The seismic activity at the Veniaminof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula has decreased over the past week resulting in lowering the volcano alert level.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory confirms that satellite observations show no evidence of eruptive activity.
The Volcano Alert Level has been downgraded from Watch to Advisory. AVO notes that it’s possible this is only a temporary pause of activity in the eruption that began in June, and that more vigorous activity could resume.
The Veniaminof Volcano is located on the Alaska Peninsula and it’s one of the largest and most active volcanoes in Alaska.
Activists fighting a proposed coal mine on the west side of Cook Inlet have won a victory in court.
Earlier this week, a state Superior Court judge ruled that the state was in error when it failed to process the Chuitna Citizens Coalition application for water rights to a tributary of the Chuitna River.
The Coalition filed an application for in-stream flow reservations in 2009, in order to protect the salmon stream, which it said was threatened by the coal mine, but the state Department of Natural Resources failed to process the application, and the Coalition sued.
Judge Mark Rindner ruled on Monday that the state’s refusal to process the application amounts to an unreasonable delay, while it violated Alaskan’s constitutional right to due process.
With the control of Congress in balance, the Alaska Senate race is expected to be one of the more high profile races in the country.
The Republican National Committee has gotten involved, and veterans of the Romney and McCain presidential campaigns are already working to unseat Democrat Mark Begich, but what about the House race?
The odds may be long, but two Democrats are already competing for the chance to take on Don Young.
Don Young has held the title of “Congressman for All Alaska” for 40 years. There’s a reason he’s earned the nickname “Teflon Don” – gaffes, changing political tides, federal investigations: Nothing sticks.
In the past two decades, Ethan Berkowitz is the candidate who has come closest to beating him in the general election. He had the support of the national Democratic Party back in 2008, and Berkowitz still lost by 5 points.
“Well, he’s the uncle who’ll say the outrageous things, and you’re like, ‘There goes Uncle Don again.’ But it’s Uncle Don.”
The past two elections, Young won by more than 30 points, and both of his opponents filed for office pretty late in the game, but this go round there’s not one but two Democrats who have already filed and are starting to fundraise on the normal election calendar. Forrest Dunbar is one of them.
”There’s been a couple of cycles where the Democrats were perceived as putting up sacrificial lambs, but when you want to run a serious campaign today, especially a statewide campaign in a place like Alaska, you have to start early,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar is 29-years-old and this is his first time running for office. He split his childhood between Eagle and Cordova, and he came back to Alaska after spending some time in the Peace Corps, in law school, and on Capitol Hill. Part of the reason he’s running now is because of frustration with a highly polarized Congress.
Dunbar says he knows it’s an uphill battle. He’s only raised about $20,000 so far. Young has more than half a million dollars in his campaign account, and he represents the dominant party in the state, but Dunbar thinks that with all the attention on the Senate race, there might be space to experiment with his campaign strategy and make inroads that way.
“Some of the more traditional forms of media, which are traditionally where you spend a lot of that money, are going to be purchased up by the Senate campaigns. So, $600,000 sounds like a lot, but it’s going to pale in comparison to the $20 or $30 million that are going to be spent on either side of the Senate campaign. And I think that sort of creates an opportunity to run a more grassroots campaign, to run a more social-media-oriented campaign, to connect with voters in different ways,” he said.
Matt Moore is the other Democrat to file. He actually tried to get his party’s nomination in 2012, but he started his campaign late and lost out to state legislator Sharon Cissna. When it comes to strategy, his angle is similar to Dunbar’s.
“The idea is – truly is – to work on building up the grassroots effort a lot earlier,” Moore said. “So, I’m starting now instead of a couple months before the primary.”
Moore is 53 and works as a health care administrator. He’s critical of Young’s leadership abilities and his attendance, and he’s hoping low approval of Congress works in his favor.
Moore says even though he lost the primary last time, he learned a few lessons about running a campaign. He’s scheduling fundraisers right now, and he’s got half a dozen staff and volunteers helping out with his campaign now. Their big goal at the moment is simply introducing Moore to voters.
