When I was growing up here in the sixties and seventies, we were pretty protective of being from Boise. Of course it starts with saying “Boise” right? But it was more. For instance, there is a park at 6th and Fort Street called Memorial Park, locals call it THE GREENS. “Where you going, Dave?” “We’re going to the Greens, Mom.” “Oh, okay.” It sounded better. It was a Boise thing.
If you were from Boise back then you played SHAMBATTLE. Anyone else here play any shambattle? You might know it as dodgeball. The rules may be the same, but come on, shambattle is way cooler than dodge ball! It was Boise.
And we loved heading out for a finger steak dinner at the Torch. To be clear, the Torch offered a different type of entertainment back then, but the finger steaks were out of this world. Go anywhere else and mention finger steaks, they would have no idea what you’re talking about. But Boise was known for finger steaks. Most livable city is great, but we were the city with finger steaks!
You know what else is unique to Boise? We play our football on a blue turf. And this year we will celebrate 30 years of the Blue. Let’s give it up for Boise State!
And the only color we love as much as blue is gold. And just a few weeks ago, Boise hero Kristin Armstrong brought us home some more of it, winning her third straight Olympic Gold medal. When I think of Kristin and what she’s accomplished, it makes me so proud of her and of Boise. Let’s hear it for Kristin?
But these things get me thinking: What are the qualities that bind us together in this place? What does it mean to be from Boise, to be a Boisean?
Because Boise is changing. For the better, in my opinion, but it is changing. But if we can define these qualities, if we can call them out, I believe we can preserve the things that make this place great. And by defining them, we can add to them as we grown and recommit to making Boise even better.
As proud as we all are of Kristin Armstrong, another Boisean recently displayed some of the same incredible Boise qualities, but his story didn’t make quite as much news. His name is Charlie Linville. Charlie was born in Boise and from graduated Boise High School in 2004.
When he graduated, he wanted to serve his country, so he joined the marines. He was deployed and served honorably in Iraq. When he came home he decided to enroll in the Naval Explosive Disposal school to become one of those who defuse the bombs.
He completed his training and he was deployed to Afghanistan. After successfully disarming countless IEDs, his luck ran out in January of 2011 when an IED exploded and tore his body apart. After multiple surgeries, the doctors were forced to amputate his foot below the knee.
But that’s only the beginning of his incredible story. Even though he’d already served two tours of combat in two different war zones and suffered such debilitating injuries, he wasn’t content to merely work on his recovery.
Instead, he dedicated his life to proving that combat amputees can do anything. And that’s when he committed to becoming the first combat amputee to summit Everest.
Did I mention he’s from Boise?
It took him years of training, but on May 19 of this year, Sergeant Charlie Linville became the first combat amputee to reach the top of Mt. Everest, literally the top of the world. It is my great honor today to bestow Boise’s highest honor, the Key to the City of Boise, to a person who perfectly exemplifies what it means to be a Boisean, Sergeant Charles Linville. Give it up for Charles Linville!
Looking at Charlie, we know that loyalty, perseverance, and duty are some of the qualities that define us as Boiseans. But what else?
There are several Boise qualities I want to highlight today: We are a welcoming city; we value education; we encourage homegrown business; we love the out-doors; and we are a city of culture.
But first, one of the greatest honors of being the mayor is serving with a group as dedicated to serving the public as any I have ever come across. That’s this great city council. Please recognize them this afternoon.
Of the aspects of being a Boisean I’m maybe proudest of is that Boise is a welcoming city. And there is no better example of that than the success we’ve seen welcoming refugees to Boise. We’ve receiving national recognition for refugee resettlement. And one thing I’ve learned that many of the most loyal and authentic Boiseans weren’t born here or even in the US, but their desire to understand and be a part of this place is as enthusiastic as anyone you can find. Moreover, individuals and families are stepping up to welcome refugees and make them feel at home.
