APRN Alaska News
At least one person has died and dozens more are missing after a South Korean trawler sank in the western Bering Sea early Monday morning.
The Oryong 501 was fishing for pollock off Chukotka in the Russian Far East, with about 60 crew members aboard.
They were reportedly hit by a wave while hauling in fish in bad weather, and began taking on water. There was no report of a distress call before the vessel sank.
Seven people aboard were rescued from a life raft, and one has since died of hypothermia, according to reports. Russian search crews and nearby fishing vessels are still looking for at least 50 missing crew members in the cold waters nearby.
The 2015 Iditarod winner will take home the race’s biggest payday ever — $70,000.
Announcing the winning purse for the 2015 race—the largest payout for the first musher to Nome in the history of the race—the Iditarod Trail Committee notes the sum is $19,600 more than the $50,400 paid out to Dallas Seavey when he was first under the burled arch as the winner of last year’s Iditarod.
The extra money won’t only go to the top winners, however; second through fifth place will also see an increase over last year’s payouts. The second-place musher will take home $58,600, a jump over last year’s second-place take of $47,600. The third place finisher will net $53,900, just $100 shy of last year’s first-place prize.
All told, race officials say an extra $50,000 will be spread among the top five finishers, with $700,100 set to be paid out among the top 30 mushers. Mushers finishing behind 30th place each receive $1,049, a symbolic amount based on the race’s “official” – but often fluctuating – trail length.
So far 78 mushers signed up for the 2015 Iditarod, which starts in downtown Anchorage Saturday, Mar. 7.
Matanuska Electric Association has announced an increase in rates effective January of next year.
MEA spokesperson Julie Estey says the power company’s board of directors authorized a rate hike of 15 to 20 percent in November. Part of that increase is an .81 base rate increase.
“So every quarter, MEA can file what they call a simplified rate filing based on our costs to provide power. So this .81 percent is that quarterly adjustment that we do through the RCA,” Estey says.
MEA members can expect to see a total monthly increase of about $0.63 as a result of the base rate adjustment. If the quarterly increase is approved by the RCA, customers can expect to see about eight to ten dollars more a month in their electric bills.
“This is a component of the 15 – 20 percent increase that we were projecting for 2015. So this is not in addition to that, this is part of that 15 to 20 percent.”
Estey says the average MEA member uses just over 700 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. The higher bills in January will reflect about 10 – 12 percent of the projected retail rate increase for 2015.
She says MEA has requested an additional adjustement due to a hike in costs of fuel.
“And that’s an additional filing that the RCA is looking at right now, which is basically pass through costs of fuel for us.”
The majority of projected increases will be reflected in January 2015 customer billings, as MEA meets the increased cost of fuel under the new, higher-priced contracts for Cook Inlet gas, Estey says.
MEA’s new Eklutna power plant is almost ready to begin generating power. Right now it is going through tests. Estey says four of the engines should be up and running by the end of the year, and the final six engines should be ready by March.
Financial uncertainty at the Anchorage School District is leading to morale problems and an inability to attract qualified teachers. The School Board is looking for solutions.http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/01-teacher-retention.mp3
Marty Decker has taught English at Chugiak High School for 20 years, but now he’s thinking of retiring early. His class sizes have grown, he has less support, and many of his fellow teachers have been transferred to other areas.
“I love the kids,” he says. “But the added duties and the stresses and the broken hearts of people around me being transferred away, et cetera is pretty tough to take on.”
Decker says it’s no surprise to him that the district is having trouble recruiting new teachers because they offer low pay and no designated retirement. He says programmatic cuts are hurting students, too.
“The kinds of experiences that make a kid want to go to school, the elective subjects et cetera have been basically gouged out of the scenario. So, I think that in addition to the large class numbers that are sort of intimidating for students, there’s less for them to come to school for.”
Decker spoke before the Anchorage School Board on Monday evening. Other parents and teachers talked about the lack of substitute teachers. When a sub can’t be found, principals teach or classrooms are split up. The district is also having trouble hiring support staff, like IT technicians.
ASD already has an extra $8 million in the fund balance because of the high vacancy rate and the lower salaries for the less experienced teachers they hired. If the trend continues, they’ll have $21 million by the end of the fiscal year.
