A recent D.C. court ruling has left state officials with a lot of legal uncertainty. The court said the Secretary of the Interior can take land into trust status for tribes in Alaska and can not treat tribes here differently than in the lower 48. Michael Geraghty is the state’s Attorney General. He told APRN’s Lori Townsend the decision was a disappointment that creates a big question mark.
The Alaska Republican Party has ousted Party Chairwoman Debbie Brown, and state party vice – chair Peter Goldberg has become the new chair.
Goldberg’s accession last night marks the latest chapter in the saga of the Republicans’ messy internal politics. Brown says the action of the executive committee was illegal under party rules.
“It’s just a couple of factions that are basically at war within the Alaska Republican Party. It’s very unfortunate that we cannot look for ways to have dialogue and conversation and move ahead in a respectable, honorable way with one another but we’ve got a group of people who want to circumvent our party rules. They want to alter them to accomplish an end to which many Alaska Republicans are opposed to.”
On January 31, newly – elected party Chairman Russ Millette was ousted by the party’s executive committee, literally an hour before he was to take his seat. Vice- chair Brown was then named chairwoman in his place a day later. Millette and Brown were initially elected to party official seats in 2012, when a wave of presidential candidate Ron Paul supporters flooded the party’s statewide meeting.
Alaska Dispatch reported last night, the Republican executive committee attempted to meet at party headquarters in Anchorage, only to find themselves locked out of the building. Brown says she changed the locks, not an uncommon move for a new party leader
“in that there were a lot of keys that were out there. No one really knew who had the keys, who did not have the keys, and so I felt it was the responsible thing to do.”
Brown is now headed for a Republican National Committee meeting in California. She says she hasn’t decided if she will appeal her ouster.
“I’m not certain that I will appeal it. My biggest concern is that if I do appeal it, it will be an appeal to something that I believe was illegitimate in its origin. The meeting that occurred on the evening of the eighth day of April, although I was not in state anyway, the point is that it was an illegitimate meeting. And so you’ve got a small group of individuals called the executive committee where, some of the members that participated, had been terminated, because these members serve at the pleasure of the chairman.”
Brown says she had terminated some party officials who had served under former Republican Party of Alaska chairman Randy Ruedrich. Ruedrich did not return phone calls today (Tuesday).
In January of this year, Anchorage Republicans transferred more than 34 thousand dollars in party funds to the Juneau chapter, essentially putting the cash out of reach of Millett and Brown.
The Republican central committee, a larger committee of ninety or more members, meets again in late May in Homer.
You could spend a lifetime exploring the terrain an Alaska couple traversed last year. KUAC’s Dan Bross has more on the human powered mega adventure.
The Air Force has grounded the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base due to federal budget restrictions. The Squadron of F-16s is the same one the Air Force has considered relocating to Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson near Anchorage. But the Air Force says the groundings have nothing to do with the potential relocation.
According to the Air Force, the F-16s will stand down for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends September 30th. Captain Joost Verduyn is the Chief for Public Affairs for 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base. He says federal budget cuts eliminated over 40-thousand flying hours across the nation.
“Flying hours that were originally assigned to the 354th fighter wing have been cut and reassigned to pilots preparing to deploy and would need those hours more than we would,” he says.
The 18th Aggressor Squadron is a training squadron. No jobs will be lost from the groundings and Verduyn says the economic impact will be minimal. The pilots will use flight simulators, conduit academic training, basically they’ll do a lot of things to make sure they’re ready to fly when it is time to. As a part of it, maintenance on the aircraft just doesn’t stop,” syas Verduyn.
“You can’t just let them sit, the same way you can’t let your car sit and expect it to turn over six months later.”
Because the F-16s won’t be flying, support operations for a squadron of F-22s based at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson outside of Anchorage will also end. The Air Force is currently working on an Environmental Impact Statement related to the military’s plan to relocate the 18th Aggressor Squadron to JBER, but Verdyn says the grounding is unrelated.
