Alaska News

State Suspends Funding For New Anchorage Tennis Complex

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:30

The State is looking into the legality of using money earmarked for building repairs to construct a new tennis complex in Anchorage. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that the multi-million-dollar grant was suspended after Mayor Dan Sullivan’s opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race called the decision into question.

From here on out, Alaskans might consider substituting the phrase “political football” with “political tennis.”

Debate has raged for months over whether lawmakers knew they were funding the construction of a new sports facility in Anchorage when they voted to give the city $37 million for “deferred and critical maintenance” to aging public buildings. Now, the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs is referring the grant to the Department of Law for review, and freezing the money until they get confirmation that it’s being used correctly.

The decision comes after Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, raised the issue with the governor on Monday after getting an opinion from the Legislature’s legal division that the grant was suspect.

“If we set a precedent that says ‘critical and deferred maintenance,’ and allow local communities to then use it for whatever they want, including building new facilities, which we know are going to require more money both in the building and the maintenance and other things, then we are not doing our jobs,” says McGuire.

According to the grant agreement, the state authorized funding for the Anchorage Museum, the Egan Center, the Sullivan Arena, and the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts. The grant also funds upgrades to the Dempsey Anderson Complex, including the addition of a tennis facility. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has argued that language should allow the city to put $4.4 million of that grant toward the construction of a new standalone sports complex.

McGuire thinks it does not. She says the suspension should encourage more transparency in funding requests.

“It sends a signal statewide that when you ask for money that it’s going to be a rigorous process – that it’s got to be for what is clearly allocated,” says McGuire.

Members of the Democratic Minority believe suspending the grant is long overdue. Earlier this week, they tried repealing the tennis money by offering an amendment to the operating budget, but McGuire was the only member of the Majority to support the idea.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, of Anchorage, also points out that Democrats asked for legal review of the appropriation back in December.

“When we put the legal opinion out, why wasn’t there any sort of action then? Why did it take four months for a Republican to put the legal opinion out and get some action?”

For his part, Sullivan stands by the use of the money for the new sports complex, and is disappointed that the suspension could stall work on all of the buildings included in the grant. He also believes that the group who originally lobbied for the grant did so in an appropriate way.

“The Alaska Tennis Association did everything they were supposed to do. They got community council support. They got support from organizations that would be users of the facility. They got a legislator to champion the grant,” says Sullivan. “So, they’re the ones that are being hurt by this, and that’s unfortunate.”

The tennis issue has also been a key divide between Sullivan and McGuire in their separate efforts to secure the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Sullivan won’t say if he personally thinks this has anything to do with the campaign.

“Some people have said it’s pretty transparent, but I can’t read the hearts and minds of other folks,” says Sullivan. “So we’ll let others speculate about that.”

McGuire says she’s sensitive to how her status as a candidate and her status as a senator relate to the tennis question, but making sure state money is used appropriately is part of her responsibility.

“When you’re running against somebody, and they have a different position than you, that’s going to be something that people bring up,” says McGuire. “I’ve tried really hard this session to keep my Senate hat on and to keep the work of the Senate at the forefront, and this is the work of the Senate.”

The state is hoping to complete the legal review and resolve any questions surrounding the grant before the end of the legislative session this month.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF Med Students Inject Wrong Substance

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:29

Some University of Alaska Fairbanks students received doses of a substance not approved for humans or animals. The medical course students were practicing giving injections.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Statewide Smoking Ban Gains Traction In Senate

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:28

A proposal that would ban smoking in most public places in Alaska is making headway in the state Senate. Senate Bill 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee last week.

Download Audio

The bill would ban smoking in office buildings, sports arenas, taxicabs, bars and restaurants, among other public places.

Many places in Alaska, including Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel, already have similar bans. As a result of those bans, nearly half of Alaska’s population is already affected by a workplace smoking ban.

Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche is the bill’s sponsor. He told the Senate State Affairs Committee Thursday that normally, he a “small government kind of guy.” In this case, however, he feels it’s appropriate for the government to get involved to protect the health of workers.

“Just as it’s appropriate for government to set safety standards in automobiles, electrical codes for wiring (and) requirements for infant and child carrier seats,” he said.

Micciche says the state takes on much of the economic costs associated with second-hand smoke, which he said kills more Alaskans each year than automobile accidents. He also made the point that second-class cities and unorganized boroughs in Alaska do not have the legal authority to enact their own smoking bans.

