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The Mayor's (Yawn) Race

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The race for Boise mayor may no longer be the nice-guy campaign it started out as, but even political sparring between the two contenders is pretty non-contentious.

Mayor Dave Bieter and Council Member Jim Tibbs squared off on Monday during a City Club-sponsored forum. While candidates covered topics ranging from transit to economic development, little new information was offered to voters.

Bieter opened the event with a summary of his high points during his last four years in office, including mentions of expanded parks and stances taken against a proposed gold mine in Atlanta and large-scale developments. He included a reference to the creation of a city ethics committee, a pointed remark considering Tibbs' attempt to charge Bieter with ethics violations early in the campaign. (The ethics committee found no support for the charges.)

Tibbs instead put the focus on his background as a Boise police officer, including a stint as the interim chief of police. Tibbs stated his frustration at what he sees as a lack of progress in Boise and pointed to the recent increase in homicides and graffiti in the city.

For his part, Bieter argued that recent statistics actually show a decrease in the amount of violent crimes in Boise.

Tibbs also revived his argument that Bieter's sometimes confrontational style has damaged the city's relationship with other valley entities. But when asked by an audience member to name three relationships with individuals in government that would benefit the city, Tibbs answered Ada County, Canyon County and the state.

Audience members asked a range of questions, from the city's relationship with Boise State, to what it could do about property taxes. Both candidates were asked if a rail system is a valid idea for the valley. While Tibbs said it is something the city should begin preparing for now for eventual development in the future, Bieter said it is a need now, saying the valley can't afford to wait 20 years for a viable transit system.

The candidates also differed on the point of what to do with budget surpluses. Tibbs said a set percentage of the annual surplus should be rolled over to cut the property tax burden in the following year. Bieter countered, saying that a rollover would only offer a "pittance" of savings for the taxpayer, and that money would be better spent on needed capital improvements.

For those who would like to hear the candidates in their own words, the debate will be aired at 8 p.m. on Saturday on KBSX 91.5-FM, and again at 2 and 7 p.m. on Sunday on KBSU 90.3-FM. It can also be downloaded from the City Club Web site at CityClubOfBoise.org.