“Energize Vista” Project Well Intended, But Not Well Thought Out


I have been a resident and home owner of the Vista Neighborhood for nearly 50 years. Over that half century I have watched as Boise’s city fathers and mothers–past and present–have dumped house trailers, low cost housing, sex offenders, skinny houses, refugees, and assorted “assistance programs” in our neighborhood.

To be fair, for the most part these deals were probably well intended. The latest plan is a high dollar deal to “Energize Vista.” To be realistic, most of the deals have flaws. To be cynical, there is probably little hope of any true “improvement.”
Eric Lowe
Eric Lowe is a good example of the old joke, “We’re from the government and we are here to help you.” Lowe owns a produce market at the corner of Overland and Columbus. He is open all year and sells the typical assortment of produce. Everything from apples to oranges, melons, tomatoes, fresh milk, etc.

Boise City in cooperation with the Farmer’s Market downtown has begun to compete directly with Lowe in an effort to “bring nutrition” to the poor folks living in the Oak Park apartments near Cherry Lane and Vista. The City is subsidizing a refrigerated trailer stocked with fresh produce that makes stops at the apartment complex–much like the Schwan’s frozen food guy. We think a free taxi or shuttle to Lowe’s market would be cheaper.

“The city never contacted me and I will have trouble staying open if these guys from downtown come into my area with subsidized competition,” lamented Lowe.

Pointing across the street to a rental property and a pair of skinny houses he added, “Those houses have never had anyone in them more than a year. We establish a customer base and they all move away.”

There in lies the problem. Skinny houses are allowed with multiple tenants–usually college students. Granted, the structures are probably visual improvements over the original structures, but cars are parked helter-skelter along the street and the occupants are transient in nature. The houses don’t attract upscale occupants.

Meanwhile, Boise planners and politicos proudly tout their efforts at creating upscale housing in the downtown area where taxes on improvements are all diverted away from all local governments and schools to benefit CCDC and developers.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Mr. Lowe needs to realize that he lives in a city that could care less about him and his business.

    Doing business with him does not get the City Council or the mayor any warm fuzzies from the daily rag or local TV stations.

    We have a City Council that thinks it knows more about everything than any of us who actually pay the taxes. A couple of them seem hell bent on spending a lot of my money paying for things like veggies at the city approved truck. Since when did the City of Boise need to become the food source of Boise. Isn’t that a function of the State Dept.of Health and Welfare?

    I recall one City Councilor who said that they were elected to do whatever they want to – that is what you do when you get elected.

    Mr Lowe – welcome to the Soviet City of Boise.

  2. This all falls under the heading of Obamafication:

    If you follow the money will you find some ‘non-profit’ do-gooders with PhDs, MDs, and assorted social-worker degrees are writing huge grants and stuffing their pockets with the professional fees they charge to the non-profit front companies which they control ‘while helping the poor’… or is that only happening in the big cities??

    Clearly somebody needs to organize the Vista-Bench community and vote Bieter out.

  3. >”This all falls under the heading of Obamafication”

    You lost me there but at least you were up front with your irrelevant biases unlike Vivian’s “welcome to the Soviet City of Boise”

    Vilification is not a good place to start negotiations and both of your arguments seem to be more about finding like minded posters to trivialize the content and influence the direction of future posts.

    You don’t always have to agree but please be civil when disagreeing.

  4. To avoid “class warfare” charges, the city should subsidize champagne and caviar for the foothills residents, especially on inclement weather days when they don’t want to risk getting their fancy cars wet on a trip to Whole Foods.

  5. Dave, I wish you wouldn’t blame this on CCDC. Surely it’s more complicated than that. And guess what, the downtown boom tidal wave is washing up on the bench now.

    Go look at the neighborhood behind the Benchmark. During one of my fixer tours, I counted 4 old derelict properties on one block under rehab right now. What about the Depot? Seems like the City of Boise spends a pretty penny on that place. Did we really need that old train up there? How much did that cost again?

    A bit to the west, Roosevelt St got a full makeover last year. Don’t forget the Federal Way makeover 10 or 15 years ago. Remember how awful Federal Way used to be? Then there’s that little park where Manley’s used to be. I know, it’s ACHD, but Boise does pull some strings with them.

    Produce truck? This is the first I’ve heard of it. Hey, it’s better than a weed infested community garden. But yeah, unfair competition is lame.

    To the people who have problems with rentals, the buck stops with the property’s owner. It’s easy to look up ownership. Write the owner a “nice polite complaint” letter. That’s what I do. It works too, especially if they’re realtors and you threaten to post on yelp how they’re deadbeat landlords.

    Regarding zippo’s do-gooders comment, it’s called moral licensing. Look it up.

