Features

New downtown mural to be one of Idaho's largest

With the new Fowler apartment project done in downtown Boise, it left a dark, mostly-bare wall on its backside, facing busy Myrtle St.

Now that large brown wall is being turned into a canvass for one of the largest murals in Idaho history.

Lewis studies his plan and the building surface he is rendering it on. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Lewis studies his plan and the building surface he is rendering it on. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

David Carmack Lewis is at work on a huge installation that will be more than four stories tall and roughly 103 feet across - with brilliant blues, yellows and pinks mixing in with the building’s existing deep chocolate color.

Developer LocalConstruct first worked with Lewis on the art project at its Watercolor project in west downtown. It hired the Portland native back for another project.

The final project will be a dramatic addition to the Central Addition portion of Downtown Boise.

He says he was inspired by the historic Fowler house which once stood on the site and gave the building its name.

“I was just scrubbing down a few ideas,” Lewis said during a break Monday. Very early on the developer said ‘we’d like to have some connection to the neighborhood’.”

LocalConstruct’s director of construction Patrick Boel had an idea.

“He forwarded me a couple pictures of the neighborhood. I just loved the old pictures - I love the old houses.”

"We think... Lewis did a great job with the mural at the Watercooler so we were eager to work with him again on the Fowler," Boel said. "We are excited to once again contribute to the City's arts and culture."

Rendering of the final mural.  Image courtesy David Carmack Lewis

Rendering of the final mural. Image courtesy David Carmack Lewis

The silhouette of the house and Boise foothills will be framed by what Lewis calls a "dramatic western sky."

"The majority of the mural is skyline that will help soften the building's mass when viewed from Myrtle," Boel said.

Lewis started work on Saturday and already has made dramatic progress.  He says as time goes on the work will take longer as he works on detailed areas - but expects the full mural to be done by early September.

He hopes his work will be an enduring part of Downtown Boise for decades to come.

“Nothing lasts forever, especially anything outdoors.  I would think that the mural won’t look old until the building does too.”

Boel said the project will cost LocalConstruct $60,000.

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Idaho Press expands into Boise; is a newspaper ‘war’ underway?

 NEWS ANALYSIS

Just before I returned to Boise, Idaho after a year in the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford, something curious happened.

A newspaper war broke out.

An. Um... What now?

The ‘war,’ for now at least, benefits the consumers of local news in the Boise and Treasure Valley of Idaho.

The area has two major daily papers. The McClatchy-owned Idaho Statesmanand the Adams Publishing-owned Idaho Press-Tribune.

For decades, the Press Tribune stuck to the second-largest county in the metro, while the Statesman primarily covered the largest county — which includes the capital city of Boise.

But then something happened.

Adams Publishing purchased the IPT and the rest of the newspapers in the Pioneer chain.

Shortly after, a 2008 agreement between McClatchy and Pioneer to print both papers at the Press-Tribune plant in Nampa ended. The Statesman is now printed more than 100 miles away in Twin Falls. Thirty-thousand daily copies of the Statesman are now printed at the facility of the Times-News and shipped up the road to Boise for home delivery.

The switchover happened in March, and went little-noticed among the general public.

 

But less than two months later, the Idaho Press turned heads by hiring perhaps the state’s most-prominent journalist — Betsy Russell. Russell heads up the top journalism advocacy organization in the state, and writes a must-follow blog for political junkies and leaders.

Russell was quickly joined by reporters covering Boise City Hall, Ada County Government, Ada County crime & courts — as well as a new sports editor, photo editor and community engagement editor.

With the added staff in place it opened up home delivery to the larger Ada County area with a $10/month deal.

Then another series of surprising moves: shortening the name to Idaho Press (no more Tribune), putting up billboards, running TV ads, putting paper boxes in Downtown Boise, dropping free teaser copies of the paper on Boise-area doorsteps and revamping its website.

 

(Disclosure: Idaho Press has licensed a few stories from my micro-news site BoiseDev.com. In addition, I have publicly criticized the Idaho Statesman for its practice of using BoiseDev stories as a lead generation source and occasionally borrowing my exact phrasing. I also had discussions with the Statesman in 2017 about working together that ultimately led to an offer to write a free monthly column which I declined. Judge what comes next with that in mind).

The Idaho Press is clearly determined to eat into the market share of the Idaho Statesman. Which may leave people going: “Umm… you’re doubling down on print?”

McClatchy has publicly said it is working to fast pivot to digital, and has worked to up the number of stories it generates that are high pageview drivers.

(Company CEO Craig) Forman takes it as a marker of progress that only 25 percent of the company’s revenues now come from print advertising. Of course, that has lots to do with how far print has fallen over time and how fast those declines have been for the last year.

The Statesman is part of McClatchy’s California/Idaho region — along with papers like the Sacramento Bee. That paper has gone public with its request from the public to sign up for the news organization’s digital edition.

We could fully fund our newsrooms — from salaries and benefits to notepads and pens — if we had 60,000 people supporting us through digital subscriptions. Roughly 15,000 do so today, so we’d need to earn the support of about 45,000 more…

The Bee says it would have to quadruple its number of digital subs to make ends meet without print or ad revenue. If they have a similar plan for Boise, quadrupling the number of subscribers would be a big goal.

In Sacramento, McClatchy plans to increase subscribers by doing quick hits of coverage on topics to see what sticks. If it doesn’t work, they move on.

Implicit in the McClatchy strategy: Print is dead. We’re on to the next.

But what happens if 25% of your revenue comes from print advertising (and, presumably, an additional amount from print subscriptions and single-copy sales)… and someone comes along looking to steal your market share?

McClatchy’s model is currently built on the premise their outlet is the only print-heritage newsroom in a market. In Boise, that suddenly isn’t true.

The Idaho Press is working a very aggressive plan, is spending money to win market share. If it depletes the revenue base for the Statesman, it’s fair to worry that another round of cuts could come — in a newspaper that has trimmed its staff so many times that it now has fewer journalists than my former employer KTVB (it once wasn’t even close).

It doesn’t take many folks who decide to switch from Idaho Statesman print to Idaho Press to quickly drive down the Statesman’s circulation and print advertising base.

And, as noted in my disclosure above, the Statesman seems to be focused on scraping a lot of content from other places to do quick “read, confirm, write” type stories. It layers these on with perhaps one major investigative or in-depth piece per day. The Idaho Press, on the other hand, appears to be taking a more traditional approach with the “soup to nuts” product of days past.

The Idaho Press will also have a significantly later print deadline since they print the paper in their own building here in the metro area, instead of shipping it in from down the road. During Boise State football season, it stands to reason the Idaho Press will be the only printed paper with game coverage from the night before.

The Statesman still has some talented local journalists doing great coverage. With the addition of Idaho Press resources, residents in the area are better served — but that only is true if both outlets can survive without cuts.

For it to be a war, two parties have to engage. Will the Idaho Statesman be able to fight off the threat? Or could Boise become a one newspaper town — with the upstart from Nampa winning the day?

Don Day is a 2018 Stanford John S. Knight Fellow. He has twenty years experience in media — leading teams, producing award-winning journalism and innovating in the digital journalism space. He currently is the publisher of BoiseDev.com.

SYKES call center cuts 640 Boise workers, asks police to be present

The SYKES Boise call center on Chinden Tuesday evening. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The SYKES Boise call center on Chinden Tuesday evening. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

 UPDATES with confirmed number of layoffs. 

