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It's Liveability, Stupid

Bieter hones in on air, books, wheels

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Mayor Dave Bieter appears to have baby-stepped his way toward a useful, if unexciting, public image: the quality-of-life candidate. When he announced that Boise would join the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in August, he was criticized for creating a non-binding news event with no ramifications. But he followed that up with his remarkable State of the City speech last week (half-hour, no notes, complete with jokes; it was, some observers said, his best speech as mayor) where he honed in on his goal: to increase Boise's "liveability." That's the underpinning for his push to redevelop Boise's library system, continue pushing for public transit options, and push for the city's fleet to use more alternative fuels like biodiesel. The latter was announced this week, although city staff say it's already under way. Add to that the City Council's decision last week to go forward with the purchase of four hybrid Ford Escapes for the city's Planning and Development Services Department to use.

"Given the gas prices, we decided to take a look at how we manage our fleet, said Jennifer Gilliland at Planning and Development Services.

As for the rest of the city's fleet, Beth Baird at the Public Works Department said several city trucks already produce a certain cooking-oil smell from biodiesel they're using.

"It really does smell more like something is frying," Baird said.

But the meat of Bieter's proposals will have to come later. To pay for new libraries (a bond election didn't get enough votes earlier this year), he's suggested the city could sell some of its real estate. Boise City Economic Development director Jeff Jones has a list of Boise City properties that, depending on the price per square foot, could net the city between $15 million and $19 million. The properties include about seven acres at 30th and Main streets which, Jones estimates, could sell for $3 million. He's also pushing to find new ways for public-private agreements to fund homeless care facilities.

Bieter used the "liveability" theme throughout his speech, which he delivered televangelist-style, in front of the podium. As for his reference to a glass of water he sipped during his speech as "vodka," right after extolling the virtues of a city detox center, well, it still got a laugh, however nervous.

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