But most importantly, Micciche said the issue is for him, a very personal one. He spoke about his father, who passed away from a smoking-related illness.

“My father made his personal choices,” said Micciche. “But my siblings and I didn’t. I’m the lucky one of the three. They all had respiratory issues from living through second-hand smoke effects.”

Micciche said more than 400 businesses and organizations have signed on in support of his bill. Committee Chairman Fred Dyson said most of the comments his office has received about the bill have also been supportive of the state doing something.

Larry Hackenmiller testified from Fairbanks on behalf of the Interior Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer’s Association. He said Fairbanks rejected a similar law. He also took issue with some of the numbers put forward about hazards related to second-hand smoke.

“There is no hazard to second-hand smoke in a workplace … period,” said Hackenmiller.

Gary Superman owns the Hunger Hut bar in Nikiski. He called the smoking ban an infringement on his rights as a business owner. Superman described his bar as a “blue-collar tavern” that would be “irreparably harmed economically” by the ban.

Kenai businessman John Parker spoke in favor of the proposed ban, saying it would “level the playing field” for business owners on the Kenai Peninsula who may be afraid that banning smoking would give a leg up to their competition. More importantly, Parker said that customers and employees have a fundamental right to smoke-free air.

A couple of amendments have been proposed to the bill. One would include the use of e-cigarettes in the ban. The other would set up an appeal process for businesses who would like to “opt out.”

The bill also provides an “opt out” clause for local municipalities, which would be granted only if a local election is held and a majority of voters choose to exempt themselves from the smoking ban.

After nearly an hour of testimony, SB 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee. It heads now to the Health and Social Services Committee. A companion bill is also working its way through the Alaska House.

Categories: Alaska News

Howard Weaver Speaks On Anchorage Daily News Sale

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:27

There are still a lot of unknowns about how the sale of the Anchorage Daily News to Alaska Dispatch will play out. But former Anchorage Daily News writer and managing editor Howard Weaver is thinking a lot about that question. Weaver wrote the book “Write Hard, Die Free” about the Anchorage newspaper wars in the 1970′s and 80′s.

Weaver says he was saddened to learn about the sale of the Daily News.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Where No Shop Class Has Gone Before

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:26

Metlakatla Science teacher Jason Pipkin watches as the printer creates metric screws for a quadcopter his students are building. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

This is not your grandfather’s shop class.

Late last month a group of high school and college shop teachers and a few of their students gathered for a three-day workshop in Sitka’s state-of-the-art Design and Fabrication Lab.

The use of 3D printers and other computer-controlled equipment has revolutionized shop, and turned one of the most remote classrooms in the building into the coolest place in school.

Download Audio

KCAW – Tell me your name, where you’re from, and what you’re doing here.
Neibergall – John Neibergall, Sherwood High School. I’m helping some teachers and students get into digital design and fabrication.

Sherwood High is outside of Portland, Oregon.

Neibergall – You got an idea, you want to make a model or an output of something in three dimensions — whether you build it in wood, metal, plastic, 3D print it. You have to visualize it, and then you get to print it. You have an output of a product in your hand. And that’s what get kids excited.

Read a story about a recent project created by shop students in the Sitka Design and Fabrication Lab.

Yes, digital fabrication gets kids excited. But in this workshop the teachers can barely contain their enthusiasm.

My name is Pat Kraft. I’m one of the instructors at Portland Community College, in Portland. I grew up in an era where Star Trek was, you know — Star Trek was young, I was young, and the thought of having a replicator, where you could put something in there and create something just like it.

And now they have the tools to create just about any kind of machine part. Even parts that are not for machines.

Winship — I’m Kent Winship with Bristol Bay/Dillingham campus, UAF
KCAW — What are you working on right now?
Winship — This is a scan. We’ve got a fetal orca whale that swam up the Freshwater River. Two parents, and one of them was pregnant. So we’ve got the fetus. It’s mostly cartilage. And we’re going to try to scan it, and then print it out in plastic before we lose those cartilage parts.
KCAW – Scan it how?
Winship – A laser scanner than can measure a surface at 20,000 points per square inch. It will record it and put it into a CAD — computer aided drafting program — and we can actually print it out in plastic. And were even talking about trying to mill it out of a CNC mill out of bone or something.

