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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: 8 min 51 sec ago

Sullivan Leads Begich by 8,000 votes

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:59

Sullivan at Election Central. Photo by Ashley Snyder / APRN.

Alaska appears to have followed the national trend and elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate. But Democratic Sen. Mark Begich isn’t conceding and it’s likely the race won’t be decided until next week.

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Republican Dan Sullivan was ahead by almost 4 percentage points at the end of election night. He thanked his volunteers and told them he wasn’t making a victory speech.

“Door Knocking! Phone Calls! You guys made it happen!” Sullivan said, to loud cheers.

Begich went home before midnight, saying he’s hopeful his massive outreach in rural Alaska will pay off. Jim Lottsfeldt ran a $10 million superPAC supporting Begich. He maintains the uncounted early and absentee votes will break their way.

“Oh it’s not over,” Lottsfeldt said, echoing the senator’s words to supporters from a few minutes before. “Begich has never had a result that was good for him on election night. It always goes down to the wire. I think in about 10 days when all the votes are counted, we’ll see. “

All precincts had reported by early this morning. More than 22,000 ballots remain uncounted, and more are arriving in the mail. But with Sullivan  ahead by more than 8,000 votes,  the uncounted ballots would have to favor Begich by a huge margin if he’s to stay in office.

In a written statement before all the precincts reported, the Begich campaign said the Democrat would make a statement about the race after all the villages had reported “and when the number of outstanding absentee and questioned ballots is clear.”

Categories: Alaska News

Knowns and Unknowns Among Uncounted Ballots

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:58

Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections

With a few candidates up and down the ticket unsure whether they won or lost, a lot of Alaskans are looking to the thousands of ballots that remain uncounted.

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Division of Elections chief Gail Fenumiai says it’s too early to say exactly how many ballots are outstanding.

“Right now we have, in the offices within the state, 23,608 absentee and early votes that are eligible to be counted,” said at mid-day today.

They are from voters who live throughout the state, not in any particular district.

“The majority of them are from non-rural areas of the state, meaning Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Mat-Su area,” she said.

Those are, if you will, the known unknowns. But there are thousands of other kinds of ballots to be added to the total. It’s not clear how many are in these other categories.

For starters, Fenumiai is expecting thousands of questioned ballots. Four years ago there

Voting equipment awaits storage at Division of Elections Anchorage office.

were 13,000, so that’s her ballpark figure. Also, almost 14,000 absentee ballots were sent to voters but not yet returned. Some of those are still arriving by mail. Plus, this year Alaska had more than 200 absentee in-person voting locations across the state.

“And those ballots, we still have some of those who will still be coming back in that were probably voted within the last five to six days,” she said.

She won’t have a count of those until they actually arrive, but she says those are likely number in the thousands, too.

The next count will take place Nov. 11, and again on the 14th through the 19, as needed.  Once the elections are certified, toward the end of the month, anyone can ask for a recount, which is free only if the results are within 10 votes, or 0.5 percent.

Fenumiai says a few precincts had trouble getting the ballots into the voting machines this year, particularly early in the day.

“The ballots were just longer. The Accuvote units just were having trouble just sucking them through, you know the roller heads on them to feed them through,” she said. “The ones that couldn’t go through went into the emergency compartment and then were fed through the unit at the end of the night before they submitted their results.”

Any that didn’t get into the machines Tuesday night are sent to Juneau so that the state review board can consider them, she said.

Despite all the money and advertising in this election, Fenumiai says turnout appears to be lower than in the three previous mid-terms. It was 44 percent by election night, but that number will rise as more ballots come in.


Categories: Alaska News

Alaskan Voters Opt To Legalize Marijuana

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:57

Voters approved ballot measure two last night. The measure makes legal the production, sale and use of marijuana for Alaskans over 21 years old. Washington DC and Oregon approved similar measures.

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Today, supporters laid out the plan for how the initiative will move forward. 90 days after the vote results are certified, the initiative becomes law and marijuana use will no longer be a crime. A nine month rule making process follows.

Campaign spokesman Taylor Bickford says this nine-month process will enable Alaskans on both sides of the legalization campaign an opportunity to weigh in on how the law should be implemented. Bickford says that will help Alaska avoid making mistakes that other states, like Washington, may have made when they wrote rules on the front end of their legalization push.

“We’ll have more flexibility in coming in to those decisions. Which I think ultimately is good because we’ll have the ability to learn from what’s happening in those states over the course of the next year as opposed to if we had all of that written in at the beginning of the initiative, there would have been less flexibility, you would have been stuck with some of those decisions,” Bickford said. ”It also gives Alaskans from various stakeholder groups, the opportunity to engage in the process and to have a role in the process and I think that’s going to be incredibly important.”

Bruce Schulte with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation said CRCL is a group of Alaskan business leaders from across Alaska who see the new law as the start of a legitimate industry.

“Just as the name would imply, the goal really is to work with the legislature and their control board and all of the other various groups on the rule making process, so at the end of the rule making period, we’ve got a set of rules that make sense, that address all the concerns that folks have and allow a legitimate marijuana industry to thrive in the state,” Schulte said.

Bickford says if the state does not set it’s own regulations within the nine-month window, regulatory authority would then be transferred to municipalities to implement the measure as they see fit.

Categories: Alaska News

Faced With Min. Wage Hike, Seafood Plants See Room to Cut

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:56

Alaska’s minimum wage initiative flew mostly under the radar this fall, overshadowed by high-profile Congressional races. But ballot measure three proposes a big change to state’s minimum wage structure — increasing it by two dollars over the next two years, to $9.75 an hour. After that, it would be adjusted for inflation.

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In Unalaska, at least 83 percent of voters supported that plan. The seafood industry — which is the biggest source of minimum wage jobs in Unalaska — didn’t expect anything less.

Pollock processors at UniSea’s G2 plant in Unalaska. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

Leading up to the election, they were already considering ways to scale back their workforce.

