“We need to call out those values that make us Boiseans,” Mayor Bieter said. “Like saying hello to people you don’t know. Like letting people into traffic and giving and getting that wave. Like knowing and looking out for your neighbor.”
Citing the retreat of federal and state government from some of society’s most challenging issues, Mayor Bieter said “local efforts must fill the breach.” He outlined a series of significant policy proposals to “help us chart our city’s future on three critical issues: transportation, housing and the environment” and he highlighted the “big things” the city is working on, including a new Main Library Campus, the Boise Sports Park and the Boise Gateway Industrial Park in south Boise.
Mayor Bieter told the gathering that Boise’s success and the completion of dozens of major projects since 2004 – including parks, libraries, community centers, and fire stations – have brought Boise to “an inflection point” that allows its residents to look to the future in ways not known before.
“It means we must be a city of imagination -- a city with the creativity to envision what we want to be and then become it,” Mayor Bieter said. “A city that brings private and public innovation together to identify and solve our most difficult issues. A city of imagination that can provide equality of opportunity so that everyone has an equal shot at success.”
The mayor’s address was delivered to a gathering of approximately 1,000 at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts – one of the City of Boise’s two Cultural Ambassadors. The address included performances from singer Eilen Jewell, a Boise native, the Boise-based contemporary dance troupe LED, and Afrosonics, a group that emerged from the city’s other Cultural Ambassador, Global Lounge. The speech was live-streamed on the City of Boise’s website and can be viewed in its entirety here.
Mayor Bieter proposed a series of significant policy initiatives in his speech.
Housing, the mayor said, has been a topic of particular interest to residents in recent months, including during the city’s series of community conversations on growth, in which “affordable housing came to the forefront.”
As a result, the mayor proposed a robust slate of five policy proposals to impact housing affordability:
- Creation of a $20 million Housing Land Trust “to preserve and protect housing affordability” through a combination of philanthropy and city funding
- Expand the City of Boise’s successful downtown housing incentive program to the entire city to help create housing affordable to those making less than 80 percent of the city’s median household income
- Continue to leverage both public and private property to create and attract new housing investments
- Maximize land-use rules and zoning to better incentivize the construction of housing citywide
- Collaborate with other public partners, particularly the Capital City Development Corporation, to find new resources and tools for housing creation
He also highlighted the city’s efforts to combat chronic homelessness through the construction of Idaho’s first Housing First effort called New Path Community Housing, efforts to build a similar project for veterans, and its work to create a broader range of affordable housing through projects like Adare Manor in downtown’s West End.
“If we are to be a community with equality of opportunity, then what is more fundamental to opportunity than a place to live that you can afford?” Mayor Bieter said.
In transportation, the mayor pointed out that more than 80 percent of all commuter trips are made by single-occupant automobiles and that changing that ratio is a must as Boise grows. He called for a public discussion to explore residents’ perspectives on creating alternative modes of transportation within the next year.
“But to create real transit choices we need funding,” he said. To secure that funding, the mayor pledged to work toward a ballot initiative for the 2020 election to approve local option taxing authority for Idaho municipalities, giving residents of Idaho cities the authority to tax themselves for local initiatives.
Mayor Bieter also proposed two bold new environmental policies during his address.
The first is a freeze on new development in the Boise Foothills beyond the estimated 400 lots currently allowed under existing zoning.
“And when we imagine Boise decades from now, don't we always view the foothills as they are? You have shown by your votes in 2001 and 2015 that our foothills are priceless,” he said.
The second environmental policy, which Mayor Bieter also couched in economic terms, was a pledge that City of Boise facilities and operations will be entirely powered by renewable energy by 2030.
“A growing number of businesses want renewable energy,” he said. “Consumers demand it and costs are coming down. To separate ourselves and attract the types of businesses we want, we need clean energy.”
It’s a first step, he said, to creating a set of renewable energy goals for the entire city. “It’s not a slogan. It’s our commitment to set the stage for what’s next.”
As he concluded his address, Mayor Bieter returned to the “kindness and wonder” theme he began the speech with by highlighting the community’s response to the June’s mass stabbing at the Wylie Street Station apartments and the vigil held for the victims at Boise City Hall two days later.
“As awful as that was, I've never been prouder of our city than in witnessing the outpouring of assistance and love for those affected,” Mayor Bieter said. “It overwhelmed me to see thousands of people come to City Hall Plaza and overflow Capital Boulevard. It was proof to me that Boise’s fundamental decency is as strong as ever.”
Mayor Bieter concluded by quoting the late Fred Rogers: “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
Mayor Bieter asked Boiseans “to be those heroes.”
“And if you do, Boise will be a place of kindness and wonder, truly the most livable city in the country.”
About the City of Boise: Our vision is to make Boise the most livable city in the country by fostering vibrant communities, innovative enterprises and lasting environments on behalf of our nearly 225,000 residents. Visit cityofboise.org to learn more.
About Mayor David H. Bieter: David H. Bieter was elected the 54th mayor of Boise in 2003, fulfilling a dream he's had since he was a boy growing up in the city's North End. Now serving his fourth four-year term, Mayor Bieter is Boise’s longest serving mayor in the city’s 150-year history.