CNC stands for computer numerical control. Besides a pair of 3D printers, this lab has a CNC vinyl cutter, and a laser engraver. What’s got these guys most excited is not necessarily the ability to make a whale fetus, it’s about trying to make that fetus, and failing.

Neibergall and Kraft are pioneering the integration of technology into shop class. They say repetition is education.

Neibergall — Kids are afraid to fail, and this forces them to fail — or fail forward, if you will. If it doesn’t work, you can tweak it…
Kraft — Failure’s okay. Because that’s part of the improvement process.
Neibergall — Because that’s what industry wants: People who aren’t afraid to fail forward. Reinvent. Remodify. And make it right. And it might take four or five iterations. But we can do it quickly.

“I failed…”

Randy Hughey is the recently-retired wood shop teacher at Sitka High. He wrote the grants for Sitka’s Fab Lab and helped a local grant writer, Lily Herwald, develop the proposal for this workshop.

Hughey has microwaved some chocolate chips, with unfortunate results.

“Well, I was just trying to melt chocolate to put into this mold that John has made.”

Digitally fabricated custom candy bar molds. This technology gives kids the ability to aim for the stars, but a prom date is not a bad start.

Neibergall — What my kids did is made prom invitations for the young ladies, wrapped it up in chocolate, and it said Prom? on it.
KCAW — Wow!

For a moment, it sounds like the shop class I remember. But it’s not. John Neibergall assures me that I’m looking at a different sort of future for technical education.

KCAW — Shop used to be the dark space at the end of the hall.
Neibergall — Dumping grounds? That’s the term we tend to say. But now the creative piece that is driving the economic recovery is manufacturing. And if we can get young people excited about that and see the career potential, that’s what’s going to help us get out of our slump, if you will.
KCAW — It comes back to Star Trek, eventually.
Neibergall and Kraft — Right!

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 9, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 17:19

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

Download Audio

Troopers Name Two Pilots Killed In Crash Near Bethel

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Two pilots are dead after a fiery plane crash Tuesday just outside Bethel.

Murkowski Signs Onto ‘Regulatory Fairness Act’

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Leaders in the Bristol Bay area say they’re upset U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has co-sponsored a bill that would undo their biggest regulatory success in fighting the Pebble Mine project.

Legislature Suspends Anchorage’s Tennis Court Grant

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The State is looking into the legality of using money earmarked for building repairs to construct a new tennis complex in Anchorage. The multi-million-dollar grant was suspended after Mayor Dan Sullivan’s opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race called the decision into question.

UAF Med Students Inject Wrong Substance

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Some University of Alaska Fairbanks students received doses of a substance not approved for humans or animals. The medical course students were practicing giving injections.

Statewide Smoking Ban Gains Traction In Senate

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

A proposal that would ban smoking in most public places in Alaska is making headway in the state Senate. Senate Bill 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee last week.

Howard Weaver Speaks On Anchorage Daily News Sale

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

There are still a lot of unknowns about how the sale of the Anchorage Daily News to Alaska Dispatch will play out. But former Anchorage Daily News writer and managing editor Howard Weaver is thinking a lot about that question. Weaver wrote the book “Write Hard, Die Free” about the Anchorage newspaper wars in the 1970′s and 80′s.

Weaver says he was saddened to learn about the sale of the Daily News:

Where No Shop Class Has Gone Before

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

This is not your grandfather’s shop class.

Late last month a group of high school and college shop teachers and a few of their students gathered for a three-day workshop in Sitka’s state-of-the-art Design and Fabrication Lab.

The use of 3D printers and other computer-controlled equipment has revolutionized shop, and turned one of the most remote classrooms in the building into the coolest place in school.

Categories: Alaska News

Sponsor Of Judicial Council Amendment Set On Getting Floor Debate

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 16:24

(Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The sponsor of a constitutional amendment to reconfigure the Judicial Council says he wants a vote on the bill, even if the outcome is not guaranteed to be favorable.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, has been trying to shore up support for Senate Joint Resolution 21 since Monday, when the measure was initially scheduled to appear on the Senate floor. A vote on a the amendment has since been delayed three times, because Kelly is shy the two-thirds approval needed for passage.

“If the rules are you can’t debate if you don’t have the 14, then not only is the issue struck down by one person, but the discussion about it,” says Kelly.

