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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
An Anchorage Assembly member wants to move the Municipal Election from spring to fall. He says he believes it will boost turnout, which has averaged around 29 percent since 1993. But other Assembly members says it’s a bad idea and want the public to weigh in before any change is made.
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Birch is proposing an ordinance that would change the municipal election from April to November to coincide with state and federal elections. He says turnout is more than double for state elections in November.
“So the objective is to move the election to a time when people actually show up to vote.”
Birch says the one year when issues were put on the November ballot there was a sharp increase in turnout.
“The high point really is an election that happened in 2004 when we contracted with the state to run a school bond election, two school bonds, they passed and we had a 52 percent turnout. And that’s basically what spurred my interest in seeing a dramatic increase, a doubling if you will of municipal voter turnout.”
Twice before, the election has been moved. In 2000 the election was moved from the third to the first Tuesday in April. In 1988 the election moved from October to April. The rational was the same as moving it to the fall today, higher voter turnout. And the concerns were the same: the ethical impacts of sitting Assembly members extending their own terms and the Mayor’s. They solved that problems by delaying the effective date for three years. Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson says increasing voter turnout is a great idea, but there’ not rush. Municipal Attorneys says it would be legal, although it would increase the terms of sitting assembly members by seven months. Gray-Jackson along with Assembly members Dick Traini and Tim Steel have a counter proposal.
“The proposal that Mr. Traini, Mr. Steel and I have brought forward is to instead of the Assembly making a decision whether or not to move the election from April to November, letting the voters decide when they want to vote.”
Gray Jackson says Assembly members extending their own terms creates a conflict of interest. Assembly member Birch has served on the Assembly for three consecutive terms equaling nine years. This is his final term. Gray-Jackson says that makes his proposal problematic.
“If I were Mr. Birch, whose term is over April 1st I would feel so uncomfortable bringing forward this ordinance right now. If he really were concerned about voter turnout, why didn’t he do it during the nine-year period that he was on the Assembly.”
But Birch says he believes it’s fine for him to extend his term since every other Assembly member and the Mayor would also get their terms extended.
“It would extend my term and every other member’s term on the body. It affects every member on the body uniformly. Daysha: But you’re the only member who’s terming out, right? Yeah, that right.”
Besides increasing voter turnout, holding elections in November could save money, Birch says, because the state and municipality could share resources such as election workers and voting machines. Birch and the Officials with the Clerk’s office have talked with Gail Fenumiai, the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections. She says it’s possible.
“We just talked about whether or not that could happen and we’ve come to the conclusion that it could. You know it’s still very early – a little premature to get into any details. There’s still a lot of work that the Anchorage folks need to do on their end to see if that’s even going to become a reality for them.”
Officials with the Clerk’s office say the initial change would require an investment. The seven-month extension will also apply to Mayor Dan Sullivan’s term. Birch’s ordinance seeking to change elections from April to November will be up for public testimony at the Tuesday, November 14th Assembly meeting along with the ordinances offered by Assembly members proposing the issue go before voters.
The People Mover bus system has routed through the transit center in downtown Anchorage for many years, but now city officials want to move the transit center to midtown as part of a mixed development of residential and commercial land uses. We explore the pros and cons of moving the transit center, and the implications for focusing more city activity in the midtown area instead of the traditional downtown core.
- Lance Wilbur, director, Pubic Transportation Department
- Tyler Robinson, Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission
- Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
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HOST: Charles Wohlforth
LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 15, 2014. 2:00 – 3:00 pm (Alaska time)
REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 15, 2014. 9:00 – 10:00 pm (Alaska time)
Audio will be posted following radio broadcast
The Legislature is going to go back into session next week, and one of the big issues they’re expecting to grapple with is permitting. A controversial bill that would put restrictions on water rights and limit who can appeal state decisions has been criticized by Native groups and fishing interests, but the Department of Natural Resources says it’s needed to streamline the agency’s work.
HOST: Alexandra Gutierrez, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Ed Fogels, Deputy Commissioner, DNR
- Natasha Singh, General Counsel, Tanana Chiefs Conference
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Alaska public health officials are keeping an eye out for cases of measles, especially in residents who travel to and from the Philippines.
That country’s health department this week declared an outbreak of the disease in parts of Manila, the capital.
Alaska has a large Filipino population, many of whom traveled home for the holidays or who have been back there to help rebuild after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in early November.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued a travel notice for people going to the Philippines. The agency says all travelers to the country should get routine vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella shot. Most travelers are encouraged to get immunized against hepatitis A and typhoid as well.
Dr. Mike Cooper, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Social Services, says the risk of Alaskans contracting measles is pretty low, but “what’s going on right now in the Philippines is a great reminder that we live in a very global world. Ease of travel has increased, and so things like measles, unfortunately, are still around.”
Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact with an infected person.
“People get a fever, sometimes very high, they can get red eyes, and a runny nose, and a cough,” Cooper says. “And after usually four days or so they’ll present with a rash – kind of a generalized splotchy rash that can start on their head and then move downward.”
Cooper says the disease can be serious, even deadly, especially for the very young, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
Dante Reyes is president of Juneau’s nonprofit Filipino Community, Inc. About 3,000 Filipinos call the Capital City home, and Reyes says many of them travel to and from the country at least once per year.
“I know that some of our members were traveling in the Philippines,” Reyes says. “And actually they were there and they left maybe in the last part of December, early January.”
Reyes says he always goes to a doctor before traveling to the Philippines to make sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations. He says most of his friends and relatives who live in Juneau do the same.
He says phone service is still spotty in Tacloban, where Super Typhoon Haiyan did most of its damage. Members of Juneau’s Filipino community who travel in the country often keep in touch with friends and relatives in the Unites States using social media sites, like Facebook.
