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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 40 min 53 sec ago

Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies at 75

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:43

Convicted Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen, who hunted down women in the Alaska wilderness in the 1970s as Anchorage boomed with construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, died Thursday. He was 75.

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Alaska Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said Hansen died at Alaska Regional Hospital after being in declining health for the past year.

Hansen was convicted in 1984 after confessing to killing 17 women, mostly dancers and prostitutes, during a 12-year span. He was convicted of four of the murders in a deal that spared him having to go to trial 17 times.

The Anchorage baker also confessed to raping another 30 women in that time.

Hansen was the subject of a 2013 film titled, “The Frozen Ground,” which starred Nicolas Cage as an Alaska State Trooper investigating the slayings. Actor John Cusack portrayed Hansen.

Hansen was serving a 461-year sentence in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Attorney Hired in Cases Against Bethel Police

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:42

The city of Bethel has hired an Anchorage law firm to represent them in recent cases involving the Bethel Police Department.

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Interim City Manager, Greg Moyer, confirms that the city has hired the law firm of Ingaldson, Maassen & Fitzgerald to represent the city in cases involving allegations of police brutality and an officer-involved shooting.

A woman from Arizona made allegations that she had witnessed an officer using excessive force with an Alaska Native man on July 12th.
And on August 15th a Bethel Police Officer shot a man wielding a bat during a confrontation in a neighborhood. The man who was shot, Aaron Moses, is reportedly recovering at Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Bill Ingaldson is the attorney with the firm who is representing the city. He says the city has received notice that a family has retained an attorney.
Bethel police are investigating both cases. State Troopers are also investigating the shooting.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon River Kings In Jeopardy Despite Meeting Escapement Goal

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:41

Yukon River king salmon continue to show symptoms indicative of low production. Unprecedented fishing restrictions in Alaska this summer allowed over 64,ooo kings to cross the border into Canada. That was enough to surpass an escapement goal, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Categories: Alaska News

AFP Targets Begich Absenteeism in $1M Ad Buy

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:40

Americans for Prosperity announced today it has paid more than $1 million to run a TV ad attacking incumbent Mark Begich for missing votes in the U.S. Senate. The ad features Steve Perrins, a reality TV personality and owner of Rainy Pass Lodge.

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“Last year, Mark Begich missed more votes than 80 percent of all of the U.S. Senators. 80 percent of them!” says Perrins in the ad. “Why can’t Mark Begich show up, when it’s time to vote?”

The central fact cited in the ad is accurate. Last year, according to the GovTrack website, Begich failed to vote 12 times, putting him in the bottom 20 percent of the Senate for attendance.  That, though, was the best attendance record of the Alaska delegation to Congress. Begich missed 4 percent of the Senate votes last year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski missed 6 percent, and Congressman Don Young missed 13 percent of House votes.

So far this year, however, Begich has missed 34 votes. Murkowski has missed 16 and Young just nine.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded by one of the billionaire Koch brothers, says the ad is set to run statewide for several weeks. AFP is also the group responsible for one of the earliest anti-Begich ads of the campaign, featuring a Maryland actress in a kitchen.

Senate rankings for missed votes

Categories: Alaska News

Mat Su Borough Assembly Wrestles With Ferry Issue

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:39

 The Matanuska Susitna Borough has until September 5 to repay more than 12 million dollars in federal grants related to the ferryboat “Sustina.”

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 The white elephant of a ferry that the Borough has been trying to sell or give away remains tied to a Ketchikan dock, while the Borough Assembly wrestles with what to do about the money owed to the Federal Transportation Administration.

 Matanuska Susitna Borough Assemblymembers met Thursday afternoon to reconvene an executive session regarding legal action on the ferry.  No word on the outcome of that meeting yet, but deputy Borough Mayor Ron Arvin said in a recent interview:

“And it is a travesty that those individuals that concocted this scheme back in the day, did it with blinders on,” Arvin says. “They had no fundamental comprehension that a ferry system would run at a cost. They were living under a dream, or an delusion, that a ferry system could run and support itself. And there is not one in the world that does that, they are all subsidized.”

