City Government

Tourists Come See The Rusty Iron Trees

A pair of Idaho legislators have spawned a letter campaign by Boise City’s arts department to seek support for a move to kill House Bill 311.

Introduced by Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger and Sen. Regina Bayer, HB 311 would require public art costing $25,000 or less be approved by a simple two-thirds majority vote from City Council, but projects of $25,000 or more would require approval of a sixty percent majority public vote.

Ironically, this bill comes from a legislature that is hell-bent on denying a public voice in matters of state wide citizen initiatives, but giving us a voice in public art projects in excess of $25,000.

The legislature has also sought to limit the authority of the governor and the attorney general.

If the city rationale to kill the legislation is any indicator, perhaps the folks at the capitol have a point.

Rusty iron “cottonwoods” on city hall plaza.

The letter from Boise City says in part, “the bill would add unnecessary costs to the City’s ability to adequately resource and manage public art…and (public art) supports a diverse local economy of professional artists and their interconnected support networks and trades.”

Which means that Boise City isn’t thrilled to submit art expenditures to public approval.

“Crack in the wall” was inspired by Boise river drainage.

The City letter goes on to claim public art, “… draws tourists from around the country who in turn support our local tourism industry and hospitality workers, restaurants and small businesses.”

We can hear it now as folks in New York, Atlanta, or Austin plan their summer vacations saying, “We need to visit Boise and see that rusty iron at city hall and the crack in the wall on the big hotel.”

Boise lobbying effort letter.


City of Boise Opposes House Bill 311 Relating to Funding of Public Art
The City of Boise and its department of Arts & History would like to bring a proposed bill, House Bill 311: Restrictions on Public Art Expenditures, to your attention. Introduced by Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger and Sen. Regina Bayer, HB 311 would require that public art costing $25,000 or less be approved by two-thirds majority vote from City Council, and projects of $25,000 or more be approved by sixty percent majority public vote.

We write to you today to express our opposition to HB 311. Municipal public art programs already involve significant public engagement and financial oversight. As drafted, the bill would add unnecessary costs to the City’s ability to adequately resource and manage public art. Public art is one of the many attributes of the City of Boise that contributes to the city’s perennial listing as one of the top communities to live, and supports a diverse local economy of professional artists and their interconnected support networks and trades.

While the proposed bill has not yet been voted on by the full House, the course of action you may choose to take is to contact members of the House of Representatives and your respective legislators expressing your opposition to HB 311.

Useful Links
Talking Points
Testimony of Kathy Griesmyer, Government Affairs Director
Members of the House of Representatives
Public art throughout the city is what makes Boise unique, and draws tourists from around the country who in turn support our local tourism industry and hospitality workers, restaurants and small businesses. Our community members recognize the value of investing in art and the artistic community in an effort to increase vibrancy in our urban environment.

If you have any questions about our position on this bill, please contact Kathy Griesmyer at [email protected] or at 208-890-3800, or Karl LeClair, Public Art Program Manager, at [email protected] or 208-608-7044.

Thank you!
Your Boise Arts & History Team

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. How is it that those goobers pitch a fit when the feds mandate anything because local decisions are better, but they can’t resist sticking their noses into city business? Property tax relief? Nope. Too busy with partisan crap.

  2. The better house bill would be to overturn Boise Ordinance 6799 and prohibit all Idaho jurisdictions from enacting similar ordinances for public or private projects. That Boise ordinance allocates 1.4% of all City capital project to public art. More correctly I would say it requires the City (and taxpayers) to add (or overpay) 1.4% to the cost of all capital projects for public art. Of the 1.4%, it seems .4% is used to fund the City employees who select the art, manage the installations, and write memos on the virtues of public art and public funding for art. Seems like something volunteers could do, not paid employees.

    In a free market things that have value get assigned that value. If the general public is not willing to privately fund raise to support public art, then obviously the community does not recognize the value.

    Ban all publicly funded public art requirements, let art patrons privately fund raise for the public art and let those who raised the funds chose the art to install.

    This is not an anti-art statement, taxes should be used for essential services, and optional services like public art, public radio, and public TV should find their own funding model without requiring everyone to help pay for them.

  3. Yeah my parents flew into Boise to visit me years ago. Spent ALL their time visiting the ART and painted signal boxes throughout the city of Boise. All Boise’s art is the main reason for the added non stop flights! Chicagoan’s can’t get enough of Boise’s art. What a crock of sh art.
    Speaking of art in the city of Boise can anyone tell me who is paying for the 8th street redo next to the Capitol building? Was it Boise property owners looking for tax relief? or did it come out of state permanent building funds?

