In our on-going series about culture in Alaska, we’ve been talking about how we define ourselves and live our lives as Alaskans. Last week, we asked how long you have to live here to call yourself an Alaskan. In many of our state’s communities, there’s a transient population – seasonal workers, or folks in town for a finite term of service at a job…or as a volunteer. They’re not going to stay beyond a year or two….at least, they don’t plan to. But as Ed Ronco found out in Sitka, just because they’re short-timers, doesn’t mean they don’t belong.
Students at the Kodiak High School and Middle School dabbled in theatric storytelling last week. A handful of classrooms participated in a two week artist in schools program that culminated with a presentation of their work on Thursday. KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs attended the performance and filed this report.
It’s about 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon and the foyer at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium is a buzz with students from the Kodiak Middle School. Groups of 7th graders are putting the finishing touches on a series of tableaux – the final product of two weeks working with visiting teaching artist Ryan Conarro.
“I am here as a theater teaching artist and we’re doing a project with middle high and high school classrooms on using drama-based activities for integrating with academic content,” he said.
Conarro has a rich background in theater, both as a teacher and performer. He has worked with the Alaska State Council on the Arts’ Artist in Schools Program for about ten years and taught in districts across the last frontier.
In Kodiak, Conarro had middle school students interview family members about their first job as part of the program.
“That’s related to their unit that’s happening this spring on career preparation. And we’ve taken some of the stories from those interviews and are dramatizing them.”
The students reenacted the stories through a series of tableaux. But what exactly is a tableau?
“A tableau is basically a picture formed with actors, it’s still besides the fact that you switch between scenes. You’ll have usually four or five people and you’ll take elements from the story and you’ll act them out silently in a picture,” said 7th grader Eli Griffin, who interviewed his dad, Kodiak Island Borough Assemblyman Aaron Griffin.
“He worked at Papa John’s Pizzeria. And then he went into the Air Force.”
Griffin said his dad’s past with Papa John’s isn’t the topic of his group’s tableau.
“We’re doing one about a paper boy’s first job, I’m pretty sure. I’m a newspaper. I think that I play it awesomely. I just get to sit there.”
Conarro narrates the first job accounts, and the students shuffle into intricate, telling positions. Three frozen scenes later, the story is told.
For Griffin, the experience has opened his eyes to a new form of acting. He said he’s always been a part of theater, but he didn’t realize the power of a solid position.
“I think it’s really cool to be able to act without actually moving and speaking. It seems to me like it’s a lot more powerful,” Griffin said. He isn’t the only that learned from the experience.
“Well I learned that there’s a lot of actor’s tools. Like there’s more than just a script and you just act it out. There’s like body gestures and all that stuff. I think it’s cool how the pictures can just show the whole stories. It’s definitely a new, like, interesting way I learned to look at stories. And I thought that was cool.”
The Artist in Schools program is funded through the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Alaska State Legislature, the Rasmuson Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, with help from the Kodiak Island Borough School District.
Conarro, who is based in Juneau, wrapped up his two week artist residency on Friday. During his time in Kodiak he also worked with high school students on dramatic representations of personal essays.
And as for Eli Griffin’s portrayal of the newspaper, he was indeed awesome.
For months, there has been speculation as to whether Gov. Sean Parnell would run for reelection or choose to go up against Democrat Mark Begich in the Senate race. Tonight, he made his announcement in Fairbanks at a meeting of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women.
Over the past few months, states like Kansas and North Dakota have moved so-called “fetal personhood” measures forward as a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Friday, Alaska’s Supreme Court reaffirmed that such anti-abortion laws would not hold up in this state. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
In 2010, Clinton Desjarlais sponsored an initiative stating that the right to life starts at conception, outlawing abortion in almost every circumstance. It never made it to the ballot.
Before Desjarlais could even start collecting signatures for his initiative, the Department of Law concluded that such a law would be “clearly unconstitutional.” Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell decided not to certify the measure.