Two weeks ago, the Borough received a letter from the Federal Transportation Administration, demanding repayment of the federal grant money that the Borough received to prepare the ferry for passenger service across Knik Arm from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage. That plan never materialized.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Youth Court celebrates 25th anniversary

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:38

The Anchorage Youth Court is getting old.  It’s celebrating it’s 25th birthday this week. The organization has shrunk over the years. The court now hears about 1/3 of the cases it did a decade ago. But it’s goal is the same — to give young people a second chance. 

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Fourteen-year-old Robert King doesn’t want to be a judge or a lawyer. But in 8th grade he had to take a law studies class.

“I didn’t even really like the law before that. But I got stuck with that class. And then the first day of school I thought, hey this class is cool,” he recalled.

Through the class King learned about the Anchorage Youth Court. If a juvenile is arrested for committing a crime, they can choose to go to a regular court or to be tried by other teenagers. Young people aged 12 to 18 serve as the attorneys and judges. They are trained to weigh different factors when hearing a case and choose a suitable sentence.

King passed the Youth Court Bar Exam, and now he serves as an attorney. He says his role at the court impacts the defendant’s future.

“We’re not like a place that we just send people and they get off lightly and just do some community work service hours. And then not have to have any record. This is serious. We’re giving you your one free chance of not having a conviction record.”

The Youth Court only hears misdemeanor cases of people who have pled no contest. Most cases involve shoplifting or possession of marijuana.

Retired youth court judge Sijo Smith, who is starting college this fall, says the clean record is important when applying for jobs and universities.

“You know that little box that asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime? If they complete the sentence, they can check that no. Which is really helpful for them. Because most of the defendants we get, it’s like a one time mistake and they know that it’s wrong and they know that they won’t do it again. So it’s really nice that they get a second chance. Which they get by coming through Youth Court.”

Smith explains that a panel of three judges hears the police report and arguments from both the prosecution and defense. They learn about the crime and about the defendant’s interests and history. She says all of that helps determine the sentence. They also factor in logistics, like if the person can drive. Then the judges explain their decision to the defendant and how the crime has affected the community.

“People who are your own age telling you something often have a lot more impact than adults telling you something,” she said. “For me, especially, you know.”

Youth Court Executive Director Rebecca Koford said the program has shrunk over the years. In the early 2000s they heard about 350 cases per year. Now, it’s down to 120, because juvenile crime rates have dropped by about half in Alaska. Koford said that’s partly because some big stores are no longer prosecuting juveniles. A 2012 Kids Count Alaska report said programs like the Youth Court can also take some credit.

Koford said the program is effective because it emphasizes restorative justice and making the community whole.

“You can’t undo a crime or a bad thing that’s happened, but you can take steps to try to make it right again,” she said. “So it’s about getting the defendant back on track. It’s about getting them to not get into trouble again, to be a contributing member of society, and to feel positively about their future community engagement.”

But the defendants are not the only ones who benefit. Robert King said he’s gained confidence, public speaking skills, and motivation.

“I’ve learned to become a better advocate in my community, about helping, and being a good person in the community.”

Since the court opened, 3,000 young people have volunteered.

Categories: Alaska News

Tlingit Expert, Linguist and Writer Dies at 72

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:36

Tlingit expert, linguist and award winning writer Richard Dauenhauer passed away Tuesday morning at Bartlett Regional Hospital. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a month ago. Dauenhauer was 72 years old.

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He was married to Tlingit poet and scholar Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Together they authored many books, including the Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature series published by Sealaska Heritage Institute and University of Washington Press. They are two-time winners of the American Book Award.

He was poet laureate of Alaska in the 1980s and started teaching at the University of Alaska in 1984. In 2013, the University of Alaska Foundation honored him with the Edith R. Bullock Prize for Excellence for his contributions in preserving Alaska Native languages.

Assistant professor of Alaska Native Languages at UAS Lance Twitchell called Dauenhauer a “powerhouse” who merged the Tlingit world with the academic world.

“I remember telling him years ago and then I told him about a month ago that his work changed my life and put me on a path that I’m very thankful for and because of his work, I know what I’m supposed to be doing. And so, it’s amazing to have people like that close to you that can have such an impact on so many people in such a positive way,” Twitchell said.

This is a developing story from KTOO-Juneau. More details and stories from the life of Richard Dauenhauer are forthcoming.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 21, 2014

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:30

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

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Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies at 75

Associated Press

Convicted Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen, who hunted down women in the Alaska wilderness in the 1970s as Anchorage boomed with construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, died Thursday.