“We’ll have people who, as they retire out of the industry, we just won’t replace them,” says Alyeska Seafoods plant manager Don Goodfellow. “Machinery will take over a lot of those jobs.”

Eventually, Goodfellow thinks up to 30 percent of Unalaska’s processing workers could be automated. He says the seafood business is well overdue to make that kind of change.

“I think we’ve already started and it’s not as a response to that bill, specifically,” he says. “It’s the need to be more efficient about how we do things.”

At UniSea, the potential wage hike makes that need more urgent. Chris Plaisance is a human resources director for the company. If they had to implement the pay increases laid out in Tuesday’s ballot initiative, it could cost up to $3.5 million.

“Our margins are so thin that we need to make improvements or we’re gonna have a problem,” Plaisance says.

UniSea would need to trim its workforce. Instead of layoffs, Plaisance says they would leave entry-level jobs empty at the end of each season. That leaves room to keep employees who’ve been with the company the longest.

Levell Curtis Standifer, Jr. has been working for the company almost year-round since 2010. He’s originally from Washington State.

“Down in the Lower 48, the economy is real bad,” he says. “And I thank God for the state of Alaska, and how they create fishing jobs.”

Standifer and many of his coworkers start out earning minimum wage. But they have ample opportunities to work overtime. Plus they receive free room, board, and transportation from UniSea.

Still, Standifer thinks his employer can afford to pay a little more.

“The fishing companies, they’re doing quite well off our labor,” he says. “That’s the bottom line.”

Judging by preliminary tally, he wasn’t the only one that felt that way. And he certainly wasn’t the only UniSea employee at the polls. Once an hour, the processing plant trucked in employees to cast their votes — and possibly, set their pay.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 5, 2014

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:55

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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Gubernatorial Race Still Too Close To Call

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN

The gubernatorial race is still too close to call. Republican incumbent Sean Parnell is trailing by three thousand votes.

Sullivan Maintains Lead Over Begich In Race For U.S. Senate

Liz Ruskin, APRN

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich isn’t conceding and it’s likely the race won’t

be decided until next week. More than 22,000 ballots remain uncounted, and more are arriving in the mail. But with Sullivan ahead by more than 8,000 votes, the uncounted ballots would have to favor Begich by a huge margin if he’s to stay in office.

Certain Races Awaiting Absentee Ballots

Liz Ruskin, APRN

With a few candidates up and down the ballot unsure whether they won or lost, a lot of Alaskans are looking to the thousands of ballots that remain uncounted.

State Sen. Kevin Meyer Named New Majority President

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN

The Republican Senate Majority has named a new president. Sen. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage will be taking the reins from Wasilla’s Charlie Huggins. Huggins will take the position of rules chair.

Alaskan Voters Opt To Legalize Marijuana

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Voters approved ballot measure two last night. The measure makes legal the production, sale and use of marijuana for Alaskans over 21 years old. Washington DC and Oregon approved similar measures.

Faced With Min. Wage Hike, Seafood Plants See Room to Cut

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

A plan to raise Alaska’s minimum wage saw widespread support during Tuesday’s election. In Unalaska, at least 83 percent of voters approved the measure. And the seafood industry – which is the town’s biggest source of minimum wage jobs — wasn’t expect anything different. They’re factoring in the wage hike as they look cut costs.

Anchorage Voters Overturn AO-37, Support Most Incumbents

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Anchorage voters repealed AO-37, the controversial labor law, during Tuesday’s election. They returned many incumbents and also sent some new Republicans to the state legislature as well.

House 36 Race Remains Too Close To Call

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The House District 36 race remains too close to call after Tuesday’s general election. With all 10 precincts reporting to the Alaska Division of Elections, Dan Ortiz, who is not affiliated with any party, has a 19-vote lead. He holds 50.03 percent of the vote, compared to 49.66 percent for Republican Chere Klein.

NTSB: Pilot Decisions Caused Alaska Copter Crash

The Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board says a fatal Alaska State Troopers helicopter crash was caused by the pilot’s decision to fly into bad weather and the agency’s inadequate safety management.

Massive Typhoon Bears Down on Aleutian Islands

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

An Alaska-sized storm could bring high winds and destructive waves to the Aleutian Islands this weekend.

Hunter Injured In Bear Mauling On Sally Island

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

A 65-year-old deer hunter was injured and needed a medevac after he was attacked by a sow bear on an island near Kodiak yesterday afternoon. Sitka resident Michael Snowden suffered injuries to his legs. His hunting partner, Jeff Ostrin age 38, of Camas, Washington, was not injured.

Fairbanks Ski Area Still Seeking Buyer

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The alpine ski area, Skiland, north of Fairbanks, made news last month when a mineral exploration project threatened to take over some of its trails.  That’s been ironed out, but Skiland is still looking for a buyer.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Voters Repeal AO-37, Return Many Incumbents

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:55

No on 1 supporters were abundant at Election Central on Tuesday night. Photo by Ashley Snyder / APRN.

Anchorage voters repealed AO-37, the controversial labor law, during Tuesday’s election. They returned many incumbents and also sent some new Republicans to the state legislature as well.

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Anchorage’s election sported its own special ballot measure on Tuesday – should the municipality keep AO-37, the controversial labor law created by Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration in 2013. After heavy campaigning by city labor unions against the ordinance, the community voted to repeal it. The vote no campaign won by nearly 7,000 votes, or 54 to 46 percent.

Jillanne Inglis is vice president of the Municipal Employees Association and a spokesperson for the No on One campaign. She says the repeal will help employee morale and recruitment.

Gabrielle LeDoux. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage_

“When you have an ordinance like this and a cloud over the city like that and people are looking for employment, they look at what’s going on at the city at the time,” Inglis said. “So they may have been looking elsewhere for employment.”

Anchorage voters reelected all House incumbents who were up for re-election. The tightest of those races was between Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rt. Colonel Laurie Hummel. LeDoux led at the end of the night with fewer than 200 votes.

