Mayor Dave Bieter today called for bold new action on ending family homelessness, building on the City of Boise’s ongoing work to combat climate change and calling on the business community to reduce waste during his annual State of the City address this afternoon.
Boise’s unique and nationally-recognized success may seem to have come so naturally that Boiseans “sometimes take that progress for granted.” Instead, he said, Boise’s success is the result of generations of clear-eyed collective “civic leadership that has thought big, then rolled up our sleeves and made it happen”
Invoking the foresight that brought the city’s beloved Boise River Greenbelt into existence 50 years ago, Mayor Bieter asked Boiseans to bring similar energy to building a new unique vision for Boise’s future.
“So as the Greenbelt turns 50, isn’t it time to channel that kind of effort to new goals?” Mayor Bieter asked. “Doesn’t that mean ensuring everyone has a home? Isn’t that making tough decisions now to avert the threats to our climate? But at the base of everything, isn’t that reaching out and being kind to each other? Don’t you believe like I do that this really is a place that isn’t like any other place?
The address, co-sponsored by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, was delivered to a standing room only crowd at Boise’s Egyptian Theatre. The speech was live-streamed on the City of Boise’s website and can be viewed in its entirety here.
Fundamental to Boise’s success and celebrated livability is public safety, said Mayor Bieter as he recounted this year’s announcement that crime in Boise is down to the lowest point in decades --17 percent over the last year and 45 percent since Mayor Bieter took office.
“This dramatic decline can be linked to community-based policing and our residents taking an active role in crime prevention,” Mayor Bieter said.
He also praised outgoing Boise Chief of Police William Bones, who announced his October 24 retirement on Monday, and awarded Chief Bones with the city’s highest honor, the Key to the City, in honor of his 27-year career as an officer in the Boise Police Department.
“No one deserves more credit for our community’s safety than Chief Bill Bones,” Mayor Bieter said. “Leaving now with the lowest crime in decades is like a quarterback retiring after winning the Super Bowl. He’s going out on top.”
In his speech, the mayor called for the Boise community to work toward ending family homelessness. The announcement comes on the heels of opening New Path Community Housing and starting construction on Valor Pointe – Idaho’s first two Housing First projects for those experiencing chronic homelessness and veterans experiencing homelessness, respectively. With approximately 166 known families experiencing homelessness and a cost of about $6,000 to end a family’s homelessness, Mayor Bieter said “that number is within our reach.”
“With robust partnership, leaning on the best practices of Housing First, and asking for your help, shouldn’t we work to be the first community in America to end family homelessness?” Mayor Bieter said. “The first one where every family is either in stable housing or is working with our team to find it.”
On climate change, the mayor pointed to a number of ways Boise is leading cities across the West on what he called “an existential challenge to our future.” Last year, the mayor committed city government to using 100 percent clean electricity by 2030, only to follow up this year with citywide commitment to use 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. During his time in office, Mayor Bieter signed the mayor’s climate agreement in 2006 and recommitted in 2015, worked with partners to deploy alternative fuel trash vehicles and buses, oversaw the construction of Idaho’s first net zero building and added zero emission electric vehicles to the city’s fleet.
“But we need to do more,” Mayor Bieter said. “Boise has the opportunity to set an example. As our state and national leaders continue to falter, our citizens want meaningful action. It will require us to be even more creative. Boise will deliver.”
To that end, Mayor Bieter unveiled Boise Climate Now, a program to frame the city’s efforts on climate and engage residents and businesses in partnering to develop local solutions. He also announced a proposed expansion of the mission the Boise WaterShed as the Boise Climate and Water Science Center.
“Water and climate change are intertwined, and this new center will be a beacon of leadership, and a physical demonstration of our commitment to do what’s right by the next generation,” Mayor Bieter said. “To the best of our knowledge, this center would be the first of its kind in the country. Boise has never shrunk from its duty to lead. Our citizens expect no less.”
Following a successful individual waste reduction challenge that took place in July, the mayor announced a new challenge to get businesses involved in the fight to reduce the amount of trash our community generates. “From now through October, we’ll be asking businesses large and small to take on waste reduction,” Mayor Bieter said. “We’ll be asking citizens to tag and recognize businesses who are doing good work in our community. I encourage your company to commit to lead.” Additional details on the business waste reduction challenge will be announced in the coming days.
Mayor Bieter also unveiled that loneliness will be the focus of the next phase of Boise Kind, the community-wide aimed at protecting and promoting our community’s core values and ensuring that Boise remains a kind and welcoming city.
“Our work with Boise Kind will focus on bringing expertise to our efforts to learn how we best counter the loneliness too many people feel even with all our virtual connections,” the mayor said. “Everyone needs a circle they can turn to for help, and to also give help.”
Focusing on homelessness, climate change and waste reduction is possible, Mayor Bieter said, because the City of Boise’s investments in the fundamentals of livability during his tenure have paid off.
“We've built 15 new parks, four new neighborhood libraries, three new recreation centers, and a crisis mental health and substance abuse detox center. We partnered with the school district to offer free pre-K for one of the first times in Idaho. We preserved more than 11,000 acres of open space.”
Mayor Bieter highlighted the city’s creative work in advancing alternative transportation, outlined in its Keep Boise Moving initiative, despite the lack of state funding and lack of control over its own roads. For example, the City of Boise has committed to upping its $7 million annual contribution Valley Regional Transit by $1 million over the next two years and, Mayor Bieter announced today, a community goal of reducing single-occupancy car trips by 10 percent over the next decade.
He also listed a series of economic development wins, especially in south Boise, where the city and Capital City Development Corporation recently created the new East Gateway Urban Renewal District and the city’s Boise Gateway Industrial Park in the same area. These include the expansion of Verde Fullfillment, a Boise-based e-commerce company, and the start of construction on R & L Carriers’ new trucking transfer facility, which involved a land trade brokered by Mayor Bieter to protect the unique neighborhood in the Blue Valley manufactured home park.
During his speech, Mayor Bieter related an anecdote from a man who offered up this comment to the mayor at a recent speaking engagement at a local Rotary club:
“When I die if I’m lucky enough to have a chance at heaven and the good lord gives me a choice and says you can either go to heaven or go back to Boise. Mayor, I swear I’d go to Boise. That’s how much I love it here.”
In closing his speech, referred to the Rotarian’s comment:
“We live in challenging times. We live in divisive times nationally. There are immense pressures on us to avoid the fate of too many cities who simply lost their way. But in Boise we have always been able to come together. We are at our best when we feel a part of something greater than ourselves. And if we are successful on that path, like that man from the Rotary, there might even be some more folks who choose Boise over heaven. And if we succeed you just might not be able to tell the difference.”