Here’s what I’m talking about. [VIDEO]
And being a welcoming city includes welcoming home the people who are already here. This last year the situation at Cooper Court was as tough as we’ve seen. But the humane and caring way our officers conducted that operation made a huge difference. I’m even happier with the work we’re doing to provide safer and healthier alternatives to those experiencing homelessness.
We recently secured commitments from St. Luke’s, St. Al’s and Ada County to join with the City and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association to build the first Housing First facility and provide permanent supportive housing to those most in need. Please recognize our partners.
The building proposals are due tomorrow and we are looking forward to beginning construction next year so we can start helping those Boiseans who need it most.
Another of the qualities that defines us as Boiseans is our respect for education. The City of Boise has invested in one of the first public pre-school programs in the state, the Boise Pre-K project. Over the last year we served 60 students at Hawthorne and Whitney elementary schools. In the program’s first-year Idaho Reading Indicator shows that pre-reading skills among the children in the Boise Pre-K project were between 22 and 30 percent higher, depending on the school, that those without. It works. And every child in Boise deserves that same chance. I want to thank the Boise School District and our other partners for joining us in this incredible program.
But other levels of education need our support also. The College of Western Idaho is launching a bond effort this November, which will include a campus in downtown Boise’s West End. It’ll take all of us to get over the ⅔ threshold, but we know it’s worth it. Community college graduates make an average of $10,000 more a year than those with just a high school diploma. These students need that kind of opportunity. It’ll take all of us to get the 2/3 vote they need. 9 years ago Boise led the way with highest percentage of the vote in the valley to create CWI. We can do it again this November.
And there is no better way for Boise to show its love for education than by investing in a new Main Library. The Bown Crossing Library will open late winter and completes our 4th neighborhood library. Now we turn to the mother ship. Work will begin this fall on a new design that will modernize and diversify the library, making it worldclass. We want to make it a community living room, where education is combined with a gathering space. And to make it a reality we will need help from you as we piece together this public private partnership. Now is the time to give all Boiseans the first class main library they deserve.
What are the qualities of Boise’s business community? Well one is a chamber that helps us put on events like this. Please recognize Bill Connors and the whole team at the Chamber. But I think people will tell you it’s that we dig in and get it done here. Whether it was Joe Albertson, or Harry Morrison, or the Parkinson brothers at Micron, we’ve been known for our entrepreneurial spirit and for growing great companies right here.
Today I have a wonderful example of that: two Boise brothers, Tory and Josh Corson. Tory worked as a successful attorney. His brother Josh probably holds the record for earning the most credits at Boise State, without a degree. But he had taken enough engineering courses that he could build anything.
A few years ago they teamed up to help a friend with a business opportunity to make distilled spirits. The Corson brothers built a beautiful still in their garage. They not only built the still, they built the things they needed to build the still. But when they were done the friend’s opportunity had vanished. Rather than just continuing with their former lives, they found there were few still makers around the world. That first still sold quickly and a new Boise business was born. After only two years, Corson Distillery is now one of the top four still makers on the planet, with revenue of around $6 million and 42 employees. Their products made right here from scratch in Boise are absolutely stunning. Please give a hand to Tory and Josh from Corson Distilling Systems. Who says that manufacturing is dead in America!
Tory and Josh embody the entrepreneurial spirit that Boise is known for. But not every entrepreneur has the same early success. That’s why we developed Trailhead, to bring entrepreneurs together and provide resources to give them their best shot at success.
One of the new programs that we’re excited to offer is the Code School at Trail-head. In just twelve weeks of training, anyone can go from a novice to a junior‐level web developer, putting themselves in a position to be hired for a career in high tech. Trailhead hosted a hackathon recently and a local company called Vynyl was so impressed with one of the student coders, it hired him on the spot. He went from working for $8/hour to $25/hour. And that’s just one piece of the coding corridor that is taking root along Eighth Street.
Go north from the Trailhead and you’ll find the Boise State Computer Science Dept. that is now located in the new City Center Plaza. Students can get degrees in computer science and work at great firms just blocks away. Many students get job offers before they even graduate. I’d like to recognize President Kustra for having the vision to make that happen.
