Protesters gathered in Anchorage on Wednesday in support of Vic Fischer and Bella Hammond.
The crowd was demanding the state call off its efforts to recover $1 million in legal fees from Fischer, Hammond, and their co-plaintiffs in case over the Pebble Mine.
Chants from a crowd of about 50 protesters gathered near the Atwood Building could be heard from a couple blocks away. They held signs that read, “Shame on Parnell, Don’t Evict Bella Hammond,” and, “Real Alaskans Don’t Bully Their Elders.”
The issue stems from a case Bella Hammond, Vic Fischer – and a group of other plaintiffs – brought against the state regarding the public’s right to know about the Pebble Mine’s exploration work in advance.
The court ruled in favor of the state, and the state and the Pebble Partnership are now trying to collect about $1 million dollars in attorney fees.
State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat from Anchorage and a candidate for Lt. Governor, was among the protesters. He says the action is purely discretionary on the state’s part.
“The attorney general could stop it today if he signed a piece of paper, and I hope he does,” French said. “I hope he rethinks his position and I hope the governor tells him to rethink his position, because going after Bella Hammond and Vic Fischer for legal fees is just wrong.”
According to state attorney Steve Mulder, under Alaska’s “loser pay” law, the state and the Pebble Partnership can seek repayment of up to 30 percent of their attorney fees. But, if a certain set of criteria are met, the group might not end up having to pay.
“If a claimant raises constitutional issues and they don’t have otherwise have a sufficient economic incentive to bring the issue, then they might get relief for having to pay fees,” Mulder said. “There’s also a separate provision that if an award would cause undue hardship, that the judge can give relief.”
Hammond, Fischer and the other plaintiffs are seeking relief, and Mulder says whether or not they meet the necessary criteria is in question.
“In this case, the judge has decided, ‘well, there are fact issues about whether they qualify under either of those two avenues,’ and the judge wants to have a hearing about that,” he said.
The decision to be made next is whether or not Fisher, Hammond and their co-plaintiffs will have to furnish any more information in advance of the hearing.
Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, says the state’s actions have a chilling effect and could set a dangerous precedent for lawsuits of a similar nature in the future.
“The message that it sends is, ‘if you’re an ordinary Alaskan, don’t you dare stand up and try to challenge what’s happening in the state, because if you do, we’re gonna whack you with a million dollars in legal fees,’” Wielechowski said.
Nick Moe agrees. He ran a write-in campaign for the Anchorage Assembly last spring and says if the group is forced to pay up, it might make Alaskans hesitant to speak up in the future.
“I would definitely think twice, because, you know, I don’t make a lot of money working at a non-profit, yet, you know, our voice should count just as equally as somebody with a lot of extra money that could spend [it] on legal fees,” Moe said.
The case will go before the state Supreme Court in December, where a judge will eventually decide how much money, if any, the group will have to pay.
Three organizations that have come out in opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine – have formed a new group to lobby for permanent protections for the natural resources of the Bristol Bay region.
The Elders and Youth Conference, a precursor to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention wrapped up Wednesday at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
On the eve of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, a free concert to promote native subsistence rights is happening in Fairbanks tonight.
ANB harbor is usually packed with commercial fishing vessels, but this week, it’s empty. Its regular occupants have moved to other harbors around Sitka, as the city prepares to demolish all of the existing structures and replace the harbor entirely. Construction is scheduled to start in early November.
ANB harbor was first built in 1956, and though it has been renovated over the years, it’s showing its age.
“We’ve got timber elements that are rotting,” says city engineer Dan Tadic. “We go to replace deck boards, and there’s nothing to nail the deck boards to, everything’s mush.”
Tadic points to a laundry list of problems. There’s grass growing out of the wood decking. The ramps are slippery, and ice over in the winter. The floats are slowly sinking into the water.
So this winter, Sitka will completely replace ANB harbor. Plans call for larger slips and wider entrances to accommodate today’s longer and wider boats. It will have galvanized steel pilings instead of creosote-soaked wood. The new floats will sit higher up out of the water. A new gangway will be longer, better lit, and handicap accessible. And the contractor will also excavate rocks that currently obstruct parts of the harbor.
“You’re not just getting a harbor,” says Deputy Harbormaster Chuck Hackett. “You’re getting, in a sense, a new facility downtown.”
The full project is expected to cost $7.7 million. The city won a grant from the state, which will cover half of construction costs, up to $4 and a quarter million dollars. Hackett says the investment is more than worth it.
