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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: 36 min 47 sec ago

KIYU-Galena GM Rigs His Home for Temporary Broadcast

Mon, 2015-06-01 09:09

This is a story about dedication to public radio.

KIYU-Galena serves middle Yukon River area communities; it’s making do while the station’s building is being elevated. KIYU-Galena general manager Brian Landrum says the facility is being raised above the high water level as a precaution in case of floods like the one that inundated the village two years ago this month.

KIYU-Galena is broadcasting from the general manager’s home until the station’s ‘face lift’ is complete. Photo: KIYU.

“We’re goin’ up about 3 feet higher,” Landrum says.

Rather than go off the air while the multiday operation is completed, Landrum says he’s continuing to broadcast the station from his home.

That’s not an echo… it’s ‘Olive’ the bird, who tries to repeat what reporter Tim Bodony says over the air. Photo: KIYU.

“We have a backup transmitter and back up console, and we moved it into the downstairs room. I’m using my son’s room, and so we’ve got wires strung all over the place and we’ve got a box that sends the signal to our other villages and — knock on wood — we’ve been able to stay on, and be able to broadcast. We’re hoping to be able to stay on a few more days while they move the building back into place.”

Landrum says things are going fairly smoothly, but there are challenges to broadcasting out of his family’s home.

“We have five kids, and a dog, and a cat, and a parrot, and so yeah, you never know what kind of noise can get on the air, especially when the younger ones decide to fight over Legos or something like that,” Landrum says.

Transmitter: check. Photo: KIYU.

Landrum expects he’ll be able to return to the station facility by the middle of next week. He says the project has provided an opportunity to clear old abandoned wiring from the building, as well as do other clean-up work. All of that is expected to improve KIYU’s sound and operational efficiency. A mix of federal, state and local funds will pay to elevate the station, which serves as a primary information conduit in the region.

Categories: Alaska News

Illness Linked To Child Trauma

Fri, 2015-05-29 17:33

A recent study linked obesity in children to domestic violence. Now, evidence indicates that childhood trauma can spur physical disease later on, when an abused child reaches adulthood.  In Alaska, the state is working to reduce adverse childhood experiences to lessen the latent impacts of trauma, and to help reduce the burden on social services programs.

In late Februray of this year, the  conference room at a downtown Anchorage convention hall buzzed with chatter, in anticipation of keynote speaker, Linda Chamberlain. And Chamberlain has a strong message.

“Our early emotional experiences do become part of the architecture, the foundation of our brains. Our brains are incredibly plastic, during childhood, but don’t forget as I talk about this.. until the day you die, your brain is plastic,”  she told the audience.

The event was  a symposium hosted by the state Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Dr. Chamberlain told the audience that adverse childhood experiences, such as witnessing drug use and domestic violence, can stunt a child’s neurological development.

“The younger the child, the more vulnerable the brain is. The thing is, that you will go into a shelter, a domestic violence shelter, and I will see babies with PTSD. I know it right away. They’re avoiding eye contact, they are frozen, inhibited.”

The good news, she says, is that, with effort, negative brain wiring can be changed. Chamberlain bases her comments on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, or ACEs, which was conducted through the Centers For Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente during the late 1990s. Researchers found strong links between childhood traumas and long – term health and economic outcomes.   Patrick Scidmore is a planner with the Alaska Mental Health Board.

“This is true of people who have ever been diagnosed with depression, people who have asthma, obesity. The negative outcomes are just more likely in the group with high ACES scores.”

Scidmore, is and a member of the state Advisory Board on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.  His expertise is reading the data, and translating that to more tangible information.

“For example, for current smoking, we estimate from our Alaska data, 32 percent of the people who are current smokers would not be smokers if we could eliminate all adverse childhood experiences. And that translates into about $185 million dollars of savings to the state. Not necessarily state government, but across the public and private sector.”]

Scidmore says data gathered by the Alaska Division of Public Health during 2013 shows how childhood trauma contributes to chronic disease: for example, thirty percent of asthma sufferers in the state have links to ACES, and almost half  of  COPD patients have high ACES scores.