“We’re working on the deficit of name recognition,” he said. “I don’t think you can do that in a real short period of time in a state this large.”
As a veteran candidate, Berkowitz says that both Dunbar and Moore have their work cut out for them. He says the U.S. Senate race, “is going to bury everything here,” in terms of money, attention, and press coverage, and that, “having run three Democratic primaries, primaries suck.”
Berkowitz says that having a contested primary means spending money fighting someone who’s effectively on your team and opening yourself to serious attacks before the real campaign has even started. He doesn’t think having a real competition will have some secret benefit of bringing attention to the House race.
“There is no benefit at all to the Democrats having a primary. I mean, it’s good in terms of being able to develop a coherent democratic philosophy. But in terms of keeping an eye on the final prize of winning against Don Young, I don’t see how this serves that purpose,” Berkowitz said.
Still, he’s glad to see people in this race already – that’s the point of democracy after all. Plus, strange things can happen in politics, especially if you have an operation in place to leverage it.
”Winning means being opportunistic for these guys, and they’ve got to put all of the mechanisms in place so that if an opportunity does materialize, they can take advantage of it,” Berkowitz said.
And as for Don Young’s thoughts on all this, his campaign did not respond to a request for comment
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks moved ahead Wednesday on a project that will demonstrate how solar energy can be collected year-round and used to heat a commercial building without fossil fuels, like heating oil. The project is being funded by one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel companies.
Workers sprayed foam insulation onto a cylindrical steel tank the size of school bus that’s dangling from a big crane just outside the Cold Climate Housing Research Center’s office on Fairbanks’ west side.
A few minutes later, the crane operator swung the 40-foot-long tank into its final resting place – a big trench that was excavated Tuesday on the west side of the building.
It’s all part of a project that center research engineer Bruno Grunau says will demonstrate how solar energy can be collected and stored year-round in these northerly latitudes and used to heat a commercial-size structure – in this case, the center’s just-completed 8,000-square-foot addition.
“With this building addition, our goal was to run it completely without fossil fuels,” said Grunau, who’s heading up the project. “And so our approach in doing that was, one, using a pellet boiler, and two, supplementing that heat with this solar-thermal system.”
The big tank – which was donated by Fairbanks entrepreneur Bernie Karl – is coated with 6 inches of polyurethane foam and will be covered with about three feet of soil, then filled with 25,000 gallons of water.
Next spring, it’ll be hooked up to an automated solar-thermal system that’s been installed in the addition.
Grunau says the system will circulate fluid that’s been warmed in an array of 16 solar-heating panels on the building’s rooftop to the tank, and the water will store the heat collected from the panels – heat that can be later used to warm the building.
“We can manage that heat,” he said. “We can either send the heat to the building, directly, or we can send it to that tank. And when the time comes when the sun’s not putting so much heat out, we can pull the heat from the tank and put it right back into our building.”
It’s an impressive system, but the technology has been around for a while. But what distinguishes this demonstration project is that the system will be fully “instrumented,” meaning sensors have been placed throughout to monitor how it’s functioning. Grunau says that’ll help center staff determine how the technology is working – and it’ll provide real-time data that the center will share online.
“We’re going to be able to put it up on the website,” he said, “so that anyone anywhere around the world can pull it up and look at our system and say ‘Hey, this is what they’re doing today. This is what the energy flow did. This is how much heat they made, this is how many BTUs they made this year, this month.’ ”
Center Director Jack Hebert says this project is another effort by the center to research ways that Alaskans can heat their homes in an economical, and renewable, way.
“Of course as the state of Alaska’s housing research center, it’s really our responsibility to explore anything that’s available that may help decrease the energy cost for people in the state,” Hebert said. “And the sun of course is a potential resource.”
Hebert says it’s noteworthy that this $65,000 renewable-energy project was funded through a grant from one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel producers – BP Alaska.
“I think that it’s very encouraging to see BP, a company that’s normally associated with the drilling and sale of fossil fuels, to support renewable energy,” he said. “And we hope this will be an example of a sustainable approach to a building that uses no fossil fuels at all.”
You can find out more about the project at the center’s website, cchrc.org.
Nearly 50,000 Alaskans registered for an earthquake preparedness event today called the Great Alaskan ShakeOut.
The state’s spokesman for the division of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Jeremy Zidek says it’s good that a large number of Alaskans registered to practice the drill.
People who signed up were instructed to practice the drill at exactly 10:17 this morning. Sort of like a flash mob for disaster preparedness, millions of people registered for similar events today across the world.
Zidek says because Alaska has experienced three of the six largest earthquakes ever recorded, it’s good for Alaskans to be ready for the next major event.
He says another shakeout drill is scheduled for the 50th anniversary of the 9.2 Good Friday earthquake that shook for nearly five minutes on March 27, 1964.
“Often when we talk to 1964 earthquake survivors, it’s a real changing point in their lives,” Zidek said. “We’re very susceptible to earthquakes here, it’s good for people to prepare and know what to do when they hit.”
Zidek says developing a family plan for how to handle a seismic disaster and the aftermath is important.
There was a big turnout in North Pole on Wednesday night for a Department of Environmental Conservation open house on proposed fine particulate pollution regulations. Opinions are mixed on whether they do too much, or not enough.
Out of every 100 adult women you see walking around in Ketchikan, 33 have been raped, and 43 have been slapped, hit or worse by an intimate partner. When you combine those numbers, that means 50 of those 100 people we see every day has experienced one or both of those types of violence.
Those aren’t good numbers, but what’s really sad is that they are conservative estimates, and the real numbers likely are even worse.
About 650 Ketchikan women took the phone survey, and the lead researcher, Andre Rosay of the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, made a point of thanking them as he presented the findings.
“Sadly, we made too many of them re-live horrendous experiences, experiences that none of us should be subjected to, so that we could all understand the magnitude of the problem in this community,” he said.
Also traveling to Ketchikan for the presentation were Loree Morton of the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Katie TePas, who coordinates the governor’s domestic violence and sexual assault initiative.
Morton said there have been many different kinds of surveys over the years.
“You hear a lot of different numbers that come from maybe law enforcement reports, or maybe victim service providers, or maybe health and human services,” she said. But “this survey allows us to hear from the women themselves.”
The first survey was three years ago, and it was statewide. Morton said it confirmed Alaska’s high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. The results show close to 60 percent of women in Alaska has experienced one or the other.
After that survey came out, Morton said people wanted to know about their regions, in particular. So, organizers adapted the survey process for smaller sections of the state, and have been taking on about three per year.
With that, the communities “have an opportunity to know about the numbers in your region, and you can use that, hopefully in five years from now when another survey is done, to gauge whether or not the strategies in which you’re working, have made a difference,” Morton said.
The plan is to return to each region about five years after their initial survey, to see whether rates of violence have changed.
Rosay cautioned those in the audience that the survey has some limitations. For example, it indicates the number of women who have experienced violence, but not how many times. It also surveyed only adult, English-speaking women with access to a telephone, and who were not living in shelters or incarcerated.
Rosay said the results are weighted to consider those limitations.
“We know that the rates of victimization are much higher among the people we excluded from the survey,” he said. “So that’s one of the reasons why all of the estimates are very conservative.”
The survey’s results also are limited because many women who have experienced violence are not willing to talk about it, especially to a stranger on the phone.
Rosay stressed that while the results are not positive, he hopes Ketchikan officials will use the information and move forward with prevention strategies. Morton repeated that hope, and said there already are some proven programs in place, offered locally by Women in Safe Homes and Ketchikan Indian Community.
After the presentation, one of the audience members asked how Ketchikan compares to other regions that have been surveyed. Rosay said there’s no way to accurately make such a comparison, because of the limitations inherent to the survey.
“They’re all very, very close,” he said. “I think the safe conclusion is that the levels of violence are unacceptably high in every single region of Alaska. We have not yet found a region where we have low rates of violence.”
Rosay said the goal is to get the numbers down to zero, and while he believes that is a goal that can be accomplished, it likely won’t happen in his lifetime.
Similar surveys have been conducted already in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the North Star Borough, Juneau, Dillingham, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Sitka, Kodiak, the Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsua.
Regions that will be surveyed in the coming year are the North Slope, Northwest Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
For information about local violence prevention programs, visit the Women in Safe Homes website at www.wishak.org.
The state’s first Women’s Summit started in Anchorage on Thursday at Alaska Pacific University.
The two-day event is directed at examining strategies to improve the lives of Alaska’s women.
Invited speakers include First Lady Sandy Parnell, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and business leaders.
In her remarks, Sandy Parnell called women “the state’s underdeveloped natural resource.”
“We are in the land of opportunity with a solid economic foundation and state initiatives promoting jobs and strong families,” Parnell said. “So, here’s the paradox, while women are making great strides in a great land, many more struggle, their potential unrealized.
“And for my part I want to speak about a particular area of devastating impact in the lives of women and girls – it’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse; I believe these are the greatest barriers to Alaska women achieving their potential.”
The summit was organized in part by Senator Lesil McGuire who, last year, commissioned a report on the status of women in Alaska with regard to housing, wages, mental health, domestic violence and health care.
The report revealed that on average, Alaskan women are paid less than women in the rest of the U.S., imprisoned at higher rates, and have a suicide rate that is twice the national average.
But there is good news too. The summit is also meant to highlight women’s achievements, and their success in the world of business.
Karen Hagedorn, is a production manager with Exxon Mobil. She described how her company partners with the UN Foundation to sponsor research to find out what are the most important ways to improve women’s economic productivity in different areas of the globe.
“We know that a woman’s economic status is one of the best indicators of whether her children will complete their education and will enjoy healthy, poverty-free lives,” Hagedorn said. “We know that when women are economically empowered, entire communities benefit.”
“Jobs increase women’s earnings, boost their self esteem, improve their bargaining power at home – which is very important in many cultures – and also delay early marriage and pregnancy.”
The Women’s Summit continues through Friday at Alaska Pacific University.
Ketchikan has broken its previous record for the highest number of cruise ship visitors.
According to the City of Ketchikan, preliminary counts show 960,262 passengers visited the community via cruise ship in 2013. That’s an increase of 8.4 percent over last year, and handily beat the 2008 record.
That previous record, which was set just before the effects of the economic meltdown, was 930,958 passengers.
The annual run of summer tourists visiting Ketchikan means revenue for local businesses and government. And so far, the City of Ketchikan’s sales tax collection is slightly higher than projected.
According to the reported results, which run through July, the total collected for this year is $6.35 million. That’s about $36,000 more than anticipated through that month.
The city’s budget projects total sales tax revenue of about $10.3 million for all of 2013. Whether the city hits that goal won’t be known until the start of next year.
The Juneau School Board says a community committee can review its ban on middle school travel for athletes, but it’s not likely anyone from the board will participate.
During the fifth hour of the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, long after the public had left, members agreed with Juneau parent Jon Kurland, who recommended the new approach.
At the beginning of the meeting, about 6:30 p.m., Kurland said a community task force, comprised of parents, district officials, teachers and coaches, would use a better and more transparent process to come up with an alternative to the ban imposed for the 2014 school year.
Kurland earlier this month sent a letter to the board, criticizing members for the way they reached their decision on the policy, with discussions held in the summer when many families were unaware a change was afoot.
Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School restricts sports teams from traveling to other communities for competition. The board on Sept. 10th extended the restriction to Floyd Dryden Middle School teams.
Kurland believes a task force could come up with a more reasoned policy.
“I heard board members express a variety of policy concerns related to this issue, related to budget expenditures, related to the cost of substitute teachers, other ancillary costs, ensuring an equitable process between the schools. I think you could charge a stakeholder committee with addressing all of those things,” Kurland told the board.
Public opposition to the policy has been growing, including among students at DZ, where principal Molly Yerkes limited travel this year.
DZ seventh grader Connor Norman presented the board with a petition signed by DZ students.
“My sister and I collected 146 signatures from students at our school who believe that you should consider changing your mind about banning middle school sports travel,” he said, several hours before the board finally took up the request.
Connor said it was unfair for the school board to take away students’ sports travel, or the fundraising they must do for the travel.
At 11 p.m., during the Board Member Comments section of the agenda, the board took up Kurland’s idea.
Members said if a revised policy is drafted and presented to the board by March, they would agree to consider it at the April and/or May meetings, for possible adoption at the start of next school year.
The middle school travel ban affects only athletics and does not extend to other activities student groups might travel to; it is set to go into effect on July 1, 2014.
On Wednesday, board president Sally Saddler said neither the board nor the administration would be involved in the community committee.
A Sitka veterinarian is warning pet-owners away from a part of town where two dogs were poisoned this week.
Pet’s Choice Veterinary Hospital owner Victoria Vosburg says the dogs ingested the poison somewhere in the vicinity of the Sea Mountain Golf Course. It’s about 5 miles northwest of downtown Sitka.
She says the dogs had different owners, and were not in the area at the same time.
“Both dogs were not exhibiting the typical signs seen with any known poisoning. By the end, we were fairly sure that at least a component was antifreeze. But because the signs weren’t classic, we’re not really sure what was going on,” she said.
Vosburg says the dogs ingested the poison Monday evening and woke up Tuesday with severe vomiting. Both died of kidney failure.
She says she’s not blaming golf course operators – or anyone else.
“We don’t know how they got the poison. We don’t know where they got the poison. We do know both dogs were in the area of the golf course. So the message I want to get out to people is do not walk your pets in that area, just in case there is more poison out there,” she said.
Vosburg consulted with the ASPCA’s poison hotline during her efforts to save the dogs.
A man in Mountain Village has been arrested for allegedly stabbing his brother. On Wednesday evening, Alaska State Troopers arrested 37-year-old Luther Aguchak who they say stabbed his 38-year-old brother with a knife.
The victim was stabbed one time in the stomach. He was flown to Bethel for treatment of the wound which was not life threatening.
Troopers say that the brothers lived together and the stabbing was unprovoked. They say alcohol was not a factor.
Troopers arrested Aguchak for assault in the first degree and transported him to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center in Bethel.
The Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s general manager is leaving for a similar job in Washington state.
Ted Wright announced his resignation in a press release.
Wright has been general manager of Sitka’s tribal government for about two years. He held the same position from 1992 to 1995
He says he loves the community, but it’s time to move on. And he says he’s leaving for personal reasons, not pressure from inside the organization.
“A close friend passed away recently and several others have over the years. My grandmother and mother both passed away years ago. I have close friends here, but I feel like I can visit them. Other than that, (in) Sitka, I don’t feel happy in the ways I need to in the next part of my life,” he says.
Wright’s last day on the job is Nov. 4th.
He starts later that month as general manager of the Stillaguamish Tribe in Arlington, Washington, about 50 miles north of Seattle.
The Sitka tribe has had financial problems in recent years.
“There’s some debt that’s accumulated. It’s rolled over from one year into the next. And it was really hard to see that because of the financial accounting software and the reports we were getting from that,” he says.
Wright says spending cutbacks and a new accounting system have put the tribe on the road to paying off its debts.
“The good news is we know what the problem is. We’re fixing it. We’re keeping everyone employed for the most part and we’ll going on a much more solid foundation,” he says.
The tribe announced this (last) week that the debt, federal cutbacks and the government shutdown have led to a spending freeze in some areas.
He also says some tribal employees may have to be furloughed.
Tribal Council Chairman Michael Baines says Wright came on board “at a very challenging time and had many difficult situations to resolve.”
In a press release, Baines says Wright began the process leading to construction of new tribal office space. He also oversaw refurbishment of the Sheet’ka Kwáan Naa Kahídi Community House and redesigned its goals.
Baines says Wright also developed new leadership within the STA, and leaves behind “a capable management team with new directors in almost every department.”
The 16-day federal government shutdown appears to be nearing an end, and Alaska’s Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, is getting a good deal of the credit.
She was one of the first to join a group of senators who began crafting an agreement that led to the measure the Senate passed tonight and the House is expected to approve.
The agreement temporarily reopens the government and lifts the debt ceiling while making only a minor change to the Affordable Care Act.
Murkowski says she’s still against the President’s health reform law, as are the majority of constituents who’ve called her office, but she says the effort to defund the law by shutting down the government was doomed from the start.
“If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past couple months is that we need to make sure that the expectations that we set are somewhat achievable,” Murkowski said. “I think it’s important that we do what we can to reign in aspects of this law that I don’t think are workable.
Three of the Senate’s female Republicans, led by Susan Collins of Maine, started working on solutions the first weekend of the shutdown. Ultimately they grew to a group of 14, six of them women.
Murkowski says she’s not sure their gender played a role, but suggests maybe they had a lower tolerance for nonsense, or they just had cooler heads.
“At one point I said OK, everybody put your coffee down because everyone was just a little too high strung and tempers were flaring,” Murkowski said. “And I think there was a calming effort that some of the women brought which I think allowed us to continue.”
Murkowski says the right-wing may try to make her pay for her moderation come election time, but she says she can’t let fear of a future attack ad keep her up at night.
The agreement only extends government spending until mid-January and the debt ceiling until early February.
Murkowski says the real work begins now to reach agreements on spending bills and avoid a replay of the standoff.
State Senator Hollis French has announced his plans to run for lieutenant governor.
The Anchorage Democrat had been considering jumping into the gubernatorial race, but set aside those plans after former Juneau mayor and Permanent Fund Corporation Director Byron Mallott announced he would seek the Democratic nomination. French says he wanted to avoid expending resources on a competitive primary race.
“I came to a place where I could see that he was going to be a stronger general election candidate than I would be, and since I’m really interested in winning, I thought the best way I could help him win is to run for lieutenant governor,” French said.
As the incumbent, Gov. Sean Parnell is not expected to face any competition in the Republican primary. Bill Walker, who has filed as an independent, just needs to collect signatures to get on the general election ballot.
French has served in the state legislature since 2002, and he’s run for governor before. He says that even though the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor don’t have to run on the same ticket until next August, he and Mallott already plan to support each other.
“You will see us working together on the campaign trail,” French said. “You will see us articulating and emphasizing different issues.”
“But you know, once we come together as a team, that’s when the two platforms have to merge.”
Bob Williams, a teacher from the Mat-Su region, filed to run for lieutenant governor as a Democrat earlier this year.
The Anchorage Police Department will soon be using new mapping software to track crime around the city in nearly real-time.
The announcement comes in the wake of an annual FBI report that says serious crime was up last year in Anchorage in nearly every category.
In a few weeks, Anchorage police officers will flip open their dashboard laptops and use a Wi-Fi connection to access a map showing where crimes took place around the city during the past 24 hours.
APD Chief Mark Mew says he hopes the new crime mapping system will bring the APD up to date technologically and help the department to be more agile at a time when crime is up and the department is short-staffed.
“It’s going to give us real time tactical, within hours old or day-old data hotspots, geographic places and times,” Mew said. “We can diagnose this data; we can make assignments; we can make patrol assignments, detective assignments and keep on with the crime patterns as they actually develop.”
The department’s current mapping system doesn’t provide real-time data to officers in their cars. Chief Mew says the strategic crime analysis provided by the FBI’s annual report helps the APD make long-term decisions, but the new mapping system will help first responders make better tactical decisions.
Mew says he’s been looking for a better way to track crime around the city, especially since the FBI report was released highlighting a spike in serious crimes in Anchorage in 2012. Violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery and assault were all up. The only categories that went down were vehicle theft and arson.
Chief Mew is quick to note that the overall trend is still down.
“We are up across the boards compared to last year,” he said. “Last year was a near historic low for us.”
“If you compare the numbers against the recent past over the last eight or nine years, we are still low in most of these categories.”
According to an analysis by researchers at the University of Alaska Justice Center, rape and theft are not only up over last year’s numbers but higher than the 10 year average.
Crime is increasing at a time when the number of officers is down. Dozens of officers are set to retire in January due to incentives put in place several years ago.
“If you retired by a certain date, you would get a lump sum that would make up for the fact that you missed all your raises, and that date is January 4th of 2014,” Mew said. “We normally have about 20 people leave a year.”
“We’ve already surpassed that and I expect we’ll probably have 40 go this year.”
The department is simultaneously having recruiting problems. Mew says they’re trying to increase recruiting by modernizing the test recruits take. In the meantime, he hopes the new crime mapping system will help the department cope.
Mayor Dan Sullivan, who has filed to run for lieutenant governor in 2014, has touted the decline in crime under his watch. He contends the spike is an anomaly.
“Over the last four years if you look at the average, we’ve got good statistics,” Sullivan said. “We have one year with an uptick, which 2012 appears to be, but if you look at the last four years compared to the previous four years’ you know average it’s a good story.”
“If over the next couple of years those statistics continue to go the wrong way, then you’ve got a trend.”
That’s something Derek Hsieh, a Sergeant with the APD and a member of the police union, is worried about.
Hsieh is leading a battle to repeal a new union-busting law supported by the Sullivan administration. He says that putting union benefits on the chopping block could be hurting recruiting numbers.
He also notes that the Anchorage Police Department does not offer a pension plan like most cities of its size.
Hseih is cautious to draw conclusions from just one year of data, but he says the increase in crime combined with the anticipated decrease in officers is very concerning.
“The number of police officers in Anchorage is dropping and it’s dropping at a rapid rate,” Hseih said. “We had just a number of years ago a high of over 400 officers and the Chief of police is now reporting that by next year we’ll have fewer than 335.”
“Simultaneously we’re having an increase in serious and violent crime in our community, and those two things together generally lead to some serious trouble.”
Hseih says he thinks the new mapping software is a step in the right direction, but he’s certain it will not make up for such a large reduction in staff.
APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro says the department plans to have the new mapping system in place by mid-November. It will also be available for the public to track crime in their neighborhoods.
Castro says APD will be the first law enforcement agency in Alaska to use the new system.
- Anchorage Crime Rates (PDF)
GCI and KTUU Channel 2 came to a temporary agreement Tuesday to keep the NBC-affiliate carriage in Bethel and eight other areas outside of Anchorage, at least for the next few weeks.
It’s a temporary solution to an on-going contractual dispute between GCI and Schurz Communications, the Indiana-based parent company of KTUU. The conflict surfaced when an old agreement expired at the end of September.
The rest of the agreement would end in December of 2014. If the two companies can’t reach a deal by then Rural Alaska would get hit first.
Brad Hillwig is the Marketing Director for KTUU.
“Cable subscribers in virtually all rural areas outside of Anchorage could turn on their TVs and not have access to KTUU-TV programming on GCI cable,” Hillwig said.
With Tuesday’s temporary agreement, that hasn’t happened yet. The details of that agreement are unclear and what each party wants long term is also being worked out.
David Morris, GCI’s Vice President, says KTUU has other options for carrying their service.
“They don’t have to use GCI to get out to rural Alaska,” Morris said. “There are a number of other providers that they could use. They are simply using GCI right now.”
Morris says KTUU wants the same free coverage on GCI’s cables and satellites as they’ve had in the past as well as guaranteed ad revenue from GCI.
“And on top of that, they are asking for about $2.5 million in cash for the right to carry their signal,” Morris said.
Right now, KTUU gets no payment from GCI.
KTUU’s Hillwig says the $2.5 million figure is premature and is unsubstantiated. He says GCI is putting customers in the middle of the negotiations.
“What should be happening right now is free carriage of KTUU continuing on GCI and these rural areas so that good faith negotiations for that 2015 and beyond time period can really begin in earnest,” Hillwig said.
Even if no long-term agreement is reached, some cable and non-cable viewers would still be able to access Channel 2 coverage using ARCS, the Alaska Rural Communication Service. On a regular day, ARCS carries between 5 and 16 hours of Channel 2 programming.
The temporary arrangement will keep KTUU carriage in Bethel as well as Barrow, Cordova, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Kuparuk, Nome, North Slope, and Valdez until November 8.
It’s been four months since the nation’s biggest wireless carrier began doing business in Alaska. And despite predictions that Verizon would shake up the state’s wireless market, its role has so far been limited to providing high-speed data service in urban areas. The company plans to enter the Alaska market in a bigger way next year.
Unconventional oil and gas development will be part of the discussion on Friday when energy advisory consultant David Goldwyn speaks at an Alaska World Affairs Council event. Goldwyn is co-author and editor of Energy and Security: Strategies for a World in Transition. The revised 2nd edition addresses new energy frontiers, rising safety concerns for energy complexes and energy poverty. Goldwyn says the revolution in shale development in the Lower 48 has changed the future of domestic energy development.
Unconventional oil and gas development will be part of the discussion on Friday when energy advisory consultant David Goldwyn speaks at an Alaska World Affairs counsel event. Goldwyn is co-author and editor of Energy and Security: Strategies for a World in Transition. The revised 2nd edition addresses new energy frontiers, rising safety concerns for energy complexes and energy poverty. Goldwyn says the revolution in shale development in the lower 48 has changed the future of domestic energy development.
Goldwyn : “I think we are looking at a significant supply growth for the foreseeable future, probably peaking at 8 million barrels a day for oil and 100 year supply for gas. So I think the supply side is pretty secure. I think on the safety and environmental side, I think there were some significant missteps by industry with a lack of disclosure, which I think was a huge mistake and now the conversation has evolved to concerns about wellbore safety and methane emissions, and water safety, making the air and water safe. So I think there are technological answers to be sure it can be safe. The question is whether state regulations are requiring best practices are used and enforced to make sure the low cost producers do the right thing and if they’re not, they are punished.”
Townsend: YOU MENTIONED A 100 YEAR SUPPLY, WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS FOR THE VIABILITY OF ALASKA’S GAS?
Goldwyn: “Well I think the future of Alaska gas is for export not consumption in continental United States. That said, the opportunities for export of natural gas are robust on a worldwide basis, from a climate change perspective, there is an enormous opportunity to substitute gas for coal and in parts of the world for biomass. So there’s a lot of demand, but the challenge is there’s a lot of stranded gas in the world and Alaska is going to have to compete with Australia and Qatar and others.“
Townsend: ALL OF THIS FOSSIL FUEL DEVELOPMENT IS UP AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF A CHANGING CLIMATE, ESPECIALLY IN ALASKA WHERE IT’S HAPPENING MUCH FASTER. DO YOU ADDRESS THIS IN YOUR BOOK AND WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CONCERNS?
Goldwyn: “It’s really addressed throughout the book. I think we have an opportunity from the gas boom to get some short and medium term greenhouse gas reductions. And that’s because in the next 10 years we can get some more greenhouse gas reductions by substituting gas for coal and biomass and in the Middle East for oil, than we can from any other technology on the market. So I think we really need to secure those gains and embrace natural gas for now. But, we’re never going to get to 50 percent reductions by 2050 until we have some technological breakthroughs and those are on carbon sequestration and utility scale battery storage.”
David Goldwyn is a co-author of Energy and Security: Strategies for a World in Transition. He’ll be speaking in Anchorage on Friday.
Students from central and southern Kenai Peninsula schools gathered at the Anchor River Friday to learn about the salmon life cycle. This was the kick-off to the Salmon in the Classroom program. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District partners with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to teach kids about one of the state’s most valuable resources.