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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Coast Guard: Tug engine failure blamed on water in fuel

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:07

It is a mariner’s worst nightmare: At sea, in a bad storm, pulling a heavy load and working to keep control in a dicey situation.

Then, all the engines quit. And won’t restart.

Precisely this event occurred in late December 2012 to the crew of the Edison Chouest vessel Aiviq as it struggled to keep towlines on Shell’s conical drill vessel Kulluk.

read more

House panel moves Gov.'s pension plan

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:07

JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee advanced Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan for addressing the state’s pension obligation Tuesday, but the issue is far from settled.

As HB385 was moving from committee, Senate Finance was meeting on the opposite end of the fifth floor of the Capitol, discussing other options.

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Untold reality of state's minimum wage debate

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:06

Whether a minimum wage increase is approved by voters or lawmakers, the result will be the same: The Legislature will have the power to make changes.

Backers of the August ballot initiative are concerned the Legislature is taking up the matter so it has the ability to strip parts of the bill in future years, which they argue couldn’t happen with a voter-approved initiative.

Think again.

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Legislature passes bill on AGDC appointment

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:02

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature has passed a measure allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas pipeline project.

The Senate’s 13-7 vote makes clearer the way for Richard Rabinow, a former pipeline company executive from Texas, to serve on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

Gov. Sean Parnell appointed Rabinow last September and has defended the appointment as falling within his discretion under the constitution. Rabinow faces confirmation Thursday.

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Child porn indictment for former UAA instructor

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage grand jury has indicted a former astronomy and physics instructor at the University of Alaska-Anchorage on 14 child pornography charges.

Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander said Tuesday that state troopers are trying to locate 37-year-old Curtis Osterhoudt.

The indictment accuses him of distribution and possession of child porn both at his residence and in his office at UAA.

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Hughes apologizes for news release headline

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

JUNEAU — Alaska House members apologize for a news release on a breastfeeding initiative that had the words “smart and sexy” in the headline.

HCR18 sponsor Rep. Shelley Hughes said she intended to draw attention to the issue but not the kind it garnered.

She apologized Tuesday for the “poor choice of words” and said she was sorry if she offended anyone.

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Developers eye Anchorage site for housing project

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

ANCHORAGE — Developers are planning to build an upscale housing complex in Anchorage at the site of an aging mobile home park.

The group of California developers is seeking to break ground next summer at the 30-acre Riviera Terrace Mobile Home Park, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The plan calls for four construction phases of row houses and apartments, with a total of 450 housing units at the east Anchorage location.

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Huggins: Late Saturday target to finish work

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

JUNEAU — Senate President Charlie Huggins says lawmakers are aiming to complete their work by Saturday night.

Sunday is the scheduled end of the 90-day session, but that’s Easter. Legislative leaders have said they’d like to complete their work before then, if possible.

There are several major pieces in play, including the budgets and bills dealing with education, the state’s unfunded pension obligation and setting the state’s participation rate in a major liquefied natural gas project.

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Kuskokwim ice not thick enough for auto travel

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

BETHEL — It may be that time of the year where you need to keep your automobiles off the Kuskokwim River.

KYUK reports the river ice is melting enough that conditions could be dangerous for heavy vehicles.

Kwethluk village public safety officer Max Olick says the river is not safe enough for autos, and he urged caution when people are traveling.

If people do intend to travel on the river, they should inform others of their travel plans.

He says there is standing water on the river and pot holes.

Juneau resident gets state director appointment

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

A former Juneau Assembly member has been named the state director of the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.

Sara Chambers has led the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development’s division on professional licensing since 2011.

The former Alaska Journal of Commerce “Top 40 Under 40” recipient assumed her new role late last month.

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Kansas church plans Alaska Native center protest

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:01

ANCHORAGE — A Topeka, Kan., church known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers says it plans to picket the Alaska Native Heritage Center on June 1.

The Westboro Baptist Church says in an online flyer published Sunday that it plans to send protesters to the center because “God hates your idols.”

