In his annual State of the City address Wednesday, Boise Mayor David Bieter called on his city’s residents to trust him, the City Council and staff as they weigh big, controversial decisions.
The council and staff often face hard, complex choices. They debate and stress over them for long periods of time. In the end, Bieter argued, they usually make the right call.
“Haven’t we earned just a little bit of the benefit of the doubt?” Bieter asked the crowd at Downtown’s Egyptian Theater.
Past controversies include proposals to build homes next to a beloved outdoor amphitheater and a request to close a stretch of road in the northeast corner of Downtown Boise so that St. Luke’s can expand its hospital there.
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Looming decisions facing the Council and city government are no less daunting. They include a decision on redoing the Boise Library’s main branch and a proposed stadium for minor-league baseball, professional soccer and other activities at the corner of Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive, just north of the Boise River and Ann Morrison Park. The stadium in particular already faces criticism of its feasibility and the way officials have approached the project; neighbors appear to be reserving judgment until they get more details.
Applications have yet to be filed for either project, but Bieter, the longest-serving mayor in Boise history, has for years advocated action on both items. In January 2016, after becoming the first mayor to be elected to four four-year terms, Bieter also called on the city to build a new main library branch, fix homelessness and transform public transportation.
Another controversial decision for Boise is not the city’s to make. The U.S. Air Force has made Gowen Field, an Idaho Air National Guard base that shares the Boise Airport’s two runways, a finalist for a wing of F-35s, the military’s cutting-edge warplane. The F-35s would replace the squadron of A-10s based at Gowen now. As he has done repeatedly, Bieter said Wednesday that, whether it’s the F-35 or some other plane, he wants Gowen to have a long-term air mission.
Bieter pointed out that the city and several public and private partners have taken a big step toward addressing homelessness by starting construction on a building that will house dozens of chronically homeless people.
The mayor has consistently stated his desire for a rail-based public transportation system in Downtown Boise that would someday sprout into a broader, Treasure Valley-wide system. He didn’t bring that item up Wednesday, but he did talk about a broad concept for a new central library branch that would include a small theater. Both would be heavy lifts politically, as funding them will be a challenge.
“Let’s debate big things. Let’s have thoughtful, civil debate,” Bieter said Wednesday. “But just as important as the debate is the way we frame it. Let’s not have a bias toward inaction. Let’s have a bias toward action. Let’s say, ‘We’re going to do these big things unless we can’t, unless there’s an overriding reason we shouldn’t.”