Two House races in west Anchorage had no incumbents. Republicans retained their hold on Mia Costello’s former seat in House District 22 in Sand Lake. Republican Liz Vazquez beat Democrat Marty McGee by nearly 1,000 votes. She says she took a localized approach to get her name out there.

Laurie Hummel. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“Concentrate on my people, concentrate on my district, put up those signs so there will be lots of name recognition,” Vazquez said. “But with that, I would knock on people’s doors and they would say, ‘Oh, Liz,’ you know it’s like they kind of recognize my name.”

The race for House District 21 is still too close to call. Republican Anand Dubey led for most of the evening, but when all of the precincts reported, Democrat Matt Claman was ahead by 35 votes. Absentee, question, and early voting ballots could change the outcome.

Republicans dominated the contested state Senate seats in the city. Republican incumbent Kevin Meyer overwhelmingly beat political newcomer Felix Rivera for Senate seat M.

Senate K in West Anchorage was expected to be a tight race between Republican and former-representative Mia Costello and Democrat Clare Ross. But by the end of the night, Costello led 57 to 43 percent. Don McKenzie lives in the district and said it was a tough choice between two strong candidates.

Mia Costello (R) – Senate District K. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“But, I know Clare, and she’s done a great job too. I think she would make an excellent representative at some spot,” McKenzie said. “It’s just that she had a tough race running against the incumbent, and I think she showed well.”

Education was a key issue in Costello’s campaign and she says she’ll focus on many ways to improve the state’s education system while in the Senate.

“I also think that looking at the Department of Education to find out how they can serve teachers better,” Costello said. I would like to survey teachers and ask them what they want, or even students and ask students, ‘What kind of a school do you want to be in? What are the things that you are motivated by?’”

Cathy Giessel is a candidate for Senate District N. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Two experienced politicians vied for Senate District N. Democrat and former representative Harry Crawford lost to incumbent Senator Cathy Giessel by 10 percent of the vote. Crawford says he’s disappointed, but it doesn’t mean he’s out of politics.

“I like to watch politics and call people on it when they’re not doing the right thing,” Crawford said. “So, I will be watching and, like I said, holding Cathy Giessel accountable for her votes.”

Giessel says she’ll continue to work for her community, and…

“I think I’m like all the rest of the citizens in this state – they’re glad it’s over,” Giessel said. “Enough already!”

Final results for all of the races won’t be released until all of the more than 22,000 question, early, and absentee ballots are counted.

Categories: Alaska News

House 36 Race Remains Too Close To Call

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:54

The House District 36 race remains too close to call after Tuesday’s general election.

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With all 10 precincts reporting to the Alaska Division of Elections, Dan Ortiz, who is not affiliated with any party, has a 19-vote lead. He holds 50.03 percent of the vote, compared to 49.66 percent for Republican Chere Klein.

Ortiz had been trailing by a narrow margin throughout the race, but the final precinct’s numbers pushed him into that slim lead. He now has 2,608 votes compared to Klein’s 2,589.

The race will be decided by absentee, questioned and early ballots, which could take a week or more.

The state Division of Elections expects to certify Tuesday’s election results by Nov. 28th.

Neither House District 36 candidate has held elected office before, although Klein has worked as an aide for retiring Rep. Peggy Wilson of Wrangell. Ortiz is a longtime teacher in Ketchikan, and says the race was challenging. Part of that challenge was running without a political party behind him.

“Without the organized party behind you, it was more problematic because so much more had to come from my team and my volunteers, so that was probably – I didn’t realize how much of a challenge it would be to run as an independent,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz says he and his campaign team were very excited about the last numbers that came in late Tuesday night.

“However, it’s still too close to call, so we’ll just have to wait until all those numbers have officially come in,” Ortiz said. “Thanks to everyone in District 36 who voted.”

Klein agrees that the race is definitely too close to call, but says she’ll be happy with whatever the voters have decided.

Klein says the campaign wasn’t more challenging than she expected it to be. She has been involved in campaigns previously, even though this is her first bid for office.

“It had a few wrinkles here and there, certainly a little different than a straight-Democrat, straight-Republican ticket, but a lot of fun, actually. Very enjoyable,” Klein said.

Klein says that for her, the campaign reinforced the need to connect with voters on a personal basis.

“Just how important it is to go door to door and make sure you’re talking to people and understand people’s views, and willingness to listen to other views,” Klein said.

Both candidates thanked each other for a well-run race. And we’ll all wait to see what happens with absentee, questioned and early ballots.

House District 36 covers the southern tip of Alaska’s Southeast region. It includes Ketchikan, Saxman, Wrangell, Metlakatla, Hydaburg, Hyder, Loring and Myers Chuck.

Categories: Alaska News

NTSB: Pilot Decisions Caused Alaska Copter Crash

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:53

The National Transportation Safety Board says a fatal Alaska State Troopers helicopter crash was caused by the pilot’s decision to fly into bad weather and the agency’s inadequate safety management.

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The trooper pilot, a state trooper and an injured snowmobiler they had picked up died in last year’s crash near Talkeetna.

Among the conclusions the NTSB determined Wednesday is that contributing to the crash was the pilot’s motivation to complete the search-and-rescue mission, which increased the risk and affected his decisions.

The board also says the Alaska Department of Public Safety had a “punitive culture” because its internal investigation of a previous accident involving the pilot focused too narrowly on the pilot instead of addressing underlying safety deficiencies.

A department statement says it has since examined its aviation practices.

Categories: Alaska News

Hunter Injured In Bear Mauling On Sally Island

Wed, 2014-11-05 16:52

A 65-year-old deer hunter was injured and needed a medevac after he was attacked by a sow bear on Sally Island Tuesday afternoon.

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Sixty-eight-year-old Sitka resident Michael Snowden suffered injuries to his legs. His hunting partner, Jeff Ostrin, age 38, of Camas, Washington, was not injured.

