Boise Mayor Dave Bieter hopes he can stay in office. Despite a 15.4 point spread between himself and city council president Lauren McLean in the first round of voting last month, Bieter thinks the runoff election on December 3rd is a whole new ballgame.
Editor’s note: Our one-on-one with Lauren McLean is set to run early next week.
“A different beast”
“It’s a different beast. It’s a different campaign,” Bieter said. “The order and the margin weren’t what we hoped. But with seven people in a race, when you are an incumbent is not a lot of fun, (especially) with two initiatives that were tough.”
The mayor thinks the second election will have a different result, both because the electorate will be different – and because he says he can change minds.
“I think it will be different. How much different who knows. You get a chance to reengage. There are no initiatives. I think that’s a very important thing.”
About two minutes into the conversation, Bieter pivoted to his opponent.
“They don’t know her”
“And people don’t know her,” he said referring to McLean. “But they will know her,” he said with a laugh. “Three weeks is a short amount of time, but in politics, it’s a long time.”
Bieter spent much of the rest of the conversation focused on his opponent.
“She’s been in city government longer than I have. She was on the parks board before I came. She’s been in city government longer than I have,” he said, repeating the point for emphasis. “That’s not new. People don’t know that.”
Former Boise Mayor Brent Coles appointed McLean to the volunteer parks board. She then headed up the city’s effort on the Coles-led foothills initiative. Bieter appointed her to the planning and zoning commission, also a volunteer position, before Bieter elevated her to her current city council seat. She ran for reelection for the seat twice and won both times. Bieter was elected to the full-time job of mayor in 2003 and has served in that role since.
Bieter said he thinks the conservative voters will choose him over McLean because of the candidates’ differing stances on the city’s request to take an ordinance on camping to the United States Supreme Court. The mayor also raised this in prior interviews with the Idaho Press and KBOI2. In the general election results, conservative candidates Rebecca Arnold and Coles combined for about 20.5% of the electorate.
The library petition
The Bieter campaign issued a news release earlier Tuesday on the library projecct. He said he would ‘recommend an immediate reset’ to the library project.
In August, McLean said she heard that Boiseans “saw problems with the project, process, and budget,” and said she felt the need for more public input. Bieter’s campaign called McLean out for a “flip flop.” But now that Bieter is saying something similar, he said he isn’t flip-flopping.
“We had an important event in between and that was the election,” Bieter said. “It is important, that people understand that, we respect that. I respect that. Those results are important. The project as proposed is not ready to go to the voters. We will reengage citizens and get it right.”
Bieter wouldn’t say if he would challenge the language of the petition or not, as he told a group of library stakeholders in August he’d do, according to the Idaho Press.
“That just remains to be seen. We will just have to wait and see. I think the initiatives are poorly phrased. We already have a record of showing we respect what they (the petioners) are trying to do – and that’s trying to get the measures on the ballot.”
Bieter said his donations and work for a political action committee that ran Facebook ads encouraging voters not to sign the petitions was “a free speech right. There was a lot of misinformation to that campaign,” he said, referring to the work done by Boise Working Together.
He said he wasn’t surprised about the library or stadium petitions got overwhelming voter support.
“There was just a one-sided argument at that point, so I’m not particularly surprised at that.”
The stadium petition
On the other proposition, around a Downtown Boise stadium, he said it’s a different issue.
“Libraries are really fundamental to what a city does,” he said. “That’s a private developer with a potentially different form of government whose existence who has a handful of (projects it can fund),” he said – referring to the Greater Boise Auditorium District.
He said he supports the idea of GBAD’s involvement in a stadium.
“That’s been the discussion for years,” he said. “After the expansion of the convention center, which took forever, finally happened, then other projects could come into the discussion and a sports park is one of those. They have had some of those discussions, and I think that’s appropriate.”
The auditorium district had no formal discussions on a possible stadium until this July.
On an F-35 mission
Bieter and McLean’s campaigns also diverged on a possible new mission for the Idaho National Gaurd at Gowen Field.