The issue of fetal personhood has long been important to Desjarlais. He campaigned on it as a fringe candidate in two state races. So Desjarlais took his case to the courts. After the Superior Court ruled against him, the Supreme Court heard his argument.
Desjarlais represented himself, and made references to the “United States Constitution, the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, maxims of law, the Nuremberg Trials, various Alaska statutes and rules of procedure, and various dictionaries” to make his case that abortion should be illegal in nearly every situation, including rape. He also requested a jury, demanded that the state’s attorneys show their law licenses, and asked for the judges give proof that they had taken an oath of office.
The Supreme Court was not persuaded by his arguments. The judges unanimously ruled that such a sweeping anti-abortion measure would violate not just Roe v. Wade, but the state’s own constitution.
Now it’s time for 300 villages. This week we’re going to the village of Newtok, on the Ninglick River, which drains into the Bering Sea. The community is being relocated because of coastal erosion due to climate change.
Stanley Tom is tribal administrator in Newtok. 300 villages is AK’s attempt to put every community in Alaska on the radio.
“Stanley Tom and I am from Newtok, Alaska. It’s a small village a population of seven…three-hundred seventy [people].
Uh still uh…living remotely and we still speak our language in Yupik and still doing subsistence live style.
Uh…they like to go out ah…ah herring fishing for substance and also…ah salmon fishing ah…and do commercial fishing with halibut and um…it’s like all summer long ah…fishing for…for winter preparation.
Due to permafrost melting and eroding of the Ninglick River we are relocating our village to Mertarvik site and we have been discussing this relocation [for] more than thirty-years. It’s a never ending process.
Ah yeah Eskimo dance. What we do is um…we invite our neighboring villages like ah Tununak, Tuluksak, Chevak, Cooper and we…invite them every year and in return them invite us too.
Some gifts like ah…anything house ah utensils or anything they…they give. All kinds ah anything that they catch like black fish or um…muss fish white fish…all sorts of stuff to the visitors too.
Yeah they got like subsistence gathering ah…berry picking seal hunting all kinds ah…that’s how they make songs.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski held a listening session on subsistence in Glennallen yesterday (Thursday). The meeting followed an a similar meeting in Bethel last month. Murkowski says the issues raised in Glennallen were different from those voiced in Bethel.
“Really focused to a great degree on access to game, access to areas to harvest game. I heard very, very clearly, concerns about trespass on Native lands. I heard very, very clearly, the complications that present themselves with a dual management system, between the federal system and the state system and how complicated it then becomes.”
Senator Murkowski says that’s different than in Bethel, where comments were targeted on chronically weak king salmon returns to the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. She says most of the comments in Glennallen were from Ahtna area Native people, and there was some concern about competitions for resources.
“As we see more and more hunters coming from the urban centers to come out into the Ahtna region, the pressure on the game and the availability of the moose, of the caribou. How then, the Native people who, again, live in that area, whose lands are there, feel that there has been increased hunting presssure that has made access to game more difficult.”
Murkowski says locals residents said the situation is complicated by a puzzle of state and federal jurisdiction. The listening sessions on subsistence were committed to by Senator Murkowski during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last fall. The senator says the next step is to take what she heard in Bethel and Glennallen back to a Senate committee for formal gearing at the end of the summer.
From its sound to its smell, it’s safe to say most meat eaters love everything about bacon. But few love it as much as Erik Johnson. He makes his homemade. Over the years he’s experimented with different bacon recipes, once even using an entire bottle of whiskey as a marinade. But as APRN’s Dave Waldron found out, it pays to keep it simple with something so good.
Read Full Story here
For several months in 2009, Redoubt volcano had residents of Southcentral Alaska on edge. Scientists warned that the volcano could erupt at any time in January. But it wasn’t until mid March that Redoubt sent a ash plume thousands of feet into the air.
And Seismologist Diana Roman, with the Carnegie Institution, wanted to understand more about the unusual pattern leading up to the eruption. She says usually right before a volcano erupts there is a short period of something called “seismic tremor.” But in the case of the Redoubt eruption, it went on for months:
A crew member from the 42-foot F/V Taurus died after falling overboard near King Cove Friday morning. A Good Samaritan vessel found the deceased, but the Coast Guard isn’t releasing the crew member’s name or any details about the incident until next of kin have been notified.
