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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 25 min 49 sec ago

300 Villages: Chickaloon

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:14

This week, we’re heading to Chickaloon, a small community located along the Glenn Highway, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Patricia Wade is a member of the Chickaloon tribe.

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Categories: Alaska News

Driver Injured After Semi-Truck Strikes Bus Carrying Kenai Skiers

Fri, 2014-01-10 17:43

A high school cross-country ski team is okay after its bus was struck by a semi-truck on the Richardson Highway on Friday morning.

Valdez Police say the accident involving the Kenai Central High School cross-country ski team happened at mile 55 of the Richardson Highway at 11:30 a.m.

The bus driver sustained serious injuries.  No serious injuries were reported for the 49 students on board.

The team was heading to Valdez for this weekend’s Valdez Invitational Meet.

The Valdez School District has sent buses to the scene and is transporting the students to Valdez.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly Weighs Election Date Change

Fri, 2014-01-10 17:38

Image by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

An Anchorage Assembly member wants to move the Municipal Election from spring to fall. He says he believes it will boost turnout, which has averaged around 29 percent since 1993, but other Assembly members says it’s a bad idea and want the public to weigh in before any change is made.

Anchorage Assembly member Chris Birch is proposing an ordinance that would change the municipal election from April to November to coincide with state and federal elections. He says turnout is more than double for state elections in November.

Article by the Anchorage Times.

“So the objective is to move the election to a time when people actually show up to vote,” Birch said.

Birch says the one year when issues were put on the November ballot there was a sharp increase in turnout.

“The high point really is an election that happened in 2004 when we contracted with the state to run a school bond election, two school bonds, they passed and we had a 52 percent turnout,” Birch said. ”And that’s basically what spurred my interest in seeing a dramatic increase, a doubling if you will of municipal voter turnout.”

Twice before, the election has been moved. In 2000 the election was moved from the third to the first Tuesday in April. In 1988 the election moved from October to April. The rational was the same as moving it to the fall today, higher voter turnout. And the concerns were the same: the ethical impacts of sitting Assembly members extending their own terms and the Mayor’s. They solved that problems by delaying the effective date for three years.

Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson says increasing voter turnout is a great idea, but there’ no rush. Municipal Attorneys says it would be legal, although it would increase the terms of sitting assembly members by seven months. Gray-Jackson along with Assembly members Dick Traini and Tim Steel have a counter proposal.

“The proposal that Mr. Traini, Mr. Steel and I have brought forward is to instead of the Assembly making a decision whether or not to move the election from April to November, letting the voters decide when they want to vote,” Gray-Jackson said.

Gray Jackson says Assembly members extending their own terms creates a conflict of interest. Assembly member Birch has served on the Assembly for three consecutive terms equaling nine years. This is his final term. Gray-Jackson says that makes his proposal problematic.

“If I were Mr. Birch, whose term is over April 1st I would feel so uncomfortable bringing forward this ordinance right now,” Gray-Jackson said. ”If he really were concerned about voter turnout, why didn’t he do it during the nine-year period that he was on the Assembly.”

But Birch says he believes it’s fine for him to extend his term since every other Assembly member and the Mayor would also get their terms extended.

Birch: “It would extend my term and every other member’s term on the body. It affects every member on the body uniformly.”
Daysha: “But you’re the only member who’s terming out, right?”
Birch: “Yeah, that’s right.”

Besides increasing voter turnout, holding elections in November could save money, Birch says, because the state and municipality could share resources such as election workers and voting machines. Birch and the Officials with the Clerk’s office have talked with Gail Fenumiai, the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections. She says it’s possible.

“We just talked about whether or not that could happen and we’ve come to the conclusion that it could,” Fenumiai said. ”You know it’s still very early – a little premature to get into any details. There’s still a lot of work that the Anchorage folks need to do on their end to see if that’s even going to become a reality for them.”

Officials with the Clerk’s office say the initial change would require an investment. The seven-month extension will also apply to Mayor Dan Sullivan’s term.

