What a difference a year makes. Mayor Dave Bieter's 2013 State of the City speech was, at times, contentious and combative - even calling out some of the people and institutions he perceived were in the way of a better Boise.
This year it was a different story. A contented Bieter positioned himself as the new Imaginator in Chief.
A contemplative Bieter chose to accent the positive and exhort 1,100 people in attendance at Boise Centre to imagine a prosperous, livable Boise - and it will come to pass.
A year ago few imagined solutions to two thorny obstacles: location of the multimodal transportation hub and expansion of the convention center. Those matters followed a completed (and now nearly fully leased) Zions Bank complex at 8th and Main streets.
Bieter didn't make these happen, but he knew enough to facilitate and cheerlead when private visionaries such as Gardner Co.'s Tommy Ahlquist and the Greater Boise Auditorium District started sprinkling development dust all over town.
Political and business leaders liked the tone and economic development tenor of the Imaginator's speech Friday.
We did, too, because Boise needs to become an entrepreneurial hub and a magnet for a new generation of legacy companies. We're not talking about 10 corporations that employ 1,000 people, we're talking about 1,000 startups and small businesses that employ 10 people each. There is a role for the city here to foster business incubation centers, and certainly to make Boise even more livable than it already is.
We don't know what, exactly, is going to become of Bieter's vision for a Downtown that is more of a level playing field for pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transportation. In order for any future bike lane initiatives to be better received, we would recommend Bieter add some "Downtown motorists" to his recently commissioned Bicycle Advisory Committee. The people who raised objections to the bike lane experiment might add some perspective.
Regarding the Bieter Bond Sequel - the announcement of a $17 million bond to fund fire station/firefighting improvements - we're not sure whether merely calling it a "no-tax" bond is enough to capture the necessary two-thirds voter approval that narrowly eluded two other bond measures last year.
Yes, the $1-per-month tax increase idea is gone, but the city needs to detail specifics about these "improvements." What's more, officials had better pay close attention to people still smarting from record increases in their property taxes. The new bond idea is still a 20-year commitment, and what are the odds that tax revenue will be positive and constant for the next two decades?
We, like Bieter, want to see the best in public safety for our city - especially if it involves some of the features of the last bond: more training, better response times and more strategic placement of vital firefighting equipment. We recognize it's early, but voters will want to know what they are funding.
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