Another defining aspect of virtually every Boisean I’ve ever met is our love for the outdoors. Our citizens proved that again when they passed the Open Space and Clean Water levy with an incredible 75% of the vote. That’s the essence of what it means to be Boiseans — we are willing to commit ourselves now so that future generations can enjoy the benefits.
But that’s not all we’re doing to improve and protect our outdoors. Thanks to the generosity of the two incredible families named Simplot and Albertson, a lot of great things are happening in the West End. After a lot of difficult work cleaning up an area that was once an industrial wasteland, Esther Simplot Park will open early next year. You won’t believe the beauty that this park will bring to that part of downtown.
Nearby is the whitewater park, which has been thriving with the first phase completed. Thanks to a generous $3.5 million gift from the Albertson Family Foundation, we are now cleared to begin phase two, which I’m sure will make it even more popular with both locals and visitors.
But fortunately for us, the Albertson’s generosity doesn’t end at the whitewater park. Just a few weeks ago we gathered with hundreds of skateboard enthusiasts to rededicate Rhodes Park, which has been completely remade thanks to a gift from the Albertsons for over a million dollars. The positive impact this project is having on another very challenging area is significant. But this video will do a better job of explaining that than I ever could. [VIDEO]
If that’s not part of what it means to be a Boisean, I don’t know what is.
And Boiseans love the arts, whether it’s Shakespeare or Treefort, and we have a love for the rich history of our city. We saw that in so many ways at the Boise 150 celebration. And this year one of the projects I am most excited about is the James Castle house. James Castle was a self‐taught artist who lived most of his life off Hill Road. He was deaf and never really learned to sign, but he used drawings to communicate. James Castle led the kind of Boise life that is too often overlooked, but in his case, his artwork has become internationally known, with exhibits at the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art and galleries in Tokyo and London.
Next year we’ll open a restored James Castle House that will include exhibition space and a residency program. Please give a hand to the Dept. of Arts & History for being the champions of this important project.
I’ve done my best today to describe that defines what it means to be a Boisean. And when you look at them in total, all of these values create something bigger, something true about our lives here. And it’s this: Boise is more than just a place, it’s a story.
It’s a story that’s been told for over 150 years but is still being written. 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. And if you remember just one thing about what I say today, remember this: you’re a part of the story of Boise. And we all have a sacred duty to play our part.
We can do that in so many ways great and small. Boise must continue to be a place where drivers let you into their lane when you need to merge, and also a place where you get a wave back as a thank‐you. You let someone in, you gotta get that wave! Boise is a place where you get that wave. These kinds of small acts of civility, of kindness, add up all across this city and are a huge part of what will make Boise the most livable city in the country.
You may have seen signs when you walked in that read “I am Boise.” It’s part of a new effort we’re starting to make sure each of us knows we’re part of the Boise story. “I am Boise.” “You are Boise.” But most importantly, “We are Boise.”
And that means all the values I mentioned today and so many other things. It means protecting the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to have fun. To me that means having the right to jump off a bridge into the in the river when you’re a 12-year-old kid. It means that if you have the means, you share your wealth with this community and those causes you care about most. And I hope one of those causes will be a new Main Library.
Because if we don’t continue these things, large and small, it will slip away. Bit by bit, being from Boise would not mean the same thing. We see that in other cities. 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.
Not so long as we are breathing. It cannot happen. It will not happen.
Instead, the story of Boise will get better. Some of you may have read a book called The Boys in the Boat. It’s the story of how a group of mostly poor American kids won the Olympic gold medal in 8-man rowing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Rowing to me is the perfect metaphor for all of us. Pull your oar. Pull our oars together. The book has a wonderful quote describing rowing as “a symphony of motion. And when you’re rowing well, it’s nearing perfection. And when you near perfection, you’re touching the Divine. It touches the you of yous. Which is your soul.”
Isn’t that it? We all pull to be a symphony of motion. That when we do so well, we can near perfection. And in that, we touch the divine. And more importantly we keep the divine, the Boise we love, for those who come next. Thank you!