Birch’s ordinance seeking to change elections from April to November will be up for public testimony at the Tuesday, Nov. 14 Assembly meeting along with the ordinances offered by Assembly members proposing the issue go before voters.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court Okay’s Referendum Repealing Controversial Labor Law

Fri, 2014-01-10 16:01

The Supreme Court of Alaska has ruled that a referendum launched by union supporters to repeal a controversial Anchorage labor ordinance can go ahead.

The Justices made their decision in just two days. The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, named the Responsible Labor Act or better known as A0-37 should be reversed.

The Assembly passed the law last March despite protests. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It affects more than 2,000 city employees.

Another case will decide whether Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has the power to veto an ordinance that sets an election date for the Referendum.

In November he vetoed a decision by the Anchorage Assembly to place the referendum on the April Municipal election ballot.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly Weighs Election Date Change

Fri, 2014-01-10 15:13

An Anchorage Assembly member wants to move the Municipal Election from spring to fall. He says he believes it will boost turnout, which has averaged around 29 percent since 1993. But other Assembly members says it’s a bad idea and want the public to weigh in before any change is made.
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Birch is proposing an ordinance that would change the municipal election from April to November to coincide with state and federal elections. He says turnout is more than double for state elections in November.

“So the objective is to move the election to a time when people actually show up to vote.”

Birch says the one year when issues were put on the November ballot there was a sharp increase in turnout.

“The high point really is an election that happened in 2004 when we contracted with the state to run a school bond election, two school bonds, they passed and we had a 52 percent turnout. And that’s basically what spurred my interest in seeing a dramatic increase, a doubling if you will of municipal voter turnout.”

Twice before, the election has been moved. In 2000 the election was moved from the third to the first Tuesday in April. In 1988 the election moved from October to April. The rational was the same as moving it to the fall today, higher voter turnout. And the concerns were the same: the ethical impacts of sitting Assembly members extending their own terms and the Mayor’s. They solved that problems by delaying the effective date for three years. Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson says increasing voter turnout is a great idea, but there’ not rush. Municipal Attorneys says it would be legal, although it would increase the terms of sitting assembly members by seven months. Gray-Jackson along with Assembly members Dick Traini and Tim Steel have a counter proposal.

“The proposal that Mr. Traini, Mr. Steel and I have brought forward is to instead of the Assembly making a decision whether or not to move the election from April to November, letting the voters decide when they want to vote.”

Gray Jackson says Assembly members extending their own terms creates a conflict of interest. Assembly member Birch has served on the Assembly for three consecutive terms equaling nine years. This is his final term. Gray-Jackson says that makes his proposal problematic.

“If I were Mr. Birch, whose term is over April 1st I would feel so uncomfortable bringing forward this ordinance right now. If he really were concerned about voter turnout, why didn’t he do it during the nine-year period that he was on the Assembly.”

But Birch says he believes it’s fine for him to extend his term since every other Assembly member and the Mayor would also get their terms extended.

“It would extend my term and every other member’s term on the body. It affects every member on the body uniformly. Daysha: But you’re the only member who’s terming out, right? Yeah, that right.”

Besides increasing voter turnout, holding elections in November could save money, Birch says, because the state and municipality could share resources such as election workers and voting machines. Birch and the Officials with the Clerk’s office have talked with Gail Fenumiai, the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections. She says it’s possible.

“We just talked about whether or not that could happen and we’ve come to the conclusion that it could. You know it’s still very early – a little premature to get into any details. There’s still a lot of work that the Anchorage folks need to do on their end to see if that’s even going to become a reality for them.”

Officials with the Clerk’s office say the initial change would require an investment. The seven-month extension will also apply to Mayor Dan Sullivan’s term. Birch’s ordinance seeking to change elections from April to November will be up for public testimony at the Tuesday, November 14th Assembly meeting along with the ordinances offered by Assembly members proposing the issue go before voters.

