Leaving Town

Idaho Statesman’s Joe Estrella had a well written story in Sunday’s paper about the dilemma faced by Boise City officials and Boise School District on the issue of “urban flight.”

“Urban flight” really means people don’t like living in Boise and they are following the advice of old time newspaper publisher Horace Greeley–”Go West young man, go west!” suburban_housing2.jpgBoise houses are expensive, taxes are high, and places like Meridian, Kuna, Nampa, Middleton and Star are more attractive.

One of the plans to stop the flight is to create more “infill developments” and increase population density. The schools are even considering closing some schools and offering the land to developers of “affordable housing” to attract more kids–which means more state revenues. The GUARDIAN thinks that’s a recipe for disaster and lends itself to “instant ghetto.”

Sort of like saying, “everyone is heading out of town for fine dining at affordable prices so we are going to build a bunch of fast food joints to keep the restaurant industry afloat.” Disregarding a newly created obesity crises with accompanying government programs and treatments.

All we can say is LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE! Nobody wants to be 10 feet closer to their neighbor or have 10 more kids in the classroom or more cars in the Costco parking lot.

These people are craving a slower pace, a quiet lifestyle, less stress, more voice in their government, and a perceived sense of safety and security. THAT is why all those Californians come to Idaho in the first place. They don’t come for a diverse population, big freeways paved with GARVEE bonds, homeless shelters, detox centers, low income housing or any of the other “benefits” of big city life.

The schools regard students as sources of revenue rather than minds to educate. The teacher’s union sees the urban flight as potential job loss. The GUARDIAN sees government as a “zero sum” enterprise…fewer residents mean fewer tax dollars, but also means fewer people to serve.

The only benefactors of “infill development” will be the slumlords who provide subsidized housing for the people too poor to flee to Meridian or Nampa. Meanwhile within a few years those municipalities will create what their residents fled in Boise.

Estrella’s story actually makes note of the Vista neighborhood which has become a repository for an unwanted trailer park, tiny infill houses, massive apartment complexes with low cost units, and a city-owned motel for poor people at Canal and Vista–none of which would be tolerated in more affluent areas of the city.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. This is an interesting post, but you seem to believe that life in a working-class urban neighborhood is necessarily less desirable than life in the suburbs. I need to beg to differ.

    I live right on the border of the Vista neighbood you describe above and the Depot Bench neighborhood to the north. While I recognize our neighborhood has problems, I see many signs of vitality as well. Best of all is our location: We’re just a few minutes via car or bus from downtown, and literally walking distance to BSU.

    Hawthorne School, which serves much of the Vista area, is an excellent elementary school, despite its proximity to the substandard housing you mention. School started today, and my daughter’s sixth-grade class includes one girl from Meridian whose parents didn’t want her to spend sixth grade in one of that suburb’s overcrowded middle schools.

    The Vista Avenue business district is seeing major facelifts at Vista Village. Our neighborhood has a classy new pub and a new upscale eatery, with a new pizzeria coming soon. There are a few commercial properties (the NE corner of Vista and Overland comes immediately to mind, as does the former Elks Lodge) that remain inexplicably vacant, but overall, there’s a solid sense of a working-class neighborhood here on the Central Bench that has more advantages than disadvantages.

    Our houses may be small and funky, but our yards are big, shaded by towering trees planted decades ago. Yes, there’s some bad infill and shabby commercial sites, but there are also many homeowners and businesses who are working to make our streetscapes more attractive. Not everyone can afford the North End, but that doesn’t mean our only alternative is life in the suburbs.

  2. I believe the Guardian’s post that it is more desirable to live in a less dense, better planned, and more sub-urban location was actually borne out by the research of the article to which he refers. Surely there are those urban dwellers who prefer to “reach out and touch” their neighbors, literally, but for the most part, folks like some space. Nothing against the bench neighborhood, but if many could sell their homes and move to Middleton or Star and have a 4 bedroom home overlooking Dry Creek with quail and pheasants feeding in their yards, they would prefer it. The problem for those of us who live in the country is 300 home developments being approved out our front doors, which will eventually house families who don’t know how to live in the country. They don’t want to listen to the balers running through the night or have the crop dusters fly too low over their homes. They hate the smell of the dairy up the road and they want their children to run like wild creatures with a new found freedom. But they will, nevertheless, move here and then set out to change US to suit THEM. (with no impact fees):(

  3. In my community we had the same problem. We solved it at the high school level by making the old downtown high school a performing arts magnet school. Now people from all over town who have kids that are into music theatre etc. put their kids in that school and the secondary effect is that the school’s performance goes up attracting kids who aren’t just interested in the arts. Other schools in the area do the same thing with engineering etc.

  4. Lisa in Ada County
    Sep 8, 2005, 10:22 pm

    Why has no one discussed “infill” of the less populated Boise schools with students from the overburdened Meridian district? Better yet, what about merging the two districts to create opportunities between the communities for geographical, economical,and heaven forbid, superior educational possibilities? My kids attend school in the Meridian district where they have spent time in portables with teachers hired the week before school starts (because enrollment exceeded expectations), and without textbooks for their classes. It is appalling to hold spaghetti feeds to finance textbooks and have parents furnish and paint the inside of portable classrooms while the district next door is clamoring for more students.

  5. Julie’s comments regarding a student’s commute IN to her daughter’s school stand out to me… open enrollment has allowed 7 families in our immediate area to rob our neighborhood school of time, energy, talent…We believe if our neighborhood is good enough to live in.. it should be good enough to go to school here, too. It’s uphill both ways at our Bench school…

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