Southeast Alaska has more residents – and more jobs – than ever.
That’s according to a report released Tuesday during the Southeast Conference’s annual meeting in Sitka.
Meilani Schijvens of Juneau-based Sheinberg Associates assembled the report, called Southeast Alaska by the Numbers.
She says Southeast has finally come back from the 1990s timber-industry crash. It’s also largely recovered from the more recent global economic recession.
“Nearly every single economic indicator in the region is up and continuing to rise,” Schijvens said. “[Southeast] is now in a cycle of growth and is stronger than ever.
The report says the region added 2,800 residents from 2010 to 2012, the period studied. The total population hit almost 75,000, topping the previous record, a little below 74,000, set a decade and a half ago.
Schijvens says Juneau grew the most. Ketchikan, Sitka and Haines attracted many of the other new residents.
“The largest group moving here are the 20-somethings,” Schijvens said. “They move here for jobs in the summer in the visitor industry and they stay because they have no jobs to go to.
She says Southeast’s payroll topped $2 billion for the first time in 2012, a 10 percent increase over two years.
Those wages went to 46,000 people, which is also a record.
“Leading the way were gains in mining, professional and business services, the visitor industry, construction and the Coast Guard,” Schijvens said.
The report projects the tourism, mining and health-care industries will continue to grow in future years. It says the seafood sector will remain about the same. And government and timber will shrink.
We have a link to the full Southeast economic and population study with more numbers and explanations on our website. It’s posted with this report.
The major remaining partner in the proposed Pebble Mine said Monday that so much has already been spent on the project that it could get by with a much smaller budget next year.
Although Northern Dynasty officials say the company will continue to develop plans for the mine in Southwest Alaska, the state’s senators are skeptical.
While Governor Parnell did declare an economic disaster for the communities on St. Lawrence Island due to a record low walrus harvest this spring, no immediate relief is available from state resources for struggling families. Unlike natural disasters, there is no pot of money available to assist in an economic disaster. And because of this, an organization is spearheading a fundraising effort for the two communities.
Two school bond propositions go before Fairbanks borough voters in the Oct. 1 municipal election.
The Municipality of Anchorage has rejected a referendum petition that was aimed at stopping the city from collecting union dues directly from employee paychecks.
The application was rejected for two reasons. One is procedural. The main sponsor modified the application at the counter, after sponsors had signed it, crossing out a section and hand writing something else in. But even if that wouldn’t have happened, Deputy Municipal Attorney Dee Ennis says the application would have been rejected anyway because the method of collection of dues is an administrative issue not a larger policy issue.
“This initiative is about whether or not dues should be collected by payroll deduction,” Ennis said. “That is just too small of a matter to put on a ballot. The larger policy issue here is what’s called the right to work, and that is whether employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union or pay dues to get a job.”
“The question for these sponsors is whether they want to change the initiative to get a large policy question on the ballot.”
Michael Chambers is the vice-chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party and a spokesperson for the Anchorage Tea Party. He signed onto the application for the referendum and says the group plans to revise their application.
“If the city is rejecting is only because it is too narrow then I would suggest that we should have some recourse in that regard to find out how broad the measure needs to be,” Chambers said.
The Municipality employs about 3,000 workers. About 2,000 hold union positions and are required to pay union dues.
The Alaska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal of a Healy area natural gas license. The high court will consider the appeal filed by the Denali Citizens Council on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
It’s the latest volley in a long running dispute between the local group and the state Department of Natural Resources over licensing Usibelli Coal to look for and potentially develop gas in the area around Denali National Park.
A license was first applied for in 2003. A state best interest finding in favor of the license was issued in 2010.
Minnesotan Bob Vollhaber has just accomplished what many Alaskans said wasn’t possible. He paddled a canoe, 5000 in 5 months, alone, through Alaska. He left the Washington coast in March and arrived in West Chester Lagoon in Anchorage on Sunday.
The giant mining company Anglo American has pulled its support for the proposed Pebble Mine but the other company in the partnership pledges to continue moving the project toward permitting and development.
The financial markets reacted to the news that Anglo American had left the Pebble Partnership by driving the price of the sole remaining partner’s stock to an all-time low.
At the close of trading today, Northern Dynasty Minerals was selling for about a $1.50 a share. A year ago it was at $5. At the close of trading last week it was at $2.22.
On an average day, about 173,000 shares of Northern Dynasty are traded. Today it was 4 million.
Northern Dynasty is owned by the Vancouver mining firm Hunter Dickinson, Incorporated, which has a number of mineral projects around the world.