Categories: Alaska News

Permitting, the Public Process, and House Bill 77

Fri, 2014-01-10 13:00

The Legislature is going to go back into session next week, and one of the big issues they’re expecting to grapple with is permitting. A controversial bill that would put restrictions on water rights and limit who can appeal state decisions has been criticized by Native groups and fishing interests, but the Department of Natural Resources says it’s needed to streamline the agency’s work.

HOST: Alexandra GutierrezAlaska Public Radio Network

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  • Natasha Singh, General Counsel, Tanana Chiefs Conference
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TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Health Officials Concerned About Measles Due To Philippine Outbreak

Fri, 2014-01-10 11:14

European Immunization Week. Photo courtesy Gates Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons.

Alaska public health officials are keeping an eye out for cases of measles, especially in residents who travel to and from the Philippines.

That country’s health department this week declared an outbreak of the disease in parts of Manila, the capital.

Alaska has a large Filipino population, many of whom traveled home for the holidays or who have been back there to help rebuild after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in early November.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a travel notice for people going to the Philippines. The agency says all travelers to the country should get routine vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella shot. Most travelers are encouraged to get immunized against hepatitis A and typhoid as well.

Dr. Mike Cooper, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Social Services, says the risk of Alaskans contracting measles is pretty low, but “what’s going on right now in the Philippines is a great reminder that we live in a very global world. Ease of travel has increased, and so things like measles, unfortunately, are still around.”

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact with an infected person.

“People get a fever, sometimes very high, they can get red eyes, and a runny nose, and a cough,” Cooper says. “And after usually four days or so they’ll present with a rash – kind of a generalized splotchy rash that can start on their head and then move downward.”

Cooper says the disease can be serious, even deadly, especially for the very young, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

Dante Reyes is president of Juneau’s nonprofit Filipino Community, Inc. About 3,000 Filipinos call the Capital City home, and Reyes says many of them travel to and from the country at least once per year.

“I know that some of our members were traveling in the Philippines,” Reyes says. “And actually they were there and they left maybe in the last part of December, early January.”

Reyes says he always goes to a doctor before traveling to the Philippines to make sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations. He says most of his friends and relatives who live in Juneau do the same.

He says phone service is still spotty in Tacloban, where Super Typhoon Haiyan did most of its damage. Members of Juneau’s Filipino community who travel in the country often keep in touch with friends and relatives in the Unites States using social media sites, like Facebook.

“I have no idea if some of our members were affected by that epidemic in the Philippines right now,” says Reyes. “I think it’s in Manila, and some of them were in the metro Manila area and some of them were in the provinces.”

In 1996, Juneau had the largest measles outbreak in the United States, with 63 confirmed cases – mostly school children. Two years later, Anchorage had the nation’s largest outbreak, with more than 30 confirmed cases.

After that the state started requiring two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for public school students. Dr. Cooper says there haven’t been any outbreaks in Alaska since then.

“It’s one of those diseases where we’ve done a good job in the U.S. of lowering rates and getting rid of homegrown disease,” Cooper says. “But then when you get pockets of people that are not immunized – whether they declined it, or didn’t get immunized when they were children, or as they got older their immunity waned – they’re vulnerable.”

Kate Slotnick, Southeast Alaska regional nurse manager for the Division of Public Health, says the agency will reach out to local Filipino groups in the area to share information about the measles outbreak in the Philippines.

Other than that, public health officials say they’re just reminding doctors and nurses to be vigilant and watch out for the disease.

Categories: Alaska News

Police Find Deceased Akiachak Man In Bethel

Fri, 2014-01-10 10:59

Police on Wednesday afternoon found a deceased man who was partially frozen to the ground. He was identified as 37-year-old Marvin Paine of Akiachak. Andre Achee is the Bethel Police Lieutenant. He says police took a call about a body at the 150 block of Akakeek street in a cul-de-sac.

“They said the person was unresponsive and partially frozen to the ice. Officers and medics responded to the scene and found that person was deceased,” said Achee.

His next of kin has been notified. Police believe that Paine had been drinking, but they don’t know to what degree. Police say there were no obvious signs of trauma and foul play is not suspected. They think he was at the location for less than 24 hours.