SJR 21 would make two major changes to the commission tasked with vetting and nominating judges. It would increase the number of political appointees on the Council, so that they would outnumber the attorney members two-to-one. It would also require the attorney members to be subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Kelly believes this will lead to more public oversight of the judiciary, while critics say it would politicize it.

It is extremely rare for the Legislature’s political leaders to let a measure come to a vote without knowing that its passage is guaranteed. Earlier this session, a constitutional amendment to allow the use of public funds at private schools was scheduled for a vote, but then pulled from consideration because of insufficient support.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Name 2 Men Killed In Alaska Plane Crash

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-04-09 09:58

Alaska State Troopers say the remains of two pilots have been found in the wreckage of a small commercial plane that crashed near a Southwest Alaska town.

The pilots who died in the crash Tuesday evening near Bethel are identified as 42-year-old Derrick Cedars of Bethel and 46-year-old Greggory McGee of Anchorage.

The burned wreckage of the Cessna 208 operated by Hageland Aviation was found near Three Step Mountain.

Responders found the remains of the men in the wreckage.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred during a training flight.

The NTSB also is investigating the crash of another Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 last November. Four people were killed and six injured in the crash of that commuter flight.

Hageland Aviation is part of Ravn Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Plane Down Near Bethel, Two Reported Onboard

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 21:52

A Cessna 208 with two pilots on board has crashed outside of Bethel.

Ravn Alaska spokesperson Steve Smith confirms the downed plane was a Hageland Aviation training flight with two pilots on board, and no passengers.

State Troopers say the plane was overdue just after 6:00 p.m. Tuesday and within the hour a local pilot reported seeing burning wreckage to troopers.

Clint Johnson, the Chief of the Alaska Regional Office of the National Transportation Safety Board, says a report came in of smoke on the horizon.

“When they investigated it they found what they believe was a Cessna 208 on the ground and it looks like there was a pretty substantial post crash fire, but we are very much in the formative stages,” Johnson said.

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters says an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter responded with both troopers and fire personal on board and has located the wreckage.

Neither Peters nor Clint Johnson have information about the two pilots.

“This is an active rescue, at this point right now. Troopers have primacy, also the National Guard in Bethel. We wait until they’re done, and we take the investigation from there. At this point right now, it is an active search and rescue,” said Johnson.

An NTSB Investigator from Anchorage is traveling to Bethel Tuesday. Hageland Aviation flies under the banner of Ravn Connect, a company operated by Ravn Alaska, formerly known as Era Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame: Mary Jane (Evans) Fate

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 18:02

Mary Jane Fate, a Koyukon Athabascan born in Rampart, labored tirelessly to improve all aspects of Alaska Native people’s lives. As one of the original Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act lobbyists, she worked with others to convince the White House and Congress of the fairness and justice in conveying 40 million acres and $1 billion to Alaska Natives through the passage of the Native claims act in 1971.

Download Audio

For her full bio, visit the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame website.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame: Beverly D. Dunham

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 18:00

Beverly, “Bev”, Dunham is a pioneer in Alaska journalism and a tireless community advocate. She is described as being ahead of her time and a strong role model to many women and young girls growing up in Alaska.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame: Eleanor Andrews

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:58

Eleanor Andrews has been building the human infrastructure capacity of Alaska for nearly five decades. She has been a successful business woman, as the owner of the Andrews Group, and also has been a highly regarded public servant. But it is the effectiveness and sweeping nature of her advocacy on behalf of community that is most amazing. Andrews is most widely known as a “civic entrepreneur” – that is a person who inspires institutions, businesses and individuals to invest in the community at the same time that they being successful at their work.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Dispatch To Buy Anchorage Daily News

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:31

Alaska Dispatch is making an aggressive move to position itself at the forefront of the the state’s media landscape.

It announced Tuesday that it’s buying the Anchorage Daily News – Alaska’s largest newspaper.

Download Audio

The $34 million dollar deal between Alaska Dispatch Publishing and the California-based McClatchy Company, which currently owns the 68-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, was signed Tuesday morning..

“The whole idea behind this is to develop a much more comprehensive news product than what Alaska Dispatch or the Anchorage Daily News offer now that reaches all of Alaska,” Tony Hopfinger, the executive editor of Alaska Dispatch, said.