“They are two separate actions,” he says. “One doesn’t have much of an effect on the other because you have lots of other bases being grounded as well. It’s not only us standing down flying.”
The announcement comes a week after the Air Force announced the cancellation of the Northern Edge and Red Flag training exercises both based at Eielson. Those operations draw thousands of military personnel from outside the state and nation.
Both Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski are weighing in on the news. Senator Begich recently left his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Senator’s spokeswoman says it’s unlikely maintaining his seat would have made a difference, because the grounding is the result of Congress’s federal budget sequester. In an email, Begich says he is “working with the Department of Defense and colleagues on better ways to address [the] country’s budget crisis without compromising military readiness.”
On Tuesday, Begich introduced a bill he says would reallocate funding from what he calls the military’s “bloated and inefficient missile system,” known as MEADS, to “necessary operations like Red Flag and the 18th Aggressor squadron.” Both Begich and Senator Lisa Murkowski supported federal sequestration. Matthew Felling is a spokesman for Murkowski. “We think that not all buckets of money are created equally,” Felling says. “So, we think this creates a vaccumof capacity and readiness in the entire area.” Via email, Senator Murkowski says she would have like to have seen “sequestration implanted in a less harmful way.”
State Representative Bryce Edgmon introduced a bill last week that would allow Village Public Safety Officers across the state to carry firearms. KYUK’s Mark Arehart has more.
Since the program began in the 1970’s, VPSOs have often been the only permanent law enforcement presence in many rural Alaskan communities.
But, they have never been able to carry firearms. House Bill 199 would change that.
Edgemon said it would allow VPSOs to carry firearms will better equip them to protect their communities and “have the ability to protect themselves in instances of harms way.”
Last month a VPSO in Manakotak was fatally shot in the line of duty, stirring up debate across the state.
The Association of Village Council Presidents runs the VPSO program in the YK Delta.
“Why do we send our VPSOs into a situation that can result in death like in this incident down in Manakotak and send him in there without any firearms?” said AVCP President Myron Naneng.
Naneng said out of the 27 VPSOs in the YK Delta over half were in support of carrying firearms. Though several others were undecided, he said.
Representative Edgemon said the bill wouldn’t just put guns in VPSOs hands right out of the gate.
“Nobody is suggesting VPSOs should be allowed to carry firearms without the proper training. And we wrote that into the bill. And that’s part two of the bill, that we want our VPSOs to be properly trained as well,” he said.
Edgemon said he has gotten bipartisan favor in Juneau. “Instantly, without really much effort, a lot of support has cropped up here in the capitol. And I think, looking at my emails, there has only been support from across the state. It has generated lots of responses.”
The bill will not be voted up or down this year as the session is close to ending, Edgemon said.
There may be public hearings held this winter to discuss the issue.
Oregon investigators are taking the lead in the case of an assistant Juneau high school football coach who allegedly knocked out a student during a sparring match.
Juneau Police Sargent Chris Burke says the Juneau School District notified them about the incident on Friday.
“We have seen the video. So we’re assisting the agency in Oregon that will be the lead investigators on it. We still working with jurisdictional things right now. But, because most of the people that were involved in it are here in Juneau, we’ll be assisting them with interviews and things like that.”
Prosecutors in Curry County, Oregon prosecutors will likely decide whether to press charges after the investigation wraps up.
The incident during last summer’s trip to football camp in Gold Beach was apparently captured on video. Assistant Thunder Mountain High School coach John Wahl engages in a boxing match with an incoming freshman player. Both were reportedly wearing gloves. Wahl allegedly sucker punches the boy, and the boy collapses unconscious as Wahl allegedly celebrates.
Juneau Schools Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich did not return a call for comment before deadline on Monday.
But in an earlier email he stated that two coaches, which he did not name, were placed on administrative leave pending outcome of the investigation.
Wahl is also a sixth-grade math teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School.
