BOISE — Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s order requiring face masks be worn in public places added to growing political discontent with her administration from Treasure Valley conservatives over the holiday weekend.
On Friday, protesters opposed to the order, which took effect Saturday, demonstrated at Boise City Hall, the Central District Health office and outside McLean’s home in Boise’s North End. It is unknown how many of the protesters were Boise residents or if they came from outside city limits to protest the city’s move to require mask wearing, which is also now required in a handful of other Idaho cities including McCall, Moscow, Hailey and Driggs.
Protesters from anti-vaccine regulation group Health Freedom Idaho burned some of the free masks distributed by the city of Boise in front of city hall and carried signs against masks, such as, “Where there is risk there must be choice,” and “I will not mask my unborn child.”
At McLean’s home later in the afternoon, a little more than two dozen protesters with the group People’s Rights stood outside the mayor’s house and asked for her to come out and give a response. She did not acknowledge the group.
McLean’s spokeswoman Lana Graybeal declined to comment on the overall criticism of the mayor, but praised the city handing out over 6,000 masks to those “who need them.”
In recent weeks, cries to recall McLean have cropped up in social media comment sections and on popular petition website Change.org. A petition created on the site at an unknown date by an anonymous user known as “Do Better Boise” has reached nearly 30,000 signatures as of Monday. This is not an official petition to recall a government official with any legal implications, and it is unknown how many of the signers live in Boise city limits.
A mayor can be recalled in Idaho if an official petition is filed with the city clerk’s office with 20 eligible voters within city limits. After approval, supporters of the recall petition have 75 days to gather signatures of registered voters within city limits equivalent to 20% of registered voters in the locality as of the last general election. This is equivalent to 26,108 verified signatures in Boise.
If enough signatures are gathered, the recalled official has five days to step down or they will be subject to a special election where a simple majority of voters is needed to remove them. A replacement would be appointed by the Boise City Council.
The Change.org petition does not reference the mask requirement, but is solely focused on a transition report released by McLean’s office that had a list of policy suggestions created by community members she named to propose ideas to her when she first took office. One of the transition committees proposed a long list of reforms in a report called “A More Equitable City for Everyone,” which conservatives fiercely opposed. It included suggestions such as making Boise a “sanctuary city,” free abortions and reproductive health care, sex education for students from pre-K through 12th grade and free internet across the city.
The transition report did not propose how the free abortions or reproductive health would be paid for if McLean chose to follow their suggestion.
These proposals were some of 350 suggestions made by McLean’s six transition committees, which were all openly released to the public on her 100th day in office in mid-April. In response to the criticism around the report that surfaced over a month later at the end of May, McLean, during a press briefing, said they were not policy documents and many of the suggestions were things “a city just can’t do.”
One Treasure Valley mayor has said he believes McLean should be a one-term mayor. Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce posted a comment under a May 25 post on the Code 3 to 1 Retired Officers and Fire Fighters in Idaho Facebook page asking supporters to send an open letter to McLean decrying her transition plan.
“Let’s make her a one and done Mayor just like we did in Eagle,” Pierce wrote in a comment.
In the last month, Code 3 to 1 Retired Officers and Firefighters in Idaho’s Facebook page has posted heavily about “ANTIFA” and has pushed to counterprotest a June 30 Defund the Police Rally at Boise City Hall.
When reached for comment on Monday, Pierce declined to explain his post.
“You know, I think I’m just going to have no comment for now,” he said. “It’s not the best time to comment right now.”
The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian advocacy group critical of McLean, was one of the most outspoken groups against the committees’ transition reports. The foundation has also been critical of any cities that have instituted mask mandates throughout the state, including Boise.
On Monday, IFF posted a poll on its website asking if people supported recalling McLean, which included a question if people are worried about Boise becoming “the next Portland or Seattle.” In a statement, spokesman Dustin Hurst said the group opposes McLean’s proposed budget, which they say has “excess spending.”
McLean’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 is $34 million lower than the current year’s budget and does not include any increase to property tax collections on existing customers. However, IFF took issue with the city’s 1.6% increase for collections on new projects.
“The Idaho Freedom Foundation believes in keeping government and its presence in people’s lives as small as possible, whereas McLean signaled her intention to radically grow the government’s power over Boiseans,” Hurst said.
Idaho Press reporter Thomas Plank contributed.