An antique ski has been donated to the Fairbanks North Star Borough for display at the Birch Hill Recreation Area. The ski is thought to be a gold rush era relic.
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The ‘Write-in Nick Moe’ campaign has announced they will not challenge the results of the Anchorage Municipal Election in West Anchorage’s District 3. Thousands of voters wrote-in Moe’s name on the ballot, but even after a hand-count election, election officials say Moe lost by more than 500 votes. Also today, Anchorage attorneys today denied an application to hold a referendum repealing the controversial ordinance that limits unions and inspired Moe to jump into the race.
Union leaders applied to hold a referendum on the controversial ordinance, called AO37, on April 3. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler explains the application didn’t meet the technical requirements. But he says there was a bigger issue too:
“You cannot address administrative matters by referendum,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler argues the matter is ‘administrative’ because it deals with issues like where certain employees are located during work, the number of health benefit programs that employees can choose from and the time frame in which the collective bargaining process should take place. Union leaders applied to hold the referendum the day after municipal elections, when voters turned out in numbers to protest the ordinance at the ballot box.
Several thousand filled in the name of write-in candidate, Nick Moe instead of voting for Ernie Hall, who was running unopposed in West Anchorage’s District 3. Hall chairs the Assembly and oversaw passage of the ordinance. Under his leadership, a public hearing was closed before everyone who showed up had a chance to testify. Andy Holeman is the President of the Anchorage Education Association. He was the primary sponsor of the application for a referendum. He does not agree with Wheeler’s analysis.
“The charter suggests that citizens can reverse an ordinance enacted by the Assembly and that’s what we want to do. We think it’s about that straight forward. If you have to go to court to get the right to do that, then we’re prepared to take that action,” Holeman said.
Holeman says before filing a lawsuit he and other union leaders plan to submit a new application to hold a referendum, in an effort to remedy technical problems with their previous application.
- Anchorage Municipal Elections
- Clerk’s Office Response (PDF)
- Municipal Attorneys Office Memorandum (PDF)
- Assembly Seat D Hand Count Summary (PDF)
The Legislature adjourned Sunday without acting on a bill adding new voter identification requirements. But the measure is poised for action when lawmakers return to the Capitol next January.
Now that a bill lowering taxes on oil companies has passed, the big question is: Will it work?
At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Sean Parnell named a few indicators that might suggest whether his bill is succeeding. He says he expects to see changes to Alaska’s level of oil production within the next three years, and that his administration is basing its budget outlook on the idea that oil companies will add a handful of rigs to legacy fields. Parnell says his administration will also be watching the amount of money that producers put toward capital expenditures.
“The major companies have invested approximately $2 billion a year on average to kind of maintain where they are. I think that’s a good base-level starting point to say, ‘What are you going to jump up to? What are you going to bump up to?’”
But beyond that, Parnell didn’t provide much in the way of concrete metrics for judging his oil tax policy. He stayed away from defining success in specific terms, and he also avoided offering a hard timeline for evaluating his bill. Parnell also tried to temper expectations for his legislation, saying he didn’t expect to see dramatic growth in oil production immediately.
Democratic legislators have criticized Parnell for not offering clearer benchmarks. Sen. Hollis French, of Anchorage, says they also worry the administration might count projects that are already scheduled to go online as new investment.
“When they start having those ribbon cuttings, and the brass bands, and the big hullabaloos over new things happening on the North Slope, we’re going to remind the public these were already planned.”
The new tax structure is scheduled to go into effect in 2014.
An Army MP has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. 24- year-old William Colton Millay had pleaded guilty in March of this year to charges of attempted espionage, issuing false statements and communicating national defense information with intent to harm the US.
Former Juneau Mayor Bill Overstreet is being remembered as a persuasive and successful spokesman for Alaska’s capital city during the capital move fights of the 1970s and 80s.
Overstreet died last week in Sun City West, Arizona, where he and his wife Jean have spent their winters in recent years. He was 86-years-old.
Bill moved his family from Oklahoma in 1952. Over the years he was a teacher, school administrator, and became the first director of the statewide Alaska School Board Association.
