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North End Block Party Hypes Boise's New Open Space Levy

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The North End block party generated buzz for the next clean water and open space levy, which will be on the November ballot. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The North End block party generated buzz for the next clean water and open space levy, which will be on the November ballot.
So much has changed in Boise since voters were first presented with a levy to devote $10 million to the protection of the foothills, according to Boise City Council Member Lauren McLean, who was instrumental in pushing the levy 14 years ago. 

"We were fighting against the establishment last time," she said. "This time, people can't sign up to help protect open spaces fast enough. Boise has really changed."

The same desire to help could be seen at a North End block party held behind Washington Elementary on the afternoon of Oct. 10. The purpose of the event, put on by the Conservation Voters for Idaho and the Boise for Clean Water and Open Space campaign, was to raise awareness of the new levy slated for the November ballot.

"When we have a fall like this, everyone is spending time in the foothills and near the river," McLean said, gesturing at the sunny, 85-degree day. "This is about getting turnout at the polls because when people vote, they vote yes [to open space]."

At any given time, around 50 people were at the party sipping beer from Bittercreek Alehouse, eating wood-fired pizza from Il Segreto's food truck, listening to tunes spun by a Radio Boise DJ and chatting with Mayor Dave Bieter and city council members McLean, TJ Thomson and Maryanne Jordan.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan and council members Lauren McLean and TJ Thomson showed their support for the levy at Saturday's party. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan and council members Lauren McLean and TJ Thomson showed their support for the levy at Saturday's party.
Along with building hype for the new clean water and open space levy, the party served as a reunion for those who worked on the original foothills levy, like Denise Arellano, who served on the fundraising committee in 2001 with enough volunteer hours to call it a "second job."

"People don't realize how contentious it was back then," Arellano said. "We were doing something unusual. Now everyone loves the foothills."

She said raising money and awareness for the foothills levy was drastically different in 2001: There was no email and no Facebook. Arellano said she spent much of her time arranging small house gatherings and showing a little video on foothills conservation. She'd put out a jar and hope for donations. Times have changed and so has Arellano. 

"I'm 50 now," she said with a laugh. "We need to bring together the team, but people have kids now, other commitments, not as much energy. Still, I'll do whatever they need this time."

Arellano rides her bike or hikes in the foothills every day, and she said every time she sees a sign reading, "This property was acquired with Boise Foothills levy funds," she feels proud. 

"I see those signs, and I feel like I did something fantastic," Arellano said. "We were part of this."

More than 50 people streamed in and out of the block party, many registering their names with the campaign and anxious to help. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • More than 50 people streamed in and out of the block party, many registering their names with the campaign and anxious to help.
The block party was also a chance to welcome newcomers to the next round of open space protection. Marlene Strong moved here after the first levy passed and said she's glad it did. Though she isn't a trail user herself, she doesn't want to see the foothills "paved over with houses." Strong came to the block party to buy a t-shirt but felt compelled to do more.

"I moved from California, where it was so big that working on elections hardly made a difference," she said. "Here, it does. It's more personal politics. I told them I'd fill in a shift, make some phone calls."

If passed, the two-year override levy will raise $5 million each year through an estimated monthly cost to homeowners of $2.39 per $100,000 taxable home value. The new levy will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 3 ballot, and absentee ballots can be requested now.