Our view: Bonds are the most pragmatic way forward

October 6, 2013 

The Boise Public Safety and Livability Bond Proposals are good for Boise, good for business and they connect important dots for the overall Blueprint Boise plan espoused by Mayor Dave Bieter and the City Council.

Of course, the $32.4 million price - actually $51.2 million over the 20 years when figuring in bond costs, principal and interest - is something to weigh before you vote on Nov. 5. But we are in favor, and here's why.

Though we caution you might be paying more than the "buck a month" for the "average" $184,000 home in the city's estimates for the two bonds - there is nothing stopping businesses from passing their costs on to consumers - a lot of what you're getting will have immediate benefits as it rolls out for use.

For instance, the $16.9 million Public Safety Bond will result in better equipped fire stations more strategically located to cover the city. Response times for medical assistance - which are the bulk of all calls - will decrease because of the locations of the four new stations: Ustick near Milwaukee, 16th Street near Front, Overland Road east of Orchard, and Sycamore near State. The new Ustick location, Fire Station No. 4, will be able to accommodate one of the city's huge ladder trucks - a first for a West/Bench location.

A $6.8 million fire training facility proposed for Chinden Boulevard and included in the public safety bond is located close to Eagle and Meridian. The city owns this property and there is an opportunity for Eagle and Meridian to become paying customers or co-funders so they can use it. When communities band together on projects like the fire training facility there is increased potential for federal participation. We'd like to see the city aggressively seek federal and municipal partners to defray expense.

Another step in the cost-reduction direction would be for the city to sell the outdated fire training facility on Shoreline, which happens to have Boise River proximity.

The $15.5 Livability Parks/Open Space Bond will finance $5.5 million in either the building of new parks or enhancements to established parks. Six Bench locations are on the drawing board. Beyond just being "wants" or niceties to bolster the city's parks reputation, these new and improved parks can be places to stimulate the kind of physical activity that will keep Boise active and among the most fit American cities. The parks and the $10 million allocated for open space - in foothill and urban settings - sends the right message to employers that Boise is a great place to live and a great place to continue or start doing business. The city has an excellent track record of locating and acquiring tracts that citizens enjoy now and which their children and grandchildren will enjoy in the future.

We are glad to see the original $40 to $50 million bond idea was pared back, broken up into two bonds and retooled after the city received feedback during open house forums. Though these sessions were sparsely attended in our opinion, we can't fault the city for that. They were well-publicized.

We wish the city had other funding mechanisms available to make these improvements and investments in the future, but we agree this is the most pragmatic way forward until - and if - the Legislature can ever warm to the idea of something like a local option tax.

We wholeheartedly support the bonds and hope they garner the two thirds vote necessary - which is no small order. We encourage everyone to get out and vote on this issue and the city elections. An initiative this big and expensive demands and deserves a mandate, but that won't happen if too many shrug off the responsibility to their neighbors.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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