The Anchorage Daily News says the plans are triggering talk of a counter protest, prompting a Facebook group to launch for that purpose.

read more

School leader on leave as law firm eyes procedures

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:00

FAIRBANKS — The superintendent of Fairbanks schools was placed on leave while a hired law firm investigates how the district handled a case of alleged sexual abuse by an employee, school board officials said.

The school board met in a closed-door session on April 7 and afterward said it had placed Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Superintendent Pete Lewis on leave.

Officials declined to provide a reason for the move beyond saying it was not a disciplinary action, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Monday.

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Developers eye Anchorage site for housing project

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:00

ANCHORAGE — Developers are planning to build an upscale housing complex in Anchorage at the site of an aging mobile home park.

The group of California developers is seeking to break ground next summer at the 30-acre Riviera Terrace Mobile Home Park, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The plan calls for four construction phases of row houses and apartments, with a total of 450 housing units at the east Anchorage location.

read more

Car expert testifies in Kodiak double homicide trial

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:00

ANCHORAGE — Jurors in the trial of a man charged with gunning down two co-workers at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island repeatedly viewed blurry security-camera footage Tuesday showing a blue car passing the murder scene, then heading in the opposite direction five minutes later.

read more

Senate candidate Sullivan talks health care — and dolphins

Tue, 2014-04-15 18:44

Republican Dan Sullivan, with his wife Julie Fate Sullivan, at the Sitka Westmark on April 12. Sullivan hopes to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Begich. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan was in Sitka this weekend to speak at the Sitka Republican Women’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Sullivan, a former Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, is hoping to challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Begich, who is up for reelection this fall. Sullivan faces several Republican rivals for the GOP nomination, including Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, and the 2010 Tea Party champion, Joe Miller.

Sullivan sat down with Sitka reporters to talk about his role in challenging President Obama’s healthcare law, the perils of over-regulation – and that time he swam against the Navy’s military dolphins.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The first time Sullivan visited Sitka, over a decade ago, it was in a very different role.

“We were the guys swimming against the dolphins,” Sullivan said.

That would be military-trained Navy dolphins. Sullivan has been an officer and reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps since 1993.  He first came to Sitka as part of Northern Edge 2000, an elaborate military training exercise that many Sitkans remember, in part, for the Navy dolphins that were temporarily housed in town.

The dolphins were trained to find enemy swimmers who might be, say, planting mines on a naval ship. During the exercise, Sullivan and his marines played those swimmers — which is how he found himself in a dry suit in Sitka Sound, with dolphins swimming towards him. Then, suddenly, those dolphins stopped.

SULLIVAN: So we thought that was very strange. And then we were left, unfortunately, this marine and I were left in the water for quite a long time, like about an hour. It was cold. And finally they came to pick us up and I said, what, why did you guys leave us here for so long? What happened? And the dolphins didn’t do their job, they stopped. He said, we had to get the dolphins out of the water very quickly. We’re really sorry. There was kind of an emergency. We said what? And he said, well somebody noticed that they thought they saw a pod of killer whales, so we had to collect the dolphins real quick. And I said, you left me out here and my marine for over an hour, when there was a pod of killer whales?! And the guy looked at me, and literally he said, he goes, look, I’m sorry. He goes, we spend millions of dollars training those dolphins. [[Laughter]]

Sullivan served most recently as Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources under Governor Sean Parnell; he resigned last fall, to launch his campaign. Before that, he served as Alaska Attorney General for a year and a half under then-Governor Sarah Palin.

During that time, Sullivan was one of the state attorneys general who sued the Obama administration over the president’s healthcare law.

“When that was passed, I grabbed a small group of attorneys, and I said, hey, before we decide whether or not we’re going to challenge this, let’s figure out what it is. Let’s read it!” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to say I read every word. It’s a big, thick document. But we spent weeks –weeks! — reviewing that law.”

Sullivan ended up recommending the State of Alaska join the suit, arguing that the law was unconstitutional.

In the end, the Supreme Court upheld most of the law, but Sullivan said he’s proud that the Court accepted one argument at the heart of the suit — that the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor. Medicaid expansion became optional, and this fall, Governor Parnell announced that Alaska would opt out, citing its cost.

