There will be a book signing with author Nick Jans at the Haines Public Library on Tuesday, July...
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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — A visitor from the north made an unexpected appearance in Prince William Sound this week.
Federal wildlife technicians conducting a seabird and marine mammal survey spotted and photographed a ribbon seal, which are normally seen in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
Marty Reedy was driving a boat for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey when a colleague pointed out a seal, APRN reported.
Reedy has also worked in northern waters and recognized the ribbon seal.
FAIRBANKS — Don Wright, an Alaska Native leader who was a force behind a landmark tribal lands compensation law, has died at age 84.
Wright died July 5, according to a release by the family that was distributed by Doyon Ltd., the Fairbanks-based regional Native corporation. Wright died in Kenai, Doyon spokeswoman Lessa Peter said.
Wright was head of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1971 when then-President Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act into law, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
JUNEAU — Federal law enforcement officials are investigating after a 48-foot female whale well-known in the waters of southeast Alaska was killed in a collision with a boat.
A tour-boat operator found the whale, which had been seen in the waters of southeast Alaska for nearly 40 years, near Funter Bay on July 1. The carcass was hauled to a nearby beach, where a necropsy was performed July 3, officials said Friday.
Editor’s note: This article is one of several taking a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding the upcoming Aug. 19 election that will decide whether Alaska keeps the oil tax reform bill passed in 2013 or returns to the previous system known as ACES.
How do Alaska’s oil taxes work?
Alaska has several ways that it taxes the value of oil production. With the upcoming Ballot Proposition 1 vote, most attention is on the state production tax, which was changed by the Legislature in 2013 with Senate Bill 21.
ANCHORAGE — Most tourists making a summer trip to Alaska will pass through Anchorage on their way to cruises, Denali National Park and other scenic adventures. While in Alaska’s biggest city, also home to the state’s largest airport, there are plenty of free things to do. Here are a few.
TONY KNOWLES COASTAL TRAIL
This is the gem of the city’s extensive trail system, which boasts more than 120 miles (193 kilometers) of paved trails.
“Peg, they got bowls and stuff over here.”
“Oui, oui, tres chic!”
“I was born and raised here and I come here everyday, everyday they are open because if you don’t you miss on the special, if you come all the time you find the treasures. And I’ve found lots of treasures.”
“We love Sitka first off and we love the White E. Now my daughter is starting a new tradition, I bring my her here everytime we come to Sitka for the summer.”
“The locals said you gotta come by this thrift store. Now every summer I pack lighter and get my warmer clothes here. Oooh, actually this summer I got a really, really nice heavy jacket for $8, and that I’m pretty excited about. I’m loving it, I’m riding high…but yeah, I’ve been talking it up.”
These are White Elephant shoppers Al Kashok, Doug Horton and Rob Kron.
The White E was created in 1952 as a way for the local Easter Seals Society, and what was then knowns as A.C.C.A. – Alaska Crippled Children and Adults – to earn money for their charitable work.
For the first 15 years, the shop moved from space to borrowed space. Then in 1967, White Elephant volunteers set up at the current location, across from the Westmark Sitka, leasing the land from the city of Sitka for one dollar a year and eventually buying the building with donated money and shop revenues.
It’s really an interesting organization, and the fact that it survived all those years with not a lot of infrastructure is really a testimony to the efforts of the volunteer groups,” said Cheri Hample, a White E volunteer and a health and human services consultant.
Last fall, the group of volunteers who serve as the White Elephant’s Board asked Hample to do a professional assessment of the organization. She performed literally every job in the store, and then read up on the White E’s founders, like Mary Sarvela:
“She went to visit people in the nursing home until she ended up there herself (laughs), she was just an amazing woman, and I think she depicts the kind of women that really kept this place going all these years. Just passionate about Sitka and helping people,” Hample said.
In 1992 the White E split off from the statewide Easter Seals organization and incorporated as a nonprofit. That year, the Board granted just under $16,000 to other local nonprofits. Since then, the Sitka White Elephant Shop Inc. has given away a staggering $1.2 million dollars — all earned through sales of second-hand goods, a dollar here, fifty cents there.