Since it is more cost effective in human terms to prevent childhood trauma, than to pay for the damage later on, social service providers are seeking ways in which to do that. Communities in several locations in Alaska are working on becoming “Trauma Informed”.  Elizabeth Ripley is CEO of the Matanuska Susitna Health Foundation. 

“Since the ACEs study was released, the brain science has caught up to the science behind the ACEs study, to show that literally, trauma changes the very physiology of the brain. But the good news that Linda Chamberlain shares is that we can heal the brain, but we have to be intentional about it.”

Ripley says Mat Su has eight personnel trained in how to inform the public – in schools, law enforcement, and in businesses — on efforts to reframe how we deal with childhood trauma. Especially in school, where children who act out are often misunderstood.

“We’ve tended to ask ‘what ‘s wrong with you?’ And this changes the framework to ‘what happened to you?”

Ripley says a cohort of Alaskans have worked with the original authors of the ACEs study to train 25 people from around the state to help by providing information about the prevalence and impacts of child trauma

“The information about the fact that people can heal, and that we can build resilience and help people heal from the trauma and have brighter futures, is really incredibly revelatory to most people.”

She says creating resilience is the key, and that just informing the public and private sectors that touch children is a huge part of the effort. Mat Su joins Homer, and a half dozen Alaska communities now working to become “trauma informed.”  

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mat-Su Borough Assembly Rethinks Lifetime Auto Registration

Fri, 2015-05-29 17:13

Last year, the Matanuska Susitna Borough voted to become the first governmental entity in the state to allow lifetime registration for cars eight years old or older. But, this week, Borough Assemblymembers admitted that it could be a mistake.  

In October of last year, the Mat Su Borough Assembly voted to put a new state law into practice. With the payment of a small fee, Borough residents with cars eight years old or older, would have the option of registering the car, or a non-commercially used trailer, one time for the lifetime of the vehicle. Sponsors of the move said it is designed to help people save money. The state law went into effect January first of this year, as did the Borough code. But that was before the devastating fiscal effects of the oil price slide were apparent. And before a scramble for more revenue sources.

Fast forward to this week, when Mat Su Assemblyman Jim Sykes put a motion to rescind on the table.

“We are getting about 2.4 million dollars a year from the motor vehicle and trailer registration. And so, what’s happening under our current law that allows permanent registration, this is going to gradually decrease, through a number of machinations, it is going to decrease to next to nothing. It’s going down, so over a period of time, we don’t know exactly when the funds are going to run out, it could be 2022, or 2024, but very little money by then will be collected. After about three years, the major portion of it is gone, ”  Sykes told the Mat Su Assembly.

The law as it stands now, allows Borough residents with qualifying vehicles to pay a 25 dollar tax to the borough on top of the standard state registration fee at the time of renewal and that pays for the vehicle for life. The Borough already collects a 70 dollar road tax on vehicles 8 years old or older at the time of registration, and that money is distributed to the Borough’s road service areas.  And that is the rub. Sykes says the RSA’s will be getting less and less money due to the  lifetime registration option.

“This road maintenance fund, once it gets down toward the bottom, it’s going to lose over $2 million a year. And so the permanent registrations, if the law sunsets, as it is set to do now in 2018, it’s not that it is going to start going back up, because remember, these vehicles were registered permanently, so as long as people drive them, they won’t be registered again. So it will rise, but it won’t go up to the same level it was, until people buy new cars.”

Sykes says road maintenance is a major concern in the Borough. And if the RSA’s don’t have enough money, they will rely on the Borough for more money, and that money will come from Borough property tax payers.

Sykes offered an amendment to his own motion that would exempt non-commercial trailers from the repeal. That was approved by the Assembly.

Assemblyman Vern Halter agreed the drop in revenues to the RSAs would cause the mil rate in those areas to go up. But Assemblymember Steve Colligan wants to know just how much money goes to the RSA’s and how it’s used before a decision is made. Colligan says a good portion of the auto fees go into the Borough’s general fund.

