Boise’s McLean supports Little’s order, talks about what’s next for the city and its residents

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Boise Mayor Lauren McLean held a press briefing with reporters Wednesday, shortly after Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced a statewide stay at home order.

“I applaud that order,” she said. “It was time, and so important that it be done on a statewide level so that it would have the most impact.”

McLean said before Little’s order, she considered putting one in place in Boise. Now, she’s urging Boiseans to follow the statewide mandate.

“As a city, I’m going to urge all of our citizens to stay home and stay healthy,” she said. “We’ve got this together. It will take all of us to follow the intent of the order as closely as possible.”

[Little issues statewide ‘stay at home order, extreme emergency declaration: “Avoid leaving home if you can”]

Boise’s next steps: “How we recover”

McLean said the city and its emergency response team are working on how the city will comply.

“In anticipation of the governor’s order, we have been determining which services are absolutely necessary, and which employees need to come in. We will tweak based upon what’s most essential for the city.”

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McLean held a series of calls in recent days with small businesses, large employers, non-profits and members of the faith community.

“With business leaders and city agencies, we are putting together a package of policies to make sure those who are hit most by this can find support and financial backing as we move forward.”

She said she wants to partner with the business community and employers and detail some of the steps the city could take in coming days to help the recovery phase.

“We have to start thinking about how we recover,” she said. “If throughout this 21 days, or 30 days -we are thinking about how we connect with the community, we will be better off. We’ve seen in the last year, that even though the economy is booming, there were many who weren’t benefiting.”

Interaction between city and state policies

Several BoiseDev readers asked about the difference between Boise’s 30-day orders and Little’s 21-day order. McLean said the city will adjust as needed, and the governor’s office told her it would also adjust.

“We’ve been in close communication with the governor’s office int he last week, letting them know the actions we were taking and the actions we were prepared to take. By ordinance, (the Boise orders) last 30 days, but there is a clear allowance to shorten them or lengthen them as needed.”

Economic opportunities

McLean outlined several different policies and actions the city is taking, and encouraging others to look at. The mayor’s office has been communicating with Sen. Jim Risch on the recovery package winding its way through congress and looking at how it can help Boise business and residents.

She also encouraged small businesses to look at opportunities through the Small Business Administration and noted that more options are likely from the federal stimulus packages.

The Brookings Report from last year really made clear that we have to be thinking about how we make adjustments as a city and a region so it’s stronger for everyone. How do we increase opportunities going forward?”

Property tax

Before the COVID-19 pandemic took over most issues, the city started work on what it would look at in terms of property tax rates for the city. The Idaho legislature considered several proposals – including freezing local rates or providing other relief but ultimately failed to pass any measures.

“We had planned for robust public engagement on property tax, but put that on hold because of the confusion in the legislature,” McLean said. “Next week, I’m meeting with the budget team to start again looking at costs with regard to COVID response – including what we need to set aside and save.”

By law, the city can take up to a 3% base increase each year. McLean said the city will need to recalibrate how it engages with the public on property tax rates, since public gatherings are off the table, for now.

The mayor said she hopes not to cut any city services – and notes when she first came into office, she asked staff to identify areas where the city could save money.

“We had a good start at the beginning of the year – $4 million to $5 million this year, and $4 million to $5 million next year. Now we are going to everything we can to not cut services.”

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