Initial reports indicated it may have been a group, or a “sloth,” of bears, but according to Kodiak Fish and Game biologist Nate Svoboda it was a sow bear with two older cubs involved in the attack.

“They were carrying the deer out, actually dragging the deer out down to the beach to be picked up,” Svoboda said. “And the stopped to take a quick break for lunch and at that point they heard a bear rustling in the brush. They reached over, grabbed their rifles and moments later a bear charged through the brush and jumped on the survivor and continued to thrash around with him. The witness, obviously startled, backed up a few feet, took aim at the bear and waited until he had a clear shot.”

At that point one of the cubs came out of the brush and was also shot by Ostrin. The second cub was uninjured and is expected to survive the loss of its mother.

Larry Van Daele, the regional Fish and Game supervisor and noted bear expert, said the bears smelled the dead deer from afar and came looking for a meal.

“The bears winded the deer from several hundred yards away. The skipper of the boat actually watched that from a distance,” Van Daele said. “And, like I say, these guys were in a real brushy area. They’re dragging a deer right behind them, a when the bears winded the deer, they started coming, in that direction, following that scent.”

The initial report said the attack was by five bears, which Van Daele says is highly unusual for the normally solitary animals.

“Yeah, that’d pretty much have to be a sow with four cubs – big cubs – which we’ve only seen once or twice in my career to keep that many cubs that long,” Van Daele said.

The men had 30-06 rifles on their deer hunt, which Van Daele says is a suitable caliber for bear protection. He added that they did a lot of things right to avoid tragedy.

“They were hunting as partners; that’s something we always recommend. Because they were hunting as partners, this turned into a mauling instead of someone being killed probably – either from the bears attacking him or loss of blood. So they did the right things there,” Van Daele said.  “There’s always arm-chair quarterbacking; we would prefer people not drag deer out of the field, that they put it in pack and carry it out as soon as possible. And we also prefer people to tend to stay in open areas. Which, of course, isn’t always possible in Kodiak.”

Van Daele said Ostrin is a hero in the situation, having tended to his hunting partner’s wounds, killing the bears and getting help.

Sally Island is about 30 miles east of Kodiak City in Uganik Bay.

Categories: Alaska News

Bill Walker Holds Narrow Lead Over Sean Parnell In Gubernatorial Race

Tue, 2014-11-04 21:12

With just 101 precincts reporting in so far, gubernatorial challenger Bill Walker holds a narrow lead over Governor Sean Parnell.

Categories: Alaska News

Early Results Show Sullivan Leading Begich, Young Ahead of Dunbar

Tue, 2014-11-04 21:08

With 101 precincts reporting in, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan is leading Democratic incumbent Mark Begich by about 5 percent.

Incumbent Republican Don Young is leading Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar, 52 percent to 39 percent, with 101 precincts reporting in.

Categories: Alaska News

New federal regulations to favor subsistence users, rural residents

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:48

The Federal Subsistence Board’s rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last month.

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The changes should mean a more favorable process for villages and other rural communities that rely on hunting and fishing. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor told AFN attendees that the new regulations will come soon.

“We’re moving out, beginning the discussions,” Connor said. “We’ve got to consult with the state, overall this is strongly supported throughout the leadership at the department of the Interior.”

Title VIII in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA, mandates a subsistence preference for rural residents on public lands. Every ten years the Federal Subsistence Board determines whether a community meets certain guidelines to qualify for ANILCA’s subsistence preference. That rural determination process has been harshly criticized in recent years.

In 2007, several communities were told that they were no longer considered to be rural, including the Southeast community of Saxman. The board reasoned that the community’s proximity to non-rural Ketchikan put it in the same category. While the community is incorporated as a municipality, a majority of the population is Alaska Native and are members of the Organized Village of Saxman.

The tribe has fought against the board’s attempt to take away their rural status arguing that they have a history of traditional subsistence gathering in the area. The determination was put on hold in 2009 by then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar pending a comprehensive review of federal subsistence policies. That hold was scheduled to expire this past July, which meant that the Organized Village of Saxman’s opportunity to litigate would also expire.

In April, the Federal Subsistence Board voted unanimously to submit new regulations in the rural determination process. The board does not have authority to implement new regulations, but it can propose them to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. While Connor did not give details of the proposal, he did say that the board will defer more to communities and tribes in its decision-making process.

“Once implemented the new determination process will enable the board to use more flexible criteria that could lead to the kind of determinations sought by AFN and others in cases such as Saxman in Southeast Alaska,” Connor said.

Native American Rights Fund attorney Matthew Newman represents the Saxman tribe. He says the proposed rules give residents hope, but that the outcome is still in question. While the tribe favors an administrative fix, Newman says the lawsuit won’t be dropped until they’ve had a chance to review the new rules and are satisfied with them.

“I think everyone is relieved and optimistic that the rule is going to move forward,” Newman says. “This rule moving forward is not just a good thing for Saxman, it’s a good thing for all rural communities subject to ANILCA’s priority. This rural determination process has really been a bane for many communities and this idea that every 10 years your way of life is potentially subject to change causes a very, very uneasy feeling among rural residents in Alaska.”

Deputy Secretary Connor also announced changes in the board’s makeup. Two additional public members were added, Anthony Christianson of Hydaburg and Charles Brower of Barrow. Former AFN co-chair Tim Towarak from Unalakleet was named chair of the board. Towarak has served as a president of the Bering Straits Native Corp. and as rural affairs advisor to Gov. Tony Knowles.

Connor said the Department of the Interior is working on a new process that would make it easier for communities and subsistence users to participate in the board’s decision-making process.

Categories: Alaska News

Domestic Violence Survivor Sheds Light On Difficult Road Toward Recovery

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:47

Less than a year ago, Catherine Walczak was mentally and physically abused by someone she loved and trusted. She is slowly getting her life back on track. The 23-year-old wants to tell her story to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and hope to those who experience it.