Anchorage Attorney Hired In Cases Against Bethel Police

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Interim Bethel city manager Greg Moyer confirms the city has hired Anchorage law firm Ingaldson, Maassen & Fitzgerald to represent the city in cases involving allegations of police brutality and an officer-involved shooting.

Yukon River Kings Meet Escapement Goal, But Not Yet In The Clear

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Yukon River king salmon continue to show symptoms indicative of low production. Unprecedented fishing restrictions in Alaska this summer allowed over 64 thousand kings to cross the border into Canada.

$1M Ad Buy Targets Begich for Absenteeism

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

Americans for Prosperity announced today it has paid more than $1 million to run a TV ad attacking incumbent Mark Begich for missing votes in the U.S. Senate. The ad features Steve Perrins, a reality TV personality and owner of Rainy Pass Lodge.

Mat-Su Stares Down Deadline to Repay $12M For Failed Ferry System

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Matanuska Susitna Borough has until September 5th to repay more than $12 million in federal grants related to the ferryboat “Sustina.”

A 25-year Look at the Anchorage Youth Court

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Youth Court is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary. The organization has shrunk over the years. The court now hears about a third of the cases it did a decade ago. But it’s goal is the same — to give young people a second chance.

Touring By Tesla: From The Mexico Border to Fairbanks

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

Guy Hall is an electric car evangelist. He drove from the California-Mexico border to Fairbanks in a Tesla Model S, and stopped by KTOO in Juneau to let a reporter take his wheels for a spin.

Tlingit Expert, Linguist and Writer Dies at 91

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Richard Dauenhauer, who passed away on Tuesday, is known for many things, including poetry, translation and teaching.

Ice Bucket Challenge Splashes Into Petersburg

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

If you’ve spent any time on social media this summer, you’ve probably come across the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s a fundraising effort for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now, the viral sensation is popping up in communities around Alaska.  KFSK’s Elizabeth Jenkins has this story in Petersburg where the term “ice bucket” is taken very literally.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mat-Su Stares Down A Deadline to Repay $12M For Failed Ferry System

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:59

The Matanuska Susitna Borough has until September 5th to repay more than 12 million dollars in federal grants related to the ferryboat “Sustina.”

The white elephant of a ferry that the Borough has been trying to sell or give away remains tied to a Ketchikan dock, while the Borough Assembly wrestles with what to do about the money owed to the Federal Transportation Administration.

Matanuska Susitna Borough Assemblymembers met Thursday afternoon to reconvene an executive session regarding legal action on the ferry, which has been tied to a Ketchikan dock for the past couple of years. No word on the outcome of that meeting yet, but deputy Borough Mayor Ron Arvin has said.

“It is a travesty that those individuals that concocted this scheme, back in the day, did it with blinders on! They had no fundamental comprehension that a ferry system would run at a cost,” Arvin says. “They were living under a dream, an illusion, that the ferry system could run and support itself. There’s not one in the world that does that; they are all subsidized.”

Two weeks ago, the Borough received a letter from the Federal Transportation Administration, demanding repayment of the federal grant money that the Borough received to prepare the ferry for passenger service across Knik Arm from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage. That plan never materialized.

Categories: Alaska News

Ice Bucket Challenge Splashes Into Petersburg

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:55

If you’ve spent any time on social media this summer, you’ve probably come across Youtube videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s a fundraising effort for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now, the viral sensation is popping up in communities around Alaska.  In Petersburg, the term “ice bucket” is taken very literally.

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Everyone from Justin Bieber to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has been doused with water. “I think the funniest one I saw was Martha Stewart. She went and did the ice bucket challenge before she got her hair done. I thought that was cheating a little,” says Nancy Berg. She co-owns the Viking Travel agency with her husband and, together with their employees, they will each dump a five gallon bucket of water on themselves–with some local flair, of course. “So it will be ice with some ice from the cannery. We’re not even just doing water.”

They’re doing it to raise money for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease which a neurodegenerative illness. Here’s how it works: people challenge each other to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves. “Supposedly if you don’t do the challenge, you’re supposed to donate, but I think everyone’s donating and doing it for fun.”

