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Southeast Alaska News

Broadway Night an evening of song

Tue, 2014-01-21 10:38

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Shannon Haugland and Tracy Turner, with Sitka Community Theater, outline the bill for this Friday’s Broadway Night fund raiser (6 PM Fri Jan 24, Odess Theater, $30 at Old Harbor Books, includes wine & hors d’ouevres). 12 performances in all.

Tue Jan 21, 2014

Tue, 2014-01-21 10:32

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As session opens, Kreiss-Tomkins introduces official Native languages bill, remains skeptical of governor’s oil tax cuts. MEHS Wrestlers advocate for girls tournament.

Mt. Edgecumbe girls pave way toward sanctioned wrestling

Tue, 2014-01-21 09:19

19 girls on the Mt. Edgecumbe wrestling team qualified for Regionals, often competing against boys. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

Your high school might have had a wrestling team, but how many wrestlers were girls? There are more than a dozen girls on Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe High School wrestling team, and they regularly beat boys in their weight class. The team is tackling more than just gender barriers; they’re paving the way for the first girls sanctioned wrestling tournament in the state of Alaska.

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Deidre Creed is just a few pounds shy of one hundred. But don’t let her petite build and golden locks fool you. She is dangerous.

“I feel pain, but usually if you’re the one on top you’re the one inflicting the pain,” said Creed.

At a recent wrestling practice, DD faces her opponent. She crouches low with outstretched arms. When the whistle blows she lunges forward and hooks a knee, knocking her opponent to the ground. It’s over fast.

“I’d always feel good because I’d always be the underdog because I was the girl,” Creed said. “So it would always feel extra special to win.”

Since there isn’t a girls wrestling team, DD wrestles boys. She’s a senior and just competed in the last state tournament of her high school career. But, she hopes the younger girls on her team will someday compete in a girls only season. This idea is not far-fetched. The Alaska School Activities board is reviewing a proposal to create a girls sanctioned tournament. If approved, it will be thanks to this guy.

I’m Mike Kimber. I’m the wrestling coach at Mt. Edgecumbe High School.

At practice, Kimber stands at the center of the mat, barking out drills. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says Girl Wrestlers Rule.

Kimber has coached the Mt Edgecumbe wrestling team for 15 seasons. He started recruiting girls in his second year. While Mt. Edgecumbe isn’t the only team in Alaska with girls, they likely have the most. Kimber estimates he coaches 26 girls. 19 made it to regionals.

“As a matter of fact my first nationally ranked wrestler was a girl,” said Kimber. A young lady from cold bay named Sonia Maxwell. She qualified for the state tournament at 189 lbs against boys.”

Kimber is also a Mt Edgecumbe wrestling alumn. When he competed there were only a few girls on the team. Kimber remembers a time when schools would forfeit matches if girls came to wrestle. Now, there’s a lot less resistance. But, it’s still hard to shake the stereotypes.

“I think probably the part that’s most surprising is, when you come around and see people and they go really girls wrestle?” Kimber said. “When we go on trips, ‘oh so you guys are managers’ and I say ‘no they’re wrestlers,’ ‘what do you mean they’re wrestlers?’”

Kimber loves the sport, and is adamant that it needs girls to grow. His father coached girls, and his daughter is a star wrestler.

He has high, but equal expectations for all his wrestlers. That kind of equality is appealing to the girls. They feel supported and challenged.

“I much rather enjoy coaching girls than the boys sometimes, people say there’s so much drama with girls,” Kimber said. “But really the drama on our team centers around the boys, and very little around the girls.”

Twins Trevor and Deirdre Creed are seniors on the Mt. Edgecumbe wrestling team. (photo courtesy of Mt. Edgecumbe High School)

The person that might have the most insight on how girls and boys approach the sport differently is DD’s twin brother, Trevor. The pair have been wrestling for as long as they can remember.

“I’m bigger I can muscle her around,” Trevor said. “So she has to trick me, maybe push my head in another direction. She has to use her mind more when she wrestles.”

It looks like girls wrestling is in Alaska’s future. Kimber was the first to petition the Alaska School Activities Association to create a girls wrestling season. And at a board hearing in December Kimber and other coaches around Southeast made a compelling case. Andrew Friske, the Southeast representative on the Alaska School Activities Association board, says the idea of girls wrestling really isn’t a hard sell.