“We suspect that on the evening hours on the 7th, he probably went down in that area around that time. In the evening time, it did get down to about 20 degrees, cold enough to freeze. In the daytime, it was warmer, so you will have standing water, and in the night time, it did freeze, so that’s how we suspect he got into that position or predicament,” said Achee.

The State Medical Examiner Office was contacted and the remains will be transported to Anchorage to determine the cause of death. That exact cause of death is not known, but some signs do point to exposure.

“It’s premature, we suspect that, it’s just a suspicion that it will be an exposure death, but we’re waiting for the determination to be made by the state medical examiners office,” said Achee.

There have been efforts locally to prevent outdoor deaths. The Bethel Winter House opened up this winter with a goal of having zero deaths due to exposure. Last winter, four people died in Bethel from the cold.

Categories: Alaska News

State Considers Closing Kusko Salmon Fishing For Most Of June

Fri, 2014-01-10 10:58

Subsistence salmon fishing on the Kuskokwim will likely be very different this coming summer. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is proposing closing subsistence salmon fishing for most of June to protect the King salmon run. State biologists are presenting their plan in a two-day meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group in Bethel.

The preliminary plan includes very limited fishing windows on the main stem of the river, all restricted to 6-inch gear. The lowest part of the river would get three, four-hour fishing periods in the month of June. From just below the Johnson River up to Tuluksak, there would be just one four-hour period in June. From Tuluksak up to Chuathbaluk, there would be one six-hour period in June.

Starting the first week in July, the main stem would see rolling openings for salmon fishing with 6-inch gear. That would start July 3 for the lowest part of the river, July 6th for section two and so on. The state is proposing to close fishing in the tributaries from June 1 to July 25. They also want to close king salmon sport fishing.

During people to be heard Wednesday, several spoke about the need for some fishing opportunity in June.

Tim Andrew is the Natural Resources Director for the Association of Village Council Presidents. He warned the group that residents may not support a full closure if they aren’t allowed to fish for species besides Kings. He said they could see another 2012 when fishermen fished during closures anyway.

“Whenever you do not allow a chance to harvest other abundant species over a long period of time, people are going to react,” Andrew said. “If people go in a long period of time in the summer in the drying season and they don’t see any salmon hanging in their racks, whether it be chums, reds, kings or otherwise, people start thinking about their winter food security. It’s really important that there is opportunity to harvest other species of salmon during that time period.”

Andrew suggested that the group consider using dip nets like fishermen did on the Lower Yukon River this past summer. Fishermen were targeting chums, not kings.

“It is extremely effective for the commercial fishery that occurred there,” Andrew said. “The King salmon that are caught are being released pretty much alive. I’m not aware of any circumstances where there’s any mortality.”

John Andrew of Kwethluk said that fishermen near his village are not happy with the proposed closure in June, which would give them just one, four-hour fishing period in the June.

“That’s not even enough time,” John Andrew said, “because as you know, even with experienced fishermen when we go out there, there are some days when we can’t get any fish in front of our river.”

State research biologist Kevin Schaberg gave an in depth presentation on the projection of the King salmon run which is expected to be poor again this year.

On Wednesday, the Working Group voted to support the following objectives:

  • To achieve the management escapement goal of 85,000 Chinook salmon.
  • To provide for reasonable opportunity to harvest other salmon species.
  • To ensure harvest opportunity will be equitable to all subsistence fishermen on the Kuskokwim.

Although the group supports these objectives, they have not agreed on specific recommendations on how to achieve them.