A high school diploma is supposed to be a sign of readiness for the next step, whether that’s getting a job or going to college. But in Alaska, it turns out that most of the high school graduates who enter the state university system aren’t ready for the work. Not only are the latest remediation numbers getting attention from lawmakers seeking education reform — they’re already shaping state policy. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
If you’re a recent high school graduate attending the University of Alaska, odds are you’re in the limbo known as “developmental education.” Last fall, a full 52 percent of students were placed in classes that don’t count toward their degrees and are simply meant to catch them up and cover material they should have mastered by the end of 12th grade. If these students were already prepared for undergraduate work, they would be in a much better spot.
“They’re going to typically take at least a year longer to complete their program, so the cost of their education is higher,” says Dana Thomas, the University of Alaska’s vice president of academic affairs. Thomas recently did an analysis of the cost of developmental education.
The financial burden isn’t really on the university. About $2 million is spent getting those kids up to speed, and that’s pretty much covered by tuition. Thomas says it’s mostly hurting the students. On top of paying for extra coursework, they’re losing a year’s salary by not being in the workforce.
“Between those two costs, that’s a substantial amount of money.”
Drilling down into the numbers from the past five years, Thomas found that students who were coming into the university system with their GEDs were the least prepared, with 60 percent of them needing some sort of developmental coursework. On the opposite end were privately home-schooled students. About a third of them had to do remedial work, but Thomas says that percentage is highly variable and based on only a small number of enrolled students.
In the middle were public and private school kids. Fifty-two percent of public school students take developmental education courses, while 47 percent of private school students do.
“[Private schools] do a bit better. Some of that is simply size of operation, I’m sure, and individual personal contact teacher-to-student.”
Sen. Mike Dunleavy has been holding hearings on the cost of education, and he requested the breakdown of which students needed remediation most. He says the public school numbers don’t surprise him, but they’re higher than he’d like.
“If you look at the rates — again, coming from the University and the Department of Education itself — and feedback from businesses and blue collar entities, we still have a ways to go.”
Dunleavy is the former president of the Matanuska Susitna School Board, and he worked as a school superintendent before being elected to the state Senate last year. All the legislation he’s sponsored concerns education, with the most significant item being a constitutional amendment that would allow public money to go to private schools in the form of tax credits or vouchers.
Dunleavy says that while he expects the debate over his amendment to continue next legislative session, he doesn’t anticipate the remediation rates being used in that discussion — even though it’s some of the only hard data that compares public school and private school outcomes in the state.
“There’s both a merit in looking at the numbers in that manner, but there’s also a little bit of a danger.”
Dunleavy adds that he doesn’t think the numbers give a perfect comparison of public schools to private schools. They don’t tell us anything about the students who go out of state for college, or the more than half of Alaska graduates who put off college until later in life or don’t go at all.
On top of that, the public and private school numbers might be dealing with pretty different student populations.
“In the 52 percent that need remediation coming out of the K-12 public schools, we may be including figures that have folks that have special needs. We don’t know if that’s the case with the private schools or the home schools.”
Whether or not the remediation rates factor into lawmakers’ decisions over education funding next session, the numbers are already having an impact on the University of Alaska and the state Department of Education. Officials from both have been in talks about how new state education standards can be tailored to bring those numbers down. The Department has also recently moved to make college preparedness a larger part of its mission.
A man in the village of Tununak has been charged in the shooting death of his 2-year-old son.
Twenty-four-year-old Edward Moses was arrested Friday for first degree murder of Kyle Moses. He was arraigned Saturday and is being held on half a million dollars bail.
Alaska State Troopers first responded to the village early Friday morning after receiving a report that a child had died. They found Moses barricaded in his house and negotiated with him for hours until he surrendered.
According to witnesses in court documents, Edward Moses shot his son, Kyle, late Thursday night. He later admitted to the shooting to troopers and said he did it because he was upset with his wife, the boy’s mother.
Late Thursday night, Moses entered his wife’s house and told everyone to leave the house except for his son and told everyone to leave their cell phones behind. He allegedly racked the shotgun and pointed it at one person he thought wasn’t moving fast enough.
He later allegedly called someone on the phone asking for his wife and said he would kill his child in 15 minutes if he didn’t talk to her. He called back and the person heard a gunshot over the phone.
Moses has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 24 at the Bethel Court House.
Tununak is located on Nelson Island on the Bering Sea coast. There are about 325 residents there.
Alaska Native corporations and Alaska Pacific University are teaming up on a program that will foster the next generation of Native leaders in the state. Executives representing seven Alaska Native corporations met this past weekend with APU faculty for the start of the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program, which has been approved by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.
In Kotzebue, a child was killed Saturday night by loose dogs, or possibly just one dog.
Five-year-old Jordan Lee Reed had been last seem playing by himself that evening in his family’s front yard.
The child’s mauled body was found in a field outside of town.
Kotzebue’s city council has been attempting to deal with an increasing problem of loose dogs for some time.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is hoping a new challenge will help put an end to the honey bucket in rural Alaska. Over 6,000 homes in the bush don’t have running water and sewer service. And the state and federal government can’t afford to install expensive centralized systems that are difficult to maintain in those small villages. So the state wants to encourage innovators to form teams to design a new type of system that could work.
Bill Griffith, with DEC, came up with the idea for the challenge.
In Anchorage, it looks like supporters of a ballot measure that would repeal a controversial labor ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly earlier this year have gathered the signatures needed to put the issue before voters.
Supporters of the ballot measure to repeal the labor law, also known as “AO-37,” says they got more than triple the number of petition signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot (22, 136).
Eric Tuott, Vice President of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 12-64, helped deliver the signatures to City Hall Monday. He says the number of signatures gathered says a lot.
“Well, I think it says that people aren’t happy with the way that the process worked when the Assembly ran through the AO37,” Tuott said. ”And so, I think a lot of people are unhappy regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on and they don’t want politics done like that in Anchorage and we think the signatures prove that.”
The labor ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights.
The Assembly passed it last March despite protests and with people still waiting to testify on it.
The unions had 26 days to collect the 7,124 signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot. They say they gathered more than 22,000 signatures.
The city still has time to appeal a court ruling that allowed signature gathering to go ahead. If that happens, the ordinance could be back in court. If the city does not appeal, a public vote could either be held in a special election in December or in the regular municipal election in April. The Assembly would make that decision.
The Municipal Clerk’s office has 10 days to certify or reject the petition. AO-37 would affect more than 2,000 city employees.
- Prohibiting Collection of Dues and Fees by Municipality Municipal Clerk’s Office Response (PDF)
- Prohibiting Collection of Dues and Fees by Municipality Municipal Attorney Response redacted (PDF)
International mining giant Anglo American announced Monday in London that it is pulling out of the Pebble Partnership.
Anglo will book a $300 million loss and leave the project in the hands of Northern Dynasty.
Anglo signed on to the partnership in 2007. Anglo CEO Mark Cutifani says the company still believes in the quality of the mineral deposit.
Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen says the project will go forward, despite the loss of Anglo in the Partnerhisp. He says, “Northern Dynasty and The Pebble Project have both the expertise and resources necessary to advance the Pebble Project.”
Leaders from the oil and gas industry and state regulatory agencies met in Anchorage Monday for a work session to begin the conversation about what to do with aging infrastructure in Cook Inlet. One of the biggest questions to answer: who will be responsible?
The big takeaway from Monday’s work session was that there are a lot more questions to answer, and probably even more left to ask. Presidents and other executives from several of the companies operating in Cook Inlet submitted their comments to the Division of Oil and Gas. Their main concern was not being left with the sole responsibility of dismantling or removing the oil platforms that dot the Inlet once all the reserves have been tapped.
Considering some of those platforms have been in use for forty-plus years, and by several different companies, it poses an interesting question. Is it the state’s problem or the industry’s?
State Senator Cathy Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage, said she sat in on a couple of meetings like this, but she’s still not sure.
“Well, you know, I haven’t really thought about it a lot. As someone brought up, mining companies carry the burden,” Giessel said. “So should that be put on the oil and gas industry? I don’t know. I have to weigh that out,” she said after the workshop.”
Federal law dictates that mining companies are on the hook to have some sort of plan in place that wraps up operations once the mining is done. That’s not the case with the platforms in Cook Inlet.
Senator Peter Micciche, a Republican from Kenai, said the question of responsibility will be determined by the final use of the equipment.
“If it ends up being that the structure is for the greater good of Alaskans,” Micchiche said. “We talked about using platforms for (tidal) power generation…if we ended up using them for something else, it’s not black and white. I think for future development, those are agreements that should be made at the beginning. We should understand ultimately who’s going to be responsible and what those expectations are,” he said.
Industry leaders shared generally the same opinion. That setting aside large sums of money for future dismantling projects drains capital from current operations. And that prematurely shutting down or dismantling a platform could leave resources in the ground.
Buccaneer Energy president Jim Watt told the panel that hypothetically, a company would have a separate fund to pay for shutting things down, based on production over the life of the platform or well. But when asked by division of oil and gas director Bill Barron how the state could ensure that those funds would continue to be available as the facility changes hands, Watt said the reality is a bit different.
“Well normally in the terms of a transaction, the future abandonment costs are estimated” Watt said. “And that lessens the value of the transaction. So there’s a future estimate of value, of costs to abandonment, and that’s established as the transaction price. So in essence, there is no transfer of funds from one company to another.”
That worries Cook Inlet Keeper’s Bob Shavelson.
“Industry and Alaskans and I think our government all benefit from predictability,” Shavelson said. “We want to see clear rules, we want to see transparency. We don’t want to see a corporation hiding this money, we want it to be out in the open. So the rules need to be changed. We should do an audit, we should look at these things and understand exactly what the costs are going to be because I think that’s what’s up in the air right now.”
Cook Inlet Keeper recently released a report that took a look at what those costs could be and found that, at best, the state has about half of what it might cost to dismantle, remove or restore these facilities.
“Most of this infrastructure is getting on 50 years old, it’s well beyond its designed life. So these are issues we should be addressing right now.”
Everyone at the session said a lot more work needs to be done to get the state and the industry on the same page in terms of what they expect of each other, and what the best use, or disuse of all those platforms will be once the oil is gone.
As fall temperatures begin to slide toward lows that could be dangerous for the homeless population in Anchorage, Catholic Social Services has the funds to staff their overflow shelter. Catholic Social Services Executive Director Susan Bomalaski says a grant from the Fred Meyer employee giving fund and money from the municipality of Anchorage will get them through this winter. But Bomalaski said this Band-Aid-approach is not a good long term solution.
“What we need to look at is what is the reason there’s so many people in homelessness here in Anchorage,” she said. “How much of it is a lack of affordable housing, how much is a lack of treatment, whether it’s mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment. So there needs to be a longer discussion because you know, we’re not really interested in running a shelter, an overflow shelter, out into the future.”
Catholic Social Services runs the Brother Francis shelter, a facility that provides an evening meal and a warm place to sleep for up to 240 people a night. Across the parking lot is Bean’s Cafe, a day shelter that provides lunch, but is also used as an overflow shelter for up to 124 people on cold nights.
The funding shortfall was pieced together with $30,000 from both the Municipality 0f Anchorage and Fred Meyer employees. Zach Stratton is the philantrophy coordinator at Fred Meyer’s Portland headquarters. He said the non-profit fund created by employee giving in four states gives more than a $1 million a year to a variety of causes. Stratton said store employees decide what to fund in their communities. The Anchorage group wanted to help the homeless.
“And they came to us with this and they understand, how big of an issue this homeless issue is in the Anchorage area and with winter approaching and it getting so cold, they thought this was an important issue for us to get involved with and see what we can do at least for a temporary stop gap,” Stratton said. “Federal funds that once paid for staffing the overflow shelter is gone.”
Bomalaski said the drop in federal funds comes at a time when they’ve seen a 20% increase in the number of individuals served.
“Five years ago, 2008, we served about 3000 and through the end of 2012, we served 3,600.” she said. “So there’s a big increase and we’re trying to figure out what’s that about.”
She said that although they see Alaska citizens from other parts of the state landing on hard times in Anchorage, more are coming from outside the state. “Even just as soon as last weekend, you see six, six or seven people a day coming from Outside, you know that’s quite a few.”
Bomalaski said they survey the people who seek help, asking them for their last zip code.
If you feel like it’s been raining a lot in Anchorage, you’re right. According to the National Weather Service, we’ve matched a record that’s nearly a hundred years old.
Forecaster Dave Snider, with the National Weather Service, said rain is normal this time of year, but no break in the rainfall is unusual.
“Today [Friday] is the 18th consecutive day of measurable rain since August the 27th,” he said. “So that ties the record that was set back in 1919. It’s been a long time since it’s rained this much for this long.”
Measurable rainfall is considered anything more than a trace of precipitation. It’s measured at the forecast office just South of the airport. There has been some minor flooding around the city because of all the rain, but nothing big. Snider said most Anchorage records for rain are set in August and September.
There’s a 20 percent chance of showers Friday night and early Saturday. If it rains enough, Snider said it’s possible we could break the record for consecutive days of rainfall.
The monthly September rain total is nowhere near the record of 7.35 inches, which was set in September 2004. So far we’ve only had 3.79 inches of rain this September. Sunday is supposed to finally be sunny in Anchorage, but more rain is expected next week.