“These are coaches that have been around for 15-20 years and they said it’s a no-brainer for them to start girls wrestling,” Friske said. “They think with more girls there is going to be more boys that come out. It’s going to be a stronger program and breed success.”

But there are still some hurdles. And the board wants to make sure they weigh the financial implications, and logistics of a new state tournament.

In the end the board decided to back a proposal where girls would continue to compete against boys throughout the season, but the regional and state tournament would be girls sanctioned.

As for DD, she hopes to continue wrestling in college. Her performance at state caught the eye of recruiters, winning her an invitation to represent Alaska at this year’s Arctic Winter Games. That’s a first for a Mt. Edgecumbe girl wrestler.

Analysis lays out weighty deficit impacts

Tue, 2014-01-21 01:01

JUNEAU — Fall-back options, such as large cuts in capital budgets, imposing state sales or income taxes or cutting Permanent Fund dividends, may not eliminate future deficits, according to a newly released analysis by the Legislative Finance Division.

The division, in an overview of Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget plan, says current spending levels are unsustainable without additional revenue, and simply constraining spending growth is insufficient.

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Begich speaks out against proposed Pebble Mine

Tue, 2014-01-21 01:00

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has come out against the proposed Pebble Mine, calling the massive gold-and-copper project “the wrong mine in the wrong place for Alaska.”

In a statement released by his office Monday, Begich said he has long supported Alaska’s mining industry and believes continued efforts must be made to support resource-development industries that help keep Alaska’s economy strong. But he said “years of scientific study (have) proven the proposed Pebble Mine cannot be developed safely in the Bristol Bay watershed.”

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As session opens: Kreiss-Tomkins backs official Native language bill

Mon, 2014-01-20 22:54

Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The second session of the 28th Alaska Legislature opens today (Tue 1-21-14), and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has something he lacked last year: Experience.

While he’s still the youngest legislator on the hill in Juneau, and still a member of the minority, the Sitka Democrat has already pre-filed one bill on Native languages, and remains deeply skeptical of the governor’s efforts to boost oil production by reducing taxes on industry profits.

Kreiss-Tomkins was in Sitka last week meeting with constituents. He stopped by KCAW and spoke with Robert Woolsey about his plans for the coming session.

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In December, the governor submitted a deficit budget to the legislature. It’s a starting point, and there’s no funding for any of several major hydroelectric projects in Southeast.

Sitka asked for $18.5 million to complete the Blue Lake hydro expansion. The governor left open the possibility of an add-on, but Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins is not crossing his fingers.

“I wouldn’t say it’s likely,” he says.

Two years ago, $18-million would have been small potatoes in the state’s capital budget. Now that he’s having to pull money out of savings to make ends meet, the governor is probably going to rein in spending significantly.

Kreiss-Tomkins is watching the trend. “The year before I got in the legislature, in the era of surpluses, the legislative add-ons were in the neighborhood of $2-billion. Last year, the legislative add-ons were in the neighborhood of $400-million. So that’s shrinking four-fold.”

But it’s not nothing for Sitka or other communities in Kreiss-Tomkins’ district. Sitka, for instance, will see several million dollars for long-overdue repairs to the water system.

“My personal priority for capital projects are basic infrastructure. And that’s the foundation of a community. I absolutely think we need to take care of basic infrastructure before anything else.”

Does basic infrastructure include $25-million for a new swimming pool at the state-owned Mt. Edgecumbe boarding school? Although the base funding was approved by voters in a bond package two years ago, there’s been a tug-of-war over the supplemental funding needed to make that project a reality. Kreiss-Tomkins thinks the $1-million in estimated annual operating costs is curbing the Department of Education’s enthusiasm for the project.

He just hopes whatever happens makes sense. “I’m just really interested in a fiscally responsible outcome,” he says

The shortfall in state funding this year was planned — a deliberate move on the part of the governor and a Republican majority in the legislature to stimulate investment in oil production on the North Slope.

The oil tax cut — which is known as Senate Bill 21 — makes no sense to Kreiss-Tomkins. He says the big three oil producers made almost $10-billion in Alaska last year — before the tax break. Kreiss-Tomkins and his senate counterpart, Bert Stedman, see eye-to-eye on this point.