Sykes says that if the law is rescinded, the Borough can gain $ 2.4 million , or about $ .2 million  less  than that if the trailers are allowed to be permanently registered. Not a lot of money he admitted, but,

“What I am saying is, we are in a fairly permanent downhill slope in terms of the revenue coming to the Borough. And we are in a fairly permanent slope of rising and fixed costs that we are not collecting. The difference is getting greater every year. ”

Sykes’ motion would restore the registration program to the way it was in 2014. The Assembly could not agree on the main motion, and the item was postponed until August. 4

 

Categories: Alaska News

As Marijuana Rules Take Shape, A Focus on Local Control

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:44

The state has a year until it begins issuing licenses for businesses selling recreational marijuana. Between now and then, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Board is home to a new body developing regulations: the Marijuana Control Board.

The rules taking shape are modeled on commercial alcohol sales, with regulators hoping to learn from past mistakes in Washington and Colorado.

On Thursday, ABC Board Director Cynthia Franklin spoke to members of the Anchorage Assembly in a packed conference room. The state codes concerned with growing, selling, and managing marijuana are expected to be done by November. And similar to Title 4 dealing with alcohol, the emerging ordinances are based on lots of local control.

“There’s really no way for the board to know what’s going on in the community,” Franklin said. The five-member Marijuana Board created in this year’s legislative session is patterned on the ABC Board, made up of five unpaid volunteers representing industry, public safety, and public health. Rather than administer every bar, restaurant, and liquor store, the small body defers to decisions made in towns and villages across the state, after proposoals have been vetted at the local level.

“That’s the only way to really make it work,” Franklin added. The same approach is being brought to marijuana.

The first set of regulatory guidelines deal with opt out provisions, and the ability for communities to reject commercial sales all together, similar to local option laws banning liquor stores or bars.

But for towns and municipalities that go forward with commercial ventures, the business requirements will be modeled on alcohol, all the way to dosage labeling and expiration dates. Many see an opportunity to improve on the excesses of the alcohol industry in Alaska.

“Bar licenses in Anchorage, for instance, are selling as much as $275,000 to $350,000,” said Franklin, who has been critical of the secondary market for permits that are privately sold back and forth.

The board aims to places limits on license transfers, without eliminating them all together. It also gives municipalities control of how many licenses they want to make available in the community. And it makes the permit application system merit based, rather than a lottery system. The idea is to keep bad operators out of the market.

As the second and third sets of regulations take shape, residents can also expect to see industry guidelines that will determine which marijuana is legitimate for sale, and what’s illegal if regulators find it on shelves. This is what’s known as “trackability,” being able to track strains of cannabis to make sure it is up to par with state standards–like the difference between a bottle of branded alcohol and a jug of moonshine.

At a recent convention in Anchorage for marijuana businesses, Assembly Member Amy Demboski was impressed to see software that can track product from “seed to sale,” helping merchants source their wares.

However, Demboski believes that fear of sanction should not be the only thing keeping potential businesses working within state guide-lines.

“If there is a bad actor,” Demboski said, “it would be very helpful for the industry to self-police.”

So far, Demboski and other Assembly members are impressed with how comprehensive and responsive the ABC Board’s regulatory process has been, incorporating Assembly feedback and public input.

That’s true for some jumping into the burgeoning private sector, as well.

“I think the process seems really fair, and the new marijuana control board will set fair regulations,” said Theresa Collins, owner of a local business that hosts marijuana-friendly events.

“It’s really important for people that are going into the industry to get involved,” Collins added after the work session ended.

The next meeting of the Marijuana Control Board  is on July 2nd in Fairbanks, followed by a 30-day public commenting period. The first set of draft regulations are available through the ABC Board’s website.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court: DNR Wrongfully Issued Pebble Permits

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:43

Just a day after two federal lawsuits involving the Pebble mine were in the news, mine opponents Friday are hailing the Alaska Supreme Court’s decisions on two state cases.

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The justices unanimously overturned a 2011 ruling in a case that challenged whether the DNR permits issued for exploratory work at the Pebble site should’ve included some public notice.

