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‘The Boise way’: McLean talks about COVID, growth, goals, and climate in State of the City speech

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean stood in front of a small socially distanced crowd of community members in the Boise City Council Chambers for her second State of the City speech Thursday. She highlighted initiatives, gave thanks to community leaders, and made several announcements.

McLean opened by talking about the State of Idaho’s move to allow crisis standards of care for hospitals statewide. She thanked city council members, health care workers, and Boiseans in general for stepping up to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

McLean said the current COVID situation facing Boise and the state “did not have to be this way” and called for additional action from the State of Idaho.

[‘Uncomfortable’: St. Lukes McCall says escalating statewide COVID situation impacting Valley Co.’s primary hospital]

McLean asks for statewide approach

“I am asking the state to step up and do the right thing,” calling for what she called a statewide approach.

McLean didn’t elaborate or detail on what she hoped to see the State of Idaho do in the speech. McLean introduced additional measures for larger events earlier this week, but the mayor stopped short of actions taken earlier in the pandemic, like citywide mask mandates.

BoiseDev has asked McLean’s office for additional detail on what steps she hopes to see state leadership take. Friday morning, McLean said Gov. Brad Little and the state have “a ton of tools” she’d like to see the state use. She pointed out that St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus operate their regional medical centers in Boise, serving patients well beyond the city of Boise.

“Yesterday when I talked to the governor, I asked for help,” McLean told BoiseDev. “The hospitals are asking for help. Back when the cases weren’t this bad, the state provided regional county-based guidance. They provided guidance for businesses on how they could and should operate. We’re lucky in Boise that the school district stepped in, the city stepped in and our citizens stepped in. We need someone to step in regionally who has the ability to curb this.”

During the speech, McLean compared the current situation to history.

“While the last two years have felt unique, a pandemic, growth, pushes for social and political change, what’s most striking to me when I reflect on our 150-year history, is how we’ve experienced these intense periods of things and our community’s personality always shines through,” she said. “We plan, we debate, we take the steps needed to protect each other in the city. We welcome everyone. We create opportunities. And then yes, we grow, again.”

[2020: McLean encourages Boiseans during COVID-19 pandemic in first State of the City speech]

COVID-19 & early months as mayor

McLean briefly nodded to some historical events that Boise faced, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and how many decisions made back then mirrored the ones the city and its citizens are making now.

“We experienced a shortage of nurses, confusion over what should close, and what didn’t need to and when to reopen,” she said of the 1918 events. “….These stories are our stories. The history gives context to our current situation. It helps me, and I hope it helps you feel less alone.”

McLean took the time to thank community heroes. She thanked City of Boise employees- and people like Javier Andrade, the owner of Andrades, who has offered free meals throughout the pandemic.

Since McLean took office in 2020, the city has faced calls for social change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and exponential growth but called being the mayor an ‘honor.’

“Despite the challenges, the uncertainty, the tough days, the long days, people ask what it’s like to be a new mayor, your mayor, during the pandemic. And I would say it’s an honor, beyond words,” she said.

McLean noted the protests last summer at city hall and her home.

“This summer marks a year since people burned masks… since people showed up with pitchforks and torches at (my home).”

While she said it was hard to ignore “the glow” of the torches – she said the outpouring of support, including community members who left hundreds of hearts at her home, lifted her and her family up.

“We’ve had many dark days,” she said. “But they are followed… always… by better ones. This will continue no matter how much our city grows.”

Goals and projects

McLean announced several goals and new projects.

  • McLean said a group will lead an effort to end family homelessness. The team is working on the 300 Homes Campaign, which asks developers to dedicate projects and homes to families experiencing homelessness.McLean announced three chairs of a new Campaign to End Family Homelessness.

McLean said the city set a goal of adding 1,250 new affordable units in the next five years. She also said the city will ask developers to help set aside 300 homes in new developments for community members who are experiencing family homelessness. The city hopes to use American Rescue Plan Act, Build Back Better, and other funds for the initiative.

  • McLean also announced a partnership with Pacific Companies to expand supportive services at New Pat Community Housing by adding 100 additional housing next door. On the same note, she proposed dedicating the land near Fire Station 5 for housing.

[Boise to replace downtown fire station, add affordable housing]

  • She also announced that the city’s goal in collaboration with Idaho Power for 100% clean electricity by 2030 is now on track to be met by 2023. During debate in 2019, city staff pushed for a 2040 goal, former Mayor Dave Bieter favored a 2035 goal – but McLean and the council at the time opted for a 2030 goal. Now, the mayor says they’ll hit the benchmark in just a few years.

[McLean, other western mayors, call for clean energy investments from Biden’s infrastructure package]

  • She announced a new Tuttle Lateral Pathway project behind Milwaukee Park that will make a connection between Milwaukee and Cole roads.The project will happen in coordination with the Nampa-Meridian Irrigation District – and is part of the city’s overarching goal to build 200 miles of new pathways in coming years.

“The city council and I agree that every kid should be able to walk to a park in ten minutes because being able to walk to a park will connect each of us with the green spaces we need to rest, reconnect, and play,” McLean said.

  • Finally, she announced Adler Industrial will be the city partner in industrial development on airport lands.

“This will increase industrial activity within our city limits, creating jobs and opportunity,” she said. “And importantly, Adler embraces our commitments to energy efficiency, clean energy, and has a strong record of sustainable infrastructure.”

Community safety

Once again, McLean mentioned the “Boise way” when talking about keeping the city safe while it grows. McLean said that means growing police and public safety.

She then announced that Boise is the first city in the nation to have a career-long human and civil rights program for Boise police officers.

“A the heart of community policing is the desire to partner with the community, to protect the rights of everyone,” she said. “This curriculum will build on national best practices and leverage local expertise. It’ll form a foundational pillar of our officer’s training and development. We will commit resources to develop and launch the program. And we’re calling on partners, philanthropists, other organizations committed to civil and human rights to help us address these important and fundamental issues.”

[McLean to roll out new Office of Police Accountability; BPD chief asks for 100 new officers]

McLean closed with encouraging words that Boise will move forward together.

“We will… realize our vision of a beautiful city for everyone,” she said. “A strong, welcoming city filled with passionate people. It is a deep, deep honor to preserve and protect our home while pushing onward with each of you. We have done it before, and together, I know we will do it again, continue pushing forward the Boise way.”

BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the city set a goal to build thousands of miles of new pathways. The goal is 200 miles.

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Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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