We’ve all heard the terms organic and eco-friendly. Locavore is the Oxford Dictionary’s 2010 Word of the Year. But have you heard the term cohousing? Kathryn McCamant, an award-winning architect and developer comes to Boise State Wednesday night to talk about a new concept that she says is revolutionizing communities across the world.
McCamant, author of Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, returned to the U.S. in the 1980s, bringing with her the cohousing concept from Denmark.
“I can’t imagine why anyone would live outside of a cohousing community,” McCamant told Citydesk.
McCamant said the concept is relatively simple: marrying fully-equipped homes with extensive community amenities.
A cohousing neighborhood typically consists of private homes (yes, that includes a high-end kitchen) with a communal dining area, garden, sitting area, children’s playroom, laundry, workshop, library, exercise room, crafts room, and one or more guest rooms. The environmentally-sustainable homes are built facing each other, making space for a courtyard, creating a strong sense of neighbor-oriented community.
For the uninitiated, cohousing is not synonymous with commune. Most cohousing communities do not have a common religious or political ideology. They’re made of individuals who want a life of community, while caring about environmental sustainability and efficiency.
But what might this mean to Boise dwellers? Many residents already live together, cook communal meals, and even share neighborhood yoga classes. Yet, there are many more living in single-family dwellings, eating meals alone, and not knowing their neighbors.
McCamant said cohousing offers an alternative to the alienation prevelant in modern society. While many may isolate themselves in gated communities to achieve security, she said cohousing offers a more permanent security, “Knowing your neighbor, and building relationships and bridges that make us safer.”
McCamant told Citydesk that her Wednesday night presentation will cover a variety of subtopics: intergenerational neighborhood design, shared spaces for meeting, community gardens, edible landscaping and energy-efficient and sustainably-designed buildings. McCamant said all these things can be incorporated to any degree into new Boise homes, whether buying into a cohousing community or are just looking to “green” or enrich your life.
“A true cohousing community or eco-village does not yet exist here. My hope is that this presentation will demystify the concept and engage the public in a conversation about the best possible future,” said John Gardener, associate vice president for energy research, policy and campus sustainability.
In McCamant’s words, “We’re not all best friends, but we’re all good neighbors.”
McCamant’s free presentation is slated for 7 pm Wednesday night in the Jordan Ballroom of the Boise State Student Union Building.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter removed a political abscess Tuesday, restoring all previously contracted dental care providers to the state's Medicaid-funded Idaho Smiles program.
In the wake of cuts to Medicaid, some 150 dentists were cut from the Idaho program that provides dental services to indigent patients. Some dentists warned they'd lose more than half their patients.
Otter facilitated talks among the Idaho Dental Association, program contractor DentaQuest and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The talks resulted in a decision that no state Medicaid recipients will be denied access to dental care.
In spite of the pile of federal stimulus checks with Idaho's name on them, Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick and his Republican challenger Raul Labrador are trading barbs on who hates the stimulus more.
Oct. 18, NPR reported that Minnick voted against the economic stimulus bill in 2009, yet "tried the back door for earmarks."
Labrador quickly pounced, saying "Walt Minnick's hypocrisy is endless."
Tuesday, Minnick spokesman John Foster said, "Only one Congressional candidate in Idaho has voted to approve money from the (stimulus) and that person is Raul Labrador."
Foster said while serving in the Idaho Legislature, Labrador voted to spend stimulus money on the Commission on Aging, the Department of Health and Welfare, local school districts and tutoring programs.
Two weeks until Election Day.
Earlier this year, Dr. Kathleen Merrigan was recognized as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by Time magazine.
"I didn't believe it at first. But when I made the list if was feeling pretty self-important," said Merrigan. "There was President Obama and Steve Jobs on the list. But then I also noticed that Lady Gaga was on the list. So now at the office, I'm known as Lady Ag Ag."
Merrigan was in Boise Tuesday to give the keynote address at the Idaho Summit on Hunger and Food Insecurity. Merrigan is the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She oversees the day-to-day operation of USDA's many programs and spearheads the $149 billion USDA budget process.