The plaintiffs, including Nunamta Aulukestai, Vic Fischer, and former first lady Bella Hammond, argued that DNR was essentially disposing of public lands when it permitted the drilling of more than 1,000 holes and dozens of seismic blast lines as Pebble explored the deposit north of Lake Iliamna.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the State of Alaska, and Pebble, which had joined the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the 2011 ruling.

The second case, linked to the first, involved the matter of collecting legal fees after a lawsuit. After the first case was ruled on in 2011, Pebble and the State of Alaska sought costs and attorney’s fees of nearly a million dollars from the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs argued they had brought a non-frivolous constitutional claim, and didn’t have a sufficient economic motive for doing so. The Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed.

Categories: Alaska News

AIDEA Holds Off On F.N.G. Decision

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:42

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has delayed action on the state agency’s proposed purchase of Fairbanks Natural Gas parent company Pentex. The AIDEA Board announced the delay, following an executive session in Anchorage Wednesday, siting technical engineering issues related to the $54 million deal. The session followed numerous public comments critical of the deal.

Listen now:

The Pentex/Fairbanks Natural Gas utility purchase is aimed at forwarding the state lead Interior Energy Project to bring low cost natural gas to Fairbanks. The overall project has general public support, but its viability and timeline drew questions at the AIDEA meeting. Most of the public commenters urged the agency to re-focus on the alternate option of shipping in low cost propane from Canada. Commercial property owner Pamela Troop emphasized the fuels portability.

Another commenter, Delta Junction wind energy producer Mike Craft, pointed to the lack of a sufficient natural gas supply, and FNG’s currently limited local gas distribution system.

AIDEA is helping finance FNG and North Star Borough’s Interior Gas Utility expansion of local gas distribution piping, but broader use of the clean burning fuel is expected to still be years out, too slow for residents like Jimmy Fox, who also voiced support for propane as an alternative to wood heating, that fouls wintertime air.

The AIDEA Board did not respond to public comments, but is considering propane as part of an RFP process. A statement from AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik says the corporation remains positive about progress, and continues to work to bring affordable energy to Fairbanks. The AIDEA Board can take up resolutions related to the Pentex purchase with 5 days public notice, or at its next scheduled meeting in Fairbanks June 25.

Categories: Alaska News

State Reacts To Study Linking Childhood Obesity to Domestic Violence

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:40

A recent study linked obesity in children to domestic violence. Now, evidence indicates that childhood trauma can spur physical disease later on, when an abused child reaches adulthood.

In Alaska, the state is working to reduce adverse childhood experiences to lessen the latent impacts of trauma, and to help reduce the burden on social services programs.

Download Audio:

Categories: Alaska News

UAS Chancellor John Pugh leaves behind a legacy of caring for students

Fri, 2015-05-29 16:39

John Pugh’s last day as chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast is Friday. He’s retiring after almost three decades with the college. Pugh leaves a legacy of being much more than a chancellor to students — he was a teacher, adviser and friend.

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John Pugh joined UAS in 1987. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Valerie Davidson was 19 when she met John Pugh. She was interning for the Alaska Legislature and studying elementary education at UAS. He was her college adviser.

“As many 19-year-olds are, I had these grand visions of how I was going to change the world and what I so appreciated about John was he enthusiastically accepted all of my grand visions of the world, but helped me to establish more realistic timelines,” Davidson says.

Davidson is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, a position Pugh formerly held. When she was appointed, Davidson and Pugh saw each other at a governor’s reception and they reconnected. She says he continues to be her adviser.

“You know there are just times in your life when you meet people who are there at exactly the right time, exactly the right place and for exactly the right reason. And I was very fortunate because I got not only one of those experiences with John but I got two, at times in my life that were really critical decision points for me,” Davidson says.

Pugh arrived in Juneau in 1978 to work for health and social services. Afterward he worked briefly as a legislative staffer before joining UAS in June of 1987 to help with the budget. By fall, Pugh was the dean of Arts and Sciences.

Since then the number of full-time students has grown from 300 to more than 800. Several facilities, like the Egan Library and residential housing, have been built on the Juneau campus.

Pugh was also part of the 1987 reorganization to integrate what was then Ketchikan Community College and Sitka Community College into campuses of UAS. Pugh says that was a hard transition.

