Guest Opinions

Empathy seems missing in the decision-making of area leaders regarding Gowen Field

Inna Patrick
Inna Patrick

The economics of empathy is currently a hot topic in business.

I stumbled upon it after reading opinion pieces by Treasure Valley mayors, all in support of a new F-35 mission at Gowen Field. I had to ask then: How can the city of Boise that welcomed refugees from many dysfunctional countries not care about its own longtime residents? South Boise will be harmed economically by supersonic fighter jets taking off near an estimated 1,000 homes. What is the city’s plan for people who will not be able to sell their homes deemed “Not Suitable For Residential Use”?

None, nada, nichts. When the city leaders focus on their own city budgets, they have an incentive to forget about their people’s loss. Because thousands of people in South Boise will be disadvantaged, it will reverberate through Boise’s economy. Can an economic argument be made for empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of others. This ability is still with us today because it was essential to the survival of individuals, their communities and the human species. Empathy is a cornerstone of our democratic society, because it is required for making ethical choices. Without it, there can be no justice for all.

Our capitalist society is often portrayed as individualistic. While individually the benefit of empathy may seem small compared to self-interest, in a larger group of people the benefit accrues and becomes important to have in our leaders. This is why politicians kiss babies during an election campaign.

For business leaders, empathy is a most sought-after quality. Because competitiveness often drives the person to the position of leadership, only four in 10 organizations rate their leadership highly.

Residents of Boise must stick up for each other — because what goes around, comes around. Yesterday, it was a poorly thought out “comprehensive development” southwest of the airport.

Today, longtime residents of the Boise Bench are threatened to be forced out from their homes by the noise of military jets.

Tomorrow, an incompatible development will pop up at your doorstep. And you will say: “Boise, why me? Where is the outrage?” The ones with an interest in the new development will exaggerate the economic benefit of their ill-conceived project, and blame you for buying a house next to an airport, hospital or a road.

Another loud excuse is that developers/city/airport have a right to deliver their particular injustice to your doorstep. That makes me think, what and where are the public’s rights?

Losing public rights starts as small as denying empathy to your neighbor, and discounting the value of empathy at all. Treating each other with empathy contributes to our quality of life, which is an indication of economic development.

Idaho’s leaders should steer the Gem Sate to long-term development, instead of pursuing growth at any cost. For Idaho to grow and prosper, empathy must become an official state and city policy. Empathy is good for the economy.

Inna Patrick is a member of Citizens for a Livable Boise,