Petty Officer Jonathan Klingenberg says vessels from King Cove participated in the search, along with two Coast Guard aircraft.
The F/V Taurus is homeported in King Cove.
This is a developing story. Please check back here for updates.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously identified the vessel as the 58-foot Taurus homeported in Dutch Harbor. It is the 42-foot Taurus, homeported in King Cove.
People have been arriving in Wrangell for this weekend’s rededication of the Chief Shake’s Island house. KSTK’s Shady Grove Oliver has this story on the canoes that came for the event.
Tuesday was the last day of operation for the Bill Brady Healing Center. The inpatient drug-and-alcohol rehab program has existed in its current form since 1996. Its closure is blamed on federal budget cutbacks. The center is part of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, or SEARHC, which relies heavily on federal money.
Bill Brady’s last class graduated in mid-April, leaving a couple weeks for employees to tie up loose ends. KCAW visited employees as they packed up their desks and looked back at their time working for the center.
In the lobby of SEARHC’s Community Health Building, Doug Osborne leads me over to a red and black blanket hanging on the wall, behind glass.
“This blanket right here, at the end of the courses, they graduate people — maybe 10, 12 people — and at the end of this 40-day program, they do a really great job of honoring people,” Osborne said. “They do a cradling ceremony and sometimes they get wrapped in the blanket. They really know how to send people off. Today it’s about how well we can send them off.”
Osborne’s job at SEARHC includes running the employee recognition program and today, he’s planning a farewell luncheon for the 23 people who work at Bill Brady Healing Center.
“These guys were superstars,” he said. “They are really good, they’re passionate, ethical, dedicated. They worked hard, and did a good job. It’s a very sad day at SEARHC to see these guys go.”
This message was written on a white board inside the house where clients lived during their stay at the residential treatment program.
Inside the center’s office building is George House. The bookshelves in his office are almost bare, as is his desk.
“I’ve been working at Bill Brady for 10 years now,” he said. “I started out as a temporary night-awake to earn a couple of bucks, and liked what I saw.”
As a night-awake, it was his job to make sure residents were safe at night — that things were turned off, and that everyone was where they were supposed to be.
“You know, you go through and make sure everything’s turned off, everything’s safe,” he said. “You count noses or toeses.”
And now he’s the evening shift leader. A job that began as simply a way to make some money turned into a calling.
“What I saw here was a lot of caring people helping others find their way,” he said. “I think what made Bill Brady click so well was mutual respect for each other among staff and among the clients that came through. It didn’t matter what your background was. They took you at face value and let you shine, you know?”
Lots of Bill Brady’s now former employees have stories like that.
Charlie Bean is in the basement of the house where clients used to stay. Down here, he led them through art projects. He’s wrapping stuff in plastic and joking about the uniquely Alaskan experience of using fish boxes to pack up your office.
Charlie Bean holds a spoon carved in the basement where he led clients through art projects, at the Bill Brady Healing Center. Tuesday was the center’s last day of operation.
“We’ve given away a lot of stuff,” he said. “Drums, and miscellaneous odds and ends. A lot of it’s going to go to Raven’s Way next door.”
Bean started working at SEARHC in 2001, and at Bill Brady in 2005. He’s definitely had his disagreements with the institution — he laments rules and regulations that he says distract from the day-to-day, hands-on work with clients, and he mentions spending increasing amounts of time doing paperwork. But he also says this is one of the best jobs he’s ever had. This team, he says, is close.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Bean said. “I’ve had close friendships and stuff, but not a group of people like this. You come in and you jump on shift, and somebody’s going out the door, and they’ve got your back, and they know you’ve got their back, and there’s this seamless kind of flow that goes on between the people. That’s been special.”
Bean says he has possibilities for work in Anchorage and New Mexico.
