Facing competition in November for what would be his fifth term as mayor, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s annual State of the City message offered some new initiatives but primarily a reminder of the programs he had already provided.
The speech — presented Sept. 18 at the Egyptian Theatre — was thinner on plans than last year’s, which proposed affordable housing and a citizen’s initiative for local option taxing authority.
A number of the proposals from last year have faced criticism, such as pushback against what was seen as a too-expensive replacement for the main library.
Bieter’s 2019 speech followed the themes of safety, activity, creativity and kindness and a number of them were followups to earlier successes.
The second segment, activity, primarily had to do with outdoor pursuits. Bieter touched upon the second phase of the Whitewater Park, the expansion of the zoo and a new dog park, as well as the city’s 15 existing parks.
The third segment, creativity, covered a wide variety of components, ranging from transportation to the environment. Several environmental proposals were mentioned, such as changing the name of the Boise Watershed to the Boise Climate and Water Science Center and creating a program called Boise Climate Now, though it wasn’t clear what the program would include.
Similarly, Bieter discussed a program to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, which currently comprise 81% of vehicle trips, by 10% by 2029, as well as continuing to critique the Idaho Legislature for not giving most Idaho cities local option taxing authority, which could fund public transit.
That segment also included the few references to business in the speech, including mentioning Blue Valley, an industrial complex near the airport; the Gateway East urban renewal district that recently drew Verde Fulfillment; Ravenswood Solutions; and StageDotO, a capital management company that is bringing $50 million in investment to Boise.
Following up on an April Boise City Council vote to move the city’s electricity to 100% renewable sources by 2035, Bieter said the city would be purchasing five electric garbage trucks, as well as eight more electric buses. He also plans to meet with businesses later this month to develop plans to reduce plastic waste, much like a similar program for consumers earlier this year.
The homeless – particularly homeless families – attracted particular attention. Boise has 166 homeless families, and it would take $6,000 per family to house them, Bieter said, though he didn’t provide the source for the figures. But those were achievable figures, he insisted. Other programs for the homeless that drew mention included Valor Pointe, a project for homeless veterans, and Our Path Home, a project intended for the chronically homeless.
Bieter also discussed one of the programs from last year’s speech, a housing land trust of $20 million to preserve and protect housing affordability that hasn’t made much progress since then. While not committing to a specific amount this year, Bieter said he planned to meet with a number of the city’s banks, which he didn’t name, to come up with a plan to fund the program.
The fourth aspect, kindness, was originally brought up during last year’s State of the City speech. In the past year, Bieter created a number of programs to promote the city’s reputation for kindness. Those programs have had an effect, he said, noting that people ranging from singer Garth Brooks to new Boise State President Marlene Tromp have alluded to it.
Bieter also didn’t directly address his mayoral campaign, nor that of opponent Lauren McLean, who serves as Boise City Council president. He did say, when people ask him why he wants to continue, that being mayor is the “greatest job in the world.”