Hopfinger says he hasn’t spoken to Anchorage Daily News employees yet, and future changes to the staffing and structure of the company are uncertain.

“We will certainly merge the two companies together and there will be one, combined news operation,” Hopfinger said. “We can say that there will be one news website, but when that’s up and running and happens…I don’t know yet. And the paper will continue 7-days-a-week.”

Hopfinger says with the combined newsrooms, the goal will be for the Dispatch to delve into issues on a broader statewide level.

“That’s the first thing you’ll notice is we’ll have more people and a larger, healthier newsroom and then we’re also looking at trying to eventually get more people positioned in other bureaus around the state,” Hopfinger said.

He says the Dispatch has been looking for ways to improve its product and reach more Alaskans. And after tracking newspaper sales in the Lower 48, the Dispatch reached out to McClatchy in August last year.

“When we saw the Boston Globe and the Washington Post sell, and other newspapers, frankly, last year, it began to occur to us that there might be an opportunity here in Anchorage to combine forces and create a more comprehensive journalism operation,” he said.

The sale is expected to be finalized in early May.

Calls to the Anchorage Daily News were not returned by deadline.

Categories: Alaska News

Can an Aggressive Russia Remain Our Nice Arctic Neighbor?

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:30

Pro-Russian activists seized public buildings in eastern Ukraine this week, and U.S. officials say they suspect the actions were not spontaneous but engineered by Russia. That, combined with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s recent annexation of Crimea has Arctic experts wondering what this means for international relations in the Arctic and whether the era of cooperation with Russia is over.

Download Audio

So far, despite occasional fears from the West of a Russian land grab in the Arctic, Russia has behaved as a good neighbor in its dealings with other countries in the Arctic Council. It led the way to treaties on pollution control and search-and-rescue, for instance, in effect pledging its mighty fleet of icebreakers to help its neighbors. But sometimes Russia shows a harsher face. Like in December, when Putin told his top military officers they should pay special attention to building their forces in the Arctic. He told them Russia will be stepping up development in the region and must “have all the levers for the protection of its security and national interests.” This week Putin also instructed his security forces to beef up the Arctic frontier.

 

Russia watchers in Washington say there are signs that, whatever its intentions in Ukraine, Russia might remain a good neighbor in the Arctic. The best sign is the meeting of the Arctic Council late last month in Canada. The Russian delegation came as scheduled, even as Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper was criticizing Russian aggression in Crimea and demanding Russia’s expulsion from the G8.

Charles Ebinger, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says his contacts within the U.S. Coast Guard told him last week they were still talking to their counterparts across the Bering Strait.

“I think everybody realizes it’s in our own mutual interests to cooperate and not run the risk of some disastrous sea accident just because of the broader international difficulties,” he said.”

In the big picture, Ebinger says Putin must realize he can’t develop his petroleum assets in the Arctic without the help of American or Western European oil companies. On the other hand, Ebinger says he expects an emboldened Putin will press for territory beyond Ukraine. That, he says, will trigger tougher sanctions against Russia and the spirit of cooperation in the Arctic is likely to be crushed by a grimmer mood in Moscow.

Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it’s unclear if cooperation will continue in the Arctic.

“I think right now everyone is walking very carefully,” she said.

Conley says Russia and the other Arctic nations still have a strong interest in maintaining their good working relationships.

“But, I think we do recognize that should the Ukraine crisis escalate I think it’s clear there will be some spillover effect which will impact the Arctic,” she said.

Already, the U.S. and Norway have called off a naval exercise with Russia in the Arctic. That’s outside the realm of the Arctic Council, but such exercises do help the countries develop the integration needed for multinational rescues and pollution control operations as envisioned by the council.

Robert Huebert, associate director of the Center for Military and Strategic Studies  in Calgary, says he expects the Russians to continue to play nice in the Arctic for the time being, either because they still believe in the cooperative alliance, or because they want to make their actions in Crimea look like an isolated incident. Huebert says figuring out Russia’s true motivation is a puzzle for Western nations.

“On the one hand it’s also in their interest to have the Arctic remain outside all of this, but if the Russians have become more assertive, more aggressive, there’s a requirement to stand up to it,” he said.