Most people are donating around $100 for the cause. The ALS Association has raised almost $23 million dollars this year, much of that attributed to the viral campaign. It’s significantly more than last year’s earnings of just over $1 million. Berg says she learned about the Ice Bucket Challenge while watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “They got challenged by Justin Timberlake and I kept following who was doing it. Now every time I get on Facebook or somewhere on the internet I see some new celebrity.”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski takes the plunge.

Viking Travel is challenging friends and local business in downtown Petersburg, but first they have to douse themselves. They line up on the sidewalk outside their office, buckets filled to the brim. They count down “3,2,1″ before dumping the slushy mixture of ice and water onto themselves.

Some critics of the Ice Bucket Challenge are calling it an of act of “slacktivism.” A viral sensation run amok without any long term commitment from its participants, but for the Petersburg Insurance Center, ALS affects someone the company knows. That’s why employee Katie Eddy says they’re accepting the challenge. “We have a fellow agent in Juneau and his brother passed away from the disease, so that’s why we’re doing it. Kind of in honor of his brother.”

Nancy Berg crosses the street to challenge Inga’s Gallery, a popular food truck in downtown. She approaches the window, telling the staff “you have 24 hours,” and they genially accept. The challenge has spread to other people and businesses in the community–ice buckets poised to drop.

If you want to see Viking Travel get soaked in the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit the company’s Facebook page.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell takes the challenge.

Categories: Alaska News

Touring by Tesla: From The Mexico Border to Fairbanks

Thu, 2014-08-21 10:34

Seconds after Guy Hall pulled into a parking lot full of Subarus at KTOO in Juneau on Monday, five reporters were gawking at his sleek, red Tesla Model S.

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Hall is the president of the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association. He spent 17 days driving from the California-Mexico border to Fairbanks, and now he’s on the return leg. Reporter Jeremy Hsieh hops in for a ride.

Guy Hall poses with a battery cell in hand. His Tesla Model S has more than 7,000 of the cells built into the undercarriage. It has a range of about 265 miles.
Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO.

“I’m driving Guy Hall’s Tesla. He’s a retired Hewlett-Packard research and development guy and an electric car evangelist. He’s got two more modest electric cars at home in Sacramento: a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt,” Hsieh says.

But it’s the sporty, high-end Tesla that made the 3,400 mile journey north and has the wow factor.

“Punch it,” Hall says.

“Whoa. Wow. It’s pretty fun,” Hsieh says. “OK, I think I’ve got the Tesla grin. Alright, I’ve got to slow down so I don’t get pulled over.”

“I won’t say what the speed is that we saw that go up to, but it was worthy of a ticket-me-red color car,” Hall says.

There’s no fuel to pump, no engine to rev, no gears to shift, no transmission. Pressing on the accelerator translates into electrons moving at the speed of light to the electric motor driving the rear wheels.

Where you’d expect an engine compartment up front is a second trunk. Hall calls it “the frunk.” Another big difference is at start up.

“There you go, you’re now in drive. Do you hear that?” Hall says.

The windshield wiper makes more noise than the drivetrain. Almost no sound compared to a gas car.

Inside, a big touch screen panel in the center console breaks up the leather. It has controls for adjusting the suspension, handling, regenerative braking system, sunroof and more.

The battery is a heavy, flat panel that makes up much of the undercarriage. Its shape evenly distributes the weight and the location keeps the center of gravity low; that’s good for handling. The battery is actually made up of a series of more than 7,000 cells, each about the size and shape of a shotgun shell.

Hall says besides spreading the word, his trip was about seeing if an electric vehicle could even make it. His battery has a range of about 265 miles and charging stations are rare.

“But I was able to determine you can do it. There’s sources of electricity everywhere you go,” Hall says.

According to Tesla, a full charge would take more than 3 days from a standard 110-volt outlet. It takes about 9 hours through a less common 240-volt outlet. Beefy appliances like laundry dryers and water heaters use those in the house. Electric car owners get them installed in their garages.

The 240-volt outlet is also a common hookup for RVs. So on the road, Hall charged up at RV parks. He says he even traded rides for some charging time at industrial shops and garages along the way.

“I wanted to set a baseline of how long it takes to get from the Mexican border up to Fairbanks. And once that’s set, now others can try to beat it. And as someone gets a new record for it, trophy will go on to them and it’ll rotate around,” Hall says.