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I knew Catherine Walczak as an acquaintance. We had a few classes together in college at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She seemed confident, friendly, and looked as if her life were on top of the world. But underneath she was hiding an abusive relationship.

Catherine says when she first started dating her boyfriend Dimitrios, he seemed like a decent guy and the two were very much in love. Two months later she got pregnant and they decided to move in together. Almost immediately, things changed:

“He’s been abusive towards me, he’s broken sh*t, he’s spilled hot coffee on me. We lived on the third floor of an apartment so he threw all of m stuff out the window and then into the dumpster,” Catherine said. “That went on for months when we were together and living together. But I was so in love with him and he said he was so in love with me and wanted to marry me that I stuck around.”

Catherine stayed with Dimitrios through her pregnancy. In October, their son was born. She thought Dimitrios seemed unhappy as a new dad. He was constantly disappearing for days at a time to hang out with his friends. But he told her he loved their son and that he wanted to be a good father. He watched the baby while she was at work.

One night when she was at home feeding her baby, Dimitrios took him from her arms and went into another room.

“My son screamed on the top of his lungs. He was holding him. A fountain of blood was coming out of his mouth. I asked him, ‘What the f*ck did you do?’ And he’s like, ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything!’” Catherine said. “I went to the emergency room and… the doctor told me that all of his ribs have been broken, his clavicles, his left leg, left arm, he was bleeding internally because he was punched in the mouth a couple of times, his neck is broken. So pretty much my son… his whole body is broken.”

Doctors told her the trauma was not all a result of what had just happened. It was the accumulation of weeks or even months of abuse. She had sometimes noticed slight bruising in the past but because babied bruise easily, she didn’t worry about it. Catherine was devastated.

“He was abusing my infant son on a regular basis when I was at work,” Catherine said. “When I figured it out… ohhh I was out.”

Catherine told police and Dimitrios was arrested and charged with three felonies. She left her apartment and moved back in with her parents. Her son stayed in the hospital for several weeks. He went back home but his health problems persisted to the point that she couldn’t care for him herself.

“I have full custody of Christopher, but my son is living in Anchorage with special parents,” Catherine said. “They’re worried that later on in life he’s going to have a lot of disabilities. He took out all of his aggression on an infant. I don’t know what kind of normal human being would do that.”

Domestic Violence in Alaska is a serious issue. In 2011 a UAA victimization survey found that in Anchorage alone, 60 percent of women have experienced domestic violence. But there are organizations like Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, or AWAIC, to help victims get out of abusive situations. Deputy Director Melissa Emmal explains rates of domestic violence are increasing for people like Catherine, aged 18 to 24.

“Our community needs to do a better job at targeting young people with information about what healthy relationships look like,” Melissa said.

Those who do get out and get help take months, or even years to recover. But Melissa is proud of what they can accomplish.

“I’ve been working with people who have experienced abuse for a little over 10 years and I’m always amazed by the resiliency and strength that I see in people who’ve been through trauma throughout their whole life and a big traumatic incident of violence to get out of a relationship,” Melissa said.

It has been over nine months since Catherine left her boyfriend. She says surrounding herself with friends and family has helped her recover.

“I had my head back on my shoulders. Honestly I don’t know. I am just a tough cookie. I am really strong. I have to be strong for my son because I’m the only thing that he has really,” Catherine said.

Her ex-boyfriend is in jail awaiting sentencing. Her son is still living with his professional family, continuing to recover from his injuries. Right now Catherine is in Nevada with her parents, but plans to move back to Alaska and be closer to her son until he can live with her again next year. Then she plans to move back to Nevada to start a new life for her and her son. Catherine is hopeful about the future but picking up the pieces hasn’t been easy.

Categories: Alaska News

Kalibo, Philippines Is Juneau’s New Sister City

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:46

Juneau gained its fifth sister city this weekend. Representatives from Kalibo in the Aklan Province of the Philippines signed documents Saturday afternoon to formalize the agreement. Juneau and Kalibo are both vibrant tourism centers and regional capital cities.

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About 3,000 Filipinos live in Juneau and roughly 800 of them are from Aklan. Vicky Roldan is one of them. She’s been in Juneau for 21 years and says family is the reason so many Kalibo residents move here.

“There’s a big number of them here because of intermarriages and all that and they keep bringing family over here.”

Kalibo Mayor William Lachica (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KTOO)

Alex Carrillo  was born and raised in Juneau and says the Filipino population has always been a tight-knit community.

“Just growing up in the Filipino Hall around even people who weren’t our relatives. We were so close back then because that’s all we had was one another. The Filipino Hall is a really big part of my life.”

He says Juneau’s bond with Kalibo is more than just a sign of good will toward the Philippines.

“Filipinos are a big part of Juneau, I think. And it just shows that the city of Juneau really appreciates us.”

While in Juneau, the Kalibo delegation did some sightseeing including visits to the Mendenhall Glacier and the Shrine of St. Therese. They also visited local businesses, like the Alaskan Brewing Co.

Many expressed hope that the sister city connection will encourage an exchange of goods, services and information. Dr. Makarius Dela Cruz is Kalibo’s municipal health officer. He says Aklan needs support to provide better health care to its residents.

“Your government could help my government to provide medicines, equipments and also promote nutrition in our town.”

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November and damaged buildings in Aklan. Juneau’s Filipino Community Inc., or FilCom, reached out to those affected across the Philippines. Larry Snyder is on the Juneau Sister Cities Committee.

“The FilCom had a fundraising event for relief money to assist Filipinos. And then the state of course donated two cargo planes full of Alaska sea products, salmon, canned salmon.”

Seafood is important to both Southeast Alaska and Aklan. Jenny Gomez Strickler is the Philippines’ honorary consul to Alaska. She wrote to Alaska Airlines to explore the possibility of a direct flight to Manila that could increase the amount of fish exported. She says there are products that people in the Philippines could use that would otherwise go to waste in the United States.

