BOISE — A familiar face is going toe to toe with Mayor Dave Bieter this November.

On Monday, Boise City Council President Lauren McLean launched her bid to step up from City Council and into running the largest city in Idaho full time. In her release, she said she chose to run because of growing frustration with how the city is handling growth, a lack of transparency from the current administration and a need to take aggressive action to address the city’s growing affordability crisis.

“Too many folks are feeling priced out, talked over, left out or forgotten, and that should worry us all,” McLean said in a release Monday. “They want their leaders to be transparent, set aside old grudges, and get serious about bold action to make every Boisean’s life better. That’s why I’m running.”

McLean was appointed by Bieter in early 2011, won election to council later that year and was reelected in 2015. Prior to taking her seat on council, she served as the campaign manager for the 2001 Foothills Open Space Initiative, and served on the Boise Parks Commission and Planning & Zoning Commission. She has an undergraduate degree in liberal arts studies and French from Notre Dame and a Master’s of Public Administration from Boise State University.

McLean said, if she is elected, she would release her daily schedule online so constituents can see who she is meeting with and what she is working on day to day. This is similar to Gov. Brad Little’s policy of releasing his schedule to the public on a weekly basis.

McLean said she wanted to have an in-person meeting with Bieter to tell him about her campaign, but because of scheduling conflicts she told him over the phone. When asked how Bieter reacted to the news, she laughed and said, “I’m going to leave that one alone,” because it was a private moment between them.

Jesse Maldonado, a staffer for Bieter’s campaign, refuted this Monday afternoon. In a text message, he said McLean never requested a meeting with Bieter to discuss her candidacy, and only called him 15 minutes prior to filing. Because Bieter was on the phone at the time, Maldonado said they did not speak and she left no message for him.

Planning for the Treasure Valley’s rapid growth is a focus of McLean’s campaign. Expanding public transportation should be a major priority, she said, but she’d like to see the city partner with other local governments to grow transit options instead of Bieter’s strategy to pursue local option taxing authority to pay for it.

“I think there’s a lot of potential if we stop pinpointing on one tool we haven’t been able to get for 16 years and instead ask what else could there be,” she said. “It might just start with conversations and new relationships.”

When asked about the controversial plans for a new $85 million main library and a public-private partnership to build a sports park in the West End, McLean said she can’t speak to specifics on either project yet because there are no formal proposals available for her to comment on. McLean has long maintained the city should only invest money in the sports park if it offers a broad range of public use.

On the library, she defended the necessity of a strong downtown branch and said she would not get in the way of the city working on the project. McLean said the city is working on putting together a detailed proposal for how the library will be funded, but she has not seen it.

She expressed support for the rights of concerned citizens group Boise Working Together, which submitted over 7,000 signatures in support of a vote on both the main library and the stadium projects. McLean did not say whether or not she wants to see a vote on the main library project, but said she won’t stand in the way of the process if enough signatures are verified.

According to campaign finance documents on the city’s website, McLean started 2019 with $16,434 cash on hand, compared with Bieter’s $59,363. Two relative newcomers to Boise politics, Adriel Martinez and Matt Kilburn, have also entered the race for mayor, but their fundraising information is not yet available.

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066. 

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