In a first for City Council Chronicles, this week’s podcast guest gets her own piece of artwork to hang at city hall! I talk to Boise’s Lauren McLean about how her past as a dancer prepared her for council meetings. Plus, we spend a good while reliving the crowded council meeting from 2012 about an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance with a surprise ending.
Q: I heard that you did competitive Scottish Highland dancing until you were 20 years old. What are the similarities between Scottish Highland dancing and the Boise city council meetings?
A: Oh, good question! Let’s see…you have to be super nimble, have lots of energy, a good sense of timing…
A: …and want to win.
Q: Nice. Has someone asked you that question before?! That was remarkably fast.
A: No! I just made it up right now.
Q: [Laughs] I love it! Your council has met in several places. What has been your favorite?
A: I really love our current chambers. We have this great piece of local art behind us that is an artist’s version of what Boise is to her. I love looking at the piece, turning around and looking at it occasionally when we’re in longer hearing nights. At one point, it disappeared for about a week. That’s when I realized how much our council members really liked the piece because we got it back right away.
Q: If I were to draw something inspired by this interview, would you hang that up?
A: Um, I might hang it up in my cubby at city hall. I’m so excited to see what I’m going to have up in my cubby/cubicle!
Q: On November 13, 2012 you were over at the state capitol. You had hundreds of people there to speak on a non-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation. For the first hour-and-a-half, this massive room, plus overflow, had to sit through a mundane set of hearings about planning and zoning. If you could do it again, would you get to the juicy stuff right away?
A: Actually, I’m going to say [pause], I think we would make them sit through it again! It’s the only time we can get an audience that big that sees all the things we deal with.
Q: Most people outside Idaho think of it as a place with potatoes and people who don’t like gay people. Were you worried that by having a hearing on television about this topic, the image viewers would see is one anti-LGBT person after another? Or, even worse, one gay-hating potato after another?
A: I wasn’t worried at all. I know our city. The image many people outside of the state have of Idaho is very different from the reality. Really progressive, vibrant, fast-growing cities and universities.
Q: Yeah, and the mood at times was actually pretty light. The mayor didn’t allow clapping, but he did let people do “spirit fingers.” Did the spirit fingers last beyond that one meeting?
A: They did! You don’t see them in council meetings, but when the proponents of the measure came back after the ordinance was passed, [the spirit fingers] came up again. It’s something that I see often in Boise now amongst council members and others–it’s lived on.
Follow Council Member Lauren McLean on Twitter: @laurenmclean