Gelbrich said that they turned the matter over to the Juneau Police Department, filed a report with the state’s Office of Children’s Services, and are cooperating with the investigation.
Gelbrich also said that he’s concerned about emerging details of the allegations, and that it went unreported for nearly nine months.
Dr. Moniz is a respected physicist who has spent years working at the intersection of policy and scientific research.
Before returning to MIT in 2001, he spent four years as undersecretary of the Energy Department. So he’s had practice artfully dodging questions and providing diplomatic, often-vague answers.
Both the committee chairman Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and the panel’s top Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski used their first comments to pin the nominee down on exporting liquefied natural gas.
Sen. Murkowski asked whether he supports exports of LNG, and Dr. Moniz responded:
“I believe the Natural Gas Act suggests we should move forward with licenses unless there is a clear public interest issue.”
Dr. Moniz went on to say that cumulative effects, including overall cost, need to be examined before the Energy Department would grant an export license.
“But fundamentally, I think all of these issues have to come together,” he said. “And we’ll make a transparent, analytically based evaluation application by application.”
A case by case approval process could be what export skeptics want to hear. Sen. Wyden, a critic of exporting natural gas, said he’s concerned what exports would do to prices at both the national and regional levels.
Confirmation hearings provide senators a chance to rally a base and bring up parochial, home-state issues.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from increasingly Republican West Virginia, asked Dr. Moniz some pointed questions about threats to coal.
“How much longer will taxpayers have to subsidize renewables?” he asked. “Until they’re able to compete in the marketplace on their own?”
Dr. Moniz dodged the question; offering up a long, winding answer. He said the role of the government in energy production is to “make sure the marketplace has options.”
The Department of Energy oversees all sorts of programs: from a controversial loan program for energy firms to regulating fracking to assuring the safety of the country’s nuclear weapons.
Sen. Murkowski made note of the heavy load.
“You are not signing up for the easiest job here,” she said in her opening remarks.
One thing the Energy Department is not responsible for is federal tax policy. But that’s what Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Tea Party favorite, asked about. He wanted to know whether Dr. Moniz supports a carbon tax.
Dr. Moniz responded in a fairly straight forward way: He’s not the right person to ask.
“First of all, it’s important to note the administration has not proposed a carbon tax and has no plan to do so,” he said. “That’s the first point. The second point, the Department of Energy is not the locus of discussion for such fiscal policies.”
Dr. Moniz is expected to pass through both the committee and full Senate. Sen. Wyden supports the nomination, and he hopes to bring the nominee back for a vote sometime soon.
Because in Wyden’s words, “the sooner he’s confirmed, the sooner he can get to work.”
Matanuska Electric Association is blaming an upcoming rate hike on the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. In March, the RCA approved a 42 percent base cost increase request by Anchorage – based Chugach Electric Association for the power that Chugach sells to MEA. MEA spokesman Kevin Brown says the rate hike could be temporary:
“While the RCA does a full investigation of this rate filing, they have approved an interim increase in the wholesale power cost to MEA of 42 percent. That investigation will likely take a year to complete. When that investigation is done, if the RCA decides that the rate increase wasn’t warrented, all the money that we’ve paid to Chugach as a result of that increase will be refundable to MEA.”
Brown says MEA purchases almost all of its power from Chugach under a contract that won’t expire until the end of next year. He says MEA strongly opposed the RCA’s interim increase in the cost of wholesale power paid to Chugach.
”As we purchase almost all of our power from Chugach Electric, we are largely at the mercy of their prices. Approximately two thirds of the MEA customers’ bill is just directly passed on from Chugach Electric. So when their costs go up, we feel that right alongside them. “
Brown says the RCA has allowed Chugach to increase rates for its other customers, too, but in amounts less than the 42% increase for MEA. He says the MEA customers can expect to pay eight point seven million dollars over the course of the year to cover the extra cost.