Alaska author Dana Stabenow has big plans – and they have nothing to do with the plot of her next crime fiction novel. Stabenow hopes to turn her 10-acre property outside of Homer into a writers retreat dedicated to fostering the skills of female writers.
A dog took the stage during this year’s Alaska Folk Festival. So did a drum-and-pipe band and some Middle-Eastern-style singers and dancers. CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld assembled this audio post card.
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The Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s Office has released the unofficial results of the hand count for Assembly Seat D, where write-in candidate Nick Moe challenged Assembly Chair Ernie Hall.
In the count, Ernie Hall received 4,298 votes to Nick Moe’s 3,745. Nineteen counted write-in ballots were challenged and 220 write-in votes that were not counted were challenged.
The Municipality of Anchorage has denied a referendum petition to appeal AO37 submitted earlier this month.
The Anchorage Assembly passed the rewrite of municipal labor law by a vote of 6-5 at their March 26 meeting after four 5-hour evenings where 285 people spoke before the assembly.
In a memorandum from the Office of the Municipal Attorney, the brief version of the answer regarding why the request was denied says:
“Subject to the following Background and Discussion below, our Brief Answer is No. The proposed petition does not properly cite the ordinance, the petition narrative may be confusing, and the petition fails to set forth verbatim the ordinance sought to be repealed. In addition, the petition addresses subjects prohibited by Alaska law.”
Several Alaskans were near the finish line of the Boston Marathon when two bombs exploded in the crowded finish area. No Alaskans are known to be among the three people who were killed and the more than 100 others who were injured. Identifications of those victims have not yet been released.
Forty-one Alaskans were registered to run the race today and many had family members there to cheer them on.
Anchorage resident Heather Aften finished the race about 15 minutes before the bombs exploded. She was just a few blocks away when she heard the two explosions.
“And right away I knew something was wrong it was the kind of sound where you knew it was big and I instantly knew something was wrong. I thought of 9-11,” Aften said.
Aften says it was a dream of hers to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which only allows runners with fast marathon times to enter. She says for 15 minutes after she finished, she felt elation. But everything changed the instant the first bomb went off.
“My trip down those 26 miles was just one long party and so many people put everything they had into it today. And it’s just so heartbreaking and I guess because of that, I’m just feeling anger and rage at the whole thing that that was tainted,” Aften said.
Kodiak resident Howard Valley, who is 64-years-old, finished his race roughly 40 minutes before the blasts and said he was walking away from the area when he heard the explosions.
“It wasn’t like a propane tank or anything that go off here in Kodiak sometimes, or anything else; it was quite obviously a large explosion of some type. But I didn’t know what it was until about maybe a half an hour later when I got inside a hotel and was watching the TV,” Valley said.
Valley has safely returned to the bed and breakfast he is staying at in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He said it took him about four hours to get out of the city. He had to use alternate train and bus routes because transportation was shut down near the race course.
Juneau Doctor John Bursell also escaped injury in the Marathon.
After he finished the race, he says he and his wife Jamie had already gone back to their hotel room about five blocks away when she heard the explosions and arriving emergency responders.
“My wife Jamie was watching the race and at one point was real close to where the first explosion went off and at that point says it was crowded with people right at the finish line,” Bursell said.
Another Anchorage resident Hedy Eischeid, didn’t run the race herself. But she was waiting with a friend for her husband at the family meeting area when the explosions happened.
“And I kind of looked at my friend Jonathan and he looked at me and he said, ‘I hope that was thunder.’ and we looked at each other and we knew it wasn’t and we knew it wasn’t. And he said, ‘I don’t think that’s thunder Hedy.’ So we heard it. It was very, very loud. And you could feel it on the ground,” Hedy Eischeid said.
It took Eischeid about 10 minutes to reunite with her husband Ted, who lives in Wisconsin and is planning to relocate to Anchorage in the future. He was looking towards the finish when the explosions happened and he saw smoke. It was his second Boston Marathon and he says it’s a wonderful event:
“Thousands and thousands of Bostonians come out to watch it and you have runners from all around the world here and because Boston is a marathon you have to qualify for, there’s a lot of dreams here, just to be able to qualify for Boston and run it was a long time goal and dream of mine. It’s very emotional. So I’m sad for the marathon because this was 117th running and it puts a damper on really a wonderful tradition,” Ted Eischeid said.