“If you’re making literally billions upon billions in profit, where’s the incentive not to invest? I mean, it’s a cash cow up there. It’s incredibly profitable to drill in Alaska, and we’re not an oligarchy, we’re not going to nationalize. We’re not going to create the Alaska State Oil Company and take all their assets, like what happens in the Middle East or elsewhere. So that’s what I consistently find myself asking: The argument that we need to cut taxes even more, and have even more profitable fields for them to invest in, seems so logically flawed.”

Kreiss-Tomkins spent the day in Sitka meeting with constituents before his interview. A major concern was how many people are not being served by the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare.

“It’s tragic. There’s a doughnut hole into which people fall,” he says, reflecting on the plight of a troller he met with in Sitka.

The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the ACA, but allowed governors to opt out of a provision to expand Medicaid to working people living above the poverty line, but who don’t qualify for subsidies to help pay their premiums.

It turns out there are a lot of fishermen and deckhands who fall into the doughnut hole. And Kreiss-Tomkins says there’s not a thing the legislature can do about it.

“I wish we could, but we can not. It’s the governor’s decision. And the governor has said he’s very concerned about these people who are uninsured, and he’s going to take steps to address the problem. We haven’t heard what those steps are yet.”

Last year Kreiss-Tomkins took a listen-and-learn approach to the legislature, and deliberately refrained from introducing his own bills. This year, he’s prefiled a bill, co-sponsored by a fellow Democrat (Bryce Edgemon), and two Republicans (Charisse Millett and Ben Nageak), making the 21 Native languages still spoken in Alaska “official” state languages.

There won’t be any bilingual signs or state documents, as in Canada. In fact, no added bureaucracy whatsoever. Kreiss-Tomkins said it’s just an acknowledgement of the importance of Native languages to culture. He says he spoke with an Alaskan artist living in Seattle who told him that…

“This bill is inspiring. It acknowledges the importance of what I’ve dedicated my life to. And he’s considering moving back to his hometown to try to apprentice with an elder and learn his language. It’s a symbolic change, but I truly believe it’s going to lead to the empowerment of these languages and cultures.”

2014 is an election year. Whatever happens in November, Kreiss-Tomkins won’t be representing communities like Haines or Metlakatla next year. His new district reunites Sitka and Petersburg. Kreiss-Tomkins supports the change. He calls the redistricting process “a fiasco” and the current map “modern art.”

Although he’s recently returned from a visit to Petersburg, he plans to take the high road, and represent the voters who put him in office, rather than those who may send him back.

“In a political campaign sense, when I’m running for reelection, it very much does change my thinking. But there really isn’t a Petersburg issue that I’m going to suddenly be championing, and a Haines issue I’m suddenly not going to be working on.”

Kreiss-Tomkins seems buoyed by the prospect of returning to Juneau. He put his legislative vanity license plate with the number 37, on his bicycle. He’s 24 years old, turning 25 in February. His first day in the last session was memorable. He thinks this session will be different. “At least they won’t mistake me for an intern,” he says.

Sealaska to resume minerals exploration on POW Island

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:06

A Southeast Alaska Native regional corporation is restarting its mineral exploration program.

Sealaska halted its mineral exploration program in 2000 after metal prices steeply declined. The corporation continued, however, to conduct small-scale mineral assessments on its Prince of Wales Island lands.

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Legislature brings gas line, spending talk

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:04

JUNEAU — State spending, education funding and plans for advancing a major gas line project are among the big issues facing lawmakers when they return to Juneau for the new session.

When the Legislature reconvenes Tuesday, it will be the first time in several years that oil taxes aren’t on the docket. The issue, however, figures to loom large in discussions about state spending and the gas line project.

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Southeast lawmakers prepare for session

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:04

Lawmakers are preparing for a legislative session full of debates on issues ranging from education funding and whether to pay down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities to the terms of an in-state gas line.

Southeast lawmakers are also focused on ensuring that coastal communities benefit from a proposed gas line as much as Railbelt communities, maintaining funding for the ferry system and completing the State Library Archives and Museums project.