That shakes out to about nine dollars more a month for an average household bill for 750 kilowatt hours, starting this month. The Chugach rate increase starts today (Monday) he says, and customers will see the higher rate reflected in next month’s MEA bill.
Brown says Chugach’s increase is to cover the costs of Chugach’s new gas fired electric generation plant in Anchorage.
MEA is constructing it’s own electric generation plant in Eklutna. That project is expected to be complete by 2015.
Anchorage Police Department officials say the man shot and killed by officers in a downtown supermarket parking lot Friday night had a semi-automatic handgun. The man was identified as Detlef Wulf, a 27 year old with a long criminal record. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton has the story.
Friday night a security guard called police to report a possibly drunk man slumped over the wheel of a sports utility vehicle, at the Carr’s grocery store in Fairview. According to Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew, the officers approached the vehicle, rapped on the window of the SUV and saw that the man inside had a semi-automatic handgun. Mew describes what happened.
“Things went very fast from there. They hollered at the person behind the wheel, who we now know to be Mr. Wulf to put his hands up. Instead of doing that, he produced the gun, cracked the car door open, raised the gun, leaned over his shoulder and pointed at the closest officer. And, at that point, both officers returned fire.”
The victim was identified as Detlef Wulf, age 27. Mew says officers boxed the car in and illuminated the area before approaching, because they believed the man could be intoxicated and they wanted to prevent him from driving away. The shooting happened just before backup arrived. Five shots were fired by two officers. An autopsy is underway. Wulf had a long record with the courts stretching back to 2000 with many cases involving alcohol and weapons. Chief Mew says law enforcement leaders are very concerned about the increasing number of officer involved shootings in Anchorage.
“In 2012, we had five officer involved shootings. That’s the most we’ve ever had, as far back as we could count. Two of those were fatal. Three of them were not fatal. That same year, State Troopers had eight, which I think is very high for them too. We’re both concerned and trying to determine how to attribute that. Is society getting more violent? Are our officers acting quicker? You know, I don’t know the answers to those questions yet.”
So far in 2013, the APD has had three officer involved shootings, two of them fatal. In January, officers attended a ‘use-of-force’ training. The state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals is investigating Friday’s shooting. Officers must be in fear of immanent, serious physical injury or death to themselves or a third person in order to legally use deadly force.
- APD Press Release: April 8, 2013 (PDF)
- Related Stories: APD and deadly force
- APD Officers Shoot, Kill Suspect (19 Feb 2013)
Protesters with the anti-abortion Center for Bioethical Reform held up large signs across from the state capitol building in Juneau this week, depicting graphic images of aborted fetuses.
In response to complaints, some state employees tried to block the protest signs with official vehicles.
The incident led Governor Sean Parnell and state Senate Republicans to charge the demonstrators’ free speech rights had been violated.
The signs were hard to miss, showing what the protesters claimed to be the bloody aftermath of an abortion. Officials at the Dimond Courthouse directly across from the capitol received complaints about the images. So, Alaska Court System Deputy Administrative Director Doug Wooliver says a longtime court employee requested state vehicles park in front of the signs.
“Our employee at the court system had received some complaints about the graphic nature of the photographs, particularly given that it was by a daycare center in the Tom Stewart Building,” Wooliver said. “His thought was, well, maybe we can just put some vans in the parking area, which is for loading and unloading and all kinds of regular daily uses anyway, as a way to try to create a buffer.”
Some protesters apparently complained to a state lawmaker, and by Wednesday a video of the incident was posted on the Restoring Liberty PAC website run by failed U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller.
Another heavily edited video posted Friday shows demonstrators trying to block a van from parking in the loading and unloading zone in front of the courthouse. A capitol security official asks a protester not to stand or sit in the middle of the street. When the man refuses, the security guard attempts to escort him to the sidewalk. In the ensuing struggle the protester falls to the ground.
On the Senate floor Friday, Wasilla Republican Mike Dunleavy called it a blatant violation of free speech.