“Sitka’s the largest small boat harbor system on the west coast,” Hacket says. “We just have a huge fishing fleet and they bring a lot of money time, we’ve got to take care of them. That’s what holds Sitka together, that’s the glue, the fishing industry. If we don’t look to take care of them now, with the docks, we’ll never have anything in the future.”
Contractors will have until mid-March to complete the project. The city wants the new harbor ready in time for the spring herring run.
Tourism numbers are in for the 2012 summer season, and tourism experts say that the results are encouraging. Now, the state and tourism groups are looking at expanding their strategies to bring even more people to Alaska.
The Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s annual convention was held earlier this month in Sitka. According to Sarah Leonard, President of ATIA, there were over 400 attendees representing tourism-centered business from around the state.
One of the discussions each year at the convention is the number of visitors from the previous year. Sarah Leonard says 2012′s numbers are encouraging.
“We received 1.8 million visitors in the  summer season, and that was the first jump in three of four years, where the visitor industry had seen a flat rate of growth,” Leonard said. ”So, that’s positive, and along with some of the new investment and strategies from the State of Alaska, the Governor, and the Legislature, we’re predicting a conservative 4 percent growth for next season.”
The tourism industry, local convention and visitor bureaus, and the State of Alaska spend millions of dollars each year in an effort to keep that number growing.
This year, the state is going back to spending money on network television advertising. For years, Alaska’s television ads have been limited to cable TV. Kathy Dunn, Tourism Marketing Manager for the state, explains the return to advertising on network broadcasts.
“It just broadens your reach,” Dunn said. ”There are some people who watch national broadcasts or cable exclusively, but there’s a lot of people who cross over and watch all kinds of programming over through course of the day, week, or month.”
“Wherever you can reach people, and as many times as you can reach people, that message starts to sink in, and they’re more likely to take action after seeing your ad.”
Part of this year’s expanded television advertising will also touch on winter tourism, an area that both the industry and the state hope to grow. Kathy Dunn says that her office tries to encourage visitors throughout the year, and says the state is elevating its efforts with regard to winter travel.
“We’ve been working with industry members and the Alaska Travel Industry Association and talking about what winter product is available out there,” Dunn said. “Obviously, if you’re going to promote winter travel, you have to make sure that there’s enough product out there. The hotels, obviously, are open, but are some of the main tour operators or attractions open as well? You want people to come up and have a fabulous vacation, and you want to have lots of different activities for them to choose from.”
Dunn says that the partnership with the tourism industry has allowed the state to put together a “winter inventory” of tourism-related activities that remain open all year to help better spend the more than $18 million that is budgeted for 2013.
The investment of $6 million into television ads is a substantial chunk of the state’s tourism budget, but ATIA President Sarah Leonard says it’s been paying off.
“I think that type of broad-based national television campaign helps raise all boats. It helps keep Alaska competing at a national level for visitors as a destination of choice. It’s been great,” Leonard said. ”We’ve seen the return on investment with some of this exposure so far, but we can’t stop. We want to keep promoting and keep Alaska in there competing on the national level so we can continue to see that return on investment.”
New ads, including one focusing on winter tourism, are currently airing in the Lower 48. ATIA, the state, and business owners across Alaska are all hoping that the good return on investment will continue,
University of Alaska Southeast and Yukon College signed an agreement this weekend that renews a more than 25-year relationship. The two institutions will continue to work together in various academic fields, including resource development and Native languages.
The agreement says both schools are committed to finding future academic cooperation for the benefit of the region’s people. Chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast John Pugh and Yukon College president Karen Barnes signed a memorandum of understanding during the Al-Can Summit at UAS hosted by the Juneau World Affairs Council.
“We’ve been working together for 25 years plus and we have lots of relationships in the program areas, but it’s a bit of a push for us,” explains Barnes. “We wanted to resign it to say we’re really serious about this relationship and we can see lots of future possibilities that we want to explore so I think it was a bit of an incentive for us to keep moving and keep growing.”
Barnes hopes to collaborate more with UAS on scientific research, “particularly climate change research and cold climate technologies and I think that there’s been some discussion with our faculty across the line and I think that’s an area that we could see some activity. We’re building a new graduate certificate in climate change and I think that might be a place we could really share,” she says.