“The White Elephant’s annual support makes continuing our service of home delivered and congregate meals here at the center possible,” said Swan Lake Senior Center Site Manager Sandy Koval.
The White E contributed $15,000 to the Swan Lake Senior Center’ food budget this year alone. Koval said this week that she uses the money to buy the ingredients for meals served to Sitka’s senior citizens, over 12,000 of them in 2013.
“Without their support it would be much more difficult – if possible – for us to continue to offer the nutritious daily hot meals that we’re able to provide here at the center,” said Koval.
In all, the White E has given away $84,000 this year to 25 nonprofits, for causes ranging from books for first-grade classrooms, toiletry supplies for the domestic violence shelter, to a graduation dinner for men completing an alcohol treatment program.
But in the past few years, the White E has reached a crossroads. The core group of volunteers is retiring, moving on — or passing on. The board is thinking about succession, and keeping the White E viable during a time when many younger volunteers are stretched thin.
On Hample’s recommendation, the White E board hired a director.
“Having your first ever paid position, staff position, is a huge change for a volunteer organization,” said Karen Martinsen, a long-time Sitka resident, who was hired in June. Martinsen’s main tasks will be organizing the White E’s financial records, which are currently filed in plastic baggies, inventory management, and bringing order to the organization’s haphazard-yet-successful business model.
There’s also competition — a new landscape of thrift stores in Sitka. And there’s trash. Hample says that the White E pays $6000 a year to haul away things that can’t be sold.
“People literally use us as a dumping ground for their stuff…we are burdened then with taken precious volunteer time trying to dispose of them,” said Hample.
Establishing firm new rules about acceptable donations is one area where a staff director can help. Martinsen will have a big job, of course, but Hample says there are no small jobs at the White E.
“The amount of work it takes to do what we do at the White Elephant Shop is tremendous.”
Despite a change in management, there will always be volunteers spending countless hours sorting donations, hanging merchandise, answering questions and chatting with customers. Customers like Gerty Cheyenne. We asked her when it was she first started shopping at the White E.
“A long time ago, long time ago. Many years, to clothe all the children. I used to work here and they really help a lot of people,” said Cheyenne.
(loudspeaker announcement) Thank you for shopping at the White Elephant and have a wonderful day.
The White E doesn’t have a website yet, but you can like their Facebook page, “Sitka White Elephant Shop” to get updates and information.
Researchers conducting a bird and mammal survey in Prince William Sound earlier this week (7-9-14) did a double-take when they saw this animal: a ribbon seal. Although ribbon seals make their home in the Beaufort and Chuckchi seas over the winter, they have been known to forage as far south as the British Columbian coast in summertime.
This fellow was by himself. That, plus the long white stripe down his back bring to mind Pepé Le Pew, the lovelorn skunk of Merrie Melodies fame. May you find your way home, monsieur seal, and may you find l’amour.
Sen. Hollis French is on the campaign trail, running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor. He is in the middle of a Southeast tour, and stopped in Ketchikan this week. French visited the shipyard, the hospital, and the Women in Safe Homes shelter; and gave a presentation at the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce.
French also stopped by KRBD, to talk about issues facing Alaska in general, and Southeast, specifically.http://www.krbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/10French.mp3
Redistricting is a big reason Hollis French is now running for Lt. Governor.
“When I ran for re-election this last time, I was put in a very hostile district, survived by 59 votes, most of my Democratic colleagues did not, the coalition was broken up,” he said. “So from my perspective, looking forward, the place in Alaska politics to make the biggest difference going forward is from the executive branch.”
That coalition was a group of Republican and Democratic senators that worked together. French says that in the near future, Alaskans will look back on that coalition as the “golden era” of state politics: “An era of cooperation, of compromise, of getting things done, of working from the middle, of having a fair oil tax on the books, and saving billions and billions of dollars. So it really was a remarkable era of both building Alaska and saving for the future.”
But, French says the redistricting board wanted a Senate that would pass SB21, the state’s newest oil tax bill. And it did pass. And now there’s a ballot initiative to repeal it. In his address to the Chamber, French didn’t leave any room for doubt on how he will vote on that ballot initiative.