“We worked constantly getting to Sitka and Ketchikan and making sure they felt a part of this, and I’d say it took a good ten years to get to where there was a real comfort level of trust,” Pugh says.

Ketchikan Campus Director Priscilla Schulte has been at the school for 35 years, back when it was a community college. She says Pugh has done a great job of being inclusive.

“We get the feeling that he understands our community. He has always kept us in mind so that when issues came up he was always, ‘What does Ketchikan think?’” Schulte says.

She says Pugh really supported the bachelor of liberal arts distance program, which helped UAS Ketchikan evolve.

“Once the pulp mill closed and we were losing the local students, moving into the e-learning was really important for us,” Schulte says.

When he was a dean, John Pugh was duct taped to a library pillar for a student fundraiser.

Pugh was appointed chancellor in 1999. He says his biggest challenge was making sure UAS got enough funding to be a quality institution. With UAS representing less than 10 percent of the entire University of Alaska budget, Pugh says it was never about competing with the bigger schools for resources.

“We’re not UAF, we’re not UAA. We’re UAS. What is it that we can do? What can we do for our region? What can we do for the state?” Pugh says.

Pugh is known for walking around campus with a smile. He’s a self-proclaimed “glass half full” type of person, but if he ever did find himself down, “I would find where the students are and it always picked me up.”

UAS Student Body President Callie Conerton says Pugh would do anything to make the students laugh.

“John did the dunk tank at Spring Carnival and students, of course, lined up. How many students can say that they dunked their chancellor,” Conerton says.

He’s had pies in his face. He’s jumped into frigid water for the polar plunge. Pugh has even been duct taped to a library pillar.

Conerton says having an approachable college leader has made a difference in her academic career.

“It makes me want to attend school. It makes me realize that people care about me. One thing that UAS is great about is that it’s a community and so John was great about making sure that students knew that they were a part of something bigger than themselves,” Conerton says.

Pugh says he got just as much from the students as they got from him.

“Those interactions really buoyed me and gave me strength and it made me understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, helped me to really push harder to advocate for higher education,” Pugh says.

He says his departure from UAS is filled with mixed emotions.

“I often wonder what I’m going to do when I get up in the morning. I’ve said that to my wife. So not coming out here – that will be very different,” Pugh says.

Pugh became Chancellor Emeritus as UAS’s recent commencement ceremony. Pugh says that means he’ll have a permanent connection to the college. He doesn’t see the rank as just a title, but as a responsibility.

UAS is hosting a retirement party for John Pugh this Saturday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lakeside Grill in UAS’s Mourant Building. The public is invited.
Categories: Alaska News

AK: A teenager and his past

Fri, 2015-05-29 14:26

Johnson Youth Center students whip up brown sugar shortbread and a hollandaise sauce. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

It’s graduation season for Alaska’s high school seniors. Earning a diploma marks a milestone in a person’s life. And for one Juneau student, that milestone is especially sweet after his high school experience was interrupted with several trips to juvenile detention.

Listen now:

At the Johnson Youth Center in Juneau, a handful of students are mixing, blending, and whisking their way through culinary class. It’s not easy stuff.

For J, an 18 year-old finishing his first year here, learning how to make crème brule was a big moment.

“It taste like heaven but in a custard way,” J said. “One time we tried to get the hard crust on the top, but we set off the fire alarm here.”

We’re not releasing J’s full name because, as a juvenile, his criminal record is confidential.

Although J’s graduating soon with his high school diploma, he still has another year left at JYC. The center houses juveniles for both the long and short term.

A “soft” room at the Johnson Youth Center. Residents must earn points to receive amenities like a couch. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

“Coming here I thought my life was over,” he said. “I was like ‘wow, what am I going to do now.’ But being here got me all these classes and activities that’s going to help me in the real world.”

J fell in love with culinary class pretty soon after coming to the center. Chef and teacher David Moorehead says cooking teaches the kids focus and managing expectations. Some have felony charges and are court ordered to spend two years locked up at JYC.