Pugh says UAS’s strong expertise on climate change allows it to offer an inter-disciplinary course on it, “Our faculty are looking at that from many different areas, not just the science of it but also the economics of it, the political science of it, and I think that’s something we can really do together in the future.”
Both schools are already teaming up in the area of natural resource development.
“Mining has taken off in both the Yukon and in Southeast Alaska, and we’re both using high tech equipment in terms of training folks and we’ve been able to share the expertise back and forth between Alaska and Yukon, and I think that’s been a really good learning experience and sharing experience,” chancellor Pugh says.
Another established partnership is language instruction. UAS Native language faculty members have visited Yukon College to share teaching materials and strategies.
“I think the partnership between Alaska and the Yukon is a natural one that’s existed before that border was ever there. My people are evidence of that. The stronger that we make that, the more beneficial it’ll be in every area, including language,” says Tosh Southwick, a citizen of the Kluane First Nation in Canada and director of First Nation initiatives at Yukon College.
Southwick says the condition of first languages in the Yukon is at a crisis point, similar to what it is in other indigenous countries. She’s impressed with the language offerings at UAS.
“When I walked past the sign in the hallway that said Tlingit 101 or whatever it is, we’re not doing that,” says Southwick. “That’s great. The fact that anybody in Alaska can come here and take a class in Tlingit is amazing to me.”
Besides Tlingit, UAS also offers classes in Haida and Tsimshian. Southwick thinks the relationship between UAS and her institution will increase the opportunity for the indigenous languages to stay alive
“What we do at an academic institution is share knowledge. Language is a form of knowledge, so that empowerment is crucial. So all of the Yukon First Nation languages will benefit from the stronger partnership here,” explains Southwick. “The Tlingit that’s spoken here – the more fluent speakers we have of Tlingit anywhere – makes it better for my family and for my son.”
Representatives from UAS and Yukon College met in Whitehorse in August. A new component of the agreement commits the two schools to hold an annual meeting to discuss ways of how to keep building the relationship.
The two have signed an agreement for Northrim to acquire Alaska Pacific in a stock and cash transaction valued at about $14.31 million, or approximately $17.28 per share of Alaska Pacific common stock.
Craig Dahl and Joe Beedle have known each other since they were teenagers in Juneau. Now they’re both presidents and CEOs of publicly traded banks – one company in the Railbelt, the other in Southeast Alaska.
Alaska Pacific’s Dahl says the two started talking more than six months ago.
“They wanted to expand their market and we wanted to see a way to grow the bank in this market,” Dahl says.
Northrim’s size dwarfs Alaska Pacific and Dahl says his small company will now be able to grow “from the standpoint of increasing the products and services that our customers will have. It’ll bring to our market a much larger lending limit capacity to assist our business customers and we feel that for the employees of the bank, this will offer other opportunities for career growth that we might not be able to give them as a smaller institution.”
Northrim CEO Beedle calls Alaska Pacific a strong company.
“There are not issues with this bank,” he says.
Alaska Pacific has rebounded from problem loans and losses earlier this decade and become profitable again. Beedle says Alaska Pacific had choices in merging, and the two institutions are compatible.
“We’re about 6 and a half times the size of Alaska Pacific so together we grow from being a 1.2 billion dollar bank to a 1.35 billion dollar bank. And that means that individual loans, our lending limits, will after this merger be in the 25 million dollar range,” he says.
Northrim BanCorp, Inc. is the parent company of Northrim Bank, with ten offices in Anchorage, the Mat-Su and Fairbanks as well as a lending division in Washington state. Alaska Pacific has branches in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.
The merger is subject to review by the Federal Reserve and FDIC. While both companies’ boards of directors have approved it, Alaska Pacific shareholders will vote on the merger early in the first quarter of 2014.
Beedle says at least one member of the Alaska Pacific board of directors will become a member of the Northrim board.
The transaction will not close until next year, according to Dahl.
“After the merger, there’s still a good five to six, seven months involved in actual conversion of systems in products and services. So from this moment forward we’re really looking at almost a year in the process of bringing this altogether,” he says.
Beedle says Alaska Pacific branches will eventually be called Northrim Bank, but no branches will close. The current Alaska Pacific management team will stay in place. Beedle says some backroom functions, such as computer and processing systems, will be consolidated in Anchorage.
When the deal is closed, Craig Dahl says he is headed to retirement and sailing the waters of Southeast Alaska.
A conference call on the merger is set for Wednesday, at 8:30 a.m. Alaska time. The number is (480) 629-9643, or listen online.
