Specifically, he encouraged Boiseans to embrace helping the city’s most vulnerable residents, a long-term mission for Gowen Field, the proposal for the new Boise Sports Park and plans for a new main library downtown “not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” he said, invoking a famous speech of President John F. Kennedy.
“We cannot start with a bias towards inaction,” Bieter told the gathering. “We must start with a preference for action -- that we are going to do these big things unless we can’t. Unless there is an overwhelming reason why we should not.”
Hosted by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, the mayor’s address was delivered to a standing-room-only crowd at downtown Boise’s Egyptian Theatre. The speech was live-streamed on the City of Boise’s website and can be viewed in its entirety here. It was the mayor’s 14th State of the City address.
During the address, Mayor Bieter awarded the Key to the City, the highest honor the city can bestow upon a resident, to two Boise business executives, Mark Durcan, the former CEO of Micron Technology, and Bob Miller, the CEO of Albertsons. Durcan, the mayor said, “may have been the only person able to step into such a tumultuous situation with the needed skill and grace” after the unexpected death of Steve Appleton six years ago. And Miller “brought the old Albertsons not just back to life, but back to Boise.”
“Bob Miller and Mark Durcan show what it means to run your companies at the highest levels, to be authentic, unpretentious and give to your family and community,” Bieter said. “And it is with their example that I want to challenge you and all of us to do more for our community.”
Originally scheduled for Aug. 31, the State of the City address was postponed upon the death of former Gov. Cecil Andrus in late August. Mayor Bieter remembered Andrus as “a statesman whose broad appeal bridged partisan divides.”
“In these uncertain and contentious times, statesmen like Governor Andrus are sorely missed,” Bieter said. Calling the current national narrative “increasingly xenophobic and isolationist,” the mayor told the group that the challenging times are an opportunity for Boiseans “to answer fundamental questions about ourselves. Our lives are defined by the choices we make and so too is our city.”
In particular, Boise must remain committed to its “long history of being a welcoming city – a city where those seeking refuge and equality find neighbors who embrace them,” the mayor said.
Highpoints from the past year discussed by the mayor included the opening of Rhodes Skate Park and hosting the X Games Qualifier there in June; the successful opening of Trailhead North, a doubling of space for Trailhead’s effort to support local entrepreneurs; the opening of Esther Simplot Park, “which instantly became a huge draw”; and the September groundbreaking for New Path Housing, Idaho’s first Housing First effort, which will provide housing and services for up to 40 chronically homeless individuals and families.
In addition to the Housing First project, the mayor highlighted the success of a Department of Parks and Recreation work team made up of guests from Interfaith Sanctuary through this video.
Mayor Bieter also reiterated his continued support for a new Idaho Air National Guard mission at Gowen Field, where the current squadron of A-10s are expected to be decommissioned by the U.S. Air Force in coming years.
“I believe that the city's support for a new mission for Gowen Field – whether F-35s or some other aircraft -- is the right one,” Bieter said. He pointed out that critics concerned about the potential impacts of the proposed squadron of 18-24 F-35s should remember that 48 F-4s, an aircraft with a similar noise impact to the F-35, were stationed at the air field two decades ago with little impact.
“And the benefits of getting this mission will be profound,” Bieter said. “The Air Guard accounts for around $155 million of economic activity. The F-35 will sustain at least that much activity for the next 40-50 years, but will likely bring much more.”
In discussing two new projects of potentially profound impact on the city – the proposed Boise Sports Park and a new main library – Mayor Bieter compared Boise’s current construction boom to a similar one in history. “Once or twice a century, a city has a period of explosive growth,” Mayor Bieter said. In the midst of the 1930s, New Deal programs led to the construction of Boise landmarks like the original Ada County Courthouse, North Junior High, the Boise Art Museum, the Boise Armory, the old Boise City Hall, and the original Boise State Campus. “We are in the midst of a similar period today. Over the last few years a completely different set of circumstances have coalesced to create a period of incredible activity” that has led to projects like 8th & Main building, JUMP, City Center Plaza, new hotels, the Brown Crossing Library, the LIV District, and soon, Pioneer Crossing.
“Just as the buildings of the 1930s shaped our city in the years that followed, the buildings we build today will define us as a city for years ahead,” Bieter said. “One such project is the Boise Sports Park.”
Similar to the transformation of 8th Street in Boise’s downtown core over the last 30 years, the construction of “a moderately-sized multi-use sports park that is affordable and flexible” will activate the neighborhood around the proposed site at the intersection of Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive.
“If council approves the deal, the developer will bear most of the risk,” Mayor Bieter said, while pointing out that a recent public outreach effort netted more than 900 responses with 76 percent of commenters supporting the project. “For a minimal investment of public money, the city will own it outright after 20 years and will benefit from its proceeds.”
Similarly, the city’s plans to build a new main library at the site of the current main library downtown, would impact Boiseans lives for generations.
“A library is a community’s heart and its mind, wrapped up into one. It’s our conscience,” Bieter said, illustrating his point with this video. “And if we truly believe in Boise and are proud of our city and aspire to leave it in better condition than we found it, then a library worthy of our city must be our highest priority.”
Boise has never built a main library in its 153-year history, he said, and the current building is a converted hardware supply building. The replacement should be a modern, innovative library, co-located with the city’s Department of Arts & History, as well as a 350-seat theatre. The project’s estimated cost is between $60 - $70 million. Philanthropy will account for an estimated $12 million to $18 million of the cost. To help raise the money, Mayor Bieter announced that Pulitzer Prize winning author Tony Doerr and his wife Shauna Doerr will serve as honorary chairs of the coming campaign.
In concluding his speech, Mayor Bieter said that to achieve the “big things” he outlined, Boiseans need only believe in themselves:
“We need faith. Faith in our people. Faith that this community can overcome the bitterness of these times. Faith that we can keep this a welcoming city, a vibrant city -- a city imbued with our values and worthy of our children. And acting on that faith, we will do those big things. And those big things will be great things. And we, ladies and gentlemen, will indeed be the most livable city in the country.”