"We have a growing problem of something called food deserts," Merrigan told Citydesk. "A food desert is an area where typically low-income people have further than a mile or two to travel to a grocery store without public transport. We have too many people buying their food in convenience stores or gas stations, paying more money for less quality food."
Merrigan told Citydesk about a new Internet tool called the Food Environment Atlas, where food access issues can be identified by region or city.
Merrigan said it's equally important to access healthy food than to simply access higher quantities of food.
"One in three children born in the U.S. in 2001 will develop diabetes," cautioned Merrigan. "That's if food trends in this country don't change. The health-care costs will cripple our nation if we don't change our food environment."
Idaho's Department of Fish and Game is officially out of the wolf management business. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "Idaho will no longer act as the federal government's designated agent for managing your wolves."
Otter immediately directed Fish and Game to refocus its efforts on protecting Idaho's deer, elk and moose. As a result, the Department is expected to seek additional flexibility to kill wolves.
"We need to exercise our sovereign right to protect our wildlife," said Otter.
A spokesman for Fish and Game said all federal laws pertaining to wolves are still in place, and wolves remain protected under the Endangered Species Act. Livestock owners will now need to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to report any wolf depredations.
Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick got some national coverage on NPR Monday, the kind of coverage he'd probably rather not have in the middle of a re-election effort.
NPR and The Center for Public Integrity partnered to report on members of Congress who voted against the economic stimulus bill in 2009, yet "try the back door for earmarks."
Here's part of the report:
This year, conservative Democrat Walt Minnick of Idaho—one of seven Democrats to vote against the stimulus bill—is running ads touting his opposition.
"I've had to say 'no' far more than I've said 'yes.' I've said 'no' to government spending," he says in them.
But Minnick wrote the Commerce Department at least three times lobbying for stimulus funds for broadband projects.
NPR reports that Minnick would not agree to a taped interview on the subject, but staff issued a written statement "defending the right to aid constituents who ask for help."
You can read or hear the full report here.
Sandoz, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical behemoth Novartis, has admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to a $1.65 million settlement with Idaho to resolve claims surrounding drug pricing.
Sandoz manufactures Fluoxetine, a generic version of Prozac, which had a published average wholesale price of $2.598 in 2003. But Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's investigation revealed an actual average wholesale price of $0.217 in 2003, a 1,100 percent difference.
"Where published prices are false or misleading, the taxpayers are significantly harmed by excessive Medicaid reimbursements," said Wasden. "Misrepresenting the wholesale price is a violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act."
The $1.65 million settlement must be approved by the Fourth District Court of Ada County.
A sad reflection of the economy plays out in downtown Boise Monday night as the gavel comes down on yet another foreclosure auction.
Idaho was ranked fifth in the nation with the number of new foreclosures in September. RealtyTrac, an online monitor of real estate filings reported that 1,1175 new defaults were filed last month, bringing Idaho's total number of default properties to 3,141. That's a rise of 24 percent over the same month last year.
In August, a California company, Real Estate Disposition auctioned off a couple dozen Idaho homes that were seized by banks. Monday night, Auction.com rolls into Boise, part of a three-day, three-city Northwest "foreclosure auction tour." More than 20 Idaho homes are expected to be up for bid. The auction begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Downtowner in Boise.
A ruling is expected any day from the Idaho State Supreme Court on whether to allow the Idaho Transportation Dept.'s request to permit mega-loads of oil equipment to traverse across central Idaho.
Citydesk paid a visit to the Port of Lewiston where the loads are beginning to stack up.
"He was my mentor," Former State Sen. Kate Kelly told Citydesk, remembering the late Clint Stennett. "He was the first person I called when I considered running for the State Senate six years ago."
Stennett died Oct. 14 after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 54.
"Clint had the most wonderful sense of humor," Kelly said. "I was looking at all of our photographs last night and he was smiling in all of them."
Stennett was born in Minnesota, but grew up and was educated in Idaho. He was first elected to the Idaho House in 1990. He was first elected to the Idaho Senate in 1994.
Stennett is survived by his wife, Michelle, who filled in for him for the 2010 legislative session. She is currently running against Republican candidate Randy Patterson to represent District 25.