Assembly chambers were packed and after hearing around around a dozen citizen’s testify, mostly against the controversial labor law, the body voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO37. But Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed their decision. Two Assembly members, Adam Trombley and Bill Starr switched sides on the issue. He said they’re migrated to the other side caught him off guard.
“I didn’t see them identify anything in AO37 that they had problems with or that didn’t make common sense. So yeah I was surprised.”
Sullivan maintains his labor law makes sense — that people paid by tax dollars should not have the right to strike, that union contracts should not span more than three years and that raises should be linked to the consumer price index plus one percent. He also noted that the law would standardize health plans and holidays making government more efficient. And stands by the the elimination of pay enhancements for college degrees … and a ban on binding arbitration. Sullivan said he was making up for a previous administration’s leniency with unions.
“It basically protects the tax payer from having what happened in 2008 when Mayor Begich and a complicit Assembly essentially in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years made one of the worst decisions in Anchorage history, dramatically increasing prices when you’re in a recession and all your revenues are falling. Terrible business decision. So this prevents that from happening in the future.”
It wasn’t the Mayor’s first veto of the evening. Earlier in the meeting the Assembly passed a measure setting April 2014 as the date for a referendum on the labor law by a 6 to 5 vote, but the Mayor quickly passed a veto note the the Assembly chair. However attorneys disagreed whether the veto was legal and the measure is set to be decided in court.
Assemblyman Dick Traini, who authored the ordinance to repeal AO37 said the thought all vetoes, after clear votes by the Assembly and months of public testimony against the labor law were quote, “Ridiculous”.
Derek Hsieh with the police union said during his testimony just before the Assembly’s vote to repeal AO37 and the Mayor’s subsequent veto, that the fight against the labor law, which has spanned the better part of a year, has actually made Anchorage unions stronger.
“You don’t need laws. You don’t need restrictions on peoples’ voice, their vote, their activity. The scariest thing for a union boss is good management. It causes the employees to start to question why they’re even why they’re paying dues. And as you can tell by the crowd out here tonight, our members know precisely why they’re paying dues now.”
If Assembly members don’t set a date to vote on the labor law, the city charter requires a special election in December. The Supreme Court of Alaska is set to expedite a decision on whether a referendum to repeal the law can go forward.
The First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference got underway Monday in Fairbanks. The annual precursor to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is in its 30th year, bringing together Alaska Natives from across the state of all ages to hear speakers and participate in issue and culture focused workshops.
More than 120 of the top choir and band students from high schools around the Alaska panhandle convened on Petersburg this week. The community is hosting the Southeast Honors Music Festival. After more than two days and evenings of intense practice as a group, the event culminates with a public concert tonight.
Juneau is buying bike racks that double as public art with locally inspired motifs.
The city is paying Minneapolis-based Dero Bike Rack Co. $20,883 for the custom order.
“When these racks are installed – this is just going to be glorious,” said Bob Aldrich, who’s in sales at Dero. “These are the coolest racks that we are fabricating this year, without a question.”
Dero makes thousands of racks a year. Juneau is buying 15.
“Every one of which is a one-of-a-kind, unique design that will be present nowhere else in the universe as presently constituted,” Aldrich said.
The designs include a Tlingit-style raven, a boat, waves, mining tools, an umbrella, and of course, rain boots. Each rack will accommodate at least two bicycles.
Juneau Engineering Director Rorie Watt says the racks are in keeping with a 2009 urban planthat encourages accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians.
“We thought it would be nice to have some bike racks that, you know, had a little flair to them,” Watt said.
Aldrich said they hope to ship out the racks in mid-November.
Project manager Skye Stekoll says some of these racks will replace old ones, some will displace racks in good shape to lower profile locations, and some are going to spots with no racks at all. They’ll be installed next spring.
State legislators, staffers and others doing business at the State Capitol building will soon be able to walk through the main entrance again.
Juneau-based Alaska Commercial Contractors are wrapping up the first phase of renovations, which started at the end of April.
One of the last things left to do for phase one of renovations to Alaska’s State Capitol, completed in 1931, is replace the original granite stairs.
For the past six months, the stairs have been kept in a storage yard in more than 30 pieces. “They’re all tagged and numbered so we know where they go back at,” says project superintendent Ben Musielak.
When Musielak’s crew first took the stairs apart, they found a mess underneath.