The city has lobbied for a new mission of F-35 fighter jets. The Pentagon decided Boise was not a finalist for the jets nearly two years ago – but Boise is still a backup site.
After the release of the environmental impact statement on the jets, McLean wrote on Facebook that she has “listened to thousands of Boiseans all year and, simply put, they don’t want F-35s in our skies. In fact, the hundreds of people potentially impacted have been asking for the city to NOT actively court this mission or invest city dollars in lobbying to bring it here. I agree and stand with these Boiseans.
The EIS said hundreds of Boise homes could be uninhabitable. An even wider number of homes would see impacts from noise from the jets if they came to Boise.
Bieter did not answer about the F-35s directly but did say he supports an ongoing mission at Gowen Field.
“I consider one of our finest hours keeping the A-10 here when it was going to be gone in 2014,” Bieter said. “$160 million of economic activity is what Gowen Field represents to us. The number of people affected by that is huge – and in the valley as a whole is astronomical. If I’m fortunate enough to be around – we will help mitigate whatever impacts, whatever mission has – but that we have a mission is essential to the future of our country, but of our city and our whole valley.”
The Faucher letter
During sentencing for a now-defrocked Catholic priest who stored – and shared – thousands of pornographic images and videos of children, a letter Bieter wrote came to light.
The images found by police on Thomas Faucher’s computer “were sexually exploitative or pornographic with young-looking subjects. The files were described by police as violent, disturbing and torturous, some involving children crying,” according to reporting at the time from the Idaho Statesman.
After Faucher pled guilty, Bieter wrote a letter on his behalf. Faucher’s defense attorney read a small portion of the letter in open court.
“I don’t know how I would’ve made it through without Tom Faucher,” Bieter wrote.
According to KTVB, the judge in the case “questioned whether those who had written letters of support would have done so if they knew the truth about the case.”
Bieter issued a statement via his City of Boise spokesperson the next day, but he has not spoken to a reporter on the record about the issue in the months since. Because this issue is sensitive, here is a full transcript of the exchange.
Don Day, BoiseDev: “The judge said he’d question those who had written letters of support would have done so if they knew the facts of the case. I saw your statement, obviously, it came out the next day.
Would you write that letter again if you had it to do all over?”
Bieter: “Uh, let me say, first of all, Tom Faucher is where he should be. The process worked. He’s in the state pen. He pled guilty to charges. But that’s not the Tom Faucher I knew. When my parents were both killed, he was as helpful to me and my family as anybody I know. And I was asked to provide the context of that history in this proceeding, and I did that. The judge made his decision, and I would never second guess that and don’t.”
Day: “But the facts of the case were known before the sentencing phase. Would you write the letter again?”
Bieter: “Again, I was asked to provide context for the years that I’ve known him and I did that because that’s an important part of the whole thing. It’s as confidential a letter as exists in government. That his defense attorney chose to bring it into open court, is nothing that I can effect. The judge had the record, he pled guilty, and he made his decision. I had nothing to do with any of that.”
Don: “All the facts the same, if you knew the defense attorney was going to say it out loud, would you write the letter again?”
Bieter: “I’m not going to speculate about that. How would I ever know that? I’m not going to speculate and…”
Day: “I’m not asking you to speculate, I’m asking you to say, would you have written the letter if you knew it was going to be public? I think this is key, I think voters really want to hear —”
Bieter: “I don’t think it’s key at all. I don’t think it has anything to do with this election. And with my service as mayor… I didn’t write it on mayoral stationery, I think it’s a non-issue.”
Day: “But you won’t say you wouldn’t write the letter again?”
Bieter: “That’s absurd. That’s absurd. We can’t turn… It really is an absurd question…you can’t know that – why answer that… it it it… it’s of no consequence or help. You can’t turn back time. I was asked to provide context in a time that was very meaningful to me and my family. The decision has been made, and not only would I not second guess it, he’s where he should be. The rest doesn’t matter. I think, frankly, it’s a really absurd question.”
Bieter: “And I think it has no bearing on anything.”
Day: “I’ve heard it from a lot of voters, so I think it’s my responsibility to ask.”