BOISE — Mayor Dave Bieter promoted Boise’s successes and ongoing projects instead of launching any new initiatives in the 2019 State of the City address.
On Wednesday, Bieter spoke to a packed room at The Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise. He reflected on his administration’s work to improve the city and preserve what makes Boise special. He touched on the city’s low crime rates, burgeoning park system and encouraged the community to address family homelessness, but Bieter, who is up for reelection in November, did not announce any new city policies or goals.
“Nothing excites me more than the next project, the next idea and the next way we can make this city even better,” he said. “All of us know that what we have here is precious, but it’s also fragile. We need to make sure the best of what we have here goes on to the next generation.”
This is in stark contrast to Bieter’s 2018 address, where he pitched several new policies on sustainability and affordable housing. He spent considerable time last year on future projects, such as the now delayed $85 million library renovation, and a possible public-private partnership to build a sports park in the West End. Neither project was mentioned Wednesday.
Bieter mentioned the city’s Grow Our Housing initiative to increase housing density, incentivize affordable housing and use its land holdings to add housing options, but he mostly focused on homelessness. After a recent push to provide permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness, Bieter suggested the community turn its attention to the 166 families without a roof over their heads in Ada County.
He called for community action to end family homelessness in Boise by continuing to support Our Path Home, which provides a single entry point for people experiencing homelessness to access services. Bieter did not set a timeline for this goal or introduce a concrete strategy beyond existing programs.
“While one (family) is too many, isn’t 166 a number that we can address?” Bieter said. “Isn’t that a doable thing? … Can we be the first city in America to end family homelessness?”
Bieter emphasized city staff’s work to combat climate change, as well as a push to get the community involved in reducing waste. He reaffirmed the goal to power Boise with 100% renewable energy by 2035, and leaned on his record of signing the nationwide mayor’s climate agreement in 2006.
Looking ahead, Bieter said the city is going to further its mission on climate change by adding sustainability education to its watershed center and renaming it the Boise Climate and Water Science Center. He mentioned Boise Climate Now, which is a program to frame the city’s local solutions to climate change. There were no concrete details released about how this program is different than the city’s current sustainability plans.
“Boise has the opportunity to set an example,” he said. “As our state and federal leaders continue to falter, our citizens want meaningful action. It will require us to be more creative. Boise will deliver.”
Following the success of the city’s plastics challenge, where citizens pledged to reduce their waste earlier this year, Bieter said the city will be working with businesses to help them cut waste. The city recently purchased five electric buses and eight electric trash trucks to reduce carbon emissions.
The speech came at a crucial time for Bieter. Although this is not a campaign speech, it came less than a month after the field of mayoral candidates has been solidified. He is facing six challengers for his seat. City Council President Lauren McLean, who was appointed to council by Bieter, is a left-leaning alternative for voters. Former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, Ada County Highway District Commission President Rebecca Arnold are coming from the right. Candidates Adriel Martinez, Cortney Nielsen and Wayne Richey are also running.
Toward the end of his speech, Bieter talked about his love of running the city and his hope to continue. It was the only time he mentioned the campaign.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Dave, why do you still want to be the mayor?’ And the answer is very, very easy,” he said. “It’s the greatest job and the biggest honor I could think of to be the mayor of my hometown.”