Providing examples of how Boiseans’ values shape the city’s character, Mayor Bieter told the audience that each of them, through their everyday actions, are “a part of Boise’s story.” The mayor’s address, hosted by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, was delivered to a standing-room-only crowd at downtown Boise’s Egyptian Theatre.
“It’s a story that’s been told for over 150 years but is still being written,” Bieter said. “And what makes this story so powerful is that it gets better and stronger the more we tell it. It gets deeper and more meaningful with each new person we let be a part of it. It’s a story about all of us — it’s our shared story.”
Bieter focused on five key characteristics of the Boise community to illustrate his theme: Boise’s effort to be a welcoming city; its embrace of the importance of education; its development of local business; its love of the outdoors; and its fostering of a strong cultural identity.
Mayor Bieter also presented the Key to the City, the highest honor the city can bestow upon a resident, to Charlie Linville, who this May became the first combat amputee to reach the top of Mt. Everest. Highlighting Linville’s service as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, his recovery after being severely wounded, and his determination to climb to “literally the top of the world,” Bieter called Linville “a person who perfectly exemplifies what it means to be a Boisean.”
In talking about the community’s standing as a “welcoming city,” Mayor Bieter highlighted Boise decades-long role as a host city to war refugees from around the world saying “many of the most loyal and authentic Boiseans weren’t born here or even in the U.S.” Mayor Bieter also underlined Boise residents’ embrace of refugees by showing this video to the audience.
Bieter also discussed the importance of being welcoming to the least fortunate among us, including those experiencing homelessness. Bieter praised Saint Alphonsus Health System, St. Luke’s Health System and Ada County for joining the community’s Housing First initiative to create permanent supportive housing for the community’s chronically homeless.
On education, Bieter praised the on-going and successful partnership between the City of Boise and the Boise School District to offer pre-kindergarten classes to 60 students at Hawthorne and Whitney elementary schools. Pointing out that the Idaho Reading Indicator shows participating students have stronger skills than peers not in the program, Bieter said “every child in Boise deserves that same chance.”
Mayor Bieter also praised the success of the College of Western Idaho and its effort this coming fall for voter approval of a bond that will allow it to build a campus in downtown Boise’s West End. Saying Boise voters led the way with the highest percentage of support in the vote to create CWI nine years ago, he called on a similar turnout this November. “It’ll take all of us to get the 2/3 vote they need,” he said.
Saying “there is no better way for Boise to show its love for education than by investing in a new Main Library,” Bieter called on Boise residents to support the effort to “modernize and diversify the library, making it world-class.” Bieter pointed out that Boise’s fourth branch library will be complete this winter in Bown Crossing, making it the perfect time to turn the community’s attention to “the mothership” library.
Bieter evoked Boise’s entrepreneurial spirit by talking about past business leaders like “Joe Albertson, or Harry Morrison, or the Parkinson brothers at Micron,” who build nascent business endeavors into corporate pillars of the community. The mayor highlighted Boise-based Corson Distilling Systems, led by the brother-team of Josh and Tory Corson, as the potential modern embodiment of those past business pioneers. Bieter told the audience that after only two years, the company is one of the top four still makers on the planet, with revenue of around $6 million and 42 employees.
The mayor also pointed to the “coding corridor that is taking root along 8th Street” in downtown Boise as evidence of the vibrancy of Boise’s economic strength. Programs at the city’s main library, Trailhead and Boise State’s computer science department, now located in the new City Center Plaza, as a workforce education investment that will bring strong dividends to workers and employers in years to come.
Boise’s love of the outdoors is a key defining characteristic for the city, Bieter told the gathering. Evidence of that is clear in the overwhelming voter support of November’s measure to create an Open Space and Clean Water fund. He also pointed to the generous support of “two incredible families named Simplot and Albertson” for the creation and expansion parks in downtown’s West End. Esther Simplot Park, which will open early next year, the second phase of Boise Whitewater Park, made possible by a $3.5 million gift from the Albertson Family Foundation, and the recent opening of Rhodes Skate Park are transformative investments made possible through philanthropy, the mayor said, using this video to emphasize his point.
Citing Boise’s continued cultural investments, Mayor Bieter highlighted the James Castle House, a project to preserve the home of James Castle, the deaf, self-taught artist, whose work has been acclaimed internationally. The restored home will become home to exhibition space for Castle’s artwork and a residency program for scholars.
In concluding, Mayor Bieter said these kinds of efforts are important because of what they say about Boise’s character. He also invited the audience to celebrate their own contributions to Boise’s story by using #IAMBOISE on social media.
“Because if we don’t continue to do these things, large and small, it will slip away. Bit by bit, being from Boise would not mean the same thing,” Bieter said. “Imagine if Boise isn’t the place where people give you the wave back? Where we don’t have all these parks and outdoor activities? If only rich kids get access to learning and knowledge? If we don’t do all we can to honor and support our home grown businesses. If we aren’t welcoming? We would have lost what it means to be a Boisean.”