“In Alaska, our fishermen grind up the salmon heads and throw it back in the ocean. I joke that that would be a taboo to Filipinos. Filipinos love making fish-head soup. They call it sinigang.”

John Pugh is the chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast. He says there could be a trade in education.

“Having the sister city relationship will enable us to work towards maybe some educational exchanges through agreement with Aklan University – for students, for faculty exchanges – and we think that would be a real benefit.”

If the sister city relationship is successful, members of both communities hope it will also spark more tourism.

Categories: Alaska News

New Bethel Pool Closes Temporarily Due To Safety Issue

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:45

Bethel residents enjoy the new pool. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.

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Acting City Manager Pete Williams, says a State Fire Marshall inspected the building before the grand opening on Saturday and found a problem with the sprinkler system.

“They gave the blessing for the opening as long as the fire truck was hooked up to the building for the opening,” Williams said.
“Right now we have some test equipment that is not in town that’s en route and hopefully late tonight or early tomorrow morning they’ll do some more testing and hopefully solve the problem.”

Williams says the pool will remain closed until the problem with the sprinklers is fixed.

Original story:

New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes

The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.

Hundreds watched as Beverly Hoffman made the grand opening plunge down the new slide. With that splash, the new pool was officially open, and the early reviews are positive.

“It’s really fun,” said a group of Bethel youth.

The pool quickly reached its full capacity and dozens waited in line for their chance to swim. The 25-million dollar six-lane pool is part of a complex that has a hot tub, weight room, and an open exercise room. Bethel’s largest windmill provides about half of the electricity.

The pool has been a dream for three decades. Looking across the pool full of splashing kids, Hoffman, who’s been the persistent voice for years was emotional.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s just what we wanted for this community, a place where families and kids can learn how to swim and be comfortable and dive in water. It’s amazing,” said Hoffman.

The city presented Hoffman with a lifetime pool pass for her many years of work. Ella Kinegak cut the ribbon Saturday and reflected on the long process.

“I used to go into these hotels and they have swimming pools, I used to wonder, if they can do it, I bet if we try in Bethel, it wouldn’t be too hard to try it out,” said Kinegak.

It took three decades, and no one claims it was easy. A group of mothers, the Y-K Delta Lifesavers over the years have baked and sold 20-thousand pounds of cookies to raise funds. Bethel citizens twice voted for increased sales tax for the pool.

The future of the facility was never certain, as it faced opposition in some city councils and an uphill battle for grant money. Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman and Representative Bob Herron worked to secure a 23-million dollar state appropriation 2012. Hoffman says he made the case for the region’s safety.

“People live off the river, hunting, fishing, and we’ve had some of the highest drowning rates in the state and in the nation. I don’t think it’s a nicety, I think it’s a necessity to the people out here. It’s such a good feeling to finally be inside, this is my first day here, it’s totally amazing,” said Hoffman.

At the opening, the hundreds who were eager to swim listened to remarks from a long list of local and state leaders who described the community effort. The local Kuimarvik advisory board has advocated for the pool, while the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s diabetes program and Rasmussen Foundation were major donors to outfit the center with equipment. The city hired an Atlanta based company, USA Pools, to manage it.

Bethel Mayor Rick Robb says the community and region have a great opportunity before them.

“I think this facility will improve the quality of life here, and our people can live better, our kids can grow up with healthy recreation and physical activities. We’ve got a first class pool, a first class gym, it’s really about improving our quality of life,” said Robb.

Categories: Alaska News

LGBTQ support group meets in Ketchikan

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:44

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are gaining more rights and acceptance throughout the country. Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska.

While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ non-profits or advocacy groups in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems. One such group is called “Transgendered Ketchikan.”

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Transgendered Ketchikan is an informal support group for queer people in Ketchikan. Six of them met at The Point Café on a recent afternoon.

Jacob Trumble, Holly Nore, Tyler Varner, “Izm,” and Austin Kalkins meet up in a casual support group for LGBTQ people in Ketchikan.

“I think there should be more safe places for people who are questioning their identity, just gender identity, sexuality, etcetera,” said Izm, who used to identify as transgender, but now doesn’t identify as any gender.

Izm is one of the people who started this support group about a year ago. Izm says there is a Gay-Straight Alliance at UAS Ketchikan, but they didn’t seem to be accepting of transgender people. And with the challenges queer people face in Ketchikan, a support system was needed.

“Like most traditional, old-fashioned towns, it’s kind of a hush-hush situation if you don’t follow the norm,” said Holly Nore, who identifies as pansexual, or attracted to people based on personality rather than gender.

Nore moved to Ketchikan from Wrangell, with the hope that it would be a more accepting environment. And it is, but there’s still occasional abuse.

“You know, when I was kissing my girlfriend, a man started talking about how we’re gonna burn in hell,” Nore said. “Things like that.”

For Tyler Varner, outright discrimination isn’t the biggest struggle. He’s gay, and says his family accepts him. But it’s taken him a while to accept himself.

“I feel like I have to put on this show so I can go out to dinner,” Varner said. “And I think I just want to strap on some damn fairy wings and go to the club and pump it up. I need to let go, it’s stressful.”

Austin Kalkins, who identifies as gender fluid, says the people in this group often have to explain themselves to others.

“There’s always people looking, people asking, people…all this stuff, inquiring just because you don’t fit into the norm type of deal,” Kalkins said.

The only transgender person at this meet-up is Scott Davis, or Sheen, who identifies as transfeminine. She has lived in Ketchikan for more than 30 years, but didn’t feel comfortable coming out until a couple years ago.

“[You] just get to a point in your life when you go, “It doesn’t really matter, and I’m gonna be happy.”” Davis said.

Davis says at this point, she feels about 75 percent comfortable with being “out” in Ketchikan.

“Because of occasional physical or verbal abuse,” she said. “This morning, at a local place downtown, one worker referred to me as a freak. It hurts a lot less than it used to.”

Davis says this group has given her the strength to ignore harassment like that. The group has helped other members in different ways.