Categories: Alaska News

Susitna Dam Appropriation; And Set Net Initiative Rejected

Fri, 2014-01-10 08:27

Gov. Parnell seeks a smaller appropriation for the proposed Susitna dam. A Tatitlik village administrator goes to jail for misusing funds. Supporters of the marijuana initiative have enough signatures to make the primary election ballot. The flu is everywhere. What is in store for the oil and gas industry in 2014? Lt. Gov. Parnell rejects the set net initiative. The Municipality of Anchorage hires CH2M Hill to manage the port re-design. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark begich both support extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

HOST: Michael Carey

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Categories: Alaska News

State Goes On Charm Offensive Against Wal-Mart Over Salmon Dispute

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:21

Wal-Mart executives tour DIPAC on January 8, 2014. (Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

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As executive director of DIPAC, Eric Prestegard is used to giving tours. Every year, tens of thousands of people visit the hatchery in Juneau to see how they raise salmon.

PRESTEGARD: This is the kind of thing you’re only going to see in Alaska. This is very unique to Alaska, what you’re seeing in here. These are incubators.

On Wednesday, his tour group is a little unusual. It’s made up of half a dozen Wal-Mart executives, fresh in from Arkansas to learn about Alaska seafood. Prestegard takes them to a dark room that looks like a server farm. Instead of computer equipment, the towers are full of tiny, young salmon with fresh water flowing through them.

PRESTEGARD: So you can see the fry swimming in there … See ‘em?

GROUP: Oh, yeah!

PRESTEGARD: And you see the little pink belly? So they still have their yolk sac. They’re not ready yet. See the pink belly?

DIPAC was just one of the stops for the Wal-Mart crew. They visited Alaska Glacier Seafoods; they talked with state biologists; and they ate a catered meal of — what else? — Alaska salmon.

This was all part of the state’s charm offensive to make sure Alaska salmon stays in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club freezers. Since June, Alaska politicians have been at loggerheads with the company because of a policy to only carry seafood that has a Marine Stewardship Council logo on it. While nearly all of the state’s salmon fisheries have been certified by the MSC more than once, some Alaska seafood processors no longer want to pay the extra fee for their label. They think going through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s certification process should be enough to prove they operate sustainably, since those measures are based on United Nations guidelines. On top of that, the MSC has been slow to re-certify hatchery salmon in Prince William Sound, which has ruffled some in the industry.

While Wal-Mart’s executives weren’t available for reporter questions during the tour, Prestegard says the whole situation’s left Wal-Mart in a pickle, having to choose between the industry standard for sustainability and Alaska fish.

Oddly enough, I feel a little bit bad for Wal-Mart, because I kind of like they’re in [between] a rock and a hard spot,” says Prestegard. “They have one side — these NGOs and whatnot — that are kind of hitting on them, saying, “You said you were going to do X, Y, and Z, sustainability, blah, blah, blah” And then they have the fact that they’re a huge U.S. retailer, and they can’t buy from the U.S. And I think that does go to their core.”

While this whole conflict has played out, Wal-Mart has continued to stock Alaska salmon. And now that the Wal-Mart executives who handle seafood and sustainability issues have visited the state, Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell is hopeful that they’ll keep on stocking it, even if it doesn’t carry an MSC label.

“They’re committed to Alaska seafood,” says Bell. “It’s important to their customers, and they’re not bound by to a single certifier.”

Keeping Wal-Mart as a customer isn’t just an important financial move for the state. While the company does buy millions of pounds of Alaska salmon, the reputational impact that would come from losing them might be as — or even more — vital than the dollars directly attached to their decision.

“We want to be sure that any cloud that comes over Alaska and the sustainability of our fisheries, that we address that immediately,” says Bell.

The flip-side of that is keeping Wal-Mart committed to MSC products is also important to the London-based sustainability organization. While MSC declined an interview for this story, they’ve traded volleys with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute over the past year over whose certification program is more rigorous.

For its part, Wal-Mart seems optimistic that they can carry Alaska salmon without going back on their sustainability pledge. In a statement, Vice President of Meat and Seafood David Baskin wrote that “Walmart has proudly sourced seafood from the state of Alaska for many years, and we continue to do so.”

Categories: Alaska News

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:13

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

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Categories: Alaska News

Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:12

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

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Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:11

Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

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Gary Folger, who retired from the department as a colonel last May, has been chosen to replace Joe Masters. Masters resigned in October after five years in the post.