Sullivan said he supports the governor’s decision, and continues to oppose the law, which he argues has done more harm than good.

“Are there elements of that bill, for example preexisting conditions, that I think are positive – yes,” Sullivan said.  ”But [look at] the overall direction of what that has done and how that has harmed Alaskans.”

Democrats argue that popular elements of the bill – like banning discrimination based on preexisting conditions – depend on the less popular elements, like the mandate that everyone carry health insurance and subsidies for those who can’t afford it.

During the interview, Sullivan aimed much of his fire at President Barack Obama. He said he believes the President’s policies are stifling the economy.

“It’s over-regulating almost all elements of our economy, whether it’s resource development, whether it’s the financial community, whether it’s tourism,” Sullivan said. “Which is hindering opportunity in Alaska and the country.”

Sullivan said that, if elected, his top two economic priorities would be reducing overregulation, and increasing energy development.

Those are both issues Sullivan dealt with at the state level. As Commissioner of Natural Resources, he pushed forward HB77, a controversial bill aimed at streamlining the Department’s permitting process. Opponents argued that the bill limited public participation, and it was shelved by the legislature earlier this spring.

But Sullivan said he thought the overall effort had been on the right track, citing the backlog of permits at the agency when he arrived.

“Two thousand five hundred backlogged permits that we were sitting on as a state – just at one agency!” Sullivan said. “Some had been sitting around two, three, four years! And to me again, this was an issue that was very, very harmful to small businesses in Alaska – growing the economy, employing people.”

Before his time as attorney general, Sullivan worked in various roles in the Bush administration and U.S. military. He served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice from 2006 to 2009. From 2002 to 2004, he served on the staff of the White House National Security Council. In between, he spent two years on active duty as a staff officer to General John Abizaid, who was then overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sullivan said his experience in the military put veterans’ issues at the top of his agenda.

“There are areas, with regard to wasteful military spending, that we clearly can make some important cuts,” he said. “However, spending on our veterans should not be an area where we try to balance the budget. Balancing the budget on the backs of our veterans, and the benefits they’ve earned, is not where I would be, in terms of being a U.S. Senator.”

Sullivan has taken heat for his years in Washington from outside groups supporting Senator Mark Begich, who have run ads arguing that Sullivan hasn’t spent enough time in Alaska.

Sullivan is originally from Ohio, where his family runs the publicly traded company RPM International, and is prominent in Republican politics. He moved to Alaska in 1997.

Sullivan’s wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, is the daughter of longtime Native leader Mary Jane Fate. Sullivan’s father-in-law, Hugh Fate, represented Fairbanks as a Republican state legislator in the early 2000s.

The Senate primary will be held on August 19. The General Election will be November 4, 2014.

Petersburg begins 2nd annual Pedometer Challenge

Tue, 2014-04-15 16:14

Pedometers like this one are being given out to Petersburg residents. Photo/Angela Denning

At least one hundred people in Petersburg should be wearing pedometers today to count the steps they are taking. They are participating in the Pedometer Challenge. It’s the second year the program has happened here in town. Last year, the Petersburg Indian Association ran the event through their tobacco prevention grant. Two-hundred seventy people participated.

Kim Kilkenny with Petersburg Mental Health Services says mental health and physical health go hand in hand.

“Mental health and physical health are intertwined,” Kilkenny says. “We believe in treating the whole body and that if your physical health is not good or you’re struggling with pain, mental health is not going to feel good and you’re going to struggle with that, and so, that’s why we talk about all of it. ‘Is your social health good, is your mental health good. What can we do to keep you active? You know, what are some behavior strategies that will help improve your mood and decrease symptoms?’ So, it’s just enmeshed and you know, our doctors ask us, ‘are we getting exercise’? You know, it’s all inter-related to our whole well being.”

Kilkenny’s office took over the Pedometer Challenge this year through a different funding source– a $24,000 dollar Community Transformations grant from the CDC or Centers for Disease Control. The grant came through the South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium or SEARHC.