As Huebert sees it, Russia has touched off a national security chain reaction that is likely to spread north, because Putin’s takeover of Crimea has both Sweden and Finland feeling they might be next. That has revived their interest in joining NATO. If either country becomes a full member, Huebert says Russia would take it as a direct military threat, an attempt by NATO to encircle the Arctic.

“The Russians, since about 2004, 2005, have always listed one of their core security threats … is an expansion of NATO onto its doorsteps,” he said.

Huebert acknowledges his perspective on Russia tends to be darker than most, but he never really believed in Russia the nice Arctic neighbor. Huebert says the Arctic Council experience only proves the countries can cooperate to set up a framework for cooperation.

” I don’t know if you have kids, but it’s always easy to get the kids to agree to all the rules about sharing toys until the actual toy shows up,’ he said.

The real test, Huebert says, comes when the Arctic Council stands between Russia and something it wants.

Categories: Alaska News

Why Alaska women earn less and what they can do about it

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:29

Engineers make some of the highest salaries in the state, but only 18 percent of them are women. (Photo courtesy of BP p.l.c.)

President Obama signed executive orders on Tuesday that aim to tighten the pay gap between men and women.

The president’s actions took place on National Equal Pay Day, a day symbolizing how long women have to work into 2014 to catch up with what men earned in 2013. The day originated in 1996 to raise public awareness of the wage gap.

Download Audio

In Alaska, a statute prohibits employers from paying females less than males for the same work. But there’s still a pay gap – for every dollar a man in Alaska earns, a woman earns roughly 67 cents.

State Labor Economist Caroline Schultz says occupation and industry selection is the main reason behind the pay gap.

“Women are never going to earn as much as men if women don’t choose to pursue high paying occupations,” Schultz says.

Engineers make some of the highest salaries in Alaska, but only 18 percent of them are women. They’re making on average $72,000 a year while their male counterparts make close to $96,000.

Supervisors in oil, mining and construction industries also make high salaries. Only 5 percent of them are women, and on average they earn less than half what men make in the same position. These 2012 figures from the Department of Labor represent total annual earnings and don’t distinguish between full- and part-time work.

Schultz says work flexibility is another factor in the gender pay gap. Alaska has a predominance of jobs in natural resources, often in remote work sites.

“That can sometimes be more of a challenge to women, because women traditionally take on a larger burden when it comes to family care. So, you know, if they need to leave early to pick up the kid from school, a woman is more likely to take a flexible job, maybe that pays a little bit less, than a man is,” Schultz says.

What women can do about it

Tamiah Liebersbach is the Women’s Economic Empowerment Center coordinator for YWCA Alaska. She says discrimination is a contributing factor to the pay gap, even if it’s not done on purpose.

“Some sort of idea that maybe a woman isn’t as committed to her career, if she has a family – those kinds of stereotypes do play a role, I think, in not just the wage that a woman gets, but the opportunities that she’s given to build her career,” Liebersbach says.

YWCA Alaska will host a Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit for the first time on May 5, Alaska’s Equal Pay Day. The summit includes a session on the art of negotiation. Wage disparity is also a focus of the Alaska Women’s Summit, established last year after state Sen. Lesil McGuire commissioned a report on the status of women in Alaska.

Barbara Belknap is a Juneau activist working on the issue of equal pay for women. She’s also anAlaska delegate to Vision 2020, a national coalition focused on women’s economic and social equality.

Belknap says negotiating salary is one way for women to take the matter of pay disparity into their own hands.

“Before you go into the interview, understand what the pay scale is for what you’re applying for, know what the going rate is, do some research,” Belknap says.

A couple of years ago, Belknap made a YouTube video demonstrating how to successfully negotiate pay.

Through the video, Belknap is spreading a message she never got. She says it never occurred to her to negotiate salary when she was appointed executive director of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in 1997.

“They said, ‘Well, we were paying your predecessor too much money, so your salary is going to be this much money.’ And I remember the little thought bubble in my head going, ‘Oh really, really?’ But I didn’t say anything,” Belknap says.

Belknap received pay increases over time, but says her starting salary was $8,000 less than the starting salary of her male predecessor.

State economist Schultz says whatever the reasons may be for the pay gap, the result is the same – women have less money:

“At the end of the year, at the end of a lifespan, at the end of a career, women have earned less money consistently through 25, 30, 35 years of working. And that really adds up.”

And this fact, Schultz says, leads to other questions.