“We will find out in just a few weeks, when we vote on Ballot Measure No. 1, whether the people are running the state or whether the oil industry is,” he said. “I can promise you I’m a yes, a very strong yes, on Ballot Measure No. 1. And here’s why you should be, too.”
French says a healthy oil industry is important to the state. But so is a fair oil tax, and he believes SB21 is not fair to Alaska. He says the prior oil tax system, called ACES, was historic, and made possible because a vote-buying scandal left the oil industry politically weak.
“The industry started pushing back later, when they gained political advantage,” he said. “They pushed back in 2011, when they had a governor who was willing to go along with them, but the bipartisan Senate resisted.”
After redistricting, though, SB21 had the votes.
French says it needs to be repealed if the state wants to be able to continue investing in public infrastructure, including renewable energy projects throughout Alaska.
French also disagrees with the state’s current administration about its response to Obamacare. He says there are about 32,000 health care jobs in the state now, but that could increase by 10 percent almost immediately if the state expanded Medicare.
“Statewide it’s about 4,000 new jobs. In the first three years, those are paid for 100 percent by the federal government. After that, it’s 90-10,” he said. “It’s no different than the billions of dollars we’ve taken from the federal government in building this state, in roads, in ports, in airports. Those are our federal tax dollars, going off to Washington, D.C., now paying for health care jobs in other states. It’s completely wrong.”
French touched on education funding, as well, during his presentation. He says that while the state improved funding somewhat during the most recent legislative session, it wasn’t enough.
After his presentation, French took questions. One audience member asked how French would vote on upcoming ballot measures. Obviously, French is voting yes on Ballot Measure 1 – the oil tax repeal. That one will be on the primary election ballot.
For the general election in November, French says he’ll vote yes on Ballot Measure 3 to increase Alaska’s minimum wage, and yes on 4 to require stricter regulations for any mining activity in Bristol Bay.
But, French says, he’ll vote no on Ballot Measure 2, which seeks to legalize marijuana.
He expanded on that issue during his one-on-one interview with KRBD. French, a former prosecutor, says he does favor decriminalization. But, the ballot initiative goes too far.
“It gets into all the other derivative products, all the other things that go along with that, all the edibles and so forth that I think you’re seeing some problems with in Colorado,” he said. “In my view, we should decriminalize; you shouldn’t go to jail for recreational use of marijuana. On the other hand, I don’t think Alaska is quite ready for edibles and free flowing stores and stores on Main Street. I think you need some time to adjust to that.”
French added that it might be a good idea for Alaska see how legalization plays out in Colorado and Washington State before moving in that direction.
One change in the law French would like to see right away is the repeal of Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage. He introduced a bill during the last session to put a ballot measure in front of voters, revoking that ban. It didn’t get through the Legislature, but he says the state should take that step before the courts require it.
“This winter I was in Juneau and doing some studying, and I could see these decisions coming and I thought, it’s on me, really, as a leader, to step forward and say our state Constitution is inconsistent with the law of the land,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in marriage equality. I think most Alaskans are. I think this is an issue that most people are rapidly becoming comfortable with, realizing it’s an Alaskan value.”
Speaking of values, French says he’s not daunted by the state’s seemingly conservative tilt.
“Most Alaskans are, frankly, middle-of-the-roaders. They are not extreme right, they’re not extreme left,” he said. “They just want to see a solid economy, they want to see an environment in which they can fish, and hunt, and get a job and live their lives the way they want. Those are values that cross party lines.”
French addressed other topics, as well during his visit. Here’s his take on the Alaska Marine Highway System: “It’s no different than the Glenn Highway. You’ve got to have a strong ferry system here if you’re going to have a strong economy.”
And on moving the capital: “The capital belongs in Juneau, it will stay in Juneau. I would never, ever, ever move the capital.”
And what’s on his playlist? “I listen to a lot of stuff. I’ve got some new Bruce Hornsby, who did a thing with Ricky Skaggs — really interesting combination. I like the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Dixie Chicks. I’m kind of a mainstream person, but I do love music.”