“I’m always going to interact with clients. It’s just part of my life now.,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I am. My life has turned into service. Wherever I go, I’ll be doing service of some kind.”
Of the three employees KCAW spoke to, Roberta Kitka has the longest tenure. She started here as an intern in 1998.
“I wanted to help people, because I’m in recovery myself,” she said. “I stuck my toe in the door doing my internship.”
Eventually, she put in for a full-time job (“Showed up for an interview and said ‘I’m here to put my Tlingit two cents in,’” she says) and most recently, she’s been in a supervisory role. Kitka says she likes watching the transformation in clients between their first day and the time they graduate.
“We more or less serve the people who are throw-away people,” she said. “People who end up making something of themselves. We had a woman call us up, ‘I’ve got my kids back,’ or ‘I’ve only got 30 credits left and I’ll finish my college degree.’ Things like that. They’re not throw-away people. That’s the way we look at it.”
Now that she’s done working at Bill Brady, she’s moving to Anchorage. Her daughter is up there, and so is Dena a Coy, a treatment center for women and children, where Kitka did her first internship.
“And the two ladies I did it with, worked with, are still there,” she said. “So I’m going to pop my head in and say hi, I’m back.”
The employees of the Bill Brady Healing Center were recognized at a private lunch Tuesday. This was in the front of the room.
Back in the Community Health building, tables and chairs have been set up for the farewell luncheon. Comment cards for people to leave memories are laid out at each place. And Doug Osborne is standing behind a lectern, going over his remarks. Next to him, a dry-erase board with the names of every employee.
“So we’re making this nice, but there’s no way around it,” Osborne said. “This is really a sad day. This is a day of loss.”
If this legislative session was all about oil, the next one could be more focused on natural gas. The end goal is a pipeline capable of moving the massive supply of gas on North Slope to market. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that the state is looking at the issue of getting a project online from multiple angles.
Joe Balash didn’t get much rest after the legislature gaveled out. He didn’t even have time to clean out his desk. As a deputy commissioner for the Department of Natural Resources, Balash had to fly straight to LNG17, a conference that’s billed as this year’s “biggest global gas event.”
“We went directly from Juneau down to Houston.”
After spending the past few months as one of the key players on Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill to lower oil taxes, he and the rest of that team immediately pivoted to natural gas policy.
“We’ve now got some clarity on what the business is going to look like on the oil side, and now we and the producers can turn our attention to how gas fits into that.”
The state is trying to advance a couple of major projects. The bigger project would cost up to $65 billion. The idea is that it would be like the Transalaska pipeline but for gas, making money for the state through export. The other line would be smaller and built to serve Alaska’s own consumers with cheaper energy at a cost of $8 billion. The governor has said that it could be possible to merge the two projects.
Over the next few months, the state will try to move those projects forward from two fronts: the policy side and the design side. When it comes to policy, the state is trying to figure out whether it wants producers to pay them directly in money, or if it wants an actual cut of the gas itself. Right now, Alaska has the option of switching between the two every 90 days, which Balash says creates some uncertainty for companies. The Department of Natural Resources is currently accepting bids from contractors to study the economics of a large-diameter gasline.
On the design front, Gov. Sean Parnell said he wanted the companies involved in the project — TransCanada and the big North Slope oil producers — to be at what’s called the “preliminary front end engineering design” stage this summer.
“That’s a lot of words to say actually doing the math and understanding what it’s going to take to physically put together the pipe,” says Balash.
So far, the administration is still in talks to make that happen. But Balash says they’re hoping companies start doing field work by June.
Dan Sullivan is the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, and he says keeping momentum up on the project is important. The natural gas market is volatile. When the state first made financial commitments to develop a big gasline, the idea was to ship gas to the Lower 48. With that market now glutted with cheaper energy, Sullivan says they want send gas to countries like Japan and South Korea instead.
“There’s certainly a window in Asia that’s open right now for gas from Alaska, but we’re not sure how long that window’s going to be open.”
