My Interview with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter
Our esteemed mayor has a longstanding practice of holding "Saturday Office Hours" a few times a year. During this three-hour block of time on a Saturday morning, anyone can show up without an appointment and spend ten minutes grilling Mayor Bieter on any issue related to Boise city government. I figured this would be my only chance ever to get ten minutes alone with the mayor, so I crafted five outstanding questions and showed up. Surprisingly, they gave me my ten minutes, and I only had to fib a little bit to keep myself incognito.
The interview took place in the April of 2011. Oh, and by the way, Frank Zappa died in 1993.
Me: People are calling the failed Boise Tower site non-flattering names such as 'The Pit of Despair', 'The Boise Hole', 'Our Holey Embarrassment', 'Kempthorne's Folly', and the best place in town to hide a body. I have a great idea for what to do with that big gaping hole: flood it and make it into the country's first municipal shark pond. It would be as unique as our blue field. Do you think this idea would work?
Mayor Bieter: I've got to give you points for creativity. I thought I'd heard everything, but shark pond I have not heard yet. There are what I think are some good ideas. But first, it's apparently under contract. There is a negotiation underway, and I don't know the timeframe, but it is privately owned. The owner is under negotiation to make a deal for it, and it's time restricted. But we're in that time right now, so it could be that the market handles it. We're wanting to find out here soon. I do have an idea that I think is viable if the market doesn't move, and it's a public market. A permanent one, one that could operate in the winter months. Like Pike Street in Seattle. I think that's the best public use, but it remains to be seen whether that can be done. I think an exorcism is the first order of business, though, because it is a cursed site.
Me: Hopefully you're aware that we have a goose problem. You can't walk five feet in our otherwise lovely parks without stepping in goose doo-doo. My solution is to start a city-owned foie gras farm south of town, relocate all the geese there, and use the profits to fund a downtown streetcar. Do you think this is a viable solution to the goose problem?
Mayor Bieter: Well, I like the idea of raising funds for the street car, but I think you might have a little trouble with the geese. I agree with you, though, about the geese problem. The Parks Department is trying a whole bunch of things, from oiling the eggs to working with Fish & Game to relocate them. I couldn't agree with you more that it's a problem. There are nothing but tough answers, but we're looking at everything. I was in Julia Davis and a car pulls up in one of the parking lots there, and a grandmother and her granddaughter get out with big buckets of feed and start feeding the geese. We have to stop that for sure. I think most people, whatever attractiveness the wilds have, has long since worn off with geese. There are places where they get dogs to work a park and continually chase the geese off. They've had success in places with that, but the most promising is oiling the eggs so they don't hatch.
Me: I'm going to name off a few famous mayors. How has each affected your philosophy for governing a mid-sized American city?
Diamond Joe Quimby, mayor of Springfield
Mayor Bieter: [laughing] No influence there. I'm not familiar with Diamond Joe, for better or worse.
Mayor McCheese, mayor of McDonaldland
Mayor Bieter: [laughing] I do remember Mayor McCheese. Limited influence for Mayor McCheese.
Mayor Goldie Wilson, mayor of Hill Valley in the movie Back to the Future
Mayor Bieter: I remember Goldie. Limited influence, but maybe it's one I need to revisit.
Mayor Bieter: Limited influence, but to tell you the truth, I thought he was kind of a dog to his women. I thought that was unmanly of him. I don't own any of his stuff. I'm somewhat familiar and like it well enough, but I'm not inclined to buy anything now after he was such a dog.
Me: What can you say about the rumors going around that the Boise City Council is going to vote soon on a measure that would change the name of Julia Davis Park to Brent H. Coles Memorial Park?
Mayor Bieter: No truth to the rumors. I can verify that. I would have, first of all, the gatekeeping of the agenda and whether it got on the agenda. And then if it were to get on the agenda and the council were to tie, I would break the tie. But I can say with near 100% certainty that the park will not be renamed. The Davis family might have a few things to say about that.
Me: This summer will mark yet another concert season that Frank Zappa is not playing Boise. It's truly a shame. Is there any way you can use your mayoral clout to get Mr. Zappa a gig at one of our finer concert venues?
Mayor Bieter: I will go this far. If you can find a way to contact Frank Zappa, I will do so. It'll probably take more than a letter. It'll probably take a phone call, email or tweet. Or if you will run down his contact info, I will request that he play Boise. Is he touring still? Frank Zappa's got to be in his 60s. If you are serious, and I assume that you are, I will write, call, or email to try to get him to Boise. All I can tell you is that in certain situations, I will make a contact, if I can. Probably a letter is the best way, so I'll send him an official letter that says I've been requested by dedicated fans and good Boiseans to ask you to come to our town.