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Collaboration is happening in Boise

Last month, the Idaho Business Review published an opinion piece by my friend, Marc Johnson, about the Greater Boise Auditorium District. With the upcoming election for seats on the district board, and with a renewed focus on the potential use of the district’s cash reserves and ongoing resources, it’s a good time to be talking about the agency and its partners.

Marc bemoaned the lack of tools at hand for the city of Boise to use as it grapples with issues unique to our state’s capitol city: no funding for local transit, or requiring voter approval for bonding to build infrastructure such as a library or police station. He suggested that the various government entities responsible for building that infrastructure – the city, the Capitol City Development Corporation and the Greater Boise Auditorium District – should work more collaboratively to solve the problems we face.

I agree. In fact, that very process got under way several months ago, and I am honored to be part of it. Like Marc, I am a consultant. He has worked in the past for the city of Boise and the Greater Boise Auditorium District. I currently work with both entities as a facilitator in the very conversation Marc suggests. His advice was that the three agencies “get together, agree on priorities, find a way to maximize meager resources … and build some things to create an even better city.”

That’s exactly the process under way between those three agencies. Thanks to funding from the district, representatives from the agencies’ three boards have been meeting in an ongoing discussion about a vision for a greater Boise. All options are on the table, with the goal being an eventual pooling of shared resources and capabilities to build the next great project – or projects – for this Valley.

Some people have very specific views of what those projects should be. Some have advocated for expanding the existing convention center. Others would like to see a new one. Still others believe we should create a world-class performing arts center in the heart of downtown. And others share Marc’s passion for a downtown baseball stadium.

Those options are all on the table in the tri-agency meetings I have been honored to facilitate. None of it would be possible without outstanding leadership from each of those agencies, but only one entity is in the public hot seat at the moment. Three members of the Greater Boise Auditorium District Board are up for re-election, and they face challenges from people who are attacking the district for not collaborating in the very way I am helping facilitate.

Yes, there is a legacy of dysfunction, perhaps due to past makeups of the district board. But that changed with the addition of two new members. The board is functioning as it should, and their collaboration means that things are going remarkably well for the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

Disclosure: I have formally endorsed the three incumbents in that election. But my endorsement is reflective of what I have seen during my time assisting the district, the City of Boise and CCDC in an ongoing conversation about the future of this valley we all love. All members of that collective team, including board members and staff from the district, are dedicated to utilizing district resources in a professional way so we can create the most benefit for the citizens of this community.

I agree with Marc that all of our public entities should collaborate and work together for the common good. When it doesn’t happen, we should hold accountable the elected officials who shun collaboration. But when it does happen, we should celebrate. And, as is happening now, when those groups collaborate in a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of way, outside the glare of the media spotlight, we should be proud to see our own values so well represented.

Congratulations to the City of Boise, the Capitol City Development Corporation and the Greater Boise Auditorium District for engaging in a productive, ongoing, collaborative process. Thanks for allowing me to play a part.

Kevin Learned is an active angel investor in valley businesses and occasionally consults with local organizations.

About Kevin Learned