Eischeid says despite the horror of today’s marathon, he would run the race again.
This story was reported with the help of Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau and Briana Gibbs, KMXT – Kodiak
For the first time since 2010, the Alaska State Legislature has wrapped up in time. With Republican majorities in both chambers, legislators took full advantage of their 90 days in Juneau. They approved 71 bills, a $2.2 billion capital budget, and a 737-mile in-state gasline.
Most importantly, the legislature passed a bill that would give oil companies a tax cut. Gov. Sean Parnell has been fighting to overhaul the state’s tax structure for years, arguing that a lower rate would encourage more investment and more oil production.
On Saturday, the House approved the tax legislation on a 27 to 12 vote. Anchorage Republican Mia Costello had harsh words for the existing tax structure, arguing that the policy of raising tax rates as the price of oil goes up was discouraging investment.
“Progressivity is our enemy,” said Costello. “Progressivity is what is robbing our future of the ability to pay for schools, and roads, and troopers.”
A mix of Democrats and coastal Republicans in both chambers of the legislature didn’t agree with that. Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat spoke against the measure, saying that it could hurt the state’s treasury.
“I’m very concerned that this bill will bankrupt the state,” said French. “I know in my heart this will lead to an income tax. I know in my heart this will lead to the loss of our permanent fund dividend, okay? I know for a fact that’s beyond contention that this will lead to greater profits for the oil industry.”
Under forecasted prices and production, the tax cut comes out to at least $3.5 billion over five years. Oil companies have called the bill a “game changer,” but have not made specific commitments to increase production.
The legislature also passed plenty of other big-ticket items this session. They approved a bill advancing an in-state gasline project, and they put together a financing program to get natural gas from the North Slope to the Interior.
They also okayed a $2.2 billion capital budget. That was expected to be a vehicle for a comprehensive education package that was frequently discussed by leadership but never showed up. On the last day of session, the House voted to create a task force to look at how educators should be graded and what can be done to improve school performance. The finance committee also allocated $21 million in grant money to schools for safety and security spending.
Rep. Bill Stoltze, a Chugiak Republican who co-chairs the committee, says the decision to fund schools in that amount was pragmatic.
“That’s out of our capital budget, and that’s about what we had left.”
Education isn’t the only policy that didn’t get completely taken care of this session. The House hit the brakes on a bill that would limit Medicaid funding for abortion, after it passed the Senate. The Senate kept a bill that would advance the Knik Arm bridge project in committee, after it received and damning audit that prompted the House to hand control of the proposal off to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.
The Senate also delayed a vote on one of the governor’s bills to limit who can secure water reservations. Members of the fishing industry and residents of the Bristol Bay region have come out against the legislation, saying that the proposed changes could make it easier to permit Pebble Mine.
But overall, this legislature passed nearly twice as many bills as the previous one did over the first session. House and Senate leadership credited that decline in gridlock to having Republican majorities in both chambers.
There will likely be a petition drive to reverse the new oil tax bill passed by the legislature Sunday night. A number of the people who campaigned against Senate Bill 21 had a strategy meeting today at Democratic Party Headquarters.
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Alaskan voters haven’t reelected a Democrat to the Senate since Mike Gravel in 1976.
So the stakes are high for the Democratic Party and Senator Begich. He raised $948 thousand in the first quarter of this year, and he’s sitting on more than $1.5 million dollars in campaign cash.
So whoever wins the Republican primary will face a formidable incumbent.
Miller announced late Sunday in a blog post he’s forming an exploratory committee; that allows him to raise money for the campaign and test the waters. It’s not an official entrance.
“We have to remember that the goal republicans have is replacing Mark Begich,” Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell said Monday.
Treadwell, who announced his exploratory committee earlier this year, said Miller called him Sunday to tell him the news.
Treadwell expected Miller to jump into the race, and said while primaries are important to select the strongest candidate, he’s worried a protracted one could leave Senator Begich in a better position.
