In a boldness not seen in previous State of the City addresses, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter singled out the Idaho Legislature's Republican majority and the Ada County Highway District's litany of impact fees as severe hindrances to the Boise Valley's economic recovery, and told a gathering of nearly 1,000 attendees that he was prepared to take a $40- to $50 million bond package to voters in order to push forward with more construction of parks, Foothills open space purchases and new facilities for the police and fire departments.
But hizzoner opened with a joke—in fact, what he dubbed "the official Boise 150 joke," in honor of the city's sesquicentennial.
"Butch Otter, Raul Labrador and a French trapper are all on a plane ... I really like the way this joke begins," Beiter began. "The plane is flying over Boise when both engines catch fire and the plane begins losing altitude. But there are only two parachutes aboard. Butch Otter turns to the other two and says, 'I'm the Governor of Idaho, the people need me and besides, I have a rodeo to attend tomorrow.' Otter grabs one of the parachutes and jumps out of the plane. Raul Labrador turns to the trapper and says, 'I'm a U.S. Congressman, the people of Idaho need me, I need to work on immigration reform and, besides, I have to appear on Face the Nation tomorrow.' Labrador grabs the remaining parachute and jumps out of the plane. The trapper looks out of the plane and shouts 'Les Bois! Les Bois!' and all of a sudden the trees of Boise bend down into the Boise River and splash up hundreds of gallons of water to the plane, dousing the fire. The plane gains altitude and the pilot asks the trapper,'How did you do that?' The trapper says, 'Boise is the City of Trees. And by the way, those weren't parachutes. They were Boise Sesquicentennial tote bags.'"
Minutes later, Bieter zeroed in on Otter and those at the Idaho Legislature for "taking bad advice" and pushing the Gem State economy toward the bottom in the nation in wages, inadequate support for higher education and making it more difficult for public initiatives to make it to the ballot, referring to the 2013 Idaho Legislature's passing of a new law which now requires ballot initiatives to garner signatures representing 6 percent of voters in the majority of Idaho's districts, instead of just 6 percent of the state.
"When the Governor signed this into law, he said 'We can't let these initiatives be pushed by the great state of Ada,'" said Beiter. "So let's take that so-called State of Ada."
Bieter said a "State of Ada" would see more robust economic development and greater support for education.
"But don't start tweeting that Bieter is calling secession," he said to a laughing audience. "Besides, [Idaho House Republican Rep.] Mike Moyle might end up getting elected to that legislature too."
Bieter's next comment was his boldest.
"We're on our own. We have to build our own economy," said the Mayor.
And that's when Bieter ripped ACHD impact fees.
"Let me share with you a story," he said. "There was a building assessed at $350,000 that a developer wanted to turn into a restaurant. But ACHD came back with $125,000 in impact fees. That killed the deal. And I've heard dozens of those stories."
Bieter then proposed to take a $40- to $50 million bond election to the city's voters, which would require a two-thirds majority approval, that could be used to fund parks for what he called "an underserved West Boise," the completion of the Bown Crossing branch public library, new purchases of Foothills open space and new facilities for the Boise Police and Fire departments. Bieter gave no timeline for the bond election and said the community needed to decide what should be included in the bond package.
"The long-term viability of the city is at risk," said Bieter.