Analysis: Ugly scene at first stadium meeting shows rift over Boise’s growth

NEWS ANALYSIS

I didn’t recognize Boise last night.

Neighborhood meetings are usually small affairs with just a few people showing up. But due to widespread media attention and at the urging of several groups opposed to a downtown Boise stadium project at Americana and Shoreline, this one had a crowd.

And the whole scene was ugly.

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Dozens of citizens shouted and hollered and interrupted.

The developer did not show up – and sent one attorney with no microphone to address the throng.

Citizens were upset about just about everything. Worried about parking. Concerned about crowd noise. Leery of traffic. Unhappy the mayor didn’t show up.

Geoff Wardle with Spink Butler tried to stay calm as he was being yelled at. His answers fell on deaf ears. But the disaster was one of Greenstone Properties’ making. Last year I was critical of the handling of the stadium project for being too calculated by city leaders. This went in the opposite direction.

Wardle told KTVB they only expected those invited neighbors to show up. That’s a very bad misread of the situation. Two vocal groups of Boise citizens are not keen on a stadium in that location and have shown the ability to organize in the past. Concerned Boise Taxpayers is well-organized and Vanishing Boise is passionate.

Greenstone had a chance to showcase the project and control the chaos. A few displays, a small riser for speakers and a microphone would have gone a long way. Sending just a single attorney and not having anyone from the development team looked disrespectful and dismissive. The crowd couldn’t hear Wardle speak which contributed to the atmosphere.

The crowd looked like something out of the show Parks and Rec. It made for great video for the media throng in attendance, but the lack of civility seems to be giving people pause.

Boise is changing and people are worried. The quality of life the area is known for seems under threat and is stirring passion. Leaders have been pro-growth and pro-developer for quite some time, in search of a healthy vibrant economy. The stadium project is at the eye of this storm and the months ahead will show a lot about how leaders and citizens want to forge ahead.

Just as the developers have the right to pitch a project, citizens have a right to make their voices heard. Neither did so in the most effective way last night.

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