In anticipation of what could be a very long evening, the Boise City Council has decided to begin its Tuesday, June 30th session an hour earlier, "to accommodate expected high interest in the scheduled public hearing on a proposed update to St. Luke's Boise Medical Center Campus Master Plan."
The city council held two previous workshops with St. Luke's and invited select neighborhood association representatives, but this Tuesday evening's session will be the first opportunity for the general public to speak on the issue.
Type "Bannock Plaza Boise" into Google and you'll come up dry. Yet a colorful mailer from St. Luke's Boise Medical Center asks neighbors to "Imagine the Possibilities."
"Our Bannock Plaza is an oasis on the edge of downtown Boise, a place of peace and calm," reads the postcard, which invited the public to a June 18 open house to "learn more about our Boise campus plan."
For the record, "Bannock Plaza" is the name St. Luke's has given the area it created when it successfully lobbied to close off Bannock Street in the 1990s. The postcard is filled with colorful photos of kids, some more kids and even a pony. But nowhere on the mailer is there any mention of the hospital's master plan, which includes the controversial proposal to permanently close a section of Jefferson Street.
The plan will be the main topic of what is expected to be a long City Hall public hearing set for Tuesday, June 30.
The mailer may well be a direct response to some comments from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter in April, when he was asked about prior St. Luke's public relations efforts regarding the master plan and proposed street closure.
"I thought the public relations on this was awful, just awful," Bieter said at an Andrus Center Politics for Lunch forum.
According to Erik Kingston, certified professional community and economic developer and East End resident, much of St. Luke's PR "has definitely had a chilling effect on open discussion on the real issues and impacts."
"You can't make good PR out of poor planning," Kingston told Boise Weekly. "Why are they spending a fortune on PR when they could hire the best hospital planner in the country."
When all the public relations and public comments are completed on June 30, the Boise City Council will need to make a Solomon-like decision: approve the St. Luke's plan and tick off a good many neighbors, or deny the proposal and risk St. Luke's taking some of its critical services to Meridian (which it has publicly threatened to do).
"But you wouldn't take a new drug without knowing the side effects," said Kingston. "You wouldn't undergo major surgery without seeking a second opinion. We don't think that's too much to ask."