“It was mostly supported by brick, 80-year-old brick that wasn’t doing very well. All of that came out and it’s replaced with new concrete,” he explains.
The top sections of the stairs are back in place and Musielak says the rest will be in by the end of the week.
Alaska Commercial Contractors also removed fill from under the building and replaced a majority of the plumbing and drainage system.
Juneau residents may also notice the building’s four columns are once again fully exposed. Supportive braces installed last year were recently taken off.
“Those are the original marble columns. We cored out the center of them, took a four inch hole all the way to the bottom, and then grouted in some seismic reinforcement. In the event of an earthquake or any seismic activity, they in theory will stay there. This whole time, for the last 80 some years, they’ve just been stacked up there with nothing really holding them together,” says Musielak.
The portico above the columns, which used to be sandstone, is now concrete. The iconic ‘Alaska State Capitol’ sign that adorned the front of the portico will not be returning in this phase of the project. Musielak says it may be another few years until that goes back up.
The budget for the first phase of renovations was $1.7 million.
Musielak says the main entrance of the capitol should be open by the end of the month.
With the bitter Congressional standoff over for now, lawmakers could turn to a practice rarely seen in Washington these days. They might pass a few bills. Each member of Alaska’s congressional delegation has sponsored dozens of bills this year. But, other than the budget, don’t bet on anything controversial becoming law.
Congress usually passes a few hundred bills a year. So far this year it has passed only 46. The House is off to a cautious start this week with measures everyone can agree on: Keeping predators out of schools, encouraging foster kid adoptions, and naming a courthouse in Texas.
But Alaska Congressman Don Young would like to work on restraining the federal government. A bill he introduced this month would let states assume management of national parks.
“The bill is very simple: If a state or an entity of recognition, like a Native Corp, could in fact apply to take over a park, and manage it as a park, they could not be denied. They’d have to be issued a permit,” he said.
Kristen Brengel, a lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association, says that would be a first. During the shutdown this month, some states paid to allow the National Park Service to reopen certain areas, but she believes the Service shouldn’t cede its authority to the states.
“It’s either managed by the federal government, and run by the federal government and paid for by federal tax dollars or not, but there is a strict line between state parks and national parks,” she said.
Another bill Don Young introduced this month would take away the EPA’s authority to investigate crimes. It’s a response to an incident in which armed EPA agents enforcing the Clean Water Act confronted placer miners near the nterior community of Chicken.
“They have no right to be running around, if they’re interested in the environment , with rifles and shotguns and pistols and flak jackets. This is not the government I believe in,” Young said.
The state is investigating the Chicken incident, but an EPA official has said he’s comfortable with the agency’s conduct there.
Neither of those bills stands much of a chance in a Congress that is on track to pass the fewest bills ever. Charles Cushman is a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. He says Congress has to move a budget, but it is just too divided to pass much of anything else
“Any other big things, like immigration, or all the many small bills members of Congress introduce for issues back home, I don’t see many of them moving this year,” he said.
Cushman says Congress members have other reasons for introducing bills. Some are aimed at pleasing their constituents. Others are introduced to get the idea in circulation, with hopes that it might pass in the future, or get rolled into a larger bill.
“You gotta get that clock started somehow, so even if the bills aren’t moving this year, you still want to get them on the record so people can start thinking about them,” he said.
Congressman Young and the two Alaska senators have been prime sponsors on a total of 103 bills, most of which are stuck at square 1.
They range from a bill to allow Huna Tlinglit people to collect gull eggs in Glacier National Park; another to require labeling of genetically engineered fish; and a fresh attempt in the decades-old battle to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali.
Aides say the delegation is able to be effective in other ways, such as pressing Alaska’s case to the Administration, and they have co-sponsored bills that became law, and worked on them in committee.
The Alaska delegation has had some success turning bills into law. One from Young allows the names of contributors to be posted at a visitors center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Young succeeded with a bill to allow an in-state gas line along the Parks Highway. And Sen. Begich got a measure through the Senate to recognize the value of tourism.
Thousands of Alaska Natives will miss out on benefits they qualify for under the Affordable Care Act if the definition of Alaska Native under the law isn’t changed.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are exempt from the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.
They also qualify for additional help paying for out of pocket expenses in some cases and can purchase or drop coverage on a month to month basis.
Valerie Davidson, with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, estimates the law’s definition excludes about 14,000 Alaska Natives because it says they have to be enrolled in a tribe or belong to a Native corporation.