The Parnell administration has put a lot of effort into wooing Asian nations, with the governor even touring the Pacific Rim this fall to promote Alaska’s resources. But Alaska isn’t the only place that’s courting that market.
Larry Persily handles pipeline issues for the federal government, and he follows the economics of energy closely. He says that if the state wants to get enough buy-in from those countries to go ahead with a big pipeline, it’s going need to offer competitive rates.
“There’s no question in the decades ahead — 2020s, 2030s, 2040s — the world is going to need more natural gas than it uses to today. And a lot of the old contracts that were written in the Nineties to supply Asia will be expiring. So, that’s another potential to go in there. But it’s going to come down to price. Alaska gas is not going to command any higher price in the market than any other molecules. It all burns the same.”
As far as whether all of this work from the state will amount to a pipeline anytime soon, Persily says that there are a few indicators as to whether or not North Slope producers are getting serious. His office will be watching for companies to start collecting environmental data for permitting work and for the state to begin official talks on how it should structure its fiscal system with regards to natural gas.
Listen to the full story.
Alaskan pilot Art Mortvedt is due back in Fairbanks any day now from his solo flight to the North Pole. It was the second leg of a mission to realize his long-held dream of flying a single-engine aircraft to both North and South poles.
It looks like there won’t be a Chinook subsistence fishery on the Stikine River this year.
Officials this week closed the annual opening, scheduled for May 15th to June 20th. (The Stikine is a transboundary river flowing from British Columbia to the ocean near Wrangell and Petersburg.)
Bob Dalrymple of the Wrangell Ranger District says the numbers are below what’s required under the Pacific Salmon Treaty (between the United States and Canada. ”That treaty stipulates that a directed chinook salmon subsistence fishery can’t be harvested if the preseason estimate is less than 28,100 chinook. “
The estimate is about 3,600 fish, or 20 percent, below that level.
Dalrymple can authorize subsistence fishing during the season if the estimate exceeds 24,500 Chinooks. He’s given that authority by the Federal Subsistence Board.
But he says another Stikine fishery is more important.
“In reality the chinook salmon is not the targeted species for subsistence on the Stikine. It is more of an incidental catch, the numbers are fairly low. The stronger fishery, the more targeted fishery, is for sockeye. “
The Chinook closure does not affect later Stikine subsistence fisheries.
The Sockeye season runs June 21st through July. A Coho season follows, from August through October.
Listen to the story.
Senator Mark Begich plans to introduce two bills related to social security by next Monday. Begich met with leaders of Alaska organizations today (thursday) in Anchorage to gauge their concerns and to announce his plan. The Senator says the conversation on social security will come before Congress by June, and now is the time to make changes that will strengthen social security benefits, not curtail them.
“I think there is a lot of interest that has been generated over the last couple of years. And now we are seeing people really talking more about it. And as we move to issues of the budget and a long term budget plan for the federal government, Social Security is part of the equation, and figuring this out and solving this. “
Begich plans to introduce the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act and the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 when he returns to Washington, DC next week. He says his plan has three points. The Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act would remove a cap on high income contributions. The cap is now at 113,700 dollars. Removing the cap would make high income earners pay into Social Security just like everyone else, he says.
“Right now the social security tax is capped. So if you make more than 113,000 dollars you’re not paying any more into it after that point. And what we want to do it match it like Medicare, so everyone pays in and everyone does receive a benefit. It just means, the more you make, you might not get as much of a benefit, but you still pay into it. And it is an earned benefit. This will create sustainability for up to another 75 years for Social Security, which is the right way to solve this problem. “
The second part of that bill would revise how SS payments are adjusted to better reflect how America’s senior spend their income. Currently, payments are based on a Consumer Price Index model that does not accurately reflect higher costs seniors pay, for medications, for example. The bill would create a CPI – E for elders.