“Some people sent me notes after Joe made his announcement saying that’s the best gift Mark Begich could have gotten. I don’t know,” he said.
Treadwell said he does not know when he’ll make a final decision. But he said polls have shown him leading Miller and competing well with Begich. He didn’t say who paid for and conducted the polls.
Treadwell will visit D.C. this week. He said he’ll meet with Congressional leaders, but he would not say whether he’s meeting with the National Republican Senatorial Committee; the wing of the GOP tasked with winning more seats in the Senate.
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said Miller’s move is no surprise, and she expects a more crowded primary field.
According to Duffy, Miller will soon learn that being a candidate today is much different than in 2010.
“He was a Tea Party candidate in the first cycle that Tea Party candidates really came to the fore in Senate races,” she said. “They had the element of surprise then. And that’s not the case this time.”
That, Duffy said, means Miller’s primary opponents will try and define just who he is. Miller will have to defend his past actions and statements; something he didn’t have to do much of in 2010.
A spokesperson with the NRSC said it’s too soon to support any one candidate. Miller met with the head of that group earlier this year.
Duffy said the NRSC has backed off supporting candidates in primary campaigns. And she expects the same unless Governor Sean Parnell joins the race.
With Miller, Duffy said, the NRSC has learned its lesson.
“My sense is that their experience they had with Joe Miller in 2010 would probably lead them not to embrace his candidacy so quickly,” she said.
In his announcement, Miller wrote the 2014 race is “not just about beating Mark Begich, it’s about saving the country.”
Mainstream Republicans have bristled at Miller’s rhetoric and often incendiary language Neither Miller, nor his 2010 foe, Senator Lisa Murkowski, would comment for this story.
Senator Begich, who styles himself an independent on his campaign site, said he takes any candidate seriously. He didn’t say if he’d prefer to face Miller or Treadwell.
“Whoever,” he said Monday afternoon. “Whoever the Republican party decides to anoint over there is their decision.”
The GOP primary isn’t until August 2014; three months before the winner of that race will face Senator Begich in the general election.
Grade school archers in Bethel will soon be competing nationally. After winning at state competition, they have qualified for the National Archers in School Program in Louisville, Kentucky next month.
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Perhaps when you imagine a typical Alaskan Native elder, you think of an older person living in a bush village, or maybe a hub community like Bethel, Barrow or Wrangell. And that’s still true for many elders. But increasing numbers are joining their families in Alaska’s cities. As part of our on-going series looking at how we define ourselves and live our lives as Alaskans, Len Anderson looks at the role of Alaska Native elders in an urban environment.
According to the 2010 Census, the Municipality of Anchorage has slightly over 23,000 residents of all ages identifying themselves solely as Alaska Native and American Indian. In Fairbanks, it’s nearly 7,000 and Juneau City and Borough lists around 3,700. Even without an exact breakdown, many local health services, churches and Native social organizations indicate a sizeable urban elder population.
Elizabeth Medicine Crow is president and CEO of First Alaskans. That’s the group that organizes the annual Elder and Youth fall conference which immediately precedes the Alaska Federation of Natives convention held each October.
Medicine Crow says the urban relocation gives elder an altered but still important role. Now many not only pass on traditional family and cultural knowledge, but also help bridge geographical divides – no matter how long they themselves may have lived in an urban area.
“Our Elder Keynotes, Sam and Carrie Herman from Mekoryuk, they’ve actually lived in Anchorage for …gosh…years. But because they are stewards of their culture, they carry that with them no matter where they are. That’s not place based. That’s not only geographic based. It’s who they are,” Medicine Crow said.
Medicine Crow says that self-identification becomes crucial for younger Natives.
“Even if they live in Anchorage, they are still Sam and Carrie Herman from Mekoryuk. And even when I introduce myself in the role that I have with the organization, I’m from Keex’ Kwaan. I’m from ‘the village that never sleeps.’ I work in Anchorage. I know lots of other Alaska Native people who are either advocacy or leadership roles across the state or even back in D.C. and that’s…that’s their frame of reference. Their frame of reference is this is who I am and where I’m from. I just happen to living here right now,” Medicine Crow said.