“It took me a long time to accept that I didn’t see myself as being of any gender,” said Jacob Trumble.

Trumble was only able to accept it and come out after this group was formed.

“I probably wouldn’t have said anything for even longer had this group not been formed,” Trumble said.

The people here have found friends who accept and support them in Ketchikan. But there are still times when they feel like outsiders.

“We’re not a circus, we’re not an act for somebody to watch, we’re people,” said Holly Nore.

For now, there are only unofficial support systems in Ketchikan for LGBTQ people, like this group. But that might change in the coming months. Davis says she and others are working to form an official LGBTQ advocacy group with non-profit status.

“If you have an actual formed LGBTQ group in a community, I think businesses, public government is a lot less likely to violate somebody’s rights as a human being based on gender preference or appearance,” Davis said.

James Hoagland is a board member with the Juneau non-profit Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He says he doesn’t know of any other similar organizations in Southeast. Without those support systems, Hoagland says LGBTQ people may feel isolated.

“I think it would be really hard to connect to other people who have that shared identity,” Hoagland said. “I think people would feel alone.”

Back in Ketchikan, Davis says the non-profit she and more than 10 others are forming is private right now, because some of the members aren’t out. She hopes by next year, the group will be public and Ketchikan will be home to a more prominent organization that can advocate for people like those gathered here.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 4, 2014

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:30

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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Anchorage Voters Motivated by Different Causes

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaskans across the state are casting ballots today. There is a lot at stake. Voters are deciding two of Alaska’s three seats in Congress, along with the governor and state house and senate seats. There are also three statewide ballot measures- on marijuana legalization, the minimum wage and Bristol Bay.

A steady stream of voters filed into Airport Heights Elementary this morning to vote.

New federal regulations to favor subsistence users, rural residents

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The Federal Subsistence Board’s rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last month.

Fairbanks City Council Dumps Police Contract

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks City Council has unanimously voted down a labor contract with public safety employees. The council took the action at a regular meeting last night.

Domestic Violence Survivor Sheds Light On Difficult Road Toward Recovery

Ashley Snyder, APRN – Anchorage

Less than a year ago, Catherine Walczak was mentally and physically abused by someone she loved and trusted. She is slowly getting her life back on track. The 23-year-old wants to tell her story to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and hope to those who experience it.

Kalibo, Philippines Is Juneau’s New Sister City

Kayla Desroches, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau gained its fifth sister city this weekend. Representatives from Kalibo in the Aklan Province of the Philippines signed documents Saturday afternoon to formalize the agreement. Juneau and Kalibo are both vibrant tourism centers and regional capital cities.

New Bethel Pool Closes Temporarily Due To Safety Issue

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.

New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.

LGBTQ Support Group Meets In Ketchikan

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska. While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ organizations in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems.

Categories: Alaska News

Top Parnell Aide Outlines National Guard Response Timeline

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:26

In September, a federal report on misconduct in the Alaska National Guard was released. And since then, it’s been an open question as to why long-running allegations of cronyism, fraud and the mishandling of sexual assault reporting didn’t result in reform sooner. News outlets, including Alaska Public Media, have sued the Parnell administration for access to records that could provide insight into their response. APRN’s Lori Townsend spoke with capitol correspondent Alexandra Gutierrez about where things stand today.

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The Attorney General released over a thousand pages of e-mails concerning the Alaska National Guard this weekend. Was there anything illuminating in there?

For the most part, no. Hundreds of pages were totally redacted, and a good chunk wasn’t germane to the request at all. Some complaints about the National Guard’s leadership are included, and those are interesting. Some are signed, some are anonymous. Some are reasoned, some are totally vitriolic. And they came in waves and spurts from 2010 to present day.

What have we learned about how the Parnell administration responded to them?

The documents don’t give us a lot of specifics in this regard, especially because they’re so heavily redacted. But they do show the Office of the Governor discussing allegations on a regular basis and communicating frequently with whistleblowers.

A lot of the emails are to or from Mike Nizich, Gov. Parnell’s chief of staff. He rarely gives interviews, but I sat down with him for 45 minutes to talk about when the administration started hearing about trouble in the Guard, and what it did about it. He outlined the chronology of the administration’s response and supplied copies of some of the investigation reports that they tracked through the years.

The first contact with an investigating agency was October 2010, which was before any National Guard chaplains had made serious contact with the Office of the Governor. Nizich says he visited the Federal Bureau of Investigations, after two whistleblowers reached out to him with serious allegations about drug smuggling and gun running. He stressed that it’s pretty serious and unusual for the governor’s chief of staff to report a commissioner to the FBI. Obviously, that would have serious implications if the person were found to be in the wrong. But a few weeks later, he was told that there nothing to it.

In 2012, there was a National Guard Bureau inquiry into sexual assault response that was called by Sen. Mark Begich. That came up dry. That same year, another aide to Parnell, Nancy Dahlstrom, says she went to the FBI, too. Again, nothing. In 2013, the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency looked into a complaint that then-Adjutant General Thomas Katkus’ covered up sexual assaults, and they cleared him. There was also a review by the Secretary of the Army, another Army Inspector General review, and a Department of Defense inquiry called by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. None of them found any problems. Nizich said it was like chasing ghosts.

Did the fact that there were consistent complaints raise any questions about keeping Katkus in a position of leadership even if the investigations were coming up dry?

I asked that, because it seems like at minimum, the sheer volume and persistence of complaints would indicate that Katkus was a divisive figure and that there was a low level of morale at least among some members of the Guard. Nizich said the administration understood that Katkus was making some changes that not everybody necessarily liked, but that because Katkus kept on getting a clean bill of health, so to speak, they trusted him. He also stressed that feedback they received wasn’t exclusively negative, and that Katkus did have his fans in the Guard.

Did Nizich have an explanation for why the administration hasn’t been more forthcoming with documents?