“What does it mean for Alaska’s economy and what does it mean for women in Alaska, that in general, they have less money than men do? How does it affect their spending? How does it affect child care? How does it affect children?”

Schultz doesn’t know the answers. She also doesn’t know what happens in corporate offices during salary talks, but as an economist, she’ll continue to collect and present the data that could lead to decreasing Alaska’s pay gap.

Categories: Alaska News

Amendment To Restructure Judicial Council Stalls Before Vote

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:28

A constitutional amendment that would reconfigure a commission tasked with vetting judges was pulled from a vote in the Alaska Senate on Monday and then again on Tuesday after struggling to pick up the necessary support.

Download Audio

Senate Joint Resolution 21 would make it so that the governor’s public appointees on the Judicial Council would outnumber the attorney members two to one. It would also require the attorney members to go through confirmation by the Legislature. Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, has pitched it as a way to add more rural members to the council and increase public oversight of judicial selection.

The Alaska Court System and the Alaska Federation of Natives have come out against the amendment, and Democrats in the minority have argued that the change would allow the Legislature to stack the judiciary. In recent years, the Judicial Council has been a political target for conservative advocacy groups that are unhappy with the way the courts have ruled on abortion cases.

Because SJR 21 would amend the Constitution, it needs approval from two-thirds of the Legislature. Sen. Lesil McGuire, who chairs the Rules Committee tasked with scheduling the measure, says it’s not quite there yet. Enough urban Democrats and moderate Republicans have registered opposition to the amendment to keep it from going through.

“It’s a question about whether the votes are there for sure.”

The measure has been re-scheduled for Wednesday’s calendar to give Kelly the chance to secure another ‘yes’ vote.

This is the second time this session a constitutional amendment was scheduled for a vote in the Senate only to be withdrawn from consideration. The other constitutional measure would have allowed public funds to be spent at private schools, including religious ones.

McGuire says more constitutional amendments have gotten close to passage this year because the Senate is no longer controlled by a bipartisan coalition.

“Most of the things that were on the far right and the far left were kept off the table,” says McGuire. “So the agenda over the past six years was right down the middle of the road for Alaskans. So, what you’re seeing now is a conservative Senate. And as a result of that, you’ve got members that have been waiting to get out of that starting gate with their conservative messages.”

If Kelly’s amendment fails to attract more support, it could be held in the Rules Committee indefinitely.

Any constitutional amendment that passes the Legislature gets put on the ballot for a vote.

This story has been updated to reflect Tuesday’s floor action.

Categories: Alaska News

State Reviewing Sulfolane Cleanup Standards

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:27

The state will take another look at its cleanup standard for sulfolane contaminated water in North Pole. Last November, the Department of Environmental Conservation set a 14 parts per billion clean up threshold for groundwater tainted by historic spills at the Flint Hills North Pole Refinery.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Students Compete For Spot In National Geography Bee

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:26

Students from across the state competed in the 26th annual Alaska State Geographic Bee last week in hopes of winning a spot in this year’s national competition in Washington D.C. 101 students vied for the spot.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 8, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 17:23

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

Download Audio

Alaska Dispatch To Buy Anchorage Daily News

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska Dispatch is making an aggressive move to position itself at the forefront of the state’s media landscape. It announced Tuesday that it’s buying the Anchorage Daily News – Alaska’s largest newspaper.

Can an Aggressive Russia Remain Our Nice Arctic Neighbor?

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Pro-Russian activists seized public buildings in eastern Ukraine this week, and U.S. officials say they suspect the actions were not spontaneous but engineered by Russia. That, combined with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s recent annexation of Crimea has Arctic experts wondering what this means for international relations in the Arctic and if the era of cooperation with Russia is over.

Executive Orders Aim To Tighten Pay Gap

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

President Obama signed executive orders on Tuesday that aim to tighten the pay gap between men and women.

The President’s actions take place on national Equal Pay Day, a day symbolizing how long women have to work into 2014 to catch up with what men earned in 2013. Equal Pay Day originated in 1996 to raise public awareness of the wage gap.

While discrimination may contribute to Alaska’s pay gap, a state economist says other factors are just as important.

Amendment To Restructure Judicial Council Stalls Before Vote

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A constitutional amendment that would reconfigure a commission tasked with vetting judges was pulled from a vote in the Alaska Senate on Monday and then again on Tuesday after struggling to pick up the necessary support. Under Senate Joint Resolution 21 the governor’s public appointees on the Judicial Council would outnumber the attorney members two to one.