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Sitka Native corp. ends fine arts scholarships

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:04

SITKA — The urban Native corporation in Sitka is no longer providing scholarships for shareholder’s children to attend the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

The board of Shee Atika Inc. has decided to focus its scholarships on educational programs that could lead to better jobs, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

Last year, the corporation spent about $600,000 on scholarships. Of that, about $20,000 went to the summer fine arts program.

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UAF station manager is a music aficionado

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

FAIRBANKS — One of Fairbanks’ top music aficionados, a guy who runs a radio station, promotes bands, hosts touring musicians at his house and has music playing during all waking hours, has zero interest in picking up an instrument.

Brady Gross, a 30-year-old full-time University of Alaska Fairbanks student, is general manager of the the student-run radio station at UAF, a position that has allowed him to promote, share and listen to music he loves.

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100 ukulele strummers to unite in Sitka for 'Firework'

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

SITKA — A Sitka woman hopes to make a big sound — with the help of 100 small stringed instruments.

Jeannie Jay, a ukulele enthusiast and Katy Perry fan, is leading the charge to organize a performance of 100 ukulele strummers playing and singing the Katy Perry song “Firework,” and capturing the event on video.

Jay’s big dream is to attract Perry’s attention, with the object of getting her interested enough to play a concert in Sitka. But at the very least, Jay hopes to inspire people in Sitka to pick up a uke, learn the song and be inspired by the words.

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Number of Alutiiq speakers on the rise

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

KODIAK — A revitalization project to increase the number of Alutiiq speakers in Kodiak is seeing dividends.

Alutiiq Museum executive director Alisa Drabek says there are now 33 elders who speak Alutiiq as a first language and up to 13 who speak it as a second language, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

“We’re not growing as many young fluent speakers, babies and elementary students, yet, but we are growing the next teachers,” Drabek said. “We’re progressing.”

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Alaska flu cases spike; season hasn't peaked

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

ANCHORAGE — Cases of the flu spiked in Alaska at the end of December and into January with the state-recorded count triple the number at the beginning of the season, officials said.

Despite the spike, health officials don’t think the season has peaked and are encouraging all people to get vaccinated.

“We haven’t peaked, we don’t think,” Donna Fearey, state nurse epidemiologist, told the Anchorage Daily News. “We expect to see further increase in activity.”

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Tourism courting Indian, South American travelers

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:02

ANCHORAGE — Armed with the allure of vast openness and pristine wildlife, Alaska’s tourism industry regularly courts potential visitors in the more densely-populated parts of the world.

Two of the hottest up-and-coming markets? India and South America, according to Alaska tourism officials.

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Residents of eroding village seek federal help

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

ANCHORAGE — Tony Weyiouanna remembers a time when people played beach baseball in his village on Alaska’s storm-battered western coast. Now, there’s barely enough room for hopscotch on Shishmaref’s eroding waterfront.

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'I'm Just a Bill' How legal review can affect a proposed law

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

Anyone who’s watched classic Schoolhouse Rock! animated shorts can sing through the steps of how a bill becomes a law. It starts as an idea, is then written up by a lawmaker and sent to the capital. It may die in committee or it may make it to the floor for a vote. If it passes the House, it’s sent over to the Senate, and vice versa, where the bill must again make it out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

The catchy “I’m Just a Bill” tune is a great tool for kids to learn about lawmaking, but up close the process seems anything but harmonious and simple.

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Second wave of prefile bills released

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

JUNEAU — Bills related to medical malpractice, the issuance of citations and genetically engineered seeds were among the second wave of measures filed Friday, ahead of next week’s legislative session.

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Federal agency seeks more detail in Shell Arctic drill plan

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

ANCHORAGE — The federal agency that oversees offshore petroleum drilling wants more information on plans for Arctic Ocean drilling in 2014 by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which has not decided whether it will resume operations this year.

Shell in 2012 drilled pilot holes and dug mudline cellars in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast and in the Beaufort Sea off the state’s north coast. The company was not allowed to drill into oil-bearing deposits because required response equipment was not on hand.

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Deportations dip by 30 percent in Pacific Northwest

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:08

SEATTLE — The number of immigrants residing in Washington, Oregon and Alaska deported from the United States dropped by more than 30 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year.

New figures released by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement show that 4,525 people residing in the Pacific Northwest were removed from the country in fiscal year 2013. That’s compared to 6,733 people in 2012 and nearly 11,000 people in 2008.

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