Right now, the only public charging station on Juneau’s isolated road system is at Alaska Electric Light & Power. But more are coming. The Juneau Economic Development Council helped raise $50,000 in grant money to build infrastructure supporting electric vehicles.

The council’s Zach Wilkinson says five two-outlet electric vehicle chargers are on their way to Juneau thanks to the grant. They’ll be installed at the Eaglecrest Ski Area, downtown parking garage, new Mendenhall Valley library that’s under construction, University of Alaska Southeast and Eagle Beach State Recreation Area.

And Wilkinson says there’s money to buy a few more single-outlet chargers for local businesses willing to pay the installation cost.

“Part of what we’re aiming for is to lead the nation in public charging stations per capita,” Wilkinson says.

By his math, Juneau would only need 14 outlets. Wilkinson says some may be in place and available for public use before the end of the year.

Duff Mitchell is the vice president of the startup Juneau Hydropower, one of the local groups that chipped in for the grant. He’s been driving a Nissan Leaf since October and says electric cars are a great fit for Juneau.

“We don’t have range anxiety, it’s a lot cheaper and more effective to use electricity that’s home grown, sustainable, rather than importing other fuel sources into our community,” Mitchell says. “It leaves those dollars here, and also, leaves more money in a person’s pocketbook at the end of the month if they’re using electricity for their transportation needs.”

“I call it beer math-it costs me less than a 12-pack of beer to drive my car all month.”

The vehicles can be pricey. Teslas start around $71,000, the Nissan Leaf starts at $29,000 and the Chevy Volt at $34,000, though the IRS offers up to $7,500 in tax credits for buying an electric vehicle.

Mitchell and Wilkinson estimate there are about 20 electric cars in town now.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Says ‘Bring it on’

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:41

Sen. Mark Begich faced no serious challenger in Tuesday’s election, so he’s been out of the campaign spotlight in recent weeks. He told supporters at a luncheon in Anchorage that Sullivan and the rest of the Republican field pulled to a conservative extreme in the pre-Primary debates.

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“They have gone so far right, you can’t even describe what right is anymore,” Begich said.

Sullivan has said he wants abortion to be illegal, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. He supports laws barring same-sex marriage and says the Supreme Court made the right call in the Hobby Lobby case, which allows certain employers to refuse insurance coverage for IUDs and other birth control methods they object to. Begich takes the opposite positions.

“You all know me. I’ve been pro-choice from day 1,” Begich told about 170 people at the fundraising event. “It is the women’s choice to make the choice about their healthcare. And we don’t need government telling you what to do with your bodies. And we don’t need Dan Sullivan to tell you what to do with your bodies.”

Begich has been under attack for allegedly taking undue credit for achievements of the entire Alaska delegation to Congress, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski demanded he take down an ad saying they work well as a team. Begich, though, listed what he says are his successes, such as building the military presence in Alaska, fully funding tribal healthcare contracts, opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling, and expanding healthcare options for Alaska veterans.

“I’m proud of these accomplishments. I know my opponents are already churning up, ready to say, ‘We’re going to after Begich’s accomplishments,’” Begich said. “You bet. Bring it on. Bring it on. I’ll talk to you until you’re blue in the face about everything I’ve done to make Alaska a better place.”

The candidates and independent political groups have already spent more than $18 million on the race. For the primary, that comes out to about $115 per voter.

Dan Sullivan wasn’t available for an interview today. He didn’t talk to reporters on election night and had no public appearances today. His spokesman said Sullivan granted two print interviews but needed to rest his voice, which laryngitis has reduced to a whisper.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 20, 2014

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:40

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

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Begich Says ‘Bring It On’

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

Now that former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan has won the Republican Primary, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich knows who he’ll face in November. As APRN’s Liz Ruskin reports, he’s staking out his positions, with an emphasis on his record and abortion rights.

Oil Tax Referendum Opponents Declare Victory

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

A referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s signature oil tax law is trailing by nearly 7,000 votes, and its opponents are now declaring victory.

Oil Vote Goes Down In State Record Books as the Most Expensive Issue Race

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

The referendum was the most expensive issue race over a ballot measure in the state history, with the oil industry putting in more than $10 million to defeat the measure. Referendum sponsors spent a fraction of that amount, with a little over half a million raised.