The appointment is subject to legislative approval.

Col. Keith Mallard had been acting as interim commissioner.

According to biographical information provided by the governor’s office, the 55-year-old Folger began his law enforcement career in 1979 with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection in Cantwell.

Folger graduated from the Public Safety Academy in 1981, joined the Alaska State Troopers and rose in the ranks, being promoted to colonel in 2007 and overseeing the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. While with the department, he also was a pilot and boat operator.

Categories: Alaska News

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:10

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:09

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices on Wednesday.

Download Audio

Union supporters rally in protest of AO37 outside an Assembly meeting in February. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

About two dozen people sat in the audience while attorneys for the Municipality of Anchorage and Labor supporters argued before five Supreme Court Justices.

Attorney Michael Gatti argued for the city that the referendum should not go ahead. He said the labor law is inherently administrative in character not legislative, something the municipality has argued from the beginning, and therefore should not go before voters.

“We believe that this is not a matter that is subject to direct democracy an not subject to the referenda,” Gatti said.

The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, also known as AO-37, should be reversed. The Assembly passed the law last March despite protests. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It would affect more than 2,000 city employees.

Related: Anchorage Labor Law Headed For Alaska Supreme Court

Attorney Susan Orlansky who represented labor supporters argued the referendum should proceed.

“What’s really going on here is that this ordinance in it’s entirely makes new law that fundamentally shifts the balance of power between labor and management in Anchorage,” Orlansky said. “And that’s what we’re asking the public to vote on.”

The overarching question, Orlansky says, is: does Anchorage want management to have more power and labor less?

Andy Holleman who is President of the Anchorage Education Association and one of the people who brought the case to court says it’s a simple decision that voters are equipped to make.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor’s veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

“What we’re doing is reversing the Assembly’s action on a given night,” Hollemans aid. “This puts it back like it was and the city can come forward again with different aspects that they think matter.”

“And hopefully they can do it in the right way with real input from everybody in advance this time.”

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler disagrees and says if the Supreme Court allows the Referendum to go ahead and it passes it could undermine the power of the city’s legislative body and spur more litigation and referenda around labor issues.

“You know we already have a lot of give an take in our labor negotiations. We have arbitrations over what the contracts mean. We have grievances over what the contracts mean. We have nine different unions to deal with. We have budgetary issues every year,” Wheeler said. “So yeah, I was always worried that this would open a flood gate.”

A flood gate that would be hard to close, he says.

The Deputy Clerk for the Municipality requested the judges have a decision by late February so that she would have time to prepare ballots for elections slated for April.

AO37 Stories:

Categories: Alaska News

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:08

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday. This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

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Categories: Alaska News

Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:07

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold. This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.

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There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere 30-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Alaskans are no strangers to testing themselves against the cold.  From frigid runs in bunny boots from a sauna to large events like the Polar Plunge, residents of the 49th state often test their bodies against major temperature swings.

As it turns out, there is an elite group that takes the prize when it comes to enduring massive changes in temperature, however, Antarctica’s 300 Club. Talkeetna resident Kris Perry explains how it works.

“Basically, every time it would get below -100, we would fire up the sauna,” Perry said. “You had to get the sauna up to 200 degrees, then sit in the sauna and get good and hot – which isn’t hard in a 200 degree sauna – and then you would go out and go to the geographic Pole and come back.”

There’s one other catch, too.

“You’re typically doing it naked, too,” Perry said. “Shoes are OK, because you don’t want to frostbite your feet.”

Kris Perry recently told The Atlantic about the 300 Club, and says that he did not know the full history of the exclusive group until he read the article himself. He says that the tradition started as early as the 1950s, when those staying in Antarctica were largely members of the military. They supposedly built a hot box in order to warm up as much as possible before making the trek to the ceremonial South Pole. As research stations with saunas were built, it allowed members of the unofficial club to reach higher and higher temperatures before trekking out into the 100-below chill.