House Strikes Retirement Plan, Funding Formula Change From Education Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska House of Representative passed a sweeping education bill Monday night, but only after removing some of its more contentious elements and adding another pot of education funding.

State Reviewing Sulfolane Cleanup Standards

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state will take another look at its cleanup standard for sulfolane contaminated water in North Pole. Last November, the Department of Environmental Conservation set a 14 parts per billion clean up threshold for groundwater tainted by historic spills at the Flint Hills North Pole Refinery.

Students Compete For Spot In National Geography Bee

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Anchorage

Students from across the state competed in the 26th annual Alaska State Geographic Bee last week in hopes of winning a spot in this year’s national competition in Washington D.C. 101 students vied for the spot.

Categories: Alaska News

House Strikes Retirement Plan, Funding Formula Change From Education Bill

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-08 01:16

The Alaska House of Representative passed a sweeping education bill Monday night, but only after removing some of its more contentious elements and adding another pot of education funding.

Download Audio

At the stroke of midnight, the House voted in favor of an education bill that nobody seemed particularly thrilled about.

It gave schools too much money.

“I’m concerned that this isn’t sustainable,” said Eagle River Republican Lora Reinbold in closing remarks.

It gave them too little money.

“The bill in front of us now will lead to additional cuts,” said Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr.

It did not hold schools accountable enough.

“I think the educational institutions in this state should be coming to us and proving to us what they’re returning on our investment,” said Chickaloon Republican Eric Feige.

But in the end, a large majority of the House agreed with Anchorage Republican Craig Johnson.

“I will not sacrifice the good for the perfect,” said Johnson. “I will not say no to something that takes us forward, even if it’s baby steps.”

The final vote was 28-11, and the split was largely on caucus lines. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, of Sitka, was the lone Minority Democrat who voted in favor of the bill. Mark Neuman, of Big Lake, and Tammie Wilson, of North Pole, were the only Republicans to vote against it.

The bill was introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell as the marquee legislation to what he dubbed the “education session.” Included in its 60-odd sections are provisions that encourage vocational education, set up a grant program for new charter schools, and allow students to earn credit for testing out of classes.

But the two farthest-reaching components of the bill were not a part of the governor’s original bill. They were additions the House Finance Committee made last week, and neither survived the floor session.

One restructured the teacher retirement payment plan so that the Legislature would stretch out its pension obligation over time, by making appropriations from the state’s pool of tax revenue. Gov. Sean Parnell has advocated for an opposite approach that involves putting a large amount of money into the retirement trust upfront, and then ideally paying pensions out over a shorter timeline with the help of investment earnings.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, a Juneau Republican, successfully brought forward an amendment wiping the bill free of all changes to the retirement system. During her floor speech, she noted the plan included in the bill would stretch out retirement payments an extra 40 years and cost the state $15 billion more than Parnell’s plan, according to an actuarial analysis.

“The risk of continuing to balloon the unfunded liability is real, and in turn the impact to our credit rating is also real,” said Muñoz.

The other major part of the bill that was scrapped dealt with the school funding formula. The House Finance Committee had tweaked the formula in a way that favored large schools, without including a similar boost for small schools.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat who caucuses with the majority, offered an amendment restoring the original formula. He said the formula change had not been properly vetted. He also framed the amendment as a matter of fairness, acknowledging that while the urban schools need money, “so do the smaller schools.”

Edgmon’s amendment also added $30 million in one-time school funding to the bill. That’s in addition to an increase to the base student allocation that’s worth $225 million over three years. By comparison, the governor proposed increasing per-student funding by $100 million over that same period of time.

While some Democrats in the minority said the funding package on the table was better than nothing, it still did not go far enough for most. As a caucus, they offered a failed amendment that would have put $450 million toward the base student allocation stretched over three years.

Democrats also attempted to get rid of language in the bill forbidding the state from spending money to implement Common Core standards, which they noted resembled Alaska’s own standards. They also tried to limit a new tax credit so that it would only cover contributions made to public schools, not private ones. None of their amendments were successful.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of brodcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR
Paradigm Shift
Next Up: @ 09:00 pm
Beggar's Banquet

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4