Boise Mayor Lauren McLean has been in office only six months, but there is already a campaign to recall her from office “before any more damage can be done.”
Organizers say they’re preparing to submit petitions to recall McLean and Council Member Lisa Sánchez for things the officials have said and done in the past several months.
Dan Alexander, Joe Filicetti and Karene Alton, all leaders in the effort, say their efforts are based on errors in judgment and transparency from city leaders.
McLean, they say, ran her campaign as a moderate but has released a “radical agenda” since taking office. In a list they shared with the Statesman, they refer to several concerns over the a transition team’s report to McLean that recommended Boise become a sanctuary city, offer free abortions and teach sex education in schools starting in pre-K.
None of those plans have come to fruition or even been seriously suggested beyond the transition report. McLean has said the report was not a policy document, just one of several sets of recommendations she requested from transition teams as she began her term.
Recall organizers say they cannot separate those ideas from McLean after she chose to make them public. Their list of complaints also includes concerns about COVID-19 lockdowns closing businesses and McLean’s failure to create “a common sense plan to get schools open in the fall and people back to work.”
The mayor’s office is not responsible for schools. The state has left the fall opening decisions up to individual districts.
“Before we know it, we’re going to wake up to a Boise we don’t recognize,” Alton said in a phone interview Monday. “We don’t want to be a Seattle, don’t want to be a San Francisco. Boise is different and unique because we are not those places.”
A spokesperson for McLean said that because the petition had not yet been filed, the mayor’s office did not have a comment.
Alexander works in sales. Filicetti is a lawyer who has represented Boise police officers. Alton is a real estate agent.
ONLINE GATHERING EFFORTS
Alexander created a petition in May on change.org calling for McLean to be recalled. He created it anonymously using the name “Do Better Boise.” He said its 32,000 signatures demonstrate interest in their cause.
Many of the people who signed the petition do not live in Boise. Only Boise residents can sign an actual recall petition that the organizers say they will begin circulating soon.
“It blew up, and now people left and right are just crawling out of the woodwork wanting to help in any way they can,” he said.
Nearly 5,000 people have joined a Facebook group called “Recall Mayor McLean.” Some supporters have made car decals saying “Recall McLean” and face masks that say “This mask is as useless as Mayor McLean.”
Many are upset about an open letter Sánchez, the only person of color on the Boise City Council, posted to Facebook talking about Michael Wallace, suspected of firing a gun at a Black Lives Matter protest at the Idaho Statehouse.
In it, she writes to Wallace’s parents that he “won the race lottery” because he was able to be arrested and taken into custody after the incident. She signed it, “Love, Lisa Sanchez, Brown woman who chose not to have children for fear of their abuse and murder by white people.”
Organizers of the recall effort say that was racist.
“Let’s take any of the statements she’s made about white people and throw the word Black in there — how far do you think that’s going to get?” Alexander said by phone.
Sánchez told the Statesman that she stands by her post, which she said led to hateful comments and even death threats from people who disagreed with her.
LEGAL PROCESS TO RECALL OFFICIALS
The process to begin a legal recall effort begins with an initial petition signed by 20 registered Boise voters that must be approved by the City Clerk’s Office. Alexander said the initial petition would be submitted this week, likely on Tuesday.
Once that is done, according to state code, the clerk’s office informs organizers that they have 75 days to collect the necessary number of signatures to call a recall election.
They’ll need signatures from “20% of the number of electors registered to vote at the last general city election held in the city for the election of officers,” which according to the Ada County Clerk’s office, would mean 26,108 signatures based on the 130,539 people registered to vote in the city of Boise during last November’s election.
If that is successful and an election is called, not only must it pass by a majority, but that majority “must equal or exceed the votes cast at the last general election for that officer.” For McLean, that would mean a majority of at least 23,669 people would have to vote to remove her. For Sánchez, who was elected in 2017 in an election with a much smaller turnout, that would mean a majority of at least 9,244 people.
Sánchez, who is up for re-election in 2021, said that she intends to run for her seat next fall. Asked if she thought recall efforts would be successful, she said she was not sure.
“Well, I didn’t know that my campaign would be successful,” she said. “I am open to whatever the people decide, but I hope they recognize that I’m trying very hard to live up to what the judge (Sergio Gutierrez, Idaho’s first Latino judge and the one who administered Sánchez’s oath of office) said about me, and that is that I’d be courageous and that I act with integrity.”