“These protesters were not yelling and screaming. They were not saying anything. They were standing there silently,” Dunleavy said. “Yet we had several vans – state of Alaska vans – park in front of those protesters. We had one of the protesters – it’s on the video – that was manhandled. This is an outrage.”
Governor Parnell released a statement blaming the situation on employees with the court system, the Legislature and the Department of Administration, and calling their actions “totally inappropriate.”
Eagle River Senator Fred Dyson took it a step further while talking to reporters at a Senate Majority press conference on Friday.
“I suspect whoever was responsible will at least get talked to about it,” Dyson said. “And may get time off to work on their resume.”
Andy Mills, a spokesman for Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg, said the department’s vehicles only blocked the protest for 45 minutes on Tuesday. He said the employees involved would receive training about not interfering with demonstrations.
Legislative Affairs Director Pam Varni denied involvement by employees at her agency.
Wooliver says the court employee realizes it was the wrong decision. However, he says calling it a violation of free speech might be a little strong.
“I don’t know if it violated free speech. They were still on the sidewalk, they were still visible. I think they moved down a few feet,” Wooliver said. “But it was inappropriate on the part of the court. So everybody I think agrees it was not the right call to make.”
According to the Juneau Police Department, the Center for Bioethical Reform did not apply for a parade permit, which would have been needed for a demonstration anywhere off the sidewalk. No arrests were made and the protest wrapped up without further incident Wednesday afternoon.
Administrative Judge Benjamin Gutman reversed the suspensions of former prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke.
The two appealed their suspensions, which have not been enforced yet.
Bottini, now an assistant U.S. Attorney in Anchorage was suspended 40 days without pay. Goeke, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington State, lost 15 days of pay.
The ruling says the two received harsher than necessary punishments because the Department of Justice did not follow its own procedures. A senior attorney at Justice investigated the two instead of a subordinate lawyer.
Bottini and Goeke were originally charged with prosecutorial misconduct. They failed to follow legal procedure by not offering up character-damaging information about their star witness, disgraced former Veco executive Bill Allen.
The Department of Justice would not comment for the story. A spokesperson said the Department is reviewing the matter.
A joint House and Senate vote today [monday ] approved almost all of Governor Parnell’s appointments to various state boards and commissions — all but one. Vince Webster, Parnell’s choice for re-appointment for a third three year term on the state Board of Fisheries, was turned down by a one- vote margin
“Total combined, 29 yeas, 30 nays.”
“And so by a vote of 29 yeas, 30 nays, Mr. Webster has failed to be confirmed. “
Senate president Charlie Huggins asked for the vote tally to be read a second time. The vote came after an hour of spirited debate on the merits of Webster’s previous work with the state fish board. Webster had gained the ire of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association due to a Board of Fish move in March that lowered escapement goals for Kenai River late run chinook salmon. On Friday, KRSA issued a call to block Webster’s appointment.
An audit of the Knik Arm bridge finds that the agency handling the project has “overstated” its traffic forecasts. Government auditors expect substantially less toll revenue as a result, leaving the state at risk of having to make up the shortfall.
The bridge, which would link Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, has a price tag of $1.6 billion dollars. The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority – the agency behind the project – anticipates that it would pay for itself within 30 years of being built through driver tolls. But the audit released on Saturday says that KABATA’s financial plan is “unreasonably optimistic” and that it’s based on inflated population estimates for the area.
KABATA is disputing the report, saying that the auditors failed to factor in potential development of the Port MacKenzie area.
A bill advancing the project is scheduled for a vote on the House floor tonight (Monday).
A bill that would give cities and boroughs in Alaska the ability to deal with derelict and abandoned vessels is on the move in Juneau. On Friday House Bill 131 received a unanimous vote in the Alaska House.
The prime sponsor of the Bill is Representative Paul Seaton from Homer. He says the bill addresses an important issue.