“In some tribes, you’re not eligible for tribal enrollment unless you’re 18,” Davidson said. “So that’s a problem for children.”
“Other tribes have residency requirements, so you may not be eligible to enroll unless you live in that community.”
Davidson is working with Senator Mark Begich’s office to make the definition much broader in the law, to include all Alaska Natives. Begich has introduced a bill that makes the change and he’s looking for larger legislation to attach it to. He says he’s confident there’s enough support in Congress to pass it.
“It’s not reopening the whole debate over Affordable Health Care Act and I think a lot of people recognize that,” Begich said. “And as you know there are over 4 million American Indians, Alaska Natives throughout the country so I think there’s a lot of interest to just resolve this and kind of move on.”
Begich says the Obama Administration knows the definition is a problem and they’re highly motivated to get it fixed.
Alaska Natives have until December 2014 to apply for an exemption from the law’s individual mandate. It will be a paper application.
Homeless advocates are working toward opening a special shelter for some of the city’s most vulnerable homeless people. They’re hoping to open the city’s first overnight shelter for the mentally ill.
With picture windows, a view of the Chugach mountains and a big screen TV, the front room of the Anchorage Community Health Services Center building downtown, is a living room for the homeless.
About two-dozen or so people spend their days in the large airy room overlooking Brother Francis Shelter and Beans Cafe, where they can shower, read and relax.
“We’ve got a number of chairs and television and laundry and computers for people to get on and look for educational opportunities, for work and then also for housing,” John Sperbeck, a manager with Anchorage Community Mental Health Center, said.
Right now the organizations just hosts the homeless during the day.
Twenty-five people are allowed inside at a time and 60 or so people visit the room each day. Sperbeck hopes the space will soon double as a small nighttime overflow shelter especially for those with severe mental illness. He says for the mentally ill, the main downtown shelter, Brother Francis, can be overwhelming.
“Those folks aren’t going to tolerate a large shelter setting as much so as they would be able to a smaller setting like what we’re proposing here,” Sperbeck said.
Mental illness can be exacerbated by the large shelter setting, says Sperbeck. The organization he works for proposes housing 12 to 20 people overnight for eight of the coldest months each year.
It’s something that Susan Bomalaski, the Director of Catholic Social Services, which runs Brother Francis Shelter says is sorely needed.
“To provide a shelter for those individuals that have cognitive impairments, mental health difficulties to provide them safe shelter with staff that are trained to manage their behaviors and deal with people that have those challenges,” she said.
Bomalaski says historically, people with severe mental illness are housed with the main population, which has caused increasing problems as the homeless population has grown over the past few years.
“At Brother Francis Shelter we can have 240 people there. That’s our capacity with two staff. So any one person that’s there. Let’s say they may have some kind of paranoia. They may have delusions or hallucinations. They may think somebody is picking on them when they’re not. Any one of those disruptions take the attention of the staff away from working with those other 239 people,” Bomalaski said.
Anchorage Community Mental Health has caseworkers trained to work with those suffering from mental illness and behavioral health problems. People with mental health issues make up an estimated one third of the shelter population That’s too many to house at the new shelter, but Bomalaski says removing the most vulnerable is a step in the right direction.
Brittany Matero works on homeless issues for the Municipality and is also on the Board of the Anchorage Coalition to end Homelessness. She says it’s a unique opportunity.
“Anchorage Community Mental Health Services might have this chance to actually be able to do some case management,” Matero said. ”Help to look at treatment options, long term housing. To be able to have engagement on a level that we really haven’t had engagement.”
The Coalition to End homelessness is working with Anchorage Community Mental Health Center to find funding for the new shelter. Stakeholders says the it will cost an estimated 300-thousand dollars a year, but could save the city money in the long-run. They hope to have the shelter up and running by the new year.
The U.S. Coast Guard says a 59-foot longliner that burned Sunday in the Bering Sea has sunk.
A Jayhawk helicopter crew Monday flew over the area where the Western Venture was last seen, about 70 miles west of Adak, according to Petty Officer Sara Mooers.
“We had good search conditions with good visibility and did not locate the vessel, so we presume it has likely sunk,” Mooers said.
She says the Coast Guard is working with the Western Venture’s owner to determine the cause of the fire.
The fuel tanks held up to 4,300 gallons, but Mooers says they weren’t full.
“The updated figure for the fuel aboard is 2,000 gallons of diesel but it is unknown if any of that was consumed by the fire. It’s likely it was,” Mooers said.
