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Viewpoint: One-on-one with Boise Mayor McLean

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean discusses the COVID-19 surge, affordable housing shortage, going green in a big way and Boise's newest park.

BOISE, Idaho — Southwest Idaho is facing the challenges presented by the fourth surge of COVID-19, rapid population growth, a lack of affordable housing and climate change in the form of a drought.

The city of Boise is not immune to any of these challenges, but Boise Mayor Lauren McLean is prepared to take them on.

On this edition of Viewpoint, McLean discusses how the city is dealing with the rise in COVID-19 cases, the affordable housing shortage and homelessness. She also discusses a major climate goal for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050 and the brand new Cherie Buckner-Webb Park downtown.

McLean, along with leaders from major health care systems across Southwest Idaho, made a plea for people to get vaccinated to slow the spread of coronavirus, especially as the more contagious delta variant becomes the dominant mutation in Idaho.

The city of Boise also recently reinstated a mask mandate at all indoor city facilities because of the increased community spread of COVID-19 and low vaccination rates in Ada County. It applies to everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

No other COVID-19 restrictions will be reinstated in Boise for now. McLean said city leaders are watching the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations very closely before making any decisions on reinstating restrictions, such as limits on gathering sizes or a citywide mask mandate.

Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Mayor Lauren McLean: Right now, what we're doing is what we've done this entire time, and that is (to) work closely with medical professionals and ask and hear from them what they think we ought to be doing and recognizing that we have to protect people and public health first in order for our community to thrive. And so we took the first step in conjunction with medical professionals to do as all employers should be doing, is protecting their employees by having mask mandates within our own facilities, and we'll continue to monitor the data and listen to the needs of public health professionals and our hospital systems.

Doug Petcash: We have big events coming up pretty soon, like Treefort Music Festival, which was rescheduled. As of now, are those all still a go, or are they at risk of being canceled?

Mayor McLean: You know, every event organizer is looking closely at how they continue to do what they want to do for the community in ways that will protect the community. I really appreciate the leadership we've seen from businesses, event organizers [and] others, such as the markets downtown that want to continue to be able to operate and ensure that we're all safe while we enjoy each other. So right now I expect that any leader of an organization or event is doing what we've done, which is monitoring the data and making sure the plans are right, and taking every step they can to protect those of us that will enjoy the events in the future.

McLean said the city of Boise is offering an incentive to city employees who get vaccinated, but at this point, she does not anticipate a vaccination mandate for workers.

Viewpoint now airs at 9 a.m. on Sunday right after Meet the Press.

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