French has represented Anchorage in Alaska’s Senate since 2002. He is running for lieutenant governor against Wasilla resident Bob Williams on the Democratic primary ballot. Alaska’s primary election is Aug. 19.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, the third annual Panhandle Fly-In comes to Sitka’s Rocky Gutierrez Airport, organized by the Southeast Alaska Aviation Association (SEAKAA). Members Jeannie Frank, Francois Bakkes and Kevin Knox visit the KCAW studio to talk about the day’s offerings and how SEAKAA promotes aviation safety and protects the interests of aviators in Southeast Alaska.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140711_interview.mp3
Victoria Merritt with the Craig Parks and Recreation report for July 11th. CraigPR071114
ANCHORAGE — An Alaska state House-Senate committee has approved a $500,000 budget for new furniture at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office that is being remodeled, but lawmakers themselves will make do with old furniture from storage and state surplus when they move in next year.
The budget approved Monday by the Legislative Council is for new furnishings in public spaces, hearing rooms and staff offices at the leased downtown building, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon was much more crowded than usual Thursday with one of the state’s hottest topics on the agenda. The issue up for discussion? The “More Alaska Production Act” or “The Giveaway,” depending on which side you ask.
JUNEAU — The state of Alaska has requested mediation over what it considers a failure by the vendor Xerox Corp. to address problems with Alaska’s new Medicaid payment system.
Gov. Sean Parnell, in a statement Thursday, said that if mediation doesn’t work, “the state is prepared to pursue all remedies available under the contract, including legal action.”
ANCHORAGE — The state faces a fine of at least $7,000 after a lawmaker attempted to ship bullets, a cigarette lighter and an aerosol can by air to Juneau without declaring them.
The lawmaker, Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said he plans to reimburse the state for the penalty. He called it an embarrassing mistake.
Sitka Fine Arts Camp music faculty Paul Cox and Katy Green, along with Lisa Wong, the camp’s marketing intern, talk about the final performances of the high school 2014 summer sessions. Students have taken five classes a day - from among an offering of 82 classes – hiked mile upon mile, climbed nearby mountains and sweated over endless practice sessions – a boot camp for the arts, as Cox described it.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140710_interview.mp3
The reason? A crow got into power equipment at Scow Bay.
According to Petersburg Municipal Power and Light, the bird got into the main bus at the substation. The substation is where power comes in through large lines from the Tyee Lake hydro site and then is distributed to customers through smaller lines.
Some equipment damage was sustained which prevented electric workers from tying back into Tyee, but eventually they were able to restore power a little after 10 a.m.
Petersburg Municipal Power and Light Superintendent, Joe Nelson, was out of the office today and could not be interviewed, but he did send out a written statement on the incident.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like inside a cruise ship? In Ketchikan, the giant vessels tower over downtown nearly every summer day.
Last week, several Ketchikan residents boarded the Crown Princess as part of a ceremony celebrating the ship’s first year on an Alaska itinerary. Listen to a report from KRBD’s Emily Files:http://www.krbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/10CrownPrincess.mp3
“We now have a historic preservation commission,” said Vice Mayor Cindi Lagoudakis at Monday’s assembly meeting. “The supporters of the petition informed the ordinance would promote and enhance knowledge of the history of Petersburg.”
The ordinance readopts provisions of an old city ordinance which lays out the appointments and duties of a Historical Preservation Commission.
The borough commission will be comprised of seven volunteers who will advise the assembly on historic matters. One of the main goals of the commission will be to develop a local historic preservation plan.
The seven members will be appointed by the mayor with the approval of the assembly. Ideally, they would include an architect or a historical architect, an archaeologist, a historian, and someone from the Clausen Museum.
Also, one member will be either an assembly member or appointee of the assembly and one member will be from the planning commission or appointed by them.
Initially, the commission members will serve split terms of one, two, and three years. After that, they will all be three year terms.
Join KFSK in supporting our 11 and 12 year old Little League All-Stars at the tournament in Juneau. Next Game: Wednesday 3pm vs Ketchikan
NOME — A government contract delay has halted transportation to and from Little Diomede Island, one of Alaska’s most remote communities.
The weekly helicopter flights were suspended because a system of federal and state subsidies expired June 30 before the yearly reauthorization contract was signed, KNOM reported. Little Diomede is 2 1/2 miles from Big Diomede Island, Russia.