  4. 10 Reasons to Support the Arts
    Arts improve individual well-being.
    Arts unify communities.
    Arts improve academic performance.
    Arts strengthen the economy.
    Arts drive tourism and revenue to local businesses.
    Arts spark creativity and innovation.
    Arts drive the creative industries.
    Arts have social impact.
    Arts improve healthcare.
    Arts for the health and well-being of our military.

    The arts are fundamental to our humanity.
    They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty.
    The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures.
    The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.

    EDITOR NOTE–Your reasons sure beat the “tourism rationale.”

  5. It's still the failure of media
    Mar 11, 2021, 11:51 pm

    Fix the media and they will fix the elected politico. Also, how many would be gone if term limits for any and all elected.

  6. pd: Fine. But, I don’t see it as an essential government function requiring subsidy by taxpayer dollars. Just like many other things I am coerced to subsidize that are rationalized as publicly beneficial. Just another cut of pork.

  7. Ditto for erico49’s comment.
    The Idaho Republican party does NOT believe in or want LOCAL political policy.
    They are control freaks!

    It’s enough to make a person leave the party—- unless of course you are willing to be controlled by them.

    Sen. Regina Bayer is from Meridian.
    Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger is from Lewiston/Orofino. It puts much better context to these legislative stories if we place the legislator to their origins. Bayer doesn’t even have flowers in her front yard. What old lady doesn’t plant beautiful ‘artistic’ flowers in her front yard for to enjoy? BLAH Grandma!

    This bill smells a lot like the archaic Russian and Chinese government policies of NO ART FOR YOU.

    These people and some readers here need to sit downtown for spell, and count the number of ‘tourists’ that actually do visit Freak Alley (ART). That is just 1 example. It’s true, build art and people will enjoy it.

    fuddy duddy people just don’t get it.
    Follow this bill and a city will just build a city building and just add $50,000 to the building cost for an art piece so it is not a separate budget item.
    Make a dumb law and people will work around it.

    That is why BOISE voters will vote for Councilmembers who do get it and Boise voters will vote for public art.

    A thriving culture supports their arts- collectively through tax revenue. It’s a fact.

  8. Let’s consider what the definition of art is. It is one of those things that is hard to define but apparent when one sees it, and conversely what isn’t art is also apparent when one sees it. The crack on the Grove Hotel has looked ridiculous ever since it was installed. Remember the steam and water dripping out of it when it was brand new? NOT art. Rusty shards of steel at City Hall? Scrap metal and a good way to catch tetanus, but NOT art. Painted intersections being driven over by cars chipping off the paint? An expensive joke, NOT art. pd’s ten reasons are all valid reasons to support the arts, and paying for it with public funds is OK. It is not OK to claim that garbage created by overpaid hacks friendly to the politicos at City Hall qualify as ‘art.’

    Next thing you know, Boise will commission a statue of Saint George Floyd to be placed in one of the parks as art.

  9. Frank – the 8th Street project shows up on the CCDC website, paid for with the incremental tax increase that CCDC scrapes away from every parcel in the designated West Side Urban Renewal District that this project is in.

  10. Not A Core Purpose
    Mar 12, 2021, 3:51 pm

    There is nothing in Boise’s charter documents that support arts & history to be a core purpose of the city. After twenty years of an ordinance to fund art, and pay the annual costs for maintenance and repairs from vandalism, it is time for this pet-project to be handed over to the private sector and philanthropy. For property tax relief, the collection side must be adjusted and the spending side must also be.

  11. Please enlighten me, I guess I lost track. Where have these attractions been installed on my side of the river so that all city residents can partake of tourist largess?

  12. Bonnie Krupp
    Mar 12, 2021, 4:39 pm

    I have to laugh when the city council says the art installed around Boise draws tourists from around the world. Please elucidate the list. It is some of the most mundane, uninspiring garbage around. Yes, I have traveled and yes, I love art. What I don’t like are the ugly brown sculptures and the block design new buildings rising around Boise in the usual MUD color. They are all inspired by cheap construction with 9’x12’etc. The new Ball Ahlquist proposed building on 4th and Idaho is just such an ugly example of tear it down in 10 years construction.

