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Sen. Maryanne Jordan

'I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do'


Though she's a City Hall veteran, Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan still considers herself on the bottom rung at the Idaho Statehouse.

"You don't get any lower than me; I'm the newest Democrat in the Legislature," she said.

Appointed to the Boise City Council in March 2003, Jordan was elected and re-elected later that same year, and again in 2005, 2009 and 2013. She was appointed to fill Boise's Legislative District 17 in March 2015, when then-Sen. Elliot Werk resigned to join the Idaho Tax Commission.

This time of year brings some long days and nights, as Jordan divides her time between the Statehouse and City Hall.

"But everybody at the Statehouse is half-tired, half-wired," she said. "The three months of January to March are crazy and intense but manageable."

Jordan will serve out her current term on the City Council, ending in December 2017. How she'll balance her duties in the meantime was one of the many topics she discussed with Boise Weekly in a rare moment when she wasn't shuttling between the two governmental entities.

Let's go back to 2003. I don't think a lot of new Boiseans can appreciate the size of the crisis that defined Boise City Hall back then [as Mayor Brent Coles resigned from office days before Jordan's appointment. He was indicted two months later on charges of fraud and misuse of public funds].

I was sworn in on a Tuesday and we received a forensic audit on the investigation that Friday. What became abundantly clear was that there needed to be an end-game. It was consuming everything. It was an interesting way to come into public office. But our only mandate was: Do the right thing. I know it sounds odd, but it was rather liberating. You have to convincingly say, at all times: "I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do."

Do you ever see Brent Coles?

Once. We had a 10-year anniversary celebration for the Foothills Levy. We invited him, because it would have been unfair to ignore his legacy. To his credit, he came. He thanked us for the invitation. We didn't talk for a long time.

Let's talk about adding the words. You and Councilwoman Lauren McLean are chiefly responsible for an Add the Words ordinance in the city of Boise.

I just don't have tolerance for prejudice. If somebody thinks I'm an idiot, great. But they don't get to not deal with me because I'm a woman or some other categorization they choose.

Talk to me about why this is still stuck in neutral at the Statehouse.

It's tough for some people to consider something that includes people different from themselves. But one of two things happen with an issue: it comes up and it dies, never to be seen again; or it continues, it gestates, it churns, year after year. The best advice I ever got was from [Boise] Mayor [Dave] Bieter. He served in the Legislature and when I was appointed I asked him to give me his 2 cents. He told me, "You never know when something is going to tip." The same thing, I believe is happening with the possibility of a local option tax. It keeps coming up again and again.

Mayor Bieter has indicated that local option may be best fought on a statewide ballot in 2018.

I think he's right. So far, the efforts at the Statehouse have been pretty myopic. But five, six, seven years ago, you would have had to explain exactly what local option is. Now, people can actually engage in conversation of what local option might look like.

I think it's interesting to point out that you are choosing to serve out your term on the Boise City Council rather than stepping aside and having the mayor appoint a replacement.

When I was appointed to the Legislature, Boise voters had just returned me to the council. If I had stepped away at that time, we would have had three out of six councilmembers appointed. That said, I think the mayor has made remarkable appointments, but I don't want to give people the excuse to question council decisions based on something like that. If you're going to question the council, question on the merits.