“I have no idea if some of our members were affected by that epidemic in the Philippines right now,” says Reyes. “I think it’s in Manila, and some of them were in the metro Manila area and some of them were in the provinces.”
In 1996, Juneau had the largest measles outbreak in the United States, with 63 confirmed cases – mostly school children. Two years later, Anchorage had the nation’s largest outbreak, with more than 30 confirmed cases.
After that the state started requiring two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for public school students. Dr. Cooper says there haven’t been any outbreaks in Alaska since then.
“It’s one of those diseases where we’ve done a good job in the U.S. of lowering rates and getting rid of homegrown disease,” Cooper says. “But then when you get pockets of people that are not immunized – whether they declined it, or didn’t get immunized when they were children, or as they got older their immunity waned – they’re vulnerable.”
Kate Slotnick, Southeast Alaska regional nurse manager for the Division of Public Health, says the agency will reach out to local Filipino groups in the area to share information about the measles outbreak in the Philippines.
Other than that, public health officials say they’re just reminding doctors and nurses to be vigilant and watch out for the disease.
Police on Wednesday afternoon found a deceased man who was partially frozen to the ground. He was identified as 37-year-old Marvin Paine of Akiachak. Andre Achee is the Bethel Police Lieutenant. He says police took a call about a body at the 150 block of Akakeek street in a cul-de-sac.
“They said the person was unresponsive and partially frozen to the ice. Officers and medics responded to the scene and found that person was deceased,” said Achee.
His next of kin has been notified. Police believe that Paine had been drinking, but they don’t know to what degree. Police say there were no obvious signs of trauma and foul play is not suspected. They think he was at the location for less than 24 hours.
“We suspect that on the evening hours on the 7th, he probably went down in that area around that time. In the evening time, it did get down to about 20 degrees, cold enough to freeze. In the daytime, it was warmer, so you will have standing water, and in the night time, it did freeze, so that’s how we suspect he got into that position or predicament,” said Achee.
The State Medical Examiner Office was contacted and the remains will be transported to Anchorage to determine the cause of death. That exact cause of death is not known, but some signs do point to exposure.
“It’s premature, we suspect that, it’s just a suspicion that it will be an exposure death, but we’re waiting for the determination to be made by the state medical examiners office,” said Achee.
There have been efforts locally to prevent outdoor deaths. The Bethel Winter House opened up this winter with a goal of having zero deaths due to exposure. Last winter, four people died in Bethel from the cold.
Subsistence salmon fishing on the Kuskokwim will likely be very different this coming summer. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is proposing closing subsistence salmon fishing for most of June to protect the King salmon run. State biologists are presenting their plan in a two-day meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group in Bethel.
The preliminary plan includes very limited fishing windows on the main stem of the river, all restricted to 6-inch gear. The lowest part of the river would get three, four-hour fishing periods in the month of June. From just below the Johnson River up to Tuluksak, there would be just one four-hour period in June. From Tuluksak up to Chuathbaluk, there would be one six-hour period in June.
Starting the first week in July, the main stem would see rolling openings for salmon fishing with 6-inch gear. That would start July 3 for the lowest part of the river, July 6th for section two and so on. The state is proposing to close fishing in the tributaries from June 1 to July 25. They also want to close king salmon sport fishing.
During people to be heard Wednesday, several spoke about the need for some fishing opportunity in June.
Tim Andrew is the Natural Resources Director for the Association of Village Council Presidents. He warned the group that residents may not support a full closure if they aren’t allowed to fish for species besides Kings. He said they could see another 2012 when fishermen fished during closures anyway.
“Whenever you do not allow a chance to harvest other abundant species over a long period of time, people are going to react,” Andrew said. “If people go in a long period of time in the summer in the drying season and they don’t see any salmon hanging in their racks, whether it be chums, reds, kings or otherwise, people start thinking about their winter food security. It’s really important that there is opportunity to harvest other species of salmon during that time period.”
Andrew suggested that the group consider using dip nets like fishermen did on the Lower Yukon River this past summer. Fishermen were targeting chums, not kings.
“It is extremely effective for the commercial fishery that occurred there,” Andrew said. “The King salmon that are caught are being released pretty much alive. I’m not aware of any circumstances where there’s any mortality.”
John Andrew of Kwethluk said that fishermen near his village are not happy with the proposed closure in June, which would give them just one, four-hour fishing period in the June.
“That’s not even enough time,” John Andrew said, “because as you know, even with experienced fishermen when we go out there, there are some days when we can’t get any fish in front of our river.”
State research biologist Kevin Schaberg gave an in depth presentation on the projection of the King salmon run which is expected to be poor again this year.
On Wednesday, the Working Group voted to support the following objectives:
- To achieve the management escapement goal of 85,000 Chinook salmon.
- To provide for reasonable opportunity to harvest other salmon species.
- To ensure harvest opportunity will be equitable to all subsistence fishermen on the Kuskokwim.
Although the group supports these objectives, they have not agreed on specific recommendations on how to achieve them.
Gov. Parnell seeks a smaller appropriation for the proposed Susitna dam. A Tatitlik village administrator goes to jail for misusing funds. Supporters of the marijuana initiative have enough signatures to make the primary election ballot. The flu is everywhere. What is in store for the oil and gas industry in 2014? Lt. Gov. Parnell rejects the set net initiative. The Municipality of Anchorage hires CH2M Hill to manage the port re-design. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark begich both support extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
HOST: Michael Carey
KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, January 10 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 11 at 6:00 p.m.
Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, January 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 11 at 4:30 PM.