordinance imposed during the pandemic and on McLean's agenda.
Three months into her term, McLean released her "100 Day Report," an introduction to the results of various working groups under her office convened to explore potential projects and policies and make recommendations to the mayor. Those included proposals touching on a range of issues including diversity and inclusion measures, childcare, housing, education and more. In the ensuing months, her conservative critics mined those reports to paint her as a dyed-in-the-wool progressive.
One such organization, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, has launched a campaign to prevent the City of Trees from becoming more like progressive bastion Portland, Oregon, which has so far been dedicated to exposing McLean's use of "dark money." In her letter, McLean took on IFF by name.
"Lies and distortions about an 'agenda' are easier and more exciting. They are cheap, electric fodder for click-bait, for social media posts from the Idaho Freedom Foundation and, disappointedly, political fundraising letters from opportunistic legislators. Name-calling is an attractive tactic because it works," she wrote.
Missing from the letter was reference to the petitions that circulated during in the pandemic in an attempt to recall her and City Council Member Lisa Sanchez, which failed to garner enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
Rather, the letter paints a picture of "bullies" taking "any opportunity to stoke fear and divide us in order to rule the playground" set against the backdrop of a Boise that "has shaped me as my home for the entirety of my adult life."
Read the full letter below:
Like most of you, I watched last month in horror as an angry mob beat on the doors of our statehouse chambers. It was a culmination of months of strife and anger and name-calling in our community and, more broadly, our nation. This intensity, this fervor of ideology over humanity, is alternately terrifying and heartbreaking.
But the loudest, angriest voices in the room are not who we are, Boise. I say this with deep and abiding clarity: I know who we are.
I’ve spent over 20 years working in and with this community, talking to thousands of Boiseans in every corner of this city, and I know who we are and what we want.
The priority of most of us? Community. To put people ahead of partisan ideology. To live a safe, healthy life. To look out for our neighbors. To build something that endures. And to hope that the generations after us will have the same.
And I carried those values and priorities in setting next year’s city budget: affordable housing, measures for clean energy, economic opportunity, and, yes, a 1.7% increase in our police budget as we grow. And I accounted for all these needs while still reducing the budget AND responding to the emerging needs of a pandemic.
That’s the truth: you can read it for yourself. Please do. The truth, admittedly, isn’t interesting.
Lies and distortions about an “agenda" are easier and more exciting. They are cheap, electric fodder for click-bait, for social media posts from the Idaho Freedom Foundation and, disappointedly, political fundraising letters from opportunistic legislators. Name-calling is an attractive tactic because it works.
And when wearing a cloth mask is “tyranny” and things like public pre-k are “radical socialism”— when the very idea of community, caring for our neighbors, is decried as “communism” — we’re down a dangerous path, one that leads right to the behavior we witnessed at the statehouse.
Listen: I’m no stranger to name-calling and the tactics of playground bullies. They call names, they intimidate. They seize any opportunity to stoke fear and divide us in order to rule the playground.
We can reject bully tactics. We can embrace truth over lies. We can reject the cheap allure of name-calling and remember that our neighbor is not our enemy, that we are truly a community and our destinies are inexorably, beautifully intertwined. And we can continue to address our current challenges with creativity, with our trademark Boise ingenuity, and, yes, civility. Because that’s who we are.
In the past months, I’ve been told “go back where I came from.” I’m sure many of you have heard that, too.
Respectfully, this community has shaped me as my home for the entirety of my adult life. I have raised two kids, built a life and made a home here. I have proudly served this community for over 20 years in various ways, right alongside so many of you, and I will continue to fight for every Boisean to have the same opportunity to exist, thrive, and give back.
I’m not going anywhere. I hope you aren’t, either.