Report: Alaskans Aren’t All That Healthy

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

According to the recently released “Healthy Alaskans 2020,” an assessment and strategic plan issued every decade, Alaskans aren’t all that healthy. A 15-page overview of Alaskans’ health status as of  2012 shows Alaskans are not doing as well as people in the U.S. overall in every category.

A Susitna Valley Farm Sells Its Produce Close to Home

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Most food Alaskans consume comes from Outside.  There are quite a few producers who grow and sell locally, however.  Last week, KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited one farm that has been operating in the Upper Susitna Valley for the last thirty years.

Yup’ik Voters Give Ballot Translation Mixed Reviews

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

Alaska Native voters in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Western Alaska give the Yup’ik language primary ballot translations mixed reviews. All eight of the Yup’ik voters that KYUK talked with said they needed help understanding what they were voting on.

Indian Village Totem Poles Come Down in Juneau

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

The two totem poles that stood for 36 years in Juneau’s old Indian Village have been hauled off.

Peninsula Women Swim Across Kachemak Bay

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Early this past Sunday morning three Homer women joined the short list of athletes to successfully swim across Kachemak Bay.

Categories: Alaska News

Oil Industry Puts $10M Into Oil Vote

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:39

The referendum was the most expensive issue race over a ballot measure in the state history, with the oil industry putting in more than $10 million to defeat the measure. Referendum sponsors spent a fraction of that amount, with a little over half a million raised. APRN’s capitol reporter Alexandra Gutierrez has been following the campaign.

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Categories: Alaska News

Report: Alaskans Aren’t All That Healthy

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:38

According to the recently released “Healthy Alaskans 2020,” an assessment and strategic plan issued every decade, Alaskans aren’t all that healthy. A 15-page overview of Alaskans’ health status as of  2012 shows Alaskans are not doing as well as people in the U.S. overall in every category.

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Categories: Alaska News

A Susitna Valley Farm Sells Its Produce Close to Home

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:37

Most food Alaskans consume comes from Outside.  There are quite a few producers who grow and sell locally, however.  Last week, KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited one farm that has been operating in the Upper Susitna Valley for the past 30 years.

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In Alaska, the vast majority of the food we eat isn’t grown here.  Patrick Likely of the Alaska Food Policy Council says the proportion of food grown in-state is very small.

“Five percent of food that’s consumed in Alaska is actually coming from Alaska.”

The Birch Creek Ranch has been in the Kingsbury family for three decades. Photo by Phillip Manning/KTNA.

While most of the food does come from Outside, there are still a fair few local growers.  In the Upper Valley, one such producer is Birch Creek Ranch.  Birch Creek has been run by the Kingsbury family for the last three decades.  Alan Kingsbury says that the family first acquired the land as an agricultural parcel from the state in 1981.  Early on, the only products coming out of the property were a result of the clearing that the state requires on ag parcels.

“We sold firewood, saw-logs, lumber, and that sort of thing while we were getting the fields cleared and ready for production.”

As more land was cleared, Alan and Leilani Kingsbury began to grow crops.  Their first sales began in the mid ’80s.

“We were growing some things and trying a lot of things, everything from sheep and goats to barley, wheat, sorghum, rye, foraged turnips, and potatoes.  We grew seed potatoes for awhile.”

As time went on, the Kingsburys moved toward greenhouse production of flowers and away from things like potatoes and animals. They also have a large berry patch, where people can pay by the pound to come and pick currants and serviceberries.

Alan Kingsbury says that one issue facing farmers today as compared to the 1980s is a decreased level of state support.

“The state was much more gung-ho [about] agriculture back in earlier days, in our timeframe, when Jay Hammond was governor.”

Leilani Kingsbury agrees, and says one of the biggest issues that has faced Alaskan farmers for decades is the need for infrastructure, such as:

“Plants, places to store, cool, chill, clean, process, and equipment and supplies, and people to service and repair them are still all lacking, very much.”

Now, much of the growing at Birch Creek Ranch is done by Alan and Leilani’s son, Brian.  Now, the farm grows about four acres of vegetables, including a number of

Birch Creek Ranch broccoli. Photo by Phillip Manning/KTNA.

high-tunnel greenhouses.  One way Brian sells his vegetables to locals is through a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program.  That lets individuals buy a “share” of the farm, which entitles them to a portion of the crops at harvest time.  Brian also sells to local restaurants, but he says the majority of his revenue comes from old-fashioned farm stands.