The Social Security Fairness Act would remove penalties that are now placed on retirees who worked more than one job, paid into Social Security, but then retired under a different retirement system. Under current law, they are denied their Social Security benefits Many government workers and some teachers in Alaska fall into this category. Workers like Jeanae Sears
”When I retired four years ago on June 1, with 43 years, I lost forty five percent of my base pay right then. That’s why I am so adamant about fairness. “
She says she draws a Civil Service retirement system pension, and is not allowed her full Social Security benefits because of the present Government Pension Offset program .
Listen to the story.
The USS Anchorage arrived in it’s namesake city, yesterday (Wednesday). Several events are taking place leading up to a commissioning ceremony for the ship on Saturday.
If you look down toward the port from Downtown Anchorage this week, you may notice a big gray ship. That’s the USS Anchorage, a new Navy transport vessel named in honor of Alaska’s largest city. It’s here for a commissioning ceremony on Saturday. But between now and then the ship is open to the public for tours.
Chief Petty Officer Ryan Astle, from California, is leading tours this week. He says the ship’s main mission is transporting troops and equipment, or as he put it, they’re a taxi service for the Marines.
“Essentially, that’s what we are. Joking, but we are a taxi service. We take Marines all over the world. Be ready at a moment’s notice.”
The are 360 sailors on board and 3 marines. But the ship can carry between 800 and a thousand. It’s nearly 700 feet long and 10 stories high. It was constructed in Avondale, Louisiana *at a price of 1.3 billion. The vessel is based in San Diego, California. It took 9 days to get to Anchorage. The ship has self defense systems — anti-air missile launchers and large deck side machine guns. There are only seven of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships in the U.S. Astle says the ship is unique because of it’s ability to sink, allowing smaller ships to dock within the ship. San Diego-based Chief Mass Communications Specialist, Holly Gray, is also leading tours of the ship. She says The ship has a flight deck and can land and refuel rotary aircraft such as helicopters.
“Our flight deck area here — we actually have two main landing spots and four additional auxiliary spots. We don’t have aircraft assigned permanently assigned to the shift but we have the ability to land any rotary aircraft in the Navy and Marine Corp fleet, including the MV22 Osprey, we actually have one on deck for demonstration, as well as one of the other smaller helicopters.”
Beneath the ships main deck is the equivalent of a small city. A hanger bay, a full hospital, crew mess and living quarters. Down below, Gray points out where marines and sailors sleep. Quarters resemble a train car with ‘sit-up racks’ or shallow bunk beds stacked three high on either side of a narrow hallway.
“You have a tray to place a book for reading material, ipad, things like that. A little tray for your alarm clock, personal lights and an outlet. They’re stacked three high. They are stacked three high in this particular configuration.”
All the way up in the bridge, you’re around 100 feet above the water. And it takes a team to drive the ship.
“There’s a whole team of watch standards up here working together to make sure we take this very large ship, 684 feet long, without breaks, and navigate it through the water safely.”
But, back on a lower deck, the thing that makes the vessel stand out is that well deck. It just looks like a regular deck, but with a very high ceiling.
“This is what makes the ship an amphibious transport dock. Because this area here actually has the capability to ballast or deballast – either flood tanks on the inside of the bulkheads, either fill them with salt water or force air into them to be able to lower and raise the back end of the ship so that we can actually sink the back end of the ship so that we can create a boat dock, essentially. So that if we need to recover small boats they have a boat dock to be able to do that.”
In the well deck at the moment is a special hover craft that can carry cargo vehicles and marines at high speed to shore. The ship is something to be seen, but Chief Petty Officer Astle says … it’s the people who run it that make it special.
“The ship is a big piece of steel. The crew is what brings the ship to life. And we have the best crew on this ship. Hopefully representing Anchorage best we can.”
Astle and Gray are leading tours through Friday. The USS Anchorage’s visit is the first official event leading up to the Anchorage Centennial.
You have to have a ticket to attend. Shuttle service is available at the Northway Mall or the Sears Mall. To learn more about tours and other community events associated with the commissioning of the USS Anchorage go to: http://ussanchoragenavy.com/
Listen to the story.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration downgraded the southern tanner crab – or bairdi – in its annual report to Congress.