“I think this place can be really heavy on the kids. And this kind of gives them a little outlet,” Moorehead said. “So for some of them it’s the best thing since apple pie to be able to break away from the regimentation and learn something new.”

When he was in regular high school, he says J caved to peer-pressure. He’s not comfortable detailing the crime that landed him here, but he says he made a lot of poor decisions.

“I made a lot of mistakes over and over again,” J said.

Now he lives in the treatment wing, which is separate from short-term detention. Staff don’t refer to him as an inmate: He’s a “resident.” And the facility isn’t called a jail. Some of kids on the treatment wing, like J, are repeat offenders who were in and out of the system until the court appointed a longer stay.

“When you go through his file and you see how many times he has come to visit us,” Julie Black, a teacher’s aide, said. “You say, ‘huh,’ at what point didn’t you get it?”

She says it took some time, but eventually J started to come around.

“He all of a sudden woke up,” Black said. “Watching him buckle down and get to school and everyday I’d go down and see him, and you’d just see this kid doing everything he could to do it right.”

A Johnson Youth Center resident irons his gown for graduation. Four students at the center recently earned their high school diploma. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

In part, J says his wake up call came after being sentenced to two years at the center.

“Like, two years of your life taken away,” J said. “After this, there’s no coming back to JYC. It’s the big boy house. There’s a lot of people counting on me. I don’t want to let them down.”

One of the people counting on him is his infant son. He had to miss the birth while he was serving his sentence.

“That was a really big disappointment in my life,” J said. “I was like I don’t want to go through this again. I don’t put my son through this. I just want to be there in his life when I get out of here and stay there.”

JYC offers counseling on being a good parent, dealing with stress and building healthy relationships. J says, during his time at the center, he’s learned a lot about himself. And he wants people to know, he’s not the same kid from day one.

“I’m not going to be that punk kid anymore that didn’t care what other people think or didn’t care about anything,” J said. “Like deep down inside, I do care. I’m not going have my mistakes define who I am today. I’m going to move past that.”

In a year or less, he will be back out in the world. He’s the first in his family to earn a high school diploma. He says he’s a little anxious about what the future will bring.

“I came here not having much responsibility except for going to school, but now I’m out have I have to hold a job, take care of my son, and like, live on my own,” he said. “And that gets me nervous, but not as nervous because I know I can do it.”

With the work-readiness training from JYC, J says he’s looking into careers in the culinary arts or mining.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Amanda Cash and ‘The Magpie’

Fri, 2015-05-29 14:26

This week, we’re talking with chef Amanda Cash, who owns a new food trailer in Anchorage called ‘The Magpie’ that specializes in making breakfast- and lunch- with local ingredients.

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Categories: Alaska News

Suicide Prevention

Fri, 2015-05-29 12:00

Spring is a time of new growth and renewal but it is also too often a time that an increase in suicide occurs. Why does Alaska continue to lead the nation in rates of self harm? What’s being done to help Alaskans choose to live rather than end their lives?

HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Cynthia Erickson, founder ‘My Grandmother’s House,’ and a member of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council
  • Eric Boyer, UAA’s Center for Human Development
  • Callers statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, June 2, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

 

Categories: Alaska News

Crab Fest Food: The Bruin Burger

Fri, 2015-05-29 11:21

Crab Fest hit town this weekend, and one of the stars of the festival was the bruin burger.

On the first day of Crab Fest, there’s a line trailing away from the window of the Kodiak Sno-Bruins food cart. The nonprofit fries up the Kodiak staple every year for the festival.

But what is the Bruin Burger? We asked a few people in line.

Sno-Bruins volunteer, Tom Abell, recieves customers’ orders at Crab Fest 2015. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

“It’s basically a flattened out dough with some burger, cheese, a little egg and oil to hold it all together and then they just deep fry it…”

“Meaty and cheesy…”

“Deliciousness, it’s deep, fat friend amazingness…”

“A hot pocket of friend goodness.”

According to a couple of people in line, it sells out fast.

“’Cause sometimes at the end of the crabfest, it’s almost gone, so everybody’s trying to buy it first day of the crab