The Western Venture fishermen were uninjured and picked up by the fishing vessel Aleutian Beauty, which responded to a Coast Guard urgent marine broadcast. The Aleutian Beauty took the fishermen to Adak.
Mooers calls the case an excellent example of a fishing crew that was prepared for disaster.
“They had their EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and they used it,” Mooers said. ”They had their survival equipment and they used it, which allowed them to abandoned ship to their life raft safely and stay alive until rescuers could arrive on scene.”
She says the burning ship was quite far out in the Bering Sea, away from any land mass, and the vessel is now likely several hundred feet below the water’s surface.
Ryan Houston Sligh, 29, of Dillingham, was arrested Saturday following an investigation into a drug-facilitated sexual assault alleged to have occurred earlier this month.
Currently, Sligh is only facing one felony drug charge for giving Xanax pills to a woman at his house on Oct. 7th. The victim told police that Sligh put two Xanax pills in her mouth, then she blacked out.
According to the police report, Sligh admitted to having sex with the woman, but said that he stopped on account of her being passed out.
The website womenshealth.gov suggests that in some parts of the United States, Xanax has replaced Rohypnol as a common drug used for “date rape”, which experts now call drug-facilitated sexual assault.
Sligh was arraigned Sunday on a class C felony drug charge for giving the victim the Xanax pills. The police said additional charges related to the sexual assault may be filed by the District Attorney’s office.
Bail was set at $2,500.
Sligh is on probation from a DUI conviction this summer.
The Joint Board of Fisheries and Board of Game opposed establishing a non-subsistence use area for Bethel in a meeting in Anchorage last week.
The proposal was submitted by Fairbanks trapper Allen Barrette which stated that Bethel would appear to qualify as a non-subsistence area.
The joint board considered a 50 square mile area which makes up the incorporated City of Bethel. Designating it as non-subsistence would repeal the subsistence priority. It would prevent subsistence hunting and fishing on state land there.
The Department was neutral on the issue but asked the Board to consider public comments. Several local groups spoke in opposition to the proposal.
Dr. Jim Fall with the State’s Division of Subsistence walked the board through new community data information gathered from a recent subsistence harvest survey.
“Costs in Bethel are substantially higher than in road connected communities,” Fall said. “Cost of food are much higher than in those communities and the cost of food relative to Anchorage has increased over time in Bethel.”
The Board relied heavily on the survey’s numbers to reach its decision. The subsistence survey showed that 71 percent of residents are Alaska Native. On average, a Bethel family uses 15 different kinds of subsistence resources such as salmon, berries, and land mammals.
The survey estimated the average pounds of subsistence food each person in Bethel would use annually.
“Sixty-nine pounds of salmon, 44 pounds of land mammals, 33 pounds of other fish and other categories are slightly lower. That adds up to about 168 pounds per person of wild foods,” Fall said.
Orville Huntington of Huslia is on the Board of Fish.
“If anything the data suggests that it should be a subsistence use area,” Huntington said.
It didn’t take long for other members to speak out as well.
Board of Fish member Sue Jeffrey of Kodiak said Bethel residents rely on subsistence foods not only for cultural reasons but because store bought food is so costly. She was in Bethel recently and compared some prices.
“I thought the cost of Kodiak food was expensive,” Jeffrey said. “I think a bag of Kettle chips in Kodiak is more than $5. It’s almost $8 for a small bag [in Bethel] so it’s expensive.”
Here’s Bob Mumford of Anchorage with the Board of Game.
“At this point I think it’s easy enough for me that I cannot see any good reason why we should change anything in Bethel in this regard,” Mumford said.
The rest of the Board unanimously agreed.
After the proposal was voted down, Myron Naneng who is President of the Association of Village Council Presidents said it was a great day for customary and traditional users.
A Tuntutuliak man had died from huffing propane. Alaska State Troopers responded Sunday morning to reports of a death in the community.
Thirty-one-year-old Joshua Evan had been last seen Saturday night, according to trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.
“He was found by a family member,” Peters said. “They went to go see if his boat was at the dock – the dock is near a tank farm and gas station – and so when they went there they found him on top of the propane tanks”
Peters says that Evan was deceased at the time he was located. Troopers found evidence of huffing.
“There’s no doubt in the troopers mind that this death was related to huffing,” said Peters.
Peters says there are no plans for an autopsy.