To cultivate this sense of identification among the youngest generation in Anchorage, the school district has the Alaska Native Culture Charter School, which has seen robust enrollment and academic success. It also has the “school within a school” for Native students at East High as well as the district wide Native Youth Olmpics. The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers Native youth several programs where elders teach traditional skills, important to young people without an elder family member nearby.
“My grandparents enriched my life. I was lucky to live like five minutes from them,” Andrea VanRavenscroft said.
VanRavenscroft sits at a family gathering in her parents’ Northeast Anchorage home. About 25 years ago, doctors advised her grandmother, Norma Gregg, to move from Kotzebue to Anchorage where she could receive dialysis treatment.
“Then my parents moved down after she moved down, and then everybody moved down. All our aunts and uncles. They’re still here, even though my gram’s not here anymore. She was like the nucleus of the family. Everyone was always at her house in Kotzebue. And when she moved here, it took a couple years. She was the center of the swarm,” VanRavenscroft said.
And if Anchorage made it difficult for her grandfather Ben to teach some traditional hunting and fishing skills, he had other offerings.
“We hear lots of stories about our family, his parents, my cousins, when they were babies and how they were as babies. Yeah, he’s still a story teller,” VanRavenscroft said.
Her grandmother succumbed to her illness in 2000. Andrea’s grandfather still lives nearby, but he’s 86 and the family’s Anchorage center has passed to a younger generation of elders, her parents, Ted and Linda Davidovics. Linda is Norma and Ben’s daughter.
“Whenever we all went to their place, they really spoiled us….The home was always open. We were really spoiled. And now we have to do that. It’s our turn,” Davidovics said.
Andrea’s two children, one pre-school and the other a Bartlett High freshman are present. The little one is playing. The older listens to her mother and grandmother.
“Anybody can stop by any time they want to. If they’re hungry, they can come over and eat. If they just want to sit back and relax, they can come over. They’re always welcome in our home,” Davidovics said.
Linda Davidovics then asks if everyone has had enough to eat; after all, we have plenty more.
Our series on culture in Alaska is funded by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is announcing a major redevelopment of Ship Creek. The public will have several opportunities to weigh in on what it should look like this week.
When Mayor Dan Sullivan first came into office in 2009, he set his sights on the development of Ship Creek.
“When I first came into office one of my top priorities for economic development was to take another look at Ship Creek, which is basically an undeveloped area along the Pacific Ocean,” Sullivan said. “And in very few cities in America do you find that kind of potential for a city that’s a hundred years old.”
Ship Creek is a waterfront area just north of Downtown, near port and the railroad. The creek itself is a site of combat fishing in summer. The Municipality recently received a $4 million legislative grant for Ship Creek improvements. The Sullivan administration used about $600,000 of the money to develop a new master plan. The last master plan was done more than 20 years ago, in 1991. The architecture firm of KlingStubbons has been selected to create the master plan. Michael Stevenson is with the firm. He says they haven’t started designing yet, and they are in Anchorage this week to hear from the public.
“We could see a very dynamic, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environment in Ship Creek. The specific uses – we’ll be doing market studies to give us guidance us about what makes the most sense to go there. And tourism is a big part of Alaska, a big part of Anchorage. We’d like to see how that area could help make Anchorage more of a tourist destination and point of arrival, even more so than it presently is,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson says, ship creek could become a transit hub as well as provide a place for a downtown lunch break. His firm also envisions an iconic, signature element in the redesign, akin to what the Space needle signifies for Seattle or the Opera Centre in Sydney, Australia.
The community will have three opportunities this week to weigh in on the master plan.
After years of fighting for it, Gov. Sean Parnell has gotten his major legislative priority through: a reduction of the state’s oil tax rate.
Just hours before the legislature was scheduled to gavel out on Sunday, the Senate took a final vote on a bill that essentially scraps the current tax regime, known as ACES. They voted 12 to 8 to accept a version that the House passed early that morning. It was the bill’s final political hurdle.