  13. Thanks xx I enjoy your tunes!

  14. John Hormaechea
    Mar 13, 2021, 9:18 am

    I was disappointed to see the Boise Arts & History department out soliciting support on legislation to their email distribution list. If the mayor wants to speak out, the mayor can do so. It is not the role of the department to so. Focus on arts and history. Although that department does do outreach on new art projects, it often is only discussed with a small group of persons within neighborhoods/city. They need to do a better and more creative job of getting more people’s input. And no, people don’t come from around the world to see Boise’s art. They come for a safe, clean city for a reasonable price and easy outdoor activity access.

    I think the state government does a good job overall. But they are really putting the screws to Boise with various legislation and is becoming a bit too big brother. Focus on your core – lower taxes, better education, better infrastructure – but don’t micromanage. You aren’t in session long enough.

  15. Richard Downen
    Mar 13, 2021, 1:28 pm

    I believe the City sets aside 1% for arts out of all capital expenditures. Check it out.

  16. Is the Lincoln Memorial public art?
    Washington Monument?
    Vietnam Memorial?
    Iwo Jima Memorial is certainly public art, by any measure. It is beautiful and impactful.
    Any guesses how much of our public government funding (taxes) goes towards those spaces just to maintain, clean, and administer?

    Is there anywhere in the US ‘charter’ that mandates spending money on memorials, a national art museum?
    Well, the founder would say, “yes”.
    Section 8. To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts [copyrights].

    Back in the days, the Washington Monument was started by PRIVATE donations. It ran out of money, stalled and stopped construction. It wasn’t till the federal govt offered money to finish it.
    Do people go to DC just to look at these artistic memorials?
    Maybe not, but when in Rome— do as the Romans do, people certainly make a point to visit the existing art in Rome [and Boise]. Weird. Jus because the slanted readers here don’t do that, doesn’t mean other people don’t do so.

    Would the naysayers here would say scrap the D.C Capital Mall?
    Make it entrance fee only and only the visitors have to financially support those places????

    Same can be said of local and state government.
    Moscow Idaho, not Moscow Russia!

  17. western guy
    Mar 13, 2021, 6:38 pm

    Public art (however funded) is an amenity (look it up in your old paper dictionary), just like zoos, parks, trees, flowers.

    These amenities break up the drearyness of asphalt, concrete and MUD-colored stucco.

    Or, we can have Soviet-style ‘projects’.

  18. Eye of the beholder
    Mar 14, 2021, 3:11 pm

    Art is subjective. From the city, it is taxpayer funded. Not such a big sum. Larger sums are wasted in indecision and repeating what went wrong, not just in cities, but all bureaucracies.

    I think old rusty cars are just fine as art. Leave ’em anywhere you want to. Cars aren’t mean to run, be licensed or insured, to contribute to the gainful endeavor of the owner. Old engines and trailers, too. Even just the insides of old trailers – the “furniture” is art.


  19. Vet above,
    Yes your point is agreeable. It seems City Council is relaying the same message to Parks Dept to be considered. Obviously not a done deal.

    The same could be said of BPD Officer Stall.
    Should a whole police station be named for 1 person?
    While the NP 512 Fund is supporting the cost of the bronze statute for him- it ‘represents’ many more than just 1 fallen leo, right? None the less, how much BPD official time/money is spent to memorialize 1 person in art, plaques, time, etc?
    Any complaints?

    We now have a statute of Gov Borah downtown. Who paid for that ridiculous thing?
    Boise airport has a statute of an airman. Should we have to have a city-wide vote for such an appropriate thing? Is the floor compass inside the airport art? A vote on something like that in the future?
    An “!” On the library. Art???

    If ya dont approve how the council spends our money- vote them out—- dont burden us all with this junk legislation.
    Trash the bill.

  20. Nice catch, Courtly.
    I’ll be sure to update my auto-spell. Thanks for reading (& proof reading).

  21. Re: Compass on the floor of Boise Airport. Don’t forget the City and its contractor(s) spend hundreds of thousand$ on the original installation, AND the redo because the first install didn’t work out.

    The previous comment about ‘larger sums being spent… on what went wrong’ applies here.

  22. We need more statues in our parks to give BLM something to throw paint and feces at. Nobody comes here to see the art, they come to see their family members who have fled all of the states West of us!

  23. Shoogi do you think “their family members” have fled states west of us because of a lack of ART?

  24. I’m waiting for Mayor McClean to offer $1000 monthly income for “artists” just like San Francisco to do….cuz CULTURE!

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