“About a third of my business has been with the CSA. About half of it, now, is retail markets, and the rest of it is restaurants.

The restaurant contracts are growing, however.  This year, Brian says that he has begun selling to the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, easily the biggest lodging facility in the area.  In addition, he’s started selling at farm stands outside of the Valley.

“I saw that I needed to take things to Anchorage, and I started with a farm stand at the Alaska Native Medical Center Campus…It’s a big move for me.”

Brian says the Anchorage trips take an entire day in addition to the extra picking, but that it does allow him to break into a new market.

One local venue that makes extensive use of Brian Kingsbury’s produce is the Flying Squirrel Bakery and Cafe`.  His wife, Anita Golton, is the majority owner and manager of the cafe`.  She says that the businesses complement each other well.

“We just kind of do it all together…and it’s always made a lot of sense to take farm products from there. And, to be able to have other places to use those products seems like a valuable thing.”

Anita Golton says the Flying Squirrel has been recognized by the Alaska Department of Agriculture’s Restaurant Rewards program, which reimburses part of the cost of buying local ingredients in order to offset what are usually higher prices.  Despite using over 600 pounds of rhubarb and various other ingredients from Birch Creek Ranch as well as other Alaska growers, Anita says the supply simply isn’t enough to keep up with production most of the time.  As a result, a small portion of her total product is made with primarily Alaskan ingredients.

“I feel like we try to do as much as we can to integrate it in everything, and it’s probably a lot more in the middle toward the end of the summer, but it’s probably not more than one percent.  The main reason for that is that there are so many ingredients that just aren’t available.”

The entire family agrees that visitors and locals alike enjoy the fact that they can have locally grown produce available during the growing season.  Brian says he’s currently looking to consolidate on crops and markets that have proven successful in order to make Birch Creek Ranch a success for another generation.

- See more at: http://ktna.org/2014/08/19/upper-valley-agriculture-birch-creek-ranch/#sthash.dVGQDbQ6.dpuf

Categories: Alaska News

Yup’ik Voters Give Ballot Translation Mixed Reviews

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:36

Voters at the Lower Kuskokwim School District choosing primary election ballots on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014.

Alaska Native voters in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Western Alaska gave the Yup’ik language primary ballot translations mixed reviews. All eight of the Yup’ik voters that KYUK talked with said they needed help understanding what they were voting on. 

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Elder Jacob Nelson is originally from the coastal village of Kwigilingok. He moved to Bethel in the 1970′s and he speaks mostly Yup’ik, and very little English. He says leading up to Alaska’s primary election, he heard some information on the radio in his language about an oil tax referendum.

“I only ever heard about the ballot initiative on radio, not from anyone else.”

Alaska’s primary ballot asked voters to weigh in on whether to repeal oil tax changes made by the state legislature last year, among other things.

The Primary was held on the heels of a trial, where Attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund argued the state of Alaska was not doing enough to help Yup’ik voters understand the issues in their language. The state division of elections argues they’re doing enough. Critics say the translations are full of jargon and legalese that’s difficult if not impossible for mainly Yup’ik speaking voters to make sense of.

Like many elders in the area, Nelson says he couldn’t understand the Yup’ik ballot because it’s written in a modern style he’s not used to. He had someone working at the polls explain the issues to him, in spoken Yup’ik, and marked an English ballot. He said he’s glad there is some effort, but there could be more.

“This will be good for the people if people could understand what they are voting for and if we understand it the way we speak.”

It’s estimated there are around 10-thousand Yup’ik speaking voters in Alaska. The language is the second most spoken language in the state behind English, also the second most spoken Native American language in the country behind Navajo. A decision on the lawsuit against the state of Alaska regarding language translations is expected soon.

Categories: Alaska News

Indian Village totem poles come down In Juneau

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:35

The two totem poles that stood for 36 years in Juneau’s old Indian Village have been hauled off.

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A work crew with a 12-ton boom truck pulled the delicate poles and hauled them to a warehouse Tuesday. They had deteriorated badly over the years, but were taken away more or less intact.

A 12-ton boom truck delicately lifts a weakened Eagle totem pole off its perch at the Gajaa Hit building. Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO.

Ricardo Worl is the president and CEO of The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, which owns the Gajaa Hít building where the totem poles stood.