  6. Dear TJ Thomson, I would like a subsidized Taco Truck and a beer truck outside my front door.

    In this case, when I buy 1 taco and 1 beer, the city should make it 2 for 1. And then everyone is invited over for free tacos and beer!
    While enjoying free tacos, we will discuss voting for someone else- again- next time.

  7. The shortage of affordable housing is a crisis in the Twin Cities as well as other metro areas. The development of housing for the elite is a national issue as well. You have touched on the middle class crisis with lack of education and employment opportunities. The veggie truck is like a pimple on the elephant’s butt.
    Your instincts are good; you need to dig deeper.

  8. Linda Thomas
    Jun 12, 2015, 10:32 am

    Well, after all, HE didn’t build that business!

  9. The “competition” will only be there on Mondays from 3 to 5.

    From June 8-Aug. 21, the Mobile Market and the Mobile Recreation Van will visit these sites:

    3:00–5:00 p.m. — Oak Park Village (Vista neighborhoods), 2888 Cherry Lane
    6:00–7:30 p.m. — Latah Village Apartments, 3905 W. Alpine St.

    11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. — Redwood Park, 2675 N. Shamrock Ave.

    11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. — Veterans Memorial Park, 930 N. Veterans Memorial Parkway
    6:00–7:30 p.m. – Northwest Pointe Apartments, 3475 N. Five Mile Road

    11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. — Winstead Park, 6150 W. Northview St.

    From Aug. 22-Sept. 30, the trailer will stop only at the Northwest Pointe Community Center.

  10. I am astounded at the negativity of the comments about the new Mobile Market. Mr. Lowe can only benefit from the development and encouragement of an expanded market for locally-grown fruits and vegetables. The Mobile Market is in his neighborhood for a few hours, for one, maybe two days a week. The more his neighbors are encouraged to consume fresh and fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to show up at his store on the other 6 days of the week. Mr. Lowe should be talking to City Hall to see how he can be the next one in line for this innovative program. Mr. Lowe should be talking with the Boise Farmers’ Market to find out how they have been able to provide a $5 SNAP match, well before the City got involved. What Mr. Lowe should not be doing is pouting because he thinks that the entrepreneurial success of the Boise Farmers’ Market somehow threatens him. The Market is working very hard to not only expand its customer base but to encourage healthier the eating habits. The City agreed to support additional SNAP matches because access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a public health issue. We all pay, directly or indirectly, when people sit on their couches and move only far enough to get to the taco truck and kegerator. Nobody is forcing anyone to eat locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Nobody is forcing anyone to purchase them at the Mobile Market. The Mobile Market provides an opportunity for folks who want to eat food produced by the local farmers but lack access, for whatever reason. Mr. Lowe should be ecstatic that the Mobile Market is helping to grow that customer base for him.

  11. Im not sure how a mobile produce market catering to low-income residents, once a week, 10-15 blocks away from Overland/Columbus, on the other side of Vista is as big a threat as you’ve presented. If anything, the idea that these things are barriers to the free market poses an interesting question — one that’s validity is being studied appropriately, in my opinion.

  12. I grow tired of people slamming skinny houses. I am a business owner on the bench and i live in a skinny home. i purchased my home in 1997 and have lived in it the entire time. “The houses don’t attract upscale occupants” is not true and is very insulting. I dont go to the market because the prices are higher and i was treated poorly when i was in the store. People shop where they can get the best deal, and where they are treated well. Helping people in need is by far more important then a store owner getting upset.

  13. Eagle Writer
    Jun 14, 2015, 4:28 pm

    James B – people have nothing against skinny houses, they are just mean.

    Doggone – many of us learned the food pyramid in school only to now find out it was wrong for decades and contributed to national obesity. Swell. (No pun intended)

    Now, I don’t think we’ll discover the same for getting off the couch and moving further than the taco truck…but none of that is the role of government. You mention “access”, at least twice, and I’m not certain how people do not have access to fruits and veggies. Do the stores stock them on very high shelves? Are they kept behind lock and key for only special, elite consumers? My fear is that your “access” is my tax money.

    This issue is far larger than Mr. Lowe’s business, but if the government’s actions are going to threaten his legal business then his losses should be borne by funds within the program.

    But let’s do this for 7 years and then test it. If the long-term users are skinnier, and my other-people’s-health-related-taxes are lower, I’ll eat crow. Or maybe beets.

  14. Doggone, that’s an entertaining viewpoint.
    You think someone with foodstamps getting 2 for 1 value on Monday at the mobile fruit stand, is going to get that deal on Monday and then on Wednesday go to his store to pay TWICE as much for an apple instead of waiting till next Monday to reload on 2 of 1…. Really? Would YOU do that?

    And you left out the main point– the city is offering the 2 for 1 vouchers ONLY through the Farmer’s Market. Maybe instead, City Hall should have been applying all your brainstorming idea to their plot to feed poor people– over and beyond the federal programs, state programs, church programs, and existing community programs— you know like, “TJ should be talking with ALL the fruit stands to find out how to provide a $5 SNAP match– for EVERYONE”.