In 2011, the crab was listed as over fished. Now, the federal government reports the stock as safe.
Emily Menashes, a deputy director in the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, said over fishing means the harvest rate is too high for a population. The distinction over fished is when a population is too low. In the case of the tanner, it’s now considered rebuilt.
“Which means that a previously over fished stock has returned to its target population level,” she told a conference call Thursday.
That’s good news, said Gretchen Harrington, who works for NOAA in Anchorage.
Harrington said the change comes from a couple of factors, including highly fluctuating populations and how the federal government measures the volume of the stock. The tanner crab population was considered rebuilt in 2007 as well.
It’s unclear whether the state will open a tanner crab season this year.
“While we might not call it over fished, the state might decide to not open the fishery for a number of other reasons,” she said.
Those include the total amount of female tanner crab. There was no tanner crab season last year. The season runs during the fall and winter.
Listen to the story.
The Matanuska Susitna Borough has not had a Sexual Assault Response Team since 2005.
Doctor Donn Bennice, who heads Alaska Family Services in Palmer, told the Borough Assembly that currently, sexual assault victims from the Matanuska Valley area have to travel to an Anchorage hospital for forensic examinations. Exams that can take five or six hours, before the victims can go home. That only serves to further traumatize them. And, Bennice says, some victims are simply not reporting rape as a result:
“The numbers have gone down over the last ten years, but we also run the emergency shelter here, and we talk to the women quite frequently. And a lot of them don’t report the sexual assaults, because of having to be transported to Anchorage, because of the length of time it takes to go to Anchorage and then to sit there for the examination. So I think the numbers are actually higher than what is being actually reported. “
Bennice, and others in health and law enforcement in the Valley, want the Borough to include 200 thousand dollars in the budget for SART program operation and training. The Borough Assembly must approve the contribution.
Emily Steven’s, chief nursing officer at Mat Su Regional Medical Center, agrees with Bennice. She’s one of a group of health care professionals who are backing the request.
“We re-victimize the victims by placing them in a squad car and sending them into town to be re-processed and re-interviewed. ”
Medical professionals who testified Tuesday said emergency rooms are not designed to handle lengthy rape examinations.
Bennice says a SART team would have 3 elements: medical, which gathers forensic evidence; law enforcement, which handles transportation and investigation of non-medical evidence, and advocacy, which provides on – site support for victims and local follow-up care. That’s the job of
Alaska Family Services, which operates the only nationally accredited domestic violence / sexual assault shelter in the state.
The request for Borough funding has the backing of the cities of Palmer, Wasilla and Houston. Bert Cottle, an administrator with the city of Wasilla, told the Assembly that Wasilla police had asked for a Valley SART program, because lack of local examination in rape cases was muddying investigations:
“We’re losing cases, we’re re-victimizing the victims again by doing this. We’re losing evidence, we’re losing manpower coverage. And basically, victims are walking out of interview rooms and saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ In some cases, where the agencies are short-handed, we’re actually asking the victims to drive themselves to Anchorage. “
Cottle says representatives of all three cities have met with state officials on the issue and received more than 124 thousand dollars in this year’s state budget for the program. Cottle says the state appropriation buys initial training and equipment. He told the Assembly the Borough’s 200 thousand dollars would fund operating costs until new sources of revenue can be secured.
Bennice says the Borough’s earlier SART program ended in 2005, when the only forensic examining nurse there retired. There was no one to fill the job, then funds fell short, and eventually, the program just fell through the cracks.
The USS Anchorage arrived in Anchorage Wednesday. The Navy’s new ship will be used for transporting troops and equipment. Several events are taking place in Anchorage this week leading up to a commissioning ceremony for the ship Saturday. To learn more about community events associated with the commissioning go to: http://ussanchoragenavy.com/-
If you have tips on the Israel Keyes case call 1-800-CALL-FBI and follow the prompts for info on Israel Keyes
The serial killer who committed suicide in an Anchorage jail late last year confessed to murdering at least 11 people across the country. But Israel Keyes didn’t name names. And as investigators try to figure out who he killed, they’re running into a surprising stumbling block: There is no congressionally mandated national database for missing adults.
In a dimly lit back office at the Anchorage Police Department, a team of investigators is trying to figure out serial killer Israel Keyes’ movements. They’ve laid out a map showing where he traveled and where he may have killed other people. Because Israel Keyes killed himself, they’re trying to make this map speak for him, but it’s difficult because of the kinds of victims Keyes picked. APD officer Jeff Bell interrogated Keyes extensively. He says Keyes believed had a special power.
“He claimed that he could look at people and just look like they would be more missed than others.”
With three exceptions, Keyes took the names of his victims to the grave. From their hours of interrogation, the team knows that Keyes killed at least 11 people. From what he told them, they believe there are at least 8 others.
Bell points to the large map of the United States, on his wall detailing the places that Keyes traveled to over nearly a decade. Places like Oakland, Seattle, Indianapolis, Mobile, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, where he may have killed people.
“On this map of the United States, there’s probably a dozen trips or so since 2007 that he took that we were able to determine where he flew into and that he rented a car.”
The names that they know about are a couple in Essex, Vermont and Samantha Koenig of Anchorage, a girl who was selling coffee at an espresso cart when Keyes abducted and killed her. To find the other victims, the investigators take a location Keyes flew to. If he rented a car there, they ask the rental car company how many miles he put on the car. Bell says then they draw a circle on the map to indicate where he could have driven:
“That a good example in Texas. There’s 2,600 miles on the car. He’s there for about 13 days. and if you do 1,300 miles from Houston, Texas, you encompass 13,14 – 15 states. So we have to then, look in all of those states for victims.”
But potential victims aren’t easy to find. There are all kinds of different databases investigators have to search. Bell went to them looking for leads and what he got back was a huge stack of paper.
“I remember getting the list of missing people and it was depressing because it was a list of papers that was at least three inches thick.”
Bell isn’t alone. The FBI’s lead agent on the Keyes case, Jolene Goeden, says she wishes there was a better option:
“Unlike children, where you have a the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There is no such thing for adults.”
Goeden says if a comprehensive national database for missing adults existed, it could be a game changer in the Keyes case.
“It would have been huge because we, we have a very good timeline of Keyes’ travels and his whereabouts. Like for example, we know that in April of 2009 he committed a homicide and the victim is buried in upstate New York. We know that, we have a general idea of where that victim was taken from in terms of geography. And without that type of database, we’re literally going from state to state or county to county.”
It’s a frustration for law enforcement across the country, whenever they have to look for missing adults.
It’s also frustrating for family members. Samantha Koenig, was likely one of Keyes’ last victims, Koenig’s father, James, a burly man with icy blue eyes holds back tears as he talks about the time his daughter was missing.
“I miss her laugh and her smile and her eyes and hearing daddy come out of her mouth. That’s one of the greatest things to hear is my name called from her voice. That’s the hardest part of my days anymore is waking up and reliving it everyday in the hopes its a nightmare and she’s gonna come walking through the door any minute.”
Todd Matthews helps run the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NAMUS database — out of the University of North Texas. NAMUS is grant-funded by the National Institute of Justice and Bell and Goeden say it’s the best database they’ve found in their investigation into who else Keyes may have killed. But Matthews says, it doesn’t have long-term funding and is not required by Congress.
“A federal mandate would help to bring the compliance and force people to do what they need to do to get the cases into the system. You know, a one-stop shop.”
A one-stop shop, that officer Bell says offers the best hope for solving the mystery of who else Keyes killed.
“I still look, I still look at home. You know I’ll be at home at night … You always feel like you’ve missed something or that you … I go back through his computer – agent Goeden and I both, thinking that we missed something and that there’s gonna be an obvious clue that stands out that we missed.”
In Alaska alone, there are more than 200 open cases of missing persons, both children and adults. Some estimates put the number of unidentified missing people in the whole U.S. at around 40,000. Somewhere among them are Keyes’ other victims.