“It’s a step forward in doing what’s right for our kids and the next generation,” said Sen. Anna Fairclough, an Eagle River Republican who carried the bill. She argued that the tax cut would encourage more investment and more oil production in the state.
While the majority voted for concurrence, Fairclough was one of just two senate who spoke in favor of the oil tax change on Sunday. The votes had already been counted, so the floor session gave those against the bill a chance to offer their swan songs for the present tax structure.
“I’m very concerned that this bill will bankrupt the state,” said Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat. “I know in my heart this will lead to an income tax. I know in my heart this will lead to the loss of our permanent fund dividend, okay? I know for a fact that’s beyond contention that this will lead to greater profits for the oil industry.”
A number of the opponents used fiscal responsibility as a reason for fighting the bill. The bill creates a tax ceiling of 35 percent, which is offset by a per barrel credit that shrinks as the price of oil goes up. At forecasted prices and rates of production, the Department of Revenue expects the bill to lower taxes by at least $3.5 billion over the next five years.
Some legislators suggested that the price tag would be even greater. Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat, cited the numbers from the state’s Legislative Finance Division showing that the state will need to borrow $1.6 billion from savings this year with the tax change. Sen. Bert Stedman, a Sitka Republican, pointed to an analysis determining that the state would have lost $2 billion if the new tax rules were applied to last year’s production.
Bill opponents also rebutted arguments that oil production would go up if Alaska competed with states with lower tax rates, like North Dakota and Texas. They said that Alaska’s production decline began well before ACES was implemented. They held that it was technology, not taxes, that was causing the boom in shale-rich states. And they characterized anecdotes that oil industry workers were leaving Alaska as misleading.
Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski noted that the number of energy industry jobs was at an all-time high, according to the Department of Labor.
“Companies are not fleeing Alaska. Jobs are not fleeing Alaska. Investment’s not fleeing Alaska,” said Wielechowski. “Those facts are provably wrong.”
In response, Fairclough described those figures as inflated. She argued that Alaska has a distorted view of the North Slope economy because companies can earn tax credits through capital expenditures. Those credits let them buy down the tax rate by putting more money into Alaskan oil fields. The bill that passed on Sunday removes them.
“The industry has figured out that the best thing they can do with their money is spend money, and it’ll reduce the tax rates that they pay on the North Slope,” said Fairclough. “ACES is broken.”
The bill ultimately passed with the support of eleven Republicans and Democrat Donny Olson, of Golovin. Coastal Republicans Bert Stedman and Gary Stevens joined a contingent of Democrats in voting no.
The oil tax overhaul is a major coup for Gov. Sean Parnell, who sponsored the bill and intends to sign it into law. Parnell has pushed for lower taxes throughout his administration, but was blocked by a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. That coalition fell apart last year, after a number of members lost their seats in the wake of redistricting. In a statement, Parnell described the legislation as “fair to Alaskans.”
“[I]t encourages new production, it is simple and restores balance to the system, and the tax structure is competitive and durable. Alaska’s oil comeback starts now.”
The new law goes into effect in 2014. A referendum is already in the works.
With less than 24 hours of the legislative session to go, the House approved an overhaul of the state’s oil tax system, bringing down taxes on producers by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The vote came in the early morning, after a lengthy debate where supporters argued that the change was need to spur production and critics maintained that the change would wreak havoc on the state’s treasury.
The bill sets a tax ceiling of 35 percent on oil production, which is offset by a growing per barrel tax credit of up to $8 when oil prices are low. That credit disappears at prices of $150 per barrel or more. The bill also gets rid of a credit for capital expenditures, while putting in place incentives for new oil production. Most dramatically, the legislation scraps a mechanism known as “progressivity,” which increases the tax rate when oil profits are high. According to state projections, the changes would result in revenue loss of at least a $3.5 billion over the next five years.
Anchorage Republican Mia Costello supported the bill, and she argued that getting rid of the windfall profits tax would encourage companies to drill for more oil.
“Progressivity is our enemy,” said Costello. “Progressivity is what is robbing our future of the ability to pay for schools, and roads, and troopers.”