Martha Pearson is a Program Manager for SEARHC. I spoke with her and Kilkenny about the details of this year’s Pedometer Challenge.

Angela: “Now the actual mechanics of the pedometer, it’s basically recording how many steps you take or those types of motions?”
Kim: “Right. You’ll want to test it out that the steps are corrected and it will do 24 hours, count your steps and then the way we are having people measure their participation is by calling in their total numbers for that week. They’re logging in, this year we are doing it through survey monkey so we have instant data and know where everybody’s at and that way we don’t lose any information or add wrong (laughs) so that’s how it’s going down.”
Martha: “And also the beauty of using the pedometers is that each participant gets their own feedback right away of how they’re doing. They can set their own personal goals. You know, for some person, 10,000 steps a day is no problem. That’s about five miles of stepping a day. For some people that would be just an impossible task. So, for them maybe 5,000 steps or 2,000. Whatever it is, you can set your own goal and work to reach it. And that’s why this program is likely to be more successful is because everyone can join in and participate on their own rate.”
Angela: “How long is this challenge going for?”
Kim: “Six weeks. The challenge will end May 23. The reporting period opens on Thursday and it closes on Sunday for that previous week. So to be eligible for the drawing for a weekly prize, you’ll need to register during that four day window.”
Angela: “Speaking of prizes…”
Kim: “They’re fabulous!”
Angela: “I guess that’s some incentive to keep going.”
Kim: “Yeah, we included some physical health wellbeing prizes or incentives. My favorite– groups are eligible for weekly prizes as well–is two hours at the bouncy castle at Parks and Rec. So, adults are encouraged…you know…it’s a lot of fun if you’ve ever been in the bouncy castle (laughs).”
Angela: “I’ve actually seen pictures and my first question was, ‘is there an age limit’(laughs)?.”
Kim: “No. We checked and there is no age limit (laughs) and then we have kayaks, we have an I pad mini. Well, kayak, sorry, singular. We have some galaxy tablets, Zumba cards, Skate of Gear has a package that they’re donating. So, very cool prizes.”

As of last week, about 100 people had registered.

People can sign up for the Pedometer Challenge through Friday (April 18). Pedometers can be picked up at Public Health or you can call Petersburg Indian Association or Mental Health and they will get one to you.

Borough FY2015 budget: No new taxes

Tue, 2014-04-15 14:43

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has introduced its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, with no increase in tax rates, but a projected rise in revenue, nonetheless.

Overall, the borough expects about $575,000 more revenue for its general fund in FY2015. That will mostly come from property and sales tax collection, and anticipated increases in fees charged for services.

While the property tax rate will remain at 5 mills, the borough expects to collect about $183,000 more from that revenue source. The increase comes from new construction and changes in assessed value, according to the budget overview. Sales tax, while also not changing, is expected to increase by 2.2 percent, bringing $176,000 more.

If the federal government chooses to fully fund the Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs in FY2015, then the borough will have even more of an increase in projected revenue. But, the borough isn’t counting on it.

The budget overview states that while revenue is going up, expenses are going down. One of the reductions is in school district funding. The borough has budgeted about $7.89 million for local schools. That’s about $161,000 less than FY2014.

The borough also expects to spend less on capital projects and administration.

Not yet in the budget is a proposed $1.1 million school district reserve fund that would come from the FY2014 Secure Rural Schools payment. The Assembly will consider an ordinance creating the fund at its next meeting. The fund could be used for unforeseen expenses, to cushion potential cutbacks in the future, or major maintenance.

The proposed borough budget also calls for about $2.8 million for community grants through the economic development fund. $2.5 million of that is a carryover grant to the City of Ketchikan to help pay for construction of the Whitman Lake Hydroelectric Dam.

Also in the budget is a $1.15 million expense in the commercial passenger vessel fund for a pedestrian bridge at Herring Cove. That would cover roughly half of the estimated cost of the proposed bridge.

The borough’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The next Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting is Monday.