One of the interesting things about this whole crisis in confidence in the National Guard’s leadership and the governor’s response is it seems like there’s two components to this. There’s Parnell’s private response and his public response, which are actually pretty distinct things.

As far as his private response goes, we’re still learning about that. On the most skeptical end of the spectrum, one could say the administration is controlling the release of documents, there’s a lot redacted, and there’s still a lot that isn’t yet public. And on the more trusting side of things, you look at the investigation record and the documents that have been released, and take the administration at its word with the rest. Without all the information and with so many different perspectives on how this was handled, it’s hard to be certain where things fall on that continuum.

The public response is a different matter. One of the frustrating parts of the Office of Complex Investigations report that was released in September is that it describes all of this upsetting and unconscionable activity without naming perpetrators or quantifying the number of victims or the extent of fraud. With all of these open questions about just how bad it was, it shouldn’t be surprising that the public and the press have wanted answers. And when the administration didn’t appear to be forthcoming with information about how they handled things, that prompts the question of “Why?”

Nizich’s explanation for the delayed response to – and subsequent denial of – records requests into the National Guard is part logistical and part legal. He says there were large records requests, like one for all of former naturak resources commissioner and current Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s state e-mails, made prior to the National Guard investigation which slowed the response. And he says there were enough legal privileges governing the documents to justify not releasing them – privileges that we’re definitely seeing exercised even with the documents that are now coming out on a judge’s order.

Given the politically fraught timing of this happening during campaign season, voters probably could have had a clearer understanding of what happened had more information been provided and documents released sooner.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich, Sullivan Rally Voters, Each His Own Way

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:25

In the final days before the U.S. Senate election, candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan making their final pitches, aiming to rally their supporters to the polls. Sullivan got help from two national figures representing polar opposites of the GOP: Mitt Romney, an establishment Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero.

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Cruz travelled with Sullivan around the railbelt. At a rally in the Mat-Su Valley Sunday, Cruz spoke for about half an hour, and included calls to abolish the IRS and end federal regulation of fracking. Cruz, frequently adopting the cadence of an evangelical preacher, told a few hundred cheering fans the race would be won or lost right there.

“The men and women in this room, if everyone of you goes out and gets nine other people, you will win this race. You will elect Dan Sullivan and you, personally, will retire Harry Reid,” he said.

An Anchorage airplane hangar was the scene of a Republican rally with Romney today. Sullivan said he was happy to have the former presidential candidate there.

“It feels amazing! Shoulder to shoulder next to him,” Sullivan said from the stage.

By contrast, Begich’s final campaign days were more in the trenches. He gathered with supporters in Palmer and Wasilla, then met with a few dozen public employees in Anchorage on Saturday. With his wife dispatched to Bethel and his mom in Barrow, Begich handed out hot chocolate to UAF students today before flying back to Anchorage.

“Wherever there’s an undecided voter, I will show up,” he joked.

Polls show Begich is cutting into Sullivan’s lead. Or maybe not, depending on which poll you believe. PPP, a firm that polls for Democrats, called voters over the weekend and says Sullivan is just one percentage point ahead of Begich. But a poll last week, by New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports, says Sullivan has pulled to his largest lead yet in a Rasmussen poll — 5 points.

The Division of Elections says as of yesterday, more than 47,000 Alaskans have already cast ballots, through early and absentee voting. That’s 18 percent of all ballots cast in Alaska’s last mid-term election, in 2010. Spending in the Senate race is now at $57 million, which comes to more than $200 per likely Alaska voter.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott brings principles, finance experience to Lt. Gov. race

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:24

Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long.  A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined the Alaska First Unity Ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.

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Mallott’s decision to drop his candidacy for governor and join Republican-turned-Independent Bill Walker was met with both support and criticism. When announcing the merger, Walker said he and Mallott would make decisions together. Mallott says some people told him to get that in writing.

Candidate Byron Mallott and KYUK reporter Ben Matheson on the set of Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State program. (Photo by Patrick Yack, Alaska Public Media)

“And I said that is just crazy. You have to trust. You have to work together. The offices are constitutionally mandated and their responsibilities are very clear.”

Mallott says he’s ready to fill his role as a senior policy adviser to the governor and as a member of the cabinet, like he did when working as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation under Tony Knowles. That’s where he first worked with Bruce Botelho, the then-Attorney General for the state.

“Byron is an incredibly thoughtful person. Very analytical, very principled. And he applies those principles to his problem solving,” Botelho said when asked to describe the candidate he’s worked with for nearly two decades.

Botelho says Mallott values family, community, and a sense of place, and that he knows how to compromise. But Botelho does admit that when Mallott was younger he was known for passionate, explosive feelings.

But “that is not an issue any more,” he said. “And that’s not to say that Byron will not express himself forcefully when he needs to, but it’s not a situation that causes me any pause for concern.”

Bothelo touts Mallott’s leadership skills and experience with finance management as evidence of Mallott’s readiness for the role of lieutenant governor. Mallott himself says he would look at the state’s budget with a critical eye, though it’s the governor’s job to set the budget.

“Every bit of spending the state does should be on the table for careful analysis, for discussion,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State.

He says that’s true of projects that only impact rural Alaska as well.

“It’s important that, at least for me, that if the village of Kwethluk has a bridge project that’s hugely important to that village, that it get the same scrutiny, the same analysis as the bridge across the [Cook] Inlet.”

But Mallott says that doesn’t mean he would increase taxes to raise money for such projects.

“The notion, again, that we can tax our way either to balancing budgets or to prosperity has been shown never to work.”

Mallott’s main role as lieutenant governor, if he wins, will be supervising the Division of Elections. He says he would follow all laws when certifying ballot initiatives, even if he disagrees with them.

“It is there in order to give voters a voice when they believe their voice is not being heard. So, it is a very precious tool in our constitution, but I think it should be very carefully and not often used.”

Mallott is a Tlingit originally from Yakutat. He’s an independent director of Alaska Air Group.


Categories: Alaska News