“Dealing with derelict and abandoned vessels is a costly endeavor and a growing problem. Unfortunately, that onus is falling on our municipalities, since the state has made a policy of giving our ports and harbors back to them. They simply don’t have the financial resources or sufficient legal authority in some cases,” Seaton, R-Homer, said. “HB 131 gives municipalities better legal traction to address this problem.”
Back in October the Alaska Association of Harbor Masters and Port Administrators passed a resolution requesting stronger municipal powers in regards to abandoned and derelict vessels. That resolution was supported by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. House Bill 131 basically allows a state agency or municipality to remove a derelict vessel from State waters if the vessel obstructs navigation or constitutes a danger to the environment. The bill also stipulates that a vessel that has been denied entrance to a harbor by a state agency or municipality may not be stored on the waters of the State for more than 14 consecutive days unless all hazardous materials and petroleum products have been removed. House Bill 131 also gives a state agency or municipality the authority to dispose of vessels that have been left unattended for 30-days if the vessel is on public property or on private property without the authorization of the owner of the property.
House Bill 131 now moves to the Alaska Senate, which has until Sunday, April 14th to move the bill. If not the bill will be waiting on the Senate next year when the 2nd session of the 28th Alaska Legislature gets underway.
A D.C. district court decision quietly released on Easter Sunday, has huge implications for Alaska tribal and state lands jurisdiction. The court found the Secretary of Interior has the authority to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. Most believed that was not possible after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed.
Native American Rights Fund attorney Heather Kendall Miller argued the case on behalf of Alaska tribes. She told APRN’s Lori Townsend the ruling is an important recognition of tribal self determination and trust status will protect tribes from lawsuits, taxation and foreclosure.
The National Weather Service is downgrading it’s forecasted snow amounts for the latest April storm to hit the Anchorage area. Over the weekend 10 inches of snow fell in East Anchorage and on the Hillside. Highland Road in Eagle River received an impressive 29 inches of fluff. This morning the National Weather Service was predicting another 9-15 inches could fall by Tuesday. But now it looks like the storm totals will be closer to 4 to 8 inches.
Jason Ahsenmacher is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service:
“We saw much lighter snowfall today than we were anticipating. And even tonight, the main show when we get it moving in tonight, is probably not going to be as impressive as we thought. So really, just a very slight shift in the pattern to the east made all the difference for this event.”
Still, Ahsenmacher says snowfall rates should pick up in Anchorage around 7 pm tonight. The snow will lighten up early tomorrow morning and little to no accumulation is expected during the daylight hours tomorrow (Tuesday).
Modern technology, like snow machines, boats, and cell phones have changed how Alaskans gather their food – both in urban and rural areas. As part of our on-going series looking at how we define our culture and live our lives as Alaskans, Anne Hillman examines some of those changes and the aspects that haven’t changed at all.
Our series on culture is funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum.
John Marvin, Junior has been sentenced to 198 years in prison for the murder of two Hoonah police officers. The 47-year old Hoonah resident will essentially spend the rest of his life in prison for gunning down two officers in front of their families, and then holding other officers at bay in a stand-off for more than a day.
The National Weather Service is predicting another round of significant snow for Southcentral Alaska, from the Mat-Su Valley down to the Kenai Peninsula, this weekend. The storm is expected to hit Saturday afternoon, with the heaviest snowfall Saturday evening into Sunday morning. The forecast calls for between 4 and 10 inches of snow in the Anchorage area, with the highest amounts along the hillside. Dave Snider is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. He says big snows aren’t especially unusual this time of year.
“Three of our top five high snow fall totals for just one day occurred in March and April. Back in 2008, we set a record about this time of the year for 15 1/2 inches of snow. So it can come down and it can come down pretty hard and fast as well even in this late part of the wintertime or spring, if you like to call it that.”
Snider says the highest amounts will fall over the Chugach mountains and the western parts of Prince William Sound. And he says even more snow is forecast for the region for the early part of next week.