Ketchikan hosts high school music festival

Tue, 2014-04-15 13:16

The Petersburg High School Jazz Band is critiqued by adjudicator Dick Elliot after their performance.

Around 500 young musicians from all over Southeast Alaska brought their instruments and voices to Ketchikan last weekend for the Region 5 Southeast Alaska Music Festival. It’s an event that rotates between Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka each year.

Music from dozens of choirs and bands echoed throughout the Kayhi hallways.

Kayhi Activities Director Ed Klein said there were around 600 students, including Kayhi’s 125, in Ketchikan for the festival.

The visiting students were from 11 schools in Juneau, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Klawock, Sitka, Wrangell, Metlakatla, and Petersburg.

“It’s incredible seeing so many dedicated students to music,” said Thunder Mountain trumpet player Rafael Sales said. “I’m very surprised, coming from one town and seeing a bunch of towns come together to play music.”

Sitka music teacher John DePalatis has been teaching in Southeast Alaska for 8 years.

“What’s wonderful about Southeast is that our kids all know each other, they house together. So it’s a meeting of old friends,” DePalatis said. “And they get upset when they don’t get to hear each other perform and it’s what it should be about, which is kids making good music and supporting each other.”

Each day of the three-day festival starts with a series of short performances from choirs and bands. After performing, each group is critiqued by an adjudicator.

“Our whole idea is to support what the schools are doing, and to give feedback to the kids and directors so as they come away from this they are able to take what we have given them back to the schools and rehearsal situations,” said Dick Elliot, one of the four adjudicators.

Elliot is Associate Director of Bands at George Fox University in Oregon. He’s done a lot of adjudicating for high school bands, but he’s never been to Southeast Alaska before.

“I look at the size of their high school, 143 in their high school,” he said, referring to the Petersburg Jazz Band, which he had just critiqued. “And I think ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to be lucky to have ten or eleven in their band.’ And then they come in with something like this that absolutely blows you away.”

Thunder Mountain Jazz Band performs in the Kayhi auditorium.

One Kayhi student said hearing constructive criticism from the adjudicators gets through to her more than casual advice from friends or family.

Laslie Iputi, a vocalist in the Thunder Mountain Concert Choir, said an adjudicator’s advice made a big difference.

“He told us we need to blend our voices to become una voce, like one voice,” she said. “We took it and we used it last night and I think that’s why we came out good. When we started, I doubted our group…but after that performance I was really surprised with how it turned out.”

After the morning of performances and adjudicating, clinics are next. These are hour-long workshops focused on a specific topic.

Katie Gaggini and Kim Stone are music teachers in Ketchikan. On Saturday, they led a “Fun With Opera” clinic.

“What we really want to portray to kids is how, there’s a lot of elements to singing, but one that’s super important is emotion,” said Gaggini. “So today we’re going to be talking about all the elements of emotion and how it adds character to the piece.”

Each night of the festival wraps up in another series of choir, orchestra and band concerts.

Korbin Storms is a Mt. Edgecumbe student. She summed up her favorite part of the entire festival.

“The moment when you can tell that people are really into it and you get chills on the back of your neck.”

“I think being a music student brings a lot of joy to people,” said Sitka student Darian Scarbrough. “There’s something about it that makes people feel better inside.”

Next year’s music fest will be hosted in either Sitka or Juneau.

Kansas church to protest Alaska Native center

Tue, 2014-04-15 11:46

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A Topeka, Kan., church known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers says it plans to picket the Alaska Native Heritage Center on June 1.

The Westboro Baptist Church says in an online flyer published Sunday that it plans to send protesters to the center because “God hates your idols.”

The plans are triggering talk of a counter protest, prompting a Facebook group to launch for that purpose.

The Westboro flyer says there is nothing “appealing or holy about the ‘heritage’ of eleven ‘distinct cultures’ or ‘diverse population’ of Alaska.”

Church members are known for holding protests at funerals to highlight their belief that God is punishing the nation for its acceptance of homosexuality, regardless of whether the deceased person was gay.

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Tue, 2014-04-15 11:46

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