Thursday’s speech might have been Mayor Dave Bieter’s most polished State of the City address yet.
It was Bieter’s 12th since taking office in 2004. He delivered a clean almost 40-minute presentation with cadence and audience involvement.
Unlike recent years, when the event was held in the convention venue Boise Centre, this year’s address took place in Downtown Boise’s Egyptian Theatre.
The smaller floor space and amphitheater layout were an effective setting for Bieter’s signature annual speaking event. A pair of slick, well-produced videos on a bicycle police officer and the Energize Our Neighborhoods program added to the effect.
The last couple years, Bieter has used his State of the City address to announce big initiatives, such as a bond measure in 2013. That bond later became two separate bond measures, both of which failed narrowly.
This year, Bieter didn’t break any big news, though he did announce — to a round of applause — that top military officials have, in the last several months, told him and other Boise leaders that “they no longer intend to move the 124th Fighter Wing from Gowen Field (in Boise) to Mountain Home.”
Local military, government and economic officials had feared that move would happen as the U.S. Air Force phases out A-10 warplanes, including the ones stationed at Gowen. They worried the elimination of Gowen’s air mission would create an economic drag in the Treasure Valley and a recruiting and retention challenge for the Idaho Air National Guard, which operates the 124th.
While promises from military brass are good news, Bieter said, local, state and congressional representatives need to be vigilant to make sure the federal government follows through and gives Gowen a permanent military air mission.
Successes: Much of Bieter’s speech was taken up with mentions of private and government achievements, such as national recognition for the Boise Airport and Boise Fire Department, as well as last year’s overwhelming passage of a bond that will pay for upgrades for the fire department and free up city money for things like parks and a new library branch. He also hailed the spurt of real estate projects recently built or under construction including Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, Simplot World Headquarters and City Center Plaza.
Challenges: He’s done it before, so it was not surprising to hear Bieter take the Idaho Legislature — or, as he put it, the “stingy Legislature” — to task.
Before becoming mayor, Bieter served as one the Legislature’s outnumbered Democrats. On Thursday, he bemoaned the fact that Idaho’s mostly Republican lawmakers, who chafe at federal meddling, recently intervened in what he considers local affairs.
Specifically, he brought up a law that bans local governments from regulating ride-hailing services such as Uber, and another one that prohibits cities from using eminent domain as a tool to build bike paths and other recreation trails such as the Boise River Greenbelt, which runs through the Treasure Valley.
“We may never see another greenbelt in the state of Idaho because of what they did this year,” Bieter said. “This is a very slippery slope. What might be next?”
Football, of course: Anyone who’s seen many Bieter speeches expects to a sports analogy to surface sooner or later. This year, Bieter used a quote from football coaching great “Saint” Vince Lombardi about being relentless in the pursuit of perfection to set up his closing.
He said the city needs to be relentless about improving in the areas such as crime prevention, homelessness and economic development.
“I’m relentless,” he said. “I’m not tall. I’m not thin. Relentless is how we have to be.”