“There’s a lot of discussion as to what would be the best and most appropriate solution and what we’re going to do with them,” Worl said. “We even talked about letting them lie in state, here in the village.”

Fear of vandalism and concerns that pedestrians wouldn’t properly respect them have cooled that idea, Worl said.

“So for now, we’re going to bring them to the housing authority warehouse, let them dry out inside the warehouse, and then we’ll decide what we’re gonna do with it from there,” he said.

Brian Wallace was a teenager when he watched the late Edward Kunz Sr. carve the poles. Tuesday, Wallace happened to be passing by and stopped to watch.

“It’s mixed emotions, you know? Seeing something like this, and I don’t know how well it can be restored, or if it’s going back to the spirit of the forest,” Wallace said.

Worl said parts may be salvaged for indoor display.

Meanwhile, a pair of Haida carving brothers that Sealaska Heritage Institute commissioned have completed the new totem poles and nearly finished the new screen that will replace the warehoused ones.

Worl said the target date for raising the new poles is Sept. 29.

Categories: Alaska News

Peninsula Women Swim Across Kachemak Bay

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:34

Current swim coach for the Kachemak Swim Club, Dana Jaworksi, says she’s considered swimming the bay since she first moved to Alaska nearly 10 years ago. Then last winter her dream took a strong turn toward becoming reality when she and her friend Jan decided to go for it.

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“I walked up to Jan one day and said, ‘Hey I got something I want to ask you about.’ And she said, ‘Me too. You want to swim across the Kachemak Bay?’ And I said, ‘That’s what I was going to ask.’ And it was meant to be,” says Jaworski.

Jan Rumble is also a coach with the club. She and Dana were joined by a teacher from Anchor Point, Lila Lee Little, and they started training for the big day on the first of June.

“Really, the distance as far as open water swims go is not that far. Diana Nyad swam 72 hours straight from Cuba to Florida. This is nothing like that,” says Jaworski.

Dana says their swim was about four and a half miles. Each of the women have done that before, so the only things that worried them about getting into the water were possible run-ins with jellyfish, fishing boats, and of course, the cold.

“Just a mile and a half off the end of the Spit, the current brought the glacial water right to us and it was extremely cold and it just got colder. So the last mile was just excruciating,” says Jaworski.

The swimmers had friends following them on boats to avoid falling into the path of another vessel and they didn’t see a single jellyfish. They did see some seals, fish, and a humpback whale.

All in all, Jan says the swim was a huge success.

“The weather was perfect and our support crew just did great and other than the cold, it was a beautiful swim and a beautiful day,” says Jaworski.

The trio first planned to start the swim on Saturday morning but because of poor weather decided to wait until Sunday.

They have bumped the number of people to swim the bay up to at least 10. Claudia Rose of San Diego made the last swim back in August of 2013.

Categories: Alaska News

Sullivan Wins, Snubs Election Central Celebration; Treadwell Concedes

Wed, 2014-08-20 10:51

Dan Sullivan took 40 percent of the vote, handily beating Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell to win the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate. Sullivan, though, wouldn’t talk to reporters and didn’t come to Election Central at the Egan Convention Center, as winning candidates usually do. Veteran newsman Steve MacDonald of KTUU Channel 2 said he thought this might be an election night first.

“I can’t think, off hand, I cannot think of anyone who has refused to claim victory,” MacDonald says.

U.S Senate Republican primary candidate Mead Treadwell concedes the race late Tuesday night. He came in third with about a quarter of the vote. Former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan won the GOP nomination. Photo by KSKA/Ellen Lockyer.

Sullivan held his lead all night, and once most of the vote was counted, his campaign staffers were seen pressing an Associated Press reporter to declare the winner. She said that wasn’t her job. After midnight, with the Egan Center shutting down, journalists gathered on the sidewalk outside a restaurant where Sullivan was having a private party. TV cameramen filmed through the closed windows. MacDonald says it was like the star of election night was a no-show, despite a lot of coaxing.

“The one thing that politicians crave to do is make that victory speech and we’ve tried, everybody here has tried every single possible way, to get them to talk, and they won’t do it.”

Just before 2 a.m., after Miller conceded, the Sullivan campaign finally issued a press release acknowledging their win.

Categories: Alaska News
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