Last week, the city of Boise handed out nearly $400,000 in community reinvestment grants, money that city officials say neighborhood associations will use to brighten up living space. About 5 percent of that money – $19,265 to be exact – will be spent on painting art on traffic boxes around the city.
Not everyone is thrilled with the city’s decision to hand out money for the boxes, however. Former Boise City Council candidate Dave Litster told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday that instead of doling out money for new art, the city should have decreased spending and reduced the property tax burden on residents. “That might not be the best use of taxpayer funds,” said Litster.
He said that Boise residents struggling to make ends meet each month would have likely appreciated lower tax rates over the new art projects. “I know I would have rather seen that money in my pocket than have some new boxes downtown painted,” Litster said.
And while $20,000 doesn’t seem like much when spread out over Boise’s more than 200,000 residents, Litster questioned the need for the entire $400,000 in grants. “The city should find ways to cut back,” he concluded.
But one official, City Council President Maryanne Jordan, defends the art on the traffic boxes and the reinvestment program. “It’s sort of economic development tool,” she explained. Aesthetics of city life, she said, change the culture of the community and help bring new employers to the area. “We can all agree that clean, attractive, and vibrant cities are more inviting to businesses,” Jordan mused.
Jordan also defended the art as serving a practical purpose. “There’s been very little graffiti,” she noted, saying that the decorated boxes help cut down on graffiti and “tagging.”
The Community Reinvestment Grant Program is paid for through the city’s general fund. Projects range from establishment of community gardens to installation of historic street lamps or construction of safer sidewalks. Accredited neighborhood associations applied for nearly $850,000 in project money this year, though only $382,000 was awarded.
This is not the first time the city has allocated money for an activity like this. The city awarded $20,000 to the Boise Downtown Association in 2009 to paint five of the traffic boxes, which are normally a shiny silver color.
The same association was awarded $3,000 to paint one box in 2010.
This year’s money for art on traffic boxes will pay for more boxes to be painted. A total of seven boxes will receive a new look thanks to taxpayer dollars. The West Downtown Neighborhood Association will care for two of the boxes, while the Downtown Boise Neighborhood Association will again work on five of them.
It is unknown which boxes in downtown Boise will be painted as part of the project.