But Democrats refuted that, crediting progressivity with bringing record revenues to the state and padding the government’s savings accounts. Rep. Les Gara, of Anchorage, also expressed concern that lowering taxes wouldn’t stem off a long-running production decline, especially without any sort of guarantee from oil companies.
“Just doing something isn’t smart when the thing that you’re about to do is something that’s not likely to work,” said Gara.
The House passed the bill 27 to 12, with Bush Democrats who caucus with the majority joining the minority Democrats to oppose the bill. Three coastal Republicans initially voted against the oil tax bill, but changed their vote on reconsideration. They were Alan Austerman of Kodiak, Cathy Muñoz of Juneau, and Paul Seaton of Homer.
Gov. Sean Parnell issued an approving statement after the vote, saying that the bill “offers a future of opportunity and economic growth for all Alaskans.” Lowering taxes on oil companies has been a major priority for Parnell, but he had previously been stymied by a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. That coalition fell apart last year, after a number of members lost their seats in the wake of redistricting.
The bill is being returned to the Senate for concurrence. They narrowly passed a different version of the bill last month.
This weekend, the Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s office released updated numbers for the April 2nd Municipal Election, including for the close race in West Anchorage’s District 3. By Saturday evening, Ernie Hall had widened the gap between he and the write-ins, leading by more than 300 votes.
Two things happened over the weekend: question and absentee ballots were run through an AccuVote machine and added to election night totals. That’s where the new numbers came from.
“Friday and running into today we completed the scanning of question and absentee ballots and those are the results that are reflected in the election summary report. They include the question and absentee ballots — absentee in-person, absentee by-mail, absentee by fax along with question ballots that were cast at the precincts on election day,” Anchorage Deputy Clerk of Elections Amanda Moser explained.
In addition, the Clerk’s office conducted a hand-count of West Anchorage’s District 3, where Hall led Moe by just 93 votes on election night.
“Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones: Write in Nick Moe, oval is not marked, no count. Patrick Munson with Moe campaign: Challege (fade under) Jones: Next ballot, it’s write-in Mike Moe, oval colored in, no count, Munson: challenge.”
That’s Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones reading through ballots during the hand count and Moe’s Attorney Patrick Munson challenging her decision to throw the vote out. Due the votes scanned through the machine, Ernie Hall now has 4,296 and there are 3,878 write-in votes. Hall now has a 318 vote lead. Exactly how many of those write-in votes belong to write-in candidate Moe won’t be known until the clerk’s office releases the results of the hand count, what you heard earlier, sometime early this week. During the hand count, election workers divided the ballots into several categories. The category that the Moe campaign in most interested in is this one.
“There was instances were a write-in candidate was written and no oval marked and those came out as challenges within the review today. And so none of this information shows up in the election summary report,” Moser said..
In other words they weren’t counted. The situation harkens back to the Lisa Murkowski’s write in campaign. In 2010, an Alaska Supreme Court decision said that voters had to mark the oval in some fashion in order for a vote to count. Besides the oval not being filled in there were misspellings of Moe’s name, among other anomalies that Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler advised the clerk’s office would not be accepted. How many challenged ballots there are could determine whether the Moe campaign decides to pursue a legal challenge. Regardless of how things turn out, Moe says he’s proud of what his campaign has accomplished in such a short period of time.
“I still think this campaign made history — one of the most successful write-in campaigns in our city’s election history. You know, I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Moe said.
Moe jumped into the race just two weeks before the election. He says he was motivated to run by Assembly Chair Ernie Hall’s handling of a rewrite of Anchorage labor law and the Assembly’s decision to end public testimony on the issue before everyone had a chance to speak. But, regardless of the final outcome of the race, Moe says he hopes Anchorage leaders are listening to the message the public sent them on April 2.
“The public deserves to be listened to. And whether it’s in the Assembly Chambers or at the Ballot Box and everybody’s voice should be heard and every vote should be counted,” Moe said.
Moe says his campaign is doing an analysis of the challenged ballots and will soon decide what their next steps may be. Results from the hand count conducted Saturday are set to be released by the clerk’s office early this week. the Election results could be certified at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. Ernie Hall was contacted for this story, but did not return phone calls by deadline.