    But of course the City Council should not be getting involved with people’s diets at all. So, Doggone, tell us which business industry you are involved in, and collectively we will find a way for some govt agency to interfere, subvert and harass your lively-hood. Oooh yeah, and they will send you the bill.

  15. I’ve heard the city and powerful non-profits have negotiated the suspension of the laws regulating food growing and food handling so as to allow the stuffs produced by the private community growers to be sold to the public. Is this true??

  16. I would like to know how the food truck prices compare to Winco. I think public assistance dollars need to be used at low price vendors. Organic, non-GMO, farmer’s market, etc is all good and well, but it comes at a premium and should not be eligible for food stamps.

    Maybe I am just pissed that while getting coffee this morning at the gas station, the guy and his three kids in front of me used food stamps for chips and other treats. They should be buying low cost bulk staples with our tax dollars, not Twinkies and Cheetos.

  17. Zip- Food safety/security is regulated at the federal level for growing, packing and shipping. The newest, improved version is the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

    The FSMA is still in the implementation phase, but many local producers would like fall under the already in place exemptions. I doubt the city or anyone else had control over this.

    Who is affected:

    Much of the FMSA has been in place for many years for the larger producers. The chain stores(Albertson,Walmart) and foodservice (SYSCO,USFoods) have demanded it.

  18. @Zippo;

    I would not say the laws are being suspended, but I would agree that the rules for farmers markets, refugee market day, food carts and trucks, would never meet the standards by which food businesses in a permanent building have to abide by. Part of the reason I sold my 4 fast food franchises, hard to compete paying royalties, impact fees and thousands of dollars of property taxes, personal property taxes on every spoon, knife etc, and hundreds of dollars for city/county inspections, when a food truck or hot dog cart can park outside my business and pay only couple hundred bucks a year to be in the same business.

    The City is its own worst enemy, it relies upon heavy taxation of retail businesses and then allows competing businesses which pay only a small fee, if a fee at all, to operate.

  19. JJ – There is a huge “premium” on Winco food, and most other supermarket chains as well. It is poisoned with pesticides and chemical preservatives, making those who eat it fat and sick, which is a huge drain on health care and productivity. It is sourced from farms where topsoil destruction, environmental degradation, and Frankenfood (GMO’s) are the rule. Cheap food has huge hidden costs. Local, human labor, organic type farms are the future.

  20. Why not just put a basket of veggies on each of the city busses. Then those in need could show their ID or Medicade card and get carrots and some tomatoes.

    Then there could be a veggie stand at the new bus center where they could get their watermelons and bigger items. And they could use the WIFI there too. Then we need to give them a PC to look for a job. Then we need to give them dog and cat food for their pets. Then the city could pay for YMCA memberships for all so they can shower, exercise, have day care, get a massage, etc.. Then they city can get then a buy one get one free haircut deal at the local cosmo school.

    Then the city needs to give them a car and free gas.

    Maybe Vivian had it right after all.

  21. Clancy, I’m fairly well informed. Before you doubt me, sniff around a bit. There are special rules for special people in Boise. Part of the community garden gimmick. No, the kids cannot legally sell coolaid… but in Boise the refugees are allowed sell stuff they grow. aka rules suspended.

  22. @J Smith, I agree with you as it relates to highly processed foods like McDonalds, which is why my family will not eat there, but I think there is little risk in buying regular produce and I won’t buy into the hype that we need to be gluten free, organic and non-gmo. There are studies that show risks for these products (studies often funded by the producers of organics) and there are studies that show no risks (studies often funded by agri-science firms who produce pesticides and GMO’s), but the bottom line is people are living healthier and longer lives than they ever have, and advances in medicine and agri-science plays a role in that longevity and vitality.

    So to bring it back to the topic, I don’t believe there is a material risk in normal produce, so I believe our tax dollars helping those in need should not be spent on premium priced organics, especially brought to your door service. If such assistance was used on low cost staples, the money could go farther and more people could be helped.

    Additionally the idea of food stamps is to provide temporary assistance to those who had a setback, it is not meant to be a lifelong solution for any one individual. Even if there is a risk on regular produce, which I am not convinced there is, consumption of such produce in the short-term is even a lower risk, so it makes even more sense to not use government dollars for organics.

  23. Zip- Unless you have concrete evidence, the city has little to do with food safety. That has been left to the state(CDHD) and Federal(USDA,FSIS). Most likely the refugees grow less than $25,000/year so they are exempt.

  24. It’s certainly our job as citizens to do more than complain about those who are seeking to solve legitimate problems, whether they’re in the private or public sector, or to voice out concerns proactively when these decisions are being planned, not when those plans are being implemented — now that would be true watchdog journalism, this is just reactionary negativity.

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