I realize this issue drops at something of a moment for the City of Trees. By mid-year, Boise had experienced an earthquake, the Black Lives Matter movement and, last but not least, a global pandemic that did more damage to our culture, economy and politics than a tornado ever could. Someone somewhere is sitting on a winning Apocalypse Bingo card.
As long as the sun shines, however, there will always be stories to tell—and Boise Weekly will be there to tell them. There’s a new mayor (Lauren McLean), a new record store (Modern Sounds) and a new presidential contender (Kanye West, apparently). Yeet. Consider this issue a dedication to the million and one happenings that add up to this thing we call “Boise.”
Since March, COVID-19 has been the proverbial elephant in the room. It has lurked in the background of every conversation, business decision and political calculation. Its ramifications have spread far and wide. The pandemic has shuttered much of the economy, sparking protests at the Idaho State Capitol and making face masks—as I write this, a required accessory in the City of Trees—as much a safety precaution as a statement of support for public health experts. Mark my words: The disease will leave a mark that lasts for generations.
In the short run, thousands of people have died around the country, and many more face dire financial straits as businesses close and the Idaho Department of Labor struggles to keep pace with claims for unemployment benefits. Loved ones and livelihoods, beloved businesses and the carefree feeling of summer have been lost.
As if a pandemic weren’t enough, on May 25, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, kicking off protests nationwide, including in Boise. The heat on the issue has not waned; instead, it has intensified and developed a policy goal of defunding the police. Protesters pressing to replace an armed police force with a corps of specialized community responders have squared off against police supporters on the plaza of Boise City Hall.
Uplifting stories have come out of this year: With artists out of work, a consortium of arts groups gathered to create a general fund to help Boise’s art scene survive the financial downturn. A movement has begun around businesses owned or run by Black, Indigenous and people of color. Mayor McLean has promised to make her administration the most open and transparent in Boise history, releasing a bevy of reports from her advisory groups that offer a glimpse into the priorities she’ll pursue during her tenure.
Local companies have had a hard go of things, but many have taken a creative tack toward reaching their customers and keeping their doors open. Even as the economy slumps (and without minimizing the severe economic damage that has been done), many shops, restaurants and service providers have been at the forefront of a Renaissance in how they conduct business safely and profitably.
Through it all, the Boise River still flows. As I often say, Best of Boise is a chance for this paper to listen to its readers. Through this process, we learn what Boiseans think is the best, and I hope that when people pick up and read this issue, they will do so with an eye toward what is beautiful and good about this place and the people who live here.
—Harrison Berry, Editor