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McLean launches Green New Deal for Boise

McLean launches Green New Deal for Boise

Fred Birnbaum
July 21, 2020

Last week, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean announced the formation of a Climate Action Division, because, as the first-term mayor explained, “the risk to all Boiseans of climate inaction is substantial.” 

The mayor’s goals are lofty: She wants Boise’s city government buildings to rely solely on power generated by solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams. That shift, the mayor believes, will reduce drought frequency and the poor air quality resulting from large forest fires. 

Never mind thinning and logging or our national forests, the mayor mistakenly believes, we just need a shopping list of Boise’s own Green New Deal programs.

What’s really going on here? I doubt anyone believes a city whose energy usage is already 50% natural gas is going to save Idaho’s portion of the planet with this initiative. Rather, McLean’s initiative serves as a form of progressive politics — “virtue signaling” — to the various left-wing constituencies that support the mayor.

This is more than another ill-fated government scheme, though. It is wrong for several reasons, including the fact it will saddle property taxpayers with a bigger bill. 

The city of Boise website announced the formation of the Climate Action Division with a link to a lengthy page of costly initiatives. 

 Although the announcement solemnly notes the new climate division will be formed  with existing city staff, the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget document lays out a plethora of new spending that would warm the cockles of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s heart. For example, McLean proposes spending $800,000 in 2021 alone. Her budget includes $120,000 for the salary and benefits of a new position, an Energy Program Manager. This new government official will presumably push for other ongoing initiatives to make Boise the poster child for Idaho’s Green New Deal. McLean’s budget also includes a line item to develop an environmental justice and health equity baseline report. This will “evaluate the geographic distribution of environmental and health benefits and harms.” 

Not surprisingly, there is another line item for carbon-neutral city operations, “to achieve the carbon neutral city operations goal by 2030.” The total cost to achieve this goal, including solar programs,  zero-emissions buildings, and expanded geothermal energy, is not revealed. All of these climate initiatives are particularly disturbing because 68% of Boise’s general fund revenue comes from property taxes. So Boise’s Green New Deal will be largely paid for by your property taxes. This is especially egregious given that many Boiseans already struggle to cover their property tax bills, due in part to severe financial losses from shutdowns ordered by McLean herself.

The mayor boasted that to fund her proposed 2021 budget, she will only  increase the city’s property tax collection to account for new construction in Boise, or 1.6%. However, this Green New Deal has nothing to do with covering city costs brought on by new construction or Boise’s growth. Rather, McLean’s spending is a clear signal she wants to take Boise in a leftist direction. McLean wants to grow government power in a way that will elevate Boise’s profile as progressive outpost in Idaho.

A place in the sun for her, perhaps, but a lump of coal for the average Boisean, who simply expects city government to provide services like public safety, parks, and roads — not a field of green dreams.

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