Opinion » Bill Cope

Mayor, Mayor

On the stump: who's the fairest ... who's the lump?


My editor (damn his hide) has been hinting (strongly) he would like to see me do an opinion on the contract dispute Boise police are having with Mayor Bieter and the City Council. And that's not the worst of it. He's also suggested I should be the one to do any endorsing in the approaching mayoral election. His reasoning (I think) is that since I'm the one who gets to flaunt opinions shamelessly on these pages (and since I'm only a contributing writer, anyway) it would be safer if I make the call between Dave Bieter and Jim Tibbs than have BW, as an institution, risk alienating the man (whichever man it may be) who will administer the very town after which this paper is named.

I understand why he would rather it be me who comments on the contentious contract dispute. He's young, he has a bright future ahead of him, and he lives (and drives) in Boise. Why subject yourself to random cavity probes from members of a disgruntled BPD if it can be avoided simply by handing it over to the free-lance guy from Meridian?

Furthermore, I sympathize with his reluctance to make the endorsement. It would be, at the least, uncomfortable to spend the next four (or more) years with the mayor of Boise acutely aware that Boise Weekly had called His Municipal Highness a "steaming pile of doody" prior to the election, if it comes to that. And if it does, better to be in the position to say, "Hey, mayor. Don't blame us. It was that Cope character what said it!"

But he is relatively new to the area, my editor. Like so many others who have come recently to calling Boise home, he may not understand that all you have to do is go back 20 ... 30 years, and everybody knows everybody. The Newbies might not appreciate this, but no matter our politics ... no matter our religion ... no matter our roots ... we had a pretty compact little community here, once. My little bro might have played high school ball with your big bro. My sis might have roomed with your sis down at BJC. I'm a Democrat Catholic, you're Republican Mormon, but your cousins on your mother's side are my cousins on my dad's side. It wasn't six degrees of separation back then. It was usually one. Two, at the outside.

And that's the problem with me trying to recommend one over the other in the matter of Tibbs vs. Bieter. Even as a son of Meridian, I have one degree of separation from both of them. I've known the father of one and the wife of the other, both through music. I spent 10 years playing tunes (once a month, thanks to the beneficence of that generous restaurateur, Pug Ostling) with Dave Bieter's sweet dad, Pat. I also played tunes on numerous occasions with the gracious Sally Tibbs. I spent the evening of December 31, 1999, with her, in fact—her, five other musicians and about 80 members of one of Boise's stodgier country clubs. Yes, I Auld Lang Syned in the New Millennium with Jim Tibbs' wife.

In short, were I to encourage you to vote for either one of these men, I would be poking some unhealable holes in the opposite direction. Were either one of them irredeemable jerks (like so many of Idaho's political luminaries tend to be), I wouldn't mind. But from all outward appearances, neither of them is an irredeemable jerk. Both have served their community admirably. Neither, to my knowledge, is a steaming pile of doody.

Another complication we must consider with this mayor's race is the matter of party politics. It hasn't always been this way. One of the more dubious legacies left behind by the creeping Brent Coles was a contrived attention to partisanship. Anyone who's been here awhile (longer than my editor) might remember Coles first ran against the daughter of the most popular governor (judging by the number of terms served) in Idaho history, Cecil Andrus. Cece was (is) a Democrat and Coles made sure everyone in ponderously Republican Boise knew that it was likely Tracy Andrus was a Democrat, too—thereby injecting party politics where party politics have no legitimate business. After all, what could there be about a pothole, a city park or some sane urban planning that needs the specific attention of either a Democrat or a Republican?

But, of course, the Idaho GOP machine put its muscle behind Coles. They had discovered some time ago that the best way to prevent another popular Democrat like Cecil Andrus or Frank Church from rising to larger prominence was to smash 'em before they ever got started. After all, it wasn't inconceivable, was it, that a Boise mayor could go on to be a U.S. senator? A governor? You know ... I mean ... well, as long as he didn't get caught stealing crap along the way, that is. (Makes you wonder, doesn't it, if Tracy Andrus would have ever got caught on a security camera humping illicit booty back into the city building? Alas, we'll never know.)

So, be not mistaken, this is the air Tibbs and Bieter must breathe. Four years ago, Republican power brokers were shocked that a Democrat (Bieter) could have whupped so decisively his competition in the state's biggest burg. Successful Democrats make them nervous and mean (witness the humiliation the Kempthorne goonocracy tried to heap on Education Superintendent Marilyn Howard, the last Democrat to hold a state office), and they have been setting the stage for a Bieter thumpin' since. And who better to administer that comeuppance than the amiable ex-BPD spokesman that Bieter didn't install as the permanent chief?

Today is not the day to endorse a candidate. Today, I'm just setting my own stage, so that the Newbies might grasp a bit of the atmosphere in which both this race is being run and those police contract negotiations are being conducted. Between now and November, I hope to further explore why Republicans would be so obsessed with unseating the one and only public official who has tried to downshift this valley's runaway growth, and by Election Day, I will make my call (and inevitably, some unhealable holes).

In the meantime, ask yourself why temp-guv Jim Risch rushed through a drug czar title for Tibbs last year (and what does the term "resume padding" mean to you?). Ask yourself why the police union has suddenly (just this summer) turned so shrill, rolling out the opera-bouffe theatrics of under-appreciated heroes. And ask yourself why a former aide to Larry Craig and longtime, behind-the-curtains figure in Republican manipulation (Mike Tracy) would suddenly have such a hankering to go to bat for a union.