Kris Perry says that he first joined the 300 Club in the Antarctic winter of 2002.  He says his motivation for wanting to subject his body to a 300 degree temperature difference was fairly simple.

“There’s the history.  You hear about it when you’re wintering,” Perry said. “Not every winter-over wants to do it, but there’s definitely enough of us who are like, “Oh yeah, you’ve gotta do the 300 Club,” because how many people on this planet can say they’ve ever done that?”

That first night, Kris Perry was not content to make the trek just once, however. Since he worked in the weather station, he knew exactly what the outside temperature was, and it simply got too warm on his first two attempts. Finally, on the third attempt, Kris thinks the temperature took a dive all the way down to 101-below.

“So I went out, got back, ran in the office, and everything was all good.  Every time when I was coming in I was looking, and every body hair was just totally frosted over. Think how the hoarfrost looks on the trees.  Every hair on my body was like that, and I’m like, “Man, that is so cool.  I’ve got to get someone to take a picture of this!”

So, he rounded up someone from the bar and made the walk for a fourth time, then posed next to a snowman. That was still not Kris Perry’s last 300 Club walk of the night, however.

“Then it got to be about five in the morning, when the earlier risers were getting up,” Perry said. “Some couple wanted to go out, and the temperature was good again.  I’m just one of those crazy people like, ‘I’ll go do it with you!’”

One-hundred degrees below zero is seriously cold.  It doesn’t take exposed skin long to succumb to frostbite, and the cold can literally freeze your lungs after awhile.  The walk totals a few hundred yards, and is done at 9,300 feet elevation.  The time it takes to make the frosty trek varies, but is generally just a few minutes. Even so, Kris Perry says proper technique is important to avoid injury to…sensitive areas.

“Some people were always in a hurry.  They were trying to run the thing, which is crazy, because you would start sucking in that air.  You’d hear them for the next day or two coughing, then they’d get over it,” Perry said. “I just always walked fast.  I didn’t run.  I walked, where I didn’t have to breathe heavy.  I’d keep one hand over my mouth and one hand over ‘the boys,’ and I’d be fine.”

Kris Perry says that his spot in the 300 Club is special to him.  Not everyone who stays the winter at the bottom of the world is willing to undertake the challenge, and some years it simply does not get cold enough for those who do want to make the attempt.

While he freely admits that its, “a little crazy,” he also says it’s an important rite of passage for the complete Antarctic experience.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 9, 2014

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:05

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Wal-Mart, State Officials Discuss Alaska Salmon

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. A trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

The Associated Press

Governor Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Juneau

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law. Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices yesterday.

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday.  This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold.  This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.  There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere thirty-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Categories: Alaska News

High PSP Levels Close Southeast Alaska Geoduck Clam Fishery

Thu, 2014-01-09 12:59

Southeast Alaska’s geoduck clam dive fishery did not open this week because high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning were found.

Geoduck Clam siphon showing on the sea floor. Photo by Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Clams from eight fishing areas were sampled, and Fish and Game assistant Management Biologist Justin Brease says they all turned up positive.

“Looks like they tested eight areas for a potential opening, and all of those areas failed the PSP test, so therefore we didn’t have any areas left that we could open, so we didn’t have any openings for geoducks this week,” Brease said.

Brease says PSP testing frequently finds positive test results in the Southeast clams.  Often several areas will test positive. This time, all of them did.

“It isn’t necessarily all that unusual that they have positive results at all. In fact it’s not uncommon for there to be high results everywhere,” Brease said. “We’re kind of at the northern end of the range for geoduck clams and we typically have higher PSP levels than, say, down in Washington.”

The Southeast Alaska Region Dive Fisheries Association will go out and take more samples this weekend for a potential opening on Jan. 16.

The geoduck clam market is depressed right now because its biggest customer is China, which barred imports of West Coast geoducks last month claiming bad PSP and arsenic results that both Alaska and Washington State authorities said they had found no sign of.

Still, Washington closed a fishery area just in case and this week Alaska is unable to open any areas.

Categories: Alaska News

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