But School Board Member Kameron Perez-Verdia doesn’t see it as a budget surplus.
“What we do have is a $22 million deficit this next year and a $70 million plus deficit in the next three years. We have a serious financial problem and we also have serious internal challenges because of the cutting we’ve been doing for the last three years.”
Perez-Verdia and other board members say they want to focus on improving student experiences and overall morale for the second semester of this year.
So the district is considering solutions, such as increasing pay for substitute teachers. The rate hasn’t been raised in seven years. They’re also looking at hiring a recruiter to help find qualified teachers, especially teachers for Special Education. That department has a 6 percent vacancy rate.
Parents also made suggestions like giving retired teachers incentives to substitute teach, stop moving staff to different schools to improve continuity, and create schools where teachers feel safer expressing themselves.
The Board will make final decisions on how to spend the unassigned fund balance on December 15. They could decide to put some of the money toward next year’s projected fund deficit.
The Anchorage School District is considering ways to help charter schools find permanent facilities. ASD has six facility-based charter schools and one more that’s petitioning for creation. Most of them are have difficulty finding and paying for adequate building space, especially the German immersion program, Rilke Schule, and the proposed math, science, and arts middle school.
Joey Eski has children at Aquarian, which has a building but needs to expand. “Having support from the school district for facilities for charter schools, allows the school to focus on their program and really achieve their mission without being bogged down with facility problems,” she told the school board during their late session on Monday evening.
School Board member Natasha von Imhof says one potential solution is creating a $5 million Charter School Facility Fund. It would give low-interest loans to the schools to build or lease space. She says the creation of the fund might attract future federal and state dollars.
But School Board President Eric Croft thinks it might be better to bond to build new schools.
“The more I stare at the charter facilities problems, Rilke’s and others, the more convinced I’ve become that we can’t continue asking charters to find facilities out there. It’s difficult to find an abandoned school.”
Other possibilities include building one facility to house multiple different charter schools, like is done in the Mat-Su Valley.
Von Imhof also put forth a different proposal to provide more immediate funding to Rilke Schule, which will not have a building next year.
Both proposals were added to the agenda right before the meeting started. They will be discussed in more depth and voted on during the December 15 school board meeting.
It was a celebratory tone in Juneau today during the inauguration ceremony for Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott. After opening songs by the Mount Saint Elias Dancers, David Katzeek gave a traditional welcome that emphasized the unity campaign’s theme.
“Say it loud” “Woo-CHEEN” “It means ‘together.’ Together. Together–there’s not a thing we cannot accomplish,” Katzeek
Both Walker and Mallott were sworn in, sharing a stage with outgoing governor Parnell, as well as U.S. Senator-elect Dan Sullivan.
Dressed in traditional Tlingit regalia, Mallott’s short address focused on political bipartisanship and cultural empowerment.
“Whether we wear Carhartts, blue jeans, fancy suits, or silk ties. Whether we fish, or whether we work with your hands,” Mallott said. “We can empathize. We can know from Angoon to Anaktuvuk Pass, to Anchorage, that we Alaskans can be one.”
Mallott concluded with a call to “rise as one,” the motto at this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives meeting.
After thanking all those who helped his campaign, Governor Walker gave an emotional personal account of his own life. He says it mirrors the narrative of the state he now leads.
“My family’s story is Alaska’s story. Ya know, I remember my parents efforts and advocacy for statehood,” Walker said. “Forever etched in my memory is the very day that eight stars of the Alaska flag became the 49th star of the United States of American flag.”
Walker said inclusivity and transparency will be the hallmarks of his administration. He gave a general nod to expanding energy programs as the way to fix the state’s troubled budget outlook.
“Today oil was hovering in the $70 range. We’re heading for some lean times,” Walker said. “There is no reason we cannot turn that around. We live in one of the most resource rich states in the nation, in one of the richest countries in the world. The key to every growing economy is low cost energy. We don’t have a resource problem in Alaska, we have a distribution problem.”
Walker’s address was light on specific policy points, although he pledged to immediately begin work to expand Medicaid coverage in Alaska. Later he appointed Valerie Davidson as the new commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services. Davidson championed Medicaid expansion in her former job with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
Walker also named former Democratic legislator Sam Cotten as his acting commissioner of Fish and Game. Marty Rutherford, who held a post in the Department of Natural Resources during Sarah Palin’s adminstration, will be rejoining the agency as a deputy commissioner.
Walker, Mallott Sworn Into Office
Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage
It was a celebratory tone in Juneau today during the inauguration ceremony for Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott.
Anchorage Assembly Member Pushes For Pot Ban In Municipality
Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage
The municipality of Anchorage may use its leverage as the state’s population center to influence how laws on commercial marijuana take shape in the year ahead.
Native Municipal Leaders: Pot-Legalization Law Could Harm Youths, Communities
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
Municipal leaders beyond Anchorage also have a lot of questions about the new state marijuana law. They got answers to some of their questions last month in an Alaska Municipal League session in Anchorage.
Experimental Pollock Seine Fishery Opens in Cook Inlet
Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is conducting a test fishery for walleye pollock using seine gear that starts today and runs through February.
Wrangell Hospital Project Closes Contracts, Starts Fresh
Katarina Sostaric, KSTK – Wrangell
The City and Borough of Wrangell and the Wrangell Medical Center recently closed a settlement with a company formerly contracted to help finance a new hospital building. After the hospital project stalled in 2012 with more than a million dollars spent on contracts, city and hospital officials are hoping for a fresh start.
New Palmer Landfill Proposal Up For Public Comment
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Matanuska Susitna Borough Planning Commission will hear public comment Monday on a proposal to locate a new landfill in the Palmer area.
Researchers Say Dementia Risk Increases With Age
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
Baby Boomers, like everyone else, know that avoiding tobacco use, watching their weight, exercising, and staying mentally active, contribute to longer life. But, researchers recently announced findings that show there may be a downside to living longer.
Buying A Landmark
David Waldron, APRN – Anchorage
A group of Alaskans is trying to buy the landmark Butte, located in the Mat Su Valley. A non-profit is looking for donations to make sure the summit of the popular hike is protected from development. The fact that it’s even for sale is news to most.
The Anchorage Municipality may use its leverage as the state’s population center to influence how laws on commercial marijuana take shape in the year ahead.
Anchorage Assembly member Amy Demboski is behind a proposed ordinance that would ban the sale and cultivation of marijuana in the city. Nation-wide pot is in legal limbo: voters in states and cities are opting for legalization, but the at the federal level it’s still a controlled substance. Those inconsistencies could get very tangled when it comes to entities like banks and highways, which operate locally but have federal standards. Like, say, if you use a federal highway to deposit cash you made selling commercial marijuana, are you or your bank breaking federal laws on money laundering and illegal transport? See how quickly this get’s tricky?
Demboski believes its prudent to let other communities in Alaska test the waters on commercialization first:
“To me this is just a wait-and-see approach. In no way is this advocating for a ban on personal use of marijuana at all,” Demboski said. “All I’m saying is before we get into a commercialized industry that’s still federally illegal, we need to understand and make sure there’s no federal impacts when it comes to millions of dollars in transportation dollars.”
Because of its population, Anchorage is the largest potential market in the state for regulated marijuana, and Demboski thinks leveraging that influence can help residents and the city set better terms in the implementation phase.
“I think by opting out now what it does is it gives the citizens of Anchorage the opportunity to really be a loud voice in the development of these regulations,” Demboski said. “I think you’ll see the marijuana industry, I think you’ll see the state regulators come to the city of Anchorage and say ‘what is it you’re concerned about’ as we move forward, and ‘what is it that Anchorage needs in order to move forward with this potential industry.’”
But not everyone agrees that a local ban is a wise strategy. Proponents of the Ballot 2 initiative that passed this November say Demboski’s ordinance ignores the will of the majority of voters.
“For the Anchorage Assembly to consider opting out now is, we think, irresponsible and wildly premature,” Demboski said.
Bruce Schulte is spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation. Given that under the state’s timeline for implementation it will be another 15 months before commercial terms are set and permits accepted, no one knows yet what the rules will look like.
“Because those governing bodies have no more information to work from than the voters did on November 4th,” Schulte said.
Schulte and his organization are not pushing for every community in the state to allow pot. He says Ballot Measure 2 specifically includes the option for local bans, the same way many communities across Alaska have voted to go dry or damp. But Schulte says what’s at stake is making an informed decision on what exactly is being banned, and what “wait-and-see” actually means.
“Local communities have the option to opt out, and it’s expected that some will. If they feel that marijuana is overly burdensome, well they have that right,” Schulte said. “As does the municipality of Anchorage. We just feel that it’s irresponsible to do so now. We think the prudent this is do is wait and see what the state-wide regulations look like before making that determination.”
Demboski’s ordinance, which is co-sponsored by Assembly member Dick Traini, will have a public hearing during the Assembly’s regular meeting on December 16th.
Alaska Native municipal leaders say a new state law that will legalize the use and sale of marijuana could damage people in communities. Last week they told an Anchorage attorney who’s researched the law that the tax it authorizes won’t raise enough money to repair that damage.
Attorney Matt Singer says he’s been getting questions from local-government officials about the new pot-legalization law. And he got a lot more from a roomful of the officials Thursday during a session sponsored by the Alaska Municipal League.
Alaska Native leaders weren’t happy to hear Singer’s answer to a question on whether communities can ban the personal use of pot.
“So, you cannot declare a dry village, the way you can with alcohol,” he said.
North Slope Borough Assemblyman Forrest Olemaun said after the session that he and most other Native leaders oppose the law because of the damage substance abuse has inflicted on indigenous peoples.
“For many years, we’ve been dealing with the social aspects of alcohol and drug abuse,’” Olemaun said. “And my concern (is) the legalization of marijuana may lead to more use, more abuse.”
North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower says legalized pot could jeopardize the borough’s efforts to keep young people away from drugs so they can qualify for good-paying jobs with industries that prohibit their use.
She says the borough will continue to drug test its employees and maintain a drug-free workplace.
“We will continue to do that until we are forced in courts that (rule) that we are doing something illegal,” Brower said.
Singer told the municipal leaders that nothing in the law will change drug-free workplace policies. But He said both public and private employers will have to make it clear to workers that the new law does not exempt them from such policies.
Olemaun says he’s also concerned that the $50-per-ounce excise tax that the law requires to be levied on the sale of pot won’t raise enough money to pay for increase drug-treatment and rehabilitation that he believes will be needed.
“My fear is that’s not going to be enough to deal with the negative social impacts,” he said, “and if there’ll be a mechanism in place to adequately fund agencies that are having to deal with this, whether it be state, local or tribal.”
Singer says the municipal officials should be talking about that with their legislators, who can increase that tax and make other changes in the law.
“Any ballot initiative can be amended by the Legislature immediately,” he said. “So the Legislature could start tinkering with this as soon as it goes into session. And the Legislature has the right to repeal, or vacate a ballot initiative after two years.”
Singer said afterward that the new law raises many questions that will have to be answered by the courts.
“Ballot Measure 2 marks a major change in Alaska law. And any time there’s a change, it creates uncertainty,” he said. “And so I expect there’ll be litigation, and disputes.”
Singer says the litigation may delay the part of the law dealing with the production and sale of marijuana. He says the part of the law allowing personal use will go into effect by March 1st.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is conducting a test fishery for walleye pollock using seine gear that starts today and runs through February.
Bycatch is always a concern.
“It is the highest priority for us to not catch king salmon,” says Fish and Game groundfish management biologist Jan Rumble.
Because seining for pollock hasn’t been done here before, extra precautions are in place to make sure it’s done right.
“We will have observers on every trip that goes out to go try to catch pollock with seine, there will be one of our observers on board to monitor what is coming up in the net besides pollock,” says Rumble. “Then, if there’s too many king salmon coming up in the nets, there’s a large possibility that we will stop this experiment immediately.”
But if things go right, the test fishery will run for about three months. Then, the results of the experiment will likely go before the Board of Fish for review in March 2015.
According to the ADF&G release, one main purpose is simple – to test the effectiveness of using purse seine gear to fish for pollock, instead of the typical trawling.
But Rumble says this is one step in a larger effort to evaluate the viability of adopting a state guideline harvest level pollock fishery in the Gulf of Alaska.
“People are interested in having state waters fisheries so that we can still maintain smaller fleets of people who have access to fisheries without having permits,” says Rumble.
As the federal pollock fishery goes to a catch shares program, there’s been interest among fishermen to see more state waters open up.
“There’s a big push with fishermen to have some fisheries that are not already spoken for, that you can enter as a young fisherman,” says Rumble. “You don’t have to buy a permit; you can just sign up and try out the fishery and see if you’re good at it, see if you can make part of a living doing it.”
That’s been some of the feedback garnered at meetings of the Gulf of Alaska Pollock Workgroup.
According to Rumble, in the last meeting cycle, there was a proposal before the Board of Fish to establish a state waters pollock fishery management plan.
Rather than take action on it, it formed the working group. It’s made up of federal fisheries managers, ADF&G, fishermen in existing pollock fisheries, and fishermen interested in developing fisheries.
It’s taking a closer look at how a state-GHL fishery would maximize the use of Gulf of Alaska pollock resources while maintaining environmental protections.
Rumble says after a meeting earlier this year, Kodiak’s ADF&G biologists sought out fishermen for test seine and jig fisheries. There was a lot of initial interest, but when it came time to assign commissioner’s permits, no one showed up. Rumble says she understands why.
“You know, it’s a risk, right? What if they don’t catch anything? I mean, they’re probably going to invest some gas and time and money in their nets to do this fishery and if they come out and they don’t make any money, it’s a little bit of a risk,” says Rumble.
Now, biologists are trying again in Cook Inlet. They’ve already got a number of fishermen signed up. Rumble says it’s a reflection of changing times in this area.
“You know, 20 years ago, we had a big shellfish fishery here for Tanner crab, for Dungeness, for shrimp,” says Rumble. “Basically, there’s been a switch from that kind of shellfish to Pacific cod and pollock. So, people will tell you, if you interviewed a fisherman right now, even the sport fishermen, they would tell you there’s tons of pollock in this bay.”
The harvest limit comprises some of the quota left over from the federal fishery. 220,000 pounds are available before December 31st. Then another 220,000 are available until February 28th.
The City and Borough of Wrangell and the Wrangell Medical Center closed a settlement this month with a company formerly contracted to help finance a new hospital building. After the hospital project stalled in 2012 with more than a million dollars spent on contracts, city and hospital officials are hoping for a fresh start.
Wrangell Borough Assembly and Wrangell Medical Center board members approved the settlement with InnoVative Capital at a special executive session, a closed-door meeting.
Wrangell Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said the settlement allowed both parties to walk away from the agreement.
“The monies that we had already paid to InnoVative Capital, they were allowed to keep those. But we didn’t have to pay any additional funds, or there was no money that changed hands at all with the settlement,” Jabusch said. “So that was important to us.”
Jabusch said InnoVative Capital was paid about $900,000 to help finance the hospital project. The company secured a $24 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for hospital construction due to start in 2011. But the loan was not used, and it is no longer valid.
Jabusch said about $600,000 was paid to American Health Facilities Development for bid coordination services. That brought the total spent on contracts for the original hospital project to at least $1.5 million.
“And there were two construction contracts that we just basically received letters, and if we didn’t take any action there was nothing really we paid them. The only ones we paid were [American Health Facilities Development] and InnoVative Capital,” Jabusch said.
Jabusch said the work done under those two contracts is probably not applicable to the current hospital project. But he said some of the work done by InnoVative Capital to get the USDA loan could speed up the intense process of applying for a new loan in the future.
The contracts for $1.5 million were a source of controversy in 2012. Petitioners cited the contracts as one of three reasons for a hospital board recall election that year. They alleged the board violated Wrangell’s municipal code by authorizing the former hospital CEO to enter two contracts for a borough-owned building.
Wrangell officials declined to comment on the legitimacy of those contracts because of a settlement with the former CEO.
Wrangell Medical Center CEO Marla Sanger said the settlement with InnoVative Capital allows more flexibility in decision-making for the hospital project.
“It just seemed like it was time to start fresh and think about what kinds of financial services would we need now going forward, because things have changed, and it might be something completely different. So now we have that option,” Sanger said.
Sanger said she is trying to secure pre-development help for the hospital project.
Federal stimulus money made the old USDA loan possible. Sanger said even though those funds are no longer available, the USDA regional director has shown support for the project.
“We’ve had a site visit from him as well as the state engineer, and they seem very favorable toward what we’re trying to do,” Sanger said. “It will depend on whether we can show that we’re financially ready to make a loan application like that.”
Alaska Director for USDA-Rural Development Jim Nordlund confirmed the USDA’s support for the project and encouraged Wrangell to submit a new loan application.
The Borough Assembly listed the hospital project fourth in its capital budget requests to the governor and legislature this year.
A project team was formed early this year that includes Jabusch, Sanger, and others from the borough, hospital and Alaska Island Community Services.
The team has been working on a conceptual design that would join the new hospital building to the existing AICS clinic.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission will hear public comment Monday on a proposal to locate a new landfill in the Palmer area.
Central Monofil Services has requested a permit for a so-called monofil to be used for construction debris only. It is Central Monofil’s second request for a permit. A year ago, the Mat-Su Borough planning commission turned down the company’s application.
Palmer resident Stephanie Nowers says the landfill permit is not a good idea. Nowers says certain types of toxins – such as benzene and arsenic – can leak out of landfills and could threaten local water sources.
“And what we are seeing in this proposal is not any sort of recognition of those impacts or the near source of water on this property,” Nowers said. “There’s an aquifer that feeds our area wells and water. And so we are really concerned about these materials getting into our water and we are not seeing protection from this company in terms of a liner or a ground water monitoring plan.”
The proposed debris dump is in a gravel pit near the Glenn Highway. Central Monofil owner Shane Durand did not return calls for comment.
In 2013, Central Monofil was issued three citations by the Mat-Su Borough for illegally dumping debris in the gravel pit, for operating without a permit, and for creating a public nuisance. But John Klapperich chair of the Borough’s planning commission, says the company has been working with the Borough since then on a new application.
“And this is a resolution that has never been brought to us, so anything in the past is not part of this application this evening,” Klapperich said.
The public hearing is set for 6 p.m. at the Mat-Su Borough chambers.
Baby Boomers, like everyone else, know that avoiding tobacco use, watching their weight, exercising, and staying mentally active, contribute to longer life. However, researchers recently announced findings that show there may be a downside to living longer.
Today we’re buying a landmark, trying to anyway. Kim Sollien is the Mat Su Program Director for Great Land Trust, a conservation group. She said they didn’t realize the Butte was privately owned until just this year.
“And so we were like ‘wow, that’s a surprise, we thought that was already public.’ Because the Mat Su Borough maintains a trail to the top,” Sollien said.
The borough does own part of the Butte, but not the top of it. The summit is owned by the Mental Health Trust.
“There’s a mixture of land owners. The Mat-Su borough has about 80 acres on the northwest side. And a couple of other farmers like the reindeer farm have a good portion of one side of the Butte, and a couple of other private land owners have another side. So, it’s a mix,” Sollien said.
Great Land Trust is only interested in preserving the top of the Butte. If they’re able to raise the money to purchase it, they’ll create a conservation easement on it, protecting from future development.
“Even though the summit of the Butte is the destination for hundreds and hundreds of hikers every year, it could because it’s owned by a private entity and doesn’t have a conservation easement on it, it could be developed as a cell tower farm,” Sollien said. “Or someday it could be feasible to mine it for granite and sell that for who knows what.”
Although Great Land Trust is responsible for the fund raising, the campaign has drawn in some private citizens, including Dan McDonough, a resident of Butte and creator of the Facebook Page “I Helped Buy the Butte.” McDonough says he’s hiked the Butte hundreds of times.
“I’ve hiked it at midnight to look at the northern lights, I’ve hiked it during the Lunar Eclipse, early in the morning for sunrises, we’ve brought Santa Clause out there and taken pictures of Santa up there. It definitely seems to be a center point of activity for us,” he said.
McDonough even started a weekly Butte hike. He says his group has been meeting up every Monday morning for more than a year now. He started the group after realizing how many people he knew had just given up on hiking.
“A lot of people that have done it are people that have gotten away a little bit from the outdoors,” McDonough said. “They did it when they were younger, and they let a bunch of time lapse and now that they’re older they say ‘I’m out of shape and it’s going to take me forever.’ It seems to be those types of people, but after they’ve done it a couple times they’re hooked.”
McDonough says that’s what makes the Butte so special. Just about anyone can do it, and the payoff at the top is well worth the hike. And Kim Sollien with Great Land Trust couldn’t agree more.
“The Butte hike is iconic. You can see the Knik Glacier, Matanuska River, Downtown Palmer, the farms, Knik Arm, Pioneer Peak, it’s just spectacular,” Sollien said. “And it’s really accessible for almost everyone so we would love to have everyone who loves the Butte, and has hiked the Butte to join us to help us buy the Butte so it can be protected forever.”
Sollien says they’ve raised roughly half of the $180,000 needed to buy the summit.
Even before the announcement was made about the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri, the Governor had declared an emergency for the area, buildings were boarded up and schools were closed in anticipation of a violent reaction. Police were ready in full military gear. In the aftermath, protests continue and questions arise. What do Alaskans think about Ferguson and the militarization of the police?
HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Charles D. Hayes, Autodidactic Press
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Governor Sean Parnell has just a few more days on the job. Governor-elect Bill Walker will be inaugurated during a ceremony in Juneau at 11:30 on Monday morning.
Parnell has been Alaska’s governor a little over five years. He was sworn into office on July 26, 2009, after Sarah Palin resigned earlier that month. Parnell says he doesn’t know what’s next for him, but he expects to keep working on the issues his administration prioritized.
“Whether it’s resources and energy, whether it’s domestic violence, public safety arena,” he said. “You’ll likely see me continue to engage in those areas. Those reflect my heart and my passion for Alaska and I’ll look for ways to continue that service.”
Parnell lost to Walker in a close race – the candidates were separated by about 6,000 votes. But he says he doesn’t want to look back and consider what might have cost him the election.
This year, Parnell spent a lot of time defending the actions he took to address the sexual assault scandal in the Alaska National Guard. Parnell says he’s spoken to Governor-elect Bill Walker and urged him to use the National Guard Bureau recommendations for reform as his roadmap forward on the issue:
“If what has been learned is just allowed to rest and we let the cover come back over it all that doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “So this is one of those key areas that requires immediate attention and that’s exactly what I’ve communicated to the governor elect.”
Parnell says in the short term he’s looking forward to spending time with his first grandchild, a boy named Rowan, who was born on November 18th.
“When the world goes upside down and inside out all you have to do is hold a newborn and everything is made aright,” he said. “And that’s been my experience. It just puts life back into perspective and makes you thankful.. and that’s really how I leave office, that’s how Sandy leaves as first lady is we are so thankful for the opportunity to have served.”
Parnell says he doesn’t have any words of advice for Walker but he wishes him the best as he takes over the governor’s office.
Juneau is getting closer to becoming the third community in Alaska with a Housing First project to provide the chronically homeless with housing. Organizers told the Juneau Assembly on Monday that the project is moving from the concept stage to the design stage.
The North Pole City Council is looking at increased sales taxes. Mayor Bryce Ward has proposed the hikes to cover an anticipated $180,000 revenue shortfall. The public turned out in opposition to the tax increases at a City Council meeting Monday night. But the council plans to reconsider the mayor’s proposal next week.
Warmer than normal temperatures this fall are allowing expanded use salt to combat icy roads in Fairbanks. Salt is more effective in some conditions and less expensive.
Black Friday kicks off the rush of holiday shopping, and its also given rise to a fraternal twin of sorts, Cyber Monday. But there’s one place you might not expect online retail to be turning into a fact of life: Bush Alaska. High freight costs have long been a fact of life in communities off the road system, but in the last few years eCommerce sites have started treating rural areas as a potential market.