Large Boise call center SYKES has laid off an unspecified number of employees, a spokesperson confirmed to BoiseDev.

The layoffs occurred right before the Independence Day holiday. 

Regional Communications and PR Director Dana Wiederman says SYKES had some "client changes with their specific business needs" that prompted the layoffs. She could not confirm the number of employees let go, but a filing with the Idaho Department of Labor said approximately 640 people are without jobs. 

"SYKES will remain open with business on other accounts and are doing everything we can to help employees impacted by this decision," Wiederman said. "Those affected were provided 60 days’ pay and benefits to provide them time to adjust and seek other employment. We are actively looking to bring new business to our center in Boise and continue to provide new career opportunities for residents of the Boise metro area."

SYKES in Boise handles customer service contracts with several companies, including Google's Nest, Expedia and Capital One. Employees with knowledge of the situation say workers assigned to the Capital One account were impacted by the layoff.  Wiederman would not confirm which contracts were involved.

Boise Police had a presence at the call center on Chinden Blvd. during the layoff process.

"Officers were on scene in perimeter positions," Boise Police spokesperson Haley Williams said. "Officers... were there as a precaution."

Williams said police involvement in a layoff was not a routine practice, but SYKES officials called and asked for the presence ahead of time.

Some employees who remained at the company this week were given literature on how to deal with an active shooter.  Wiederman confirmed the practice, but said the information went out to all employees at SYKES Worldwide.

"(We are) alerting all employees. With the Department of Homeland Security, we are always making sure they have the best information here in the office, in public or at the mall."

An unrelated call center formerly housed in the same building, operated by Maximus, saw a lay off of more than 1500 people in 2015. According to WARN Act filings with the Idaho Department of Labor, this is the largest layoff in the State of Idaho since the Maximus cuts in 2015.

Unemployment in the Boise metro area hit 2.4% in May - the second lowest rate recorded since 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 “With such low unemployment rates in Boise and the broader valley, we’re confident that there’s plenty of opportunity for those impacted to find new work,” City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee said  

 

Weekend's events a shock; Perspective on the city's crime rate

NEWS ANALYSIS

Editor's note: Crime isn't part of our charter here, but growth is. For coverage of this weekend's events, we suggest your local television newsroom or newspaper site for updates.

The Boise area had a difficult weekend.

According to police, a Los Angeles man stabbed nine people - including six children attending a three-year-old's birthday party near State St. and Wylie Ln. Some of those stabbed were refugees. 

Then on Sunday, a Meridian Police Officer was shot in the leg - and a manhunt ensued for two suspects.

In an overheated national political climate and a torrid discussion of growth in the Boise area, it is easy to worry that crime is spiking and that our area is changing is so fast we can't keep up.

A look at the FBI's uniform crime statistics for the City of Boise does show a slight uptick in the crime rate over the past few years, but rates are still significantly lower than the early 2000s in the City.

Boise Violent Crime Rate

Crimes per 100,000 residents. Source; FBI UCR

The numbers for 2017 haven't been released, but the 2016 rate was 244 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Violent crime includes murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. 

The property crime rate, which includes burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson has seen a significant downward slide since the turn of the century. In 2000, there were 3,765 property crimes of this type per 100,000 Boiseans, higher than the national average. In 2016, the rate was 1,770 per 100-000 - a drop of more than half. The property crime rate is also now lower than the national average, despite a steady decline in that average as well.

Property Crimes

Crimes per 100,000 residents. Source; FBI UCR

The crime rate for a city or metro area can certainly change - and growth can drive that change. But Boise has been growing steadily for nearly a century - and even while it can feel like things are changing rapidly, it's important to keep an eye on long-term trends.

Explainer: Boise wants rule changes around additional dwellings, land division and notification

The City of Boise is working to tweak a number of its rules around development - mostly in neighborhoods.

A Google Earth view of the North End

A Google Earth view of the North End

The proposals have some people fired up, and attracted disapproving letters from the North End Neighborhood Association, among others.  

The City made a number of adjustments to the proposal and provided additional information to allay some of NENA’s concerns.

City leaders say the changes are small, and designed to tighten some requirements and ease others.

Minor land divisions

Right now, according to city spokesperson Mike Journee, folks who own a piece of land can apply to split it into four pieces and skip the long and complicated subdivision process. Instead, they 

“If I own a piece of property, no matter how big it is right now, I can divide it into four pieces of property and develop them separately,” Journee said. “I can do so without going through the (process) that we require for a subdivision plat - things like setbacks, roadways and other infrastructure are challenging in that scenario.”

Cody Riddle, Current Planning Manager with te City of Boise says this change gives them the ability to put more scrutiny on these applications.

“(This gives) us more discretion to deny them and go through the public hearing process,” he said. “They may meet black and white dimensional standards, but we’d like to go through the planning and zoning process.”

Giving notice

Another change would impact who gets notified when a homeowner wants to make a so-called administrative change to their home.  Currently, every neighbor within 300 foot must be notified and a neighborhood meeting must be held - even for changes like the addition of a kitchen or room add-on.  The new proposal would rework the process.

“Right now for a variance, we require a neighborhood meeting. We are not changing that requirement,” Riddle said. “What we are saying for a neighborhood meeting - if someone is adding on to their home, or building a shed - we are saying you don’t need to invite anyone within 300 feet, you just have to inform adjacent landowners and the neighborhood association.”

Instead of a neighborhood meeting, residents would be required to get written consent from every landowner who has property that touches theirs - as well as notify the neighborhood association for their part of town.

“99% of the time it’s just the adjacent landowners that care or get involved anyway,” he said.

Riddle says these administrative variances are small in scope - for some residential projects and “very few commercial projects.”

If a landowner can’t get written consent from every neighbor, they must still hold a neighborhood meeting for every landowner within 300 feet.

Home sweet (adjacent) home

Planners have also proposed to adjust the rules around second homes - or “accessory dwelling units.”  Current City code limits these types of buildings to 600 square feet and a single bedroom - or ten percent of the land area of a parcel.  

The proposal would increase the size limit of an ADU to 700 square feet (but still limited to one bedroom).

Here’s how the City justifies the change in documents filed online:

“The Planning Team finds ADUs to be a good affordable housing option within the City that allows new living units to be established within developed areas of the City with existing facilities. Additionally, many ADUs are used by City residents to provide housing for relatives who need assistance or who are looking for an affordable housing option. As the property owner is required to live on site, ADUs generally provide a well-controlled form of rental housing.”

You can read the full rationale for the changes here.

None of the proposed changes affect zoning code or rezoning. They also don’t impact most commercial projects or conditional use permits.

"Look out Boise:" Silicon Valley looks to Idaho to solve expensive talent problem

NEWS ANALYSIS

‘The Bay Area is broken.'

That's the headline atop a San Jose Mercury News story on the need for affordable talent for companies based in the Silicon Valley area.

Here's the lead:

IMG_1545.JPG

"Silicon Valley may be the world’s tech paradise, but it’s a hiring nightmare for many local startups now forced to venture from Portland to Boise in search of talent."

The story shows why the immediate future of the greater San Francisco and greater Boise areas are linked.

It is very expensive to live in the Bay Area - and it won't get better soon.  The cost of land drives housing prices through the roof, and with it the costs of food, goods, services and of course talent.

A job somewhere like Facebook or Google could be appealing to many, but to have a standard of living that compares to one you might find in Boise could easily cost significantly more.

The average cost of living in Palo Alto is 39% higher than in Boise, according to data from PayScale. (A personal data point that can help illustrate this, I have been here since August as part of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University - I pay $3,800 for a 2-bedroom cottage near Palo Alto. Per month. For rent.)

Now, companies are finding the Treasure Valley (and other locations like Portland) are ripe for expansion.  The Mercury News looks at Jelli, which opened an office on 8th St. in Boise last year.

The company says the Boise area allowed it to find employees for a third lower than what they pay people doing the same jobs in California.

“As we’ve been looking to hire, we’re running into the same issue that everyone else is running into — in that the Bay Area is broken,” Michael Dougherty, CEO of Jelli told the Mercury-News.

Jelli says it has ten people in Idaho - with plans for another 30 or 40.

“The community’s cool,” Dougherty said. “There’s a lot of really great folks there.”

The influx of jobs can boost the economy, but drive growth faster than leaders or planners expect.

Boise Median Home Price

Data via Zillow

Unemployment in the Boise metro area hit a low of 2.5% in August of last year - the second lowest since 1990 according to non-seasonally adjusted numbers.

With low unemployment and an influx of workers searching for a lower cost of living in Boise - the price of housing is zooming.  Zillow shows the median listing price of a home in the full metro area to be $290,990. In the City of Boise proper, the median listing price is now over $ 300,000, and has increased a breathtaking 18% in the past year alone.

The quick growth is causing increased friction between government and citizens in the Capital City.  Groups like Vanishing Boise have grown quickly and are working to organize and mobilize citizens to have a larger voice in the development and planning process.

The City of Boise has responded to frustration by planning town halls and a series of conversations about Boise's growth.

Leaders will have to balance the demands of private landowners and the need to add housing and services, with an increasingly vocal base of citizens who want to slow growth and preserve the quality of life and cost of living Boise is known for.  The rapid expansion in the tech sector in Silicon Valley in California may soon be strongly linked to the fortunes of the Treasure Valley in Idaho.

 

 

Leaders hope massive expansion could increase bus usage 800%

  • Plan would revamp system across Ada & Canyon counties.
  • Feedback sought from public on concepts.
  • Funding an open question

The Boise area is booming. Crazy, faster-than-anywhere-else booming.

But transit service in the metro area is, to put it mildly - wanting.

If you’d like to get around without a car, your options are essentially your feet, a bike (as long snow isn't piled up in the bike lanes) or a limited bus system that doesn't run frequently enough for the tastes of many.

A ValleyRide bus turns on the Main Street in Boise last summer. If Valley Regional Transit autorities get their way, many more buses will roll down local streets.

A ValleyRide bus turns on the Main Street in Boise last summer. If Valley Regional Transit autorities get their way, many more buses will roll down local streets.

But the area's transit authority, Valley Regional Transit, wants to solve it.

The road ahead for the bus system could be complicated though.

VRT is asking for public feedback through March 15th on ValleyConnect 2.0 - a set of ambitious ideas to revamp and remake public transit in Ada and Canyon Counties.

"(One thing) we are trying to do with this plan is be more intentional about promoting transit as a vehicle toward freedom of movement.  So there is a kind of 'if you build it, they will come' mentality," VRT Principal Planner Stephen Hunt told BoiseDev. "The underlying core is helping people get to more places in less time at lower cost. "

The plan lays out three scenarios - do nothing, implement an intermediate plan or tackle the growth.

ALSO READ: 
Bigger than a streetcar. A vision for transit in 2040 

Where we stand

Presently, VRT spends about $10 million per year for its bus operations around the area. It spends $15 million on capital costs and improvements.

That money gets the public a somewhat-limited set of bus routes that don't operate on Sunday, don't run much past 7 p.m. and leave large swaths of land without easy access to a bus route.

Ridership is also declining. 

"If you take all our services in aggregate number - there has been a slight drop over the last several years," Hunt said.  The ridership dips follow a national pattern of declines in fixed-line service.

ValleyRide ridership

Data via Valley Regional Transit

The number of people using the bus in Ada County has been increasing however, with declines in less dense Canyon County bringing usage down on the whole.

VRT ridership compared to average gas prices. Data provided by VRT

VRT ridership compared to average gas prices. Data provided by VRT

VRT community relations manager Mark Carnopis attributes the ridership figures to a cyclical pattern with gas prices. When the pain at the pump increases, more people hoof it to the bus. When prices decline - folks opt for their cars.

But Carnopis and Hunt note the cost of using a private vehicle can add up.

VRT number crunchers say the average Treasure Valley household spends $6,400 per year on their car or cars - for things like gas, taxes and insurance (not including the car itself). Over a year, that adds up to $1.5 billion per year at scale.

"If you ask someone who is used to driving around to use transit, they are going to experience this loss of 99% of their freedom," Carnopis said. "But - transit doesn’t come early enough, late enough, often enough on the weekend.  It’s all limited because of transit operation spending."

Map shows current network. Via Valley Regional Transit. Click to enlarge.

Where VRT hopes to go

bdev-vrt.png

 

If the numbers hold true and $1.5 billion is coming from consumers' pockets to use their car - VRT hopes folks will see proposed plans to expand bus system as affordable in comparison.

And the goal that goes along with the plan is big.

"Our target is to increase ridership 800% - that’s kind of a big number," Hunt said.

With as much as a 400% increase in service, an 800% increase in usage would in theory make each dollar more efficient than the current set up.  

Two proposals are outlined in ValleyConnect 2.0.  

Intermediate

The first would double the current operating cost to $20 million per year. That would in turn amp up service hours - also doubling to 200,000 per year.  The scenario would pour $98 million into capital costs, which includes taking care of $23 million in deferred projects.

Here's what the extra cash would buy:

  • Increased service
    • All-day frequency to every 15 minutes on major transit corridors
    • Run all routes until 8 p.m., with "many past 9 p.m." on weekdays
    • Increase Saturday service from four routes to six
  • Expand fleet of buses and build up infrastructure
  • Focus on 40 miles of "premium high-frequency" corridors.
  • Upgrade passenger amenities
    • New or expanded transit centers, park & ride lots and "real-time passenger information."
  • Invest in tech to help coordinate specialized transportation - like vanpool, carpool, bike-share, parking and buses. 

Map shows proposed Intermediate network. Via Valley Regional Transit. Click to enlarge.

Growth

This plan is even more aggressive. It would quadruple current spending to $40 million, which would also quadruple the number of service hours to 400,000.  It would put in $191 million in capital upgrades.

For the growth plan, here's what the dollars would fund:

  • Increased service
    • All-day frequency to every 15 minutes "expansive transit network"
    • Add connections through Meridian and central part of two-county region
    • New inter-county connections to Boise Airport and Micron Technology campus
    • Run all service until 9 p.m. with most service until 10 p.m. weekdays
    • Increase Saturday service from four routes to 11.
    • Add first-ever Sunday service on eight routes.
  • Expand fleet of buses and build up infrastructure
  • Focus on 100 miles of "premium high-frequency" corridors.
  • Upgrade passenger amenities
    • New or expanded transit centers, park & ride lots and "real-time passenger information."

“The intermediate and growth scenarios are aggressive plans for growth that will dramatically improve transit service by connecting more people to more places, more often," report authors wrote.

Map shows proposed Growth network. Via Valley Regional Transit. Click to enlarge.

Big rail, small rail

A RegioSprinter train like this one rolled down the tracks of the Treasure Valley as a test in 1997 for ten days. Photo via  Alupus  

A RegioSprinter train like this one rolled down the tracks of the Treasure Valley as a test in 1997 for ten days. Photo via Alupus 

In 1997, then-Boise Mayor Brent Coles spearheaded an effort to consider rail in the transit mix for the Valley.  A ten-day trial brought passenger rail service from the Boise Depot with Idaho Center, with stops at the Boise Towne Square and elsewhere. More than 18,000 residents hopped aboard for the test. But the plan went nowhere and has not been a visible priority for Coles' eventual successor David Bieter - with a decade-long push for a downtown Boise circulator taking precedence. 

ValleyConnect does not specifically plan for use of the existing rail line that runs in the population center from Micron on the east through Nampa in the west, but does advocate building a system that orients to the possibility of using the rail line for passenger trains at some point in the future.

The Growth plan would put about 45,000 hours of service along I-84. If leaders instituted a rail service, those buses could be redirected off the freeway, providing even more service in neighborhoods. 

Rendering of possible Boise circulator. Courtesy City of Boise.

Rendering of possible Boise circulator. Courtesy City of Boise.

The plan doesn't, however, mention the idea from City of Boise leaders to build a $100-million streetcar that covers Downtown Boise and Boise State University.

"The Circulator is a City of Boise project," Hunt said. "That is something the city is pursuing on its own."

With VRT working to tie all forms of non-car transit together, would it make sense to be involved in the Circulator plan?

"The ball is in their (City of Boise’s) court for that," Carnopis said. "We are available and we could talk. We would be happy to help them on that."

The estimated cost to build a streetcar in Downtown Boise is $73.4 million according to an analysis from Leland Consulting. That compares to a $98 million capital investment for VRT's "Intermediate" concept which would operate across both counties.

Where will the cash come from?

Donald Trump won Ada County by nine points.

He took Canyon County by nearly 23 points.

Across Idaho, he won by 31 points.

There is little reason to believe that negative legislative attitudes... will change any time soon
— Dr. Jim Weatherby

While the metro area may be becoming increasingly progressive - and though Boise has a democratic mayor and several democratic representatives in the state legislature, the state as a whole is still very conservative.

Any group that proposes to spend more than $200 million in public money is going to face an uphill battle.

"We felt that it was important to lead with the public on an aspirational plan on what this could mean for the Valley," Hunt said. "There’s been a pretty consistent effort to get funding authority."

The idea to put forth a local option tax is one Treasure Valley leaders have been hoping for for quite some time. But longtime Idaho political analyst Dr. Jim Weatherby says this path isn't easy.

"There is little reason to believe that negative legislative attitudes toward a feared patchwork of new local taxes and rural hostility toward granting local option to Idaho’s larger cities will change any time soon," Weatherby said.

He notes that proposals have popped up for more than 40 years in the legislature - and outside of some exemptions for resort cities and auditorium districts, local option taxes haven't been a popular notion with legislators.

Carnopis says his agency just wants the ability to let voters decide.

 "Give us the ability to take a referendum to the people, through our role to educate," he said. "We are not asking for taxation without representation"

"A vision without a plan is just a dream," Hunt said. "A plan without funding is hallucination."

History now: Popular Facebook group chronicles a changing Idaho

Bryan Lee McKee has found himself as an accidental Boise media mogul.

The Boise Depot from 1979 in the Boise & The Treasure Valley History group

The Boise Depot from 1979 in the Boise & The Treasure Valley History group

He runs the Boise & The Treasure Valley History Facebook group - the largest of its kind in SW Idaho.  With favorable help from Facebook’s pivot toward “quality conversations," McKee’s corner of the social media giant’s ecosystem is thriving.

With more than 35,000 members and a steady stream of content - the discussions reveal a fascination with where Boise has been and how the area is changing.

“When I started the group on August 14, 2014  I would have never imagined the group getting as big as it is now,” McKee said. “Taking on such a big group has its challenges.”

The posts paint a broad and nostalgic view of where the Boise area has been.

The Idanha Hotel in 1905. The 1996 Western US blackout.  An old Red Steer Drive-In.   Senator William E. Borah from 1921. The rapidly changing Downtown Boise area (from 1963!).

McKee and his wife Daniela

McKee and his wife Daniela

Each post generates scads of comments from people who remember the bit of history (or don’t) and others reliving fond memories.

McKee is the only moderator of the group, and has to take a bit of a velvet hammer approach to keeping things flowing.

“I came up with some great rules for the group. Basically no swearing, no attacking members’ comments. But most of all, if you can’t say something nice int he comments, you will be deleted.”

And a simple premise.

“Zero tolerance for mean people,” he said with a digital smile.

McKee is currently living in Austria, a long way from the town he grew up in and loves so much.

His wife’s mother has been ill for some time and the McKees travelled to Europe to care for her. She passed away on February 5th - just a few weeks after they arrived.

McKee is battling his own set of challenges. In October he says he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“A lot of members have been there for me showing great support.”  

His post about the diagnosis last fall had more than 800 comments and more than 1,300 reactions. The outpouring was immense - and genuine.

The kind words keep him going and engaged with posting a steady stream of historic facts and tidbits.

“I get messages daily,” he said. “(Like) ‘You have brought back so many great memories I’ve forgotten about till you posted,’ or ‘thank you for starting this amazing group. Because you did, I’ve found several friends I lost contact with.’”

McKee says there is one story he still wants to tell.  The legend of the Downtown Boise tunnels.

A  post  about tunnels in Boise with a clip from an old Idaho Statesman story

A post about tunnels in Boise with a clip from an old Idaho Statesman story

“I saw them unearth a tunnel across from the Egyptian Theater,” he said. “From that point on I made it a challenge in my life to prove that they did in-fact exist.”

The groups lively dynamic continues to roll along each day. And McKee will keep working to uncover Idaho history.

“You just never know what might be posted next, stay tuned for more. It’s my motto.”

Truck rolls down Boise airport tarmac, smashes into building

Repair work is set to being at the Boise Airport after an unattended pickup truck rammed into the outer wall of the building at the height of last year's busy travel season

According to police reports obtained by BoiseDev, just before Christmas, crews with Alaska Airlines parked a truck near Concourse C and went about their duties. 

The truck, a 1990 white Ford, then rolled backwards 175 feet without a driver or passenger inside and bashed into a cinder block wall.  The tailgate was down on the pickup and hit with enough force to cause damage to both the outer wall and inner drywall.

Google Earth image, BoiseDev graphic

Google Earth image, BoiseDev graphic

Police photos provided to BoiseDev show several cinder blocks crushed by the tailgate, with a noticeable vertical crack emanating from the area of impact. Inside the building, the drywall is cracked with a portion pushed out. Damage appears to have also extended to a portion of the ceiling.

The incident happened around 6:30 a.m on December 20th. near the tarmac loading area commonly used by Alaska Airlines. The police report says the truck had not been chocked. No charges were filed at the time.

Airport spokesperson Sean Briggs said there were no injuries from the incident, and that costs of the $50,000 in repairs will be charged to the tenant.  

Boise eyesore could get new life: where old 'tank farm' could go

When you think of Boise icons - the Depot, Statehouse and Blue Turf probably come to mind.

One thing that is iconic - if not in a good way - is the oil and gas tank farm on the Boise bench.

It's not exactly a shining point of civic pride, and city leaders are eyeing the idea of moving the hub for oil and gas in the Treasure Valley out of the heart of the bench to land near the Boise Airport.

BOISE BENCH TANK FARMS VIA FLICKR USER  LAURA GILMOR

BOISE BENCH TANK FARMS VIA FLICKR USER LAURA GILMOR

"The industrial use of tank farms is no longer compatible with this neighborhood in the geographic center of the city," Boise City Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg told BoiseDev. "The residences and small businesses are impacted by the tanks, but also importantly the tank operations themselves have difficulty moving fuel and support vehicles through the neighborhood."

Clegg says finding a new spot for the tanks makes sense.

"The city is doing due diligence on a number of fronts especially regarding financial viability," she said.

More than 40 tanks are spread across the area, along with related facilities. Fuel is pumped via pipeline from Salt Lake City and distributed via trucks to gas stations throughout the greater Boise region.

A new urban renewal district could be created to include the site and surrounding area - analysis of that idea is also underway.  This year, the City of Boise is looking at both relocation and how the sites could be revamped when - and if - the tanks are demolished.

"This area of the bench has long been mentioned, for 20 years or so in my memory, as a location for a new URA district," Clegg said. "If this project were to go forward it would only make sense to include it in any bench URA district."

CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said there has not been any movement at his agency for a new urban renewal district just yet. A draft of the proposed area from 2016 was obtained by BoiseDev, and includes the tank farm areas.

Boise Airport director Rebecca Hupp said it's still in the early stages of using airport land to relocate the tanks.

"The project is currently in a preliminary due diligence phase to determine if a relocation is even remotely viable," she said. 

Hupp said the airport owns about 5,000 acres in total.

"There is sufficient and compatible land available to accommodate the proposed purpose, but no specific sites have been selected."

There are actually three separate tank farms in the area:

  • A facility at 321 N. Curtis Rd. 18.6 acres, owned by Sinclair Transportation Company and valued at $2.963 million according to the Ada County Assessor. 
  • An 8.91 acre swath of land at 712 N. Curtis Rd. at the corner of Emerald St, also owned by Sinclair, which is said to be worth $2.1 million.
  • A bundle of parcels at 201 N. Phillipi St. totaling 15 acres owned by Tesoro, valued at $1.7 million dollars.

The farms have been part of the Bench area since the 1950s and are the dominant feature of Curtis Rd. between Franklin and Emerald, with some limited light industrial and office uses nearby.  The former West Jr. High site is being redeveloped into a multi-use project by Hawkins Development Co across the street, which could serve as an initial development catalyst.

The idea has been percolating for most of Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's tenure as mayor. A resident approached Bieter with the idea in 2006 according to a Boise Weekly story at the time.

Local BBQ joint owner says national chain copied his logo -- and fists

Brad Taylor's tattoo'ed fists, left and the Dickey's BBQ pit bag right have a remarkable similarity. Photos: Ryan Finn Photography and courtesy Brad Taylor.

Brad Taylor's tattoo'ed fists, left and the Dickey's BBQ pit bag right have a remarkable similarity. Photos: Ryan Finn Photography and courtesy Brad Taylor.

Brad Taylor has a love for BBQ.

In 2014, he opened a small restaurant in Boise’s Vista Village serving up barbecue meats and sides.

He’s so all-in on the business and the food that he had his knuckles tattooed with the restaurant’s name - BBQ4 LIFE.  He uses the image of his clenched fists with the BBQ 4LIFE lettering on a sign in his restaurant and the eatery's website.

But early last year, Taylor became aware of some marketing collateral from a much larger competitor that gave him cause for concern.

Some Dickey's Fans posted social media images like this one under the hashtag #Dickeys7

On a commemorative cup for the 75th anniversary of franchise chain Dickeys Barbecue Pit, a familiar image appeared: A set of hands, knuckles out with BBQ4 LIFE tatooed on them.  To make it worse, a small character that looked a bit like Brad’s own face with a speech bubble reading “Dickey’s Rocks” appeared between the fists on the black and white cups.

The image has a striking similarity to Brad's own brand - both personally and for his business.

“The best way to describe it is I feel violated,” Taylor told BoiseDev. “I would prefer that this never happened. We’ve worked really hard to get where we are. To have people think that WE copied Dickey’s doesn’t feel very good.”

Taylor worked with his attorneys to see what his options were.  But for a small single-location barbecue store to go up a chain with more than 560 restaurants is daunting.

“My big fear was do I want to get in a big giant fight with a big giant company,” Taylor said. “People say ‘you should go after them, you would definitely win!’ The odds are, I would get my butt kicked and lose a bunch of money.”

After Taylor and his attorneys sent a cease and desist letter last year, they began the process of obtaining an official trademark. Taylor says he hadn’t done this when his business first opened due to resources.

“I’m a small business. I don’t have a bunch of capital. That’s something big businesses do, it’s not set up for small businesses.”

A call to Callie Head, Public Relations Manager at Dickey's in Dallas was not returned.

Taylor hoped things would die down after the cease and desist letter last year.  But in January, he again saw the knuckles drawing.  Taylor and his company have the contract to operate the kitchen for the Ironwood Social event space in Garden City.

A group had booked the venue and said they had a connection to the local Dickeys franchise and had them cater the party.

“When I came back that evening to fire up the kitchen, all the food is sitting there, and now all the bags have my face and knuckles.  I went to sleep that night and woke up and was like ‘dang, this is really really frigging irritating.’ It made me wonder, are they currently printing my face and logo on their bags almost a year later?”

The BBQ4LIFE logo

The BBQ4LIFE logo

He thinks it can lead to confusion for people who have heard of his store.

“If you’ve heard of BBQ4 LIFE - then you’re looking at those bags and thinking “brad endorses Dickeys,’” he said. “I in no way endorse their food."

Taylor says he doesn't think the duplication was fully intentional - but suspects maybe it was a graphic designer who wasn't as careful as they should be.

"My suspicion, having seen people who do marketing work, is that a designer popped online, saw the knuckles and my face and thought 'I’ll build something off of that.' I don’t assume that they saw me and were like 'we are going to copy him.'"

Whatever led up to the graphic similarity, Taylor doesn't feel great about his options.

“The whole thing is just scary and frustrating,” he said “It’s really a bummer to see another company can just take your image and logo and use it - and you can’t do much about it unless you want to lose a bunch of money.”

BoiseDev Developer of the Year has storied history, more to come

Photo inset courtesy Hawkins Co.

Photo inset courtesy Hawkins Co.

Gary Hawkins spent part of his childhood living in a small home behind Boise's Vista Village on the Boise Bench. In the 1950s and 1960s, Boise was a small sleepy town with loads of potential, but didn't stand out much in size or scope from other cities in the region like Bozeman or Spokane or Eugene.

In 2018, though, Boise has seen a renascence and has grown into a regional powerhouse - with big gains in population, culture and influence.  Just about once a week a new piece in the national media touts Boise or Idaho as a whole.

Hawkins, has a foot in both worlds. He grew up in a smaller, sleepier Boise - but now helps shape the town's potential.

The inaugural BoiseDev Developer of the Year is Gary Hawkins of Hawkins Co.

His biography reads like it was written by a computer algorithm trained in Idaho facts.  Grew up in Boise. Scouted sites for Albertsons. The ability to peel 100 pounds if potatoes in about half an hour.

Hawkins has developed more then 200 projects across the country since starting his firm in the late 1970s. 

In the last few years, his company has put increased focus on the Treasure Valley.

“This is our hometown and we love it," Hawkins told BoiseDev this spring. "I live downtown and have for years."

Rendering of updated Capital Terrace

Rendering of updated Capital Terrace

That love led him to acquire the Capital Terrace project at 8th and Main Streets.  The beleaguered project has seen better days.  It helped kick off the rebirth of Downtown Boise in the 1980s, with a large parking garage and attached retail.  But it's painted concrete look hasn't aged well - due in fact to a lack of upgrades by the original owners in recent years.

Hawkins stepped in to buy the property in April.

“I like the property and when I found it was available, I thought this would fit nicely in our portfolio," he said. "We do work all over the country, and it's nice to do something in our hometown."

Plans are underway to give the building a makeover - with new finishes and updates. A covered farmers market is even on the drawing board.  With its location along Boise's growing "restaurant row," the retail has potential to be part of the latest revolution in Downtown Boise.

"We love the location," he said. "We think it’s one of the best locations in Boise."

It's not the only project Hawkins has his finger in.  The company lists 13 properties for lease in Boise alone, with more in Meridian, Eagle and across the state.

The new Emerald Station project adjacent to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on Curtis Rd. would be anchored by two medical office buildings for St. Al's, plus the entry of Cascadia Healthcare to the area. Future retail, office and possibly even a hotel would revitalize the former school site in a part of Boise needing some attention.

His company is also behind the large North Pointe development at State St. and Gary Ln.  A 323-apartment complex blends with new retail - featuring Native Grill and Wings, Black Bear Diner, Coldstone Creamery, Smashburger and more. The project has been in progress for the past several years, but got fully up to speed in 2017, adding more options in a major retail corridor near Walmart and Albertsons.

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Hawkins also owns the land under and is an investor in Inn at 500 - a new hotel with more than 100 rooms, balconies and local art.  The hotel opened in early 2017 and adds a new signature touch to the southern portion of the Downtown Boise core.

From his beginnings in a small home on the Boise Bench, to a prolific developer with a love of Boise - Gary Hawkins is the very first BoiseDev Developer of the Year.

 

Choosing the first Developer of the Year

Boise is a hot bed of activity these days - and selecting just a single developer to highlight wasn't easy.  Of all the options, we narrowed it down to four:

Tommy Ahlquist of Gardner Co.: This year his company began construction on Pioneer Crossing and Ten Mile Crossing, as well as several other small developments.

Mike Brown of LocalConstruct: Brown and his firm have been active with the redevelopment of the Watercooler, construction of The Fowler and more in the works.

Clay Carley: Carley is building a new apartment project at 5th and Idaho, as well as working on a new hotel and garage downtown.

Gary Hawkins: We ultimately chose Gary this year because of the diversity of projects his company is pursuing around Boise - from downtown to the Bench to the State St. coridoor.

 

Apartments, restaurant planned for vacant lot on Park Blvd.

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Gardner Co. and the Harry W. Morrison Foundation are teaming up for a plan to transform a vacant parking lot on Park Blvd. into a development for families and seniors.

The lot on Park Blvd. sits between the Stonehouse bar and the Falcon Building along the Boise River Greenbelt

The Park Place development would feature

  • A 7,000 square foot restaurant on the Boise River
  • Seventy senior-living apartments
  • Seventy-six family apartments at market rate
  • First floor "podium style" parking (garage on the bottom with apartment towers above

The four-story building would be built by Gardner on a 3 acre piece of land owned by the Morrison Foundation. 

The project will first go through a rezoning application with the City of Boise to allow for the residential use.

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News release: BSU won’t be part of stadium

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Boise State University issued this news release saying they will not be part of a hoped-for downtown stadium being built in part with tax money, and instead will focus on a stadium near campus. 

First, read the Boise State release. Then below read the City of Boise reaction.  

RELEASE from Boise State: 

 

  • BOISE STATE WILL NOT JOIN PROPOSED DOWNTOWN STADIUM PROJECT

    Boise State University will not be a part of the proposed downtown stadium project.

    Instead, university officials plan to construct a collegiate baseball stadium on or near campus.

    The university has been open about its interest in the idea of a shared downtown stadium since 2015, but Boise State President Bob Kustra said that in the end the question came down to the most efficient use of public dollars: It became clear that a long-term lease would be less financially prudent than a project that Boise State could either build or lease to own.

    “As a baseball fan, I support efforts that boost baseball in Boise and give our community a chance to enjoy the sport for years to come,” Kustra said. “I wish the Hawks and the City of Boise the best in moving forward. But my primary responsibility as university president is to make the best choices for the future of Boise State.”

    All along, Boise State officials have been clear that they have been open to the idea of a downtown stadium because of the opportunities it could provide for collegiate baseball — but that no arrangements had been finalized. The downtown stadium project remained one of the options the university was pursuing until this week. University officials called city leaders and others to tell them personally of the decision.

  • “We are in the middle of the hiring process for our baseball head coach, and an on-campus stadium will be a major selling point — both to the individual we ultimately hire, and to the future student-athletes that will be recruited to Boise State,” Athletic Director Curt Apsey said.

RELEASE FROM CITY OF BOISE: 

  •  Boise State would have been a natural tenant for the Boise Sports Park, so we are disappointed to hear that Agon Sports and Entertainment and Boise State were not able to reach an agreement. However, our independent analysis shows that the Boise Sports Park could be highly successful without Boise State as a tenant.  We are excited by the continued interest of the Boise School District and the other possible users of the sports park and will move ahead with the process to ensure that the project is a good fit for its neighbors and for the city has a whole. We wish Boise State baseball and women’s soccer a successful future.

     

Hayden Beverage to purchase Dawson Taylor

Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters will soon have a new owner: Hayden Beverage.

The Boise-based distributor of beverages is buying the coffee roaster and cafes from founder Dave Ledgard.  Hayden is best known for distributing beer, but offers a wide variety of wines and non-alcoholic beverages in its pipeline.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hayden CEO Dodds Hayden told BoiseDev he is excited to expand the business in a new way.

Photo Courtesy David R. Day -  DavidRDay.com

Photo Courtesy David R. Day - DavidRDay.com

"I see the passion people have around coffee. It parallels the passions they have around wine and craft beer," Hayden said. "In the beverage world, that's what we do: We provide high-end specialty beverages."

Hayden says the distributor has always tried to focus on the higher-end part of the beer and wine market - with local brands like Payette Brewing, Sockeye Brewing, Ste. Chapelle and Cinder. 

CEO Dodds Hayden

CEO Dodds Hayden

"The high-end specialty coffee was just a great fit with what we do," he said. "Almost all the customers we deal with and deliver to have a coffee offering. It seemed like a natural fit. I’m not sure why traditionally beer distributors have not been engaged in coffee."

Ledgard will stay involved with the business under its new ownership.

“He is going to stay and run it, so we don’t expect to have a huge transition," Hayden said. "He’s been doing it for 18 years... at Dawson Taylor and several years before that. I just think he’s got the best quality coffee in in Southern Idaho.”

Hayden will also keep the two Dawson Taylor retail locations - the long-time downtown cafe on 8th Street, and a newer pour over location on Lusk St. It will be Hayden Beverage's first foray into retail operations. At first, Hayden says he considered letting that part of the operation go - but after doing a close study of the business, he felt the cafes had great people and were worth holding on to - and building up

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"I thought 'maybe we just get out of that. Maybe we just hire that off and let them run it as long as they pour Dawson Taylor.' But as I got to see the regulars down there and the number of people who are loyal and frequent and saw and met baristas and managers I said ‘there’s no way I’m going to let that go.'"

Some changes are in store - but Hayden says it will be primarily cosmetic with some cleaning up.

"It's not a hip glass and steel thing, but a homey really comfortable atmosphere.  New floors, ceiling tiles, lights - all the surfaces just need to be redone.  The brand is about the quality of coffee, the people and being a local roaster."

Beyond the current locations, Hayden says they don't want to move further into the retail space.

"My aspiration is not to be a retail coffee guy. I’d love to have other coffee shops use Dawson Taylor. I’m not in a hurry to have a bunch of Dawson Taylor coffee shops out there. My aspiration is to build Dawson Taylor into a little more breath and depth within our region - the Treasure Valley and beyond."

He says grocery retail is an area of possible expansion.

"They play a little there, I think there’s more potential there."

Hayden says he is looking forward to moving into another corner of the beverage industry.

"I’m really excited," he said. "I’ve never been in producing before. I’ve looked in wonder and envy as they produce these great products. I’m excited to be involved in producing a product."

The deal is expected to close this week.

Photo Courtesy David R. Day -  DavidRDay.com  

Photo Courtesy David R. Day - DavidRDay.com 

BoiseDev turns one: where we've been and what's next

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One year ago today, BoiseDev.com formally launched - an extension of a few years of quick tweets on local business openings, closings and other development news.

A friend had mentioned that she often opened Twitter solely to find my #BoiseDev tweets, but found it hard to find everything.  That inspired me to see if I could put something a little more complete together.  I also had been itching to do more long-form pieces; 140 characters are often not close to enough.

Since launch day, this site has featured more than 420 stories on everything from Starbucks to St. Luke's to stadiums to Streetcars. The work here has been cited by the Idaho Statesman, KBOI, KIVI, Magic Valley Times News, Meridian Press, Coeur d'Alene Press and others (for which I'm quite grateful). I've also cited the work of nearly all of these outlets in the past year as well.

You may have heard that I have been selected as a 2017-2018 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University - a program which coincidentally begins today.  For the next ten months I will be living in California (with some trips back to Boise) to focus on ideas to sustain local journalism in a consolidating (and shrinking) traditional media world.

BoiseDev will continue. I will be reporting from California - guided by public filings, sources, visits to town and of course your tips. You may also see the bylines of some other writers pop up in coming months.This site has been powered by so many great tips from readers - dozens of them.  So thank you! You can send me an email or ask in our lively BoiseDev Facebook group.  

We have signed our first sponsors - SERVPRO of Boise as well as Chase Erkins at Lee & Associates.  These great folks will appear throughout the site and the funds they provide will be reinvested back into the site to help us grow.

Fun with metrics

I love a good metric - studying audience behavior helps to make a better site more attuned to the wants of the audience.

Since May, BoiseDev.com has topped the traditional business newspaper in town in terms of traffic according to SimilarWeb. That's mostly attributable, I think, to a thirst for quick, newsy nuggets on the shops and stores folks see each day - and a thirst for deeper, independent stories on issues that are important.

Here are the most-read stories of the past year. 

  1. WinCo coming to Chinden and Linder, Costco possible - while Costco seems to be now focusing on another nearby site, the warehouse giant still hasn't made a formal application
  2. Today Show eclipses Idaho, skips our day out of the sun - the fun thing about trying to make a site that is lively and fun is you can go a bit off course on occasion. This story did great traffic numbers
  3. Bogus Basin master plan includes new lifts, coaster, more - this story came through public records and a tip. Each of the traditional media outlets published their own version of this story later that day.
  4. The Flicks has special sign with hidden secret - the Boise icon came up with a way cool sign with a unique twist.
  5. St. Luke's agrees to sell land for downtown stadium - while the deal still isn't final and a baseball stadium is still far from a done deal, this was a big step in making it happen.
  6. I wonder: Why are there so many mattress stores? - this story was actually written and published before BoiseDev formally launched. It continues to do great search engine traffic.
  7. Bown Tavern sued for eviction - the two sides ultimately worked it out, but for a moment things spilled over into court
  8. Albertsons to build new store in Boise's Barber Valley
  9. Boise to spend $3.5 million to steam ahead with streetcar plan - the latest in our series of watchdog reporting on the effort to move a trolley plan forward in Boise after more than a decade of attempts
  10. "T" for transit: Decision made on Boise streetcar; inside the push to make it a reality - this story won an Idaho Press Club award for best business reporting, and is one of the most in-depth pieces on the site to date

I Wonder: What's up with Centennial license plates... 27 years later?

In 1990, the State of Idaho celebrated a big milestone: 100 years of statehood.  Parties were held. Songs were sung. The City of Boise marked a 43-hour celebration centered on the July 3rd, 1990 event.

Now, 27 years later - you might still spot an Idaho Centennial license plate - but only if you look closely.

In 1987, the State issued the specialty plate with its vibrant red, white and blue look to mark the occasion of the big birthday bash. It stood out from the simple green and white Idaho Famous Potato plate of the day -- and even won a "plate of the year" award from the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.

At the time, funds from the plate went to the Idaho Centennial Commission for a variety of projects.

The plate was so popular it was co-opted for the standard Idaho plate. "Famous Potatoes" swaps in for "Centennial" and a blue tree is missing in the standard plate.

Today, you can still opt into the plate - paying an extra $25 up front and $15 per year, according to Reed Hollinshead with the Idaho Transportation Department.

Since the Centennial celebrations are a distant memory - where does the cash go? Idaho State Code was amended to put the cash toward your local highways instead. Hollinshead notes that 60% of the fee goes to ITD, with 40% going to your local highway district

There are about 5,216 vehicles statewide that still tout their Centennial pride all these decades later.

BodyBuilding.com gives run down HS gym a "Boise State"-level makeover

Boise-based BodyBuilding.com has taken a unique approach to giving back.

The online seller of supplements and other workout-related products has started the non-profit Lift Life Foundation - remodeling high school gyms across the country.

The foundation's idea is to "give new life to old run down high school weight rooms and give underprivileged students access to an amazing space that can literally change their lives both physically and mentally for the better."

Employees of BodyBuilding.com double with roles for Lift Life - taking a passion for fitness and applying it to doing good for students in small communities across the U.S.

So far, LLF has completed three gym projects - and showcased the latest effort with a 30-minute documentary film. 

The team travelled from Boise to Anderson Preparatory Academy in Anderson, Indiana to polish up a pretty run down workout space.

The town of Anderson was once a big hub for General Motors. As the 90s progressed, cutbacks came - followed by a complete pullout of the automaker in the early 2000s.

“When that happened it was like an implosion. The bottom just fell out,“ school founder Robert L. Guillaume said.

Before image, via Lift Life Foundation

Before image, via Lift Life Foundation

Schools like Anderson are strapped for cash - and that has a big impact on the school's weight room.

That's where Lift Life steps in.

The school received a grant of materials, time and equipment from the foundation. What happened next is a sort-of Extreme Makeover: High School Gym Edition.

“The Anderson weight room when we walked in was in really rough shape," BodyBuilding.com's Dylan Cooper said in the video. 

Out went a rundown, hazard-laden workout room - and in came a gleaming space loaded with the latest equipment.

“A lot of the students were like ‘why would I come here and work out - you don’t have any of the good equipment?’,” Anderson’s Prep’s Major Jeffrey Dorman said.” And a lot of them would say ‘do you work out here Major Dorman’ - and I didn’t. I worked out a commercial place.”

Exposed electrical wiring, unpadded tile floors and a small scattering of workout equipment gave the athletic teams a distinct disadvantage on the fields and courts. 

The LLF team swept in and assessed the current weight room and figured out how to improve the facilities and make the environment more welcoming.

Construction teams brought nearly seven trailers of equipment into the project.

“All together we are bringing in more than 130,000 pounds of equipment today. All by hand,” Cooper said.

They revamped the flooring, removed rooms, cleaned, added mirrors and more. Beyond new equipment and a coat of paint - the team focuses on branding, logos and atmosphere.

That focus paid off.

After image, via Lift Life Foundation

After image, via Lift Life Foundation

When Major Dorman first saw the revamp, the shiny blue turf on the floor (and perhaps the Boise-based team) gave him one thought:

"Boise State's got nothin' on us man!"

"(This is) State of the art," Dorman said. "Better than what we could have expected. Ten times what we would have expected. It will make such difference."

“To have this facility is just beyond expectation. What has occurred here with this project again reflects a positivity to the community,” Guillaume said.

Seeing the reaction to the project gives the LLF team great satisfaction. 

“I hope it gives all the students a tool that they can take advantage of. It’s so rewarding. Every project is different. We change lives for these kids” Lift Life's Makayla Frickey said.

“What I’m going to take away from the Anderson project is we left it a better place than when we got there," Cooper said. "This is something that is a brand new space and a new beginning. They can get in there and it can be a rallying point.”

BBcom and its Lift Life Foundation have complete three remodel projects - including one in Idaho. A fourth is in the works in Montana. The foundation is taking nominations for future projects.

 

More than 1,500 speak out on F-35 petition, leaders respond

A digital petition from Citizens for a Livable Boise has been delivered to city and state leaders with more than 1,500 signatures.

The story was first reported by Boise Guardian.

A BoiseDev analysis of the petition signatures shows 1,568 unique names (five numbers were skipped over).  Of those, the vast majority of signatories listed Boise as their home city - 1,398 names - or 89%.  Meridian, Garden City, Nampa and Caldwell made up for 73 more names - and 97 were from a variety of other places.

Citizens for Livable Boise petition responses

Breakdown of cities listed by respondants to a petition against the F-35 by Citizens for Livable Boise

After reading through the long list of names, you will likely recognize many if you grew up or live on the Bench.

The comments attached to the petition range from the short to the outraged to the thoughtful.

"I don't want jet noise over my house!," Frank Blue of Boise wrote.

"These jets have no place in a metropolitan area. The negative impact(s) are astounding. Mountain Home is a much more viable option," Debra Gallagher of Boise noted.

Emily Hokett warns the F-35 would harm her business.

"I own a house at ground zero," she wrote - apparently referring to the area near the airport.  "I am a 39-year-old entrepreneur who makes my income from my Airbnb that I run out of my home. This is a main source of income for me. I believe if the F35 are to come to Boise, it will destroy what Boise stands for. We are a community united by our community.

She ended her plea in all caps: "PLEASE DON'T DESTROY MY FAMILY AND MY HOUSE!!!"

Megan Roberts of Boise echoed the city's vision statement in her comment (Our vision: to make Boise the most livable city in the nation).

"We work hard to keep Boise a very livable City, that is what makes this place so special and attractive to newcomers and long-time residents alike. Please don't ruin the quietude we still have as a Western community, the jets belong somewhere where they won't shatter the peace of mind of thousands of residents as they go through routine practices."

ALSO READ:
New maps show impact of F-35

Leaders respond

BoiseDev reached out to each Idaho recipient of the Citizens for Livable Boise petition and letter.

Gov. Butch Otter: “I’ve been studying issues surrounding the F-35 and the opportunity to base a squadron in Idaho for a number of years now. I understand the concerns but believe any challenges can be overcome and that Gowen Field is among the best places anywhere to locate these aircraft.”

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter in a letter in response to the petition released to BoiseDev: "Input from community members is vital and we greatly appreciate your interest in this issue and taking the time to send us the petition.  While the City of Boise does support a replacement flying mission at Gowen Field, the decision… will be made by the United States Air Force.  The City of Boise has no say over what aircraft can or cannot fly in and out of Gowen Field."

The Mayor went on to detail a number of what he called "inaccuracies" that his office felt compelled to correct, including:

  • Noting Mtn. Home is "ineligible for this National Guard mission" because it is an active duty base, not a National Guard base.
  • That the F-35 mission would "result in less than 10 minutes of audible IDANG aircraft activity per day" - which the mayor contends is similar to the current A-10 mission.
  • No homes would be "uninhabitable" or condemned. 
  • You can read the full letter here.

The mayor ends the letter on a conciliatory note: "We do understand the concern some residents have for this current proposed flying mission, and we are working on ways to mitigate those challenges if Gowen Field is selected. One thing that can be prominently seen by both those who are in support of the proposed mission and by those opposed is just how passionate and caring the people of Boise are for their city and its future."  He then says he hopes everyone will remain respectful and show support for National Guard members at Gowen Field.

Idaho Commerce Director Megan Ronk: "Idaho Commerce is committed to retaining and growing jobs across Idaho and the F-35 mission presents a tremendous economic opportunity for the Treasure Valley and the state. While the Idaho Air National Guard has been flying at Gowen Field for over 70 years and is responsible for 2,800 jobs for families stretching across southern Idaho, their impact serving our state and protecting our country is immeasurable and deserving of our full support. We respect the concerns of this group of citizens but, rather than speculate with unfounded claims, we eagerly await the environmental impact study process at which time we will have a complete and current factual report on the impact of this potential mission."

From Lindsay Nothern, Sen. Mike Crapo's spokesperson: "We have not seen the petition but Crapo supports the F-35 efforts."

Spokespeople for Sen. Risch, Rep. Simpson and Rep. Labrador did not respond to requests for comment.

 

 

Macklemore pops tags at WinCo in new video

Seattle-born rapper Macklemore wanted to celebrate his grandma's 100th birthday.

So he surprised her with a day on the town in Modesto, CA.  In his new music video Glorious, the pair egged a house together, shopped for some shoes, hit up the local arcade... and popped some tags at WinCo Foods.

The rapper is seen driving the mart karts with granny and looking at magazines at the Modesto location of the Boise-based retailer.

The video is #6 on YouTube trending today - so WinCo's signature green & orange interior is getting in front of a lot of eyeballs.

Modesto resident Patrice Parks told the Modesto Bee about what she saw at her local WinCo during filming in June: 

 “You know it was one of those days where I didn’t want to leave the house, but I said I’ve got to go to the store,” Parks said. “But you don’t expect to go to WinCo and find a celebrity. It’s Modesto, you never see this kind of stuff happen. But it was really amazing.”

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Winco, Costco planned for Chinden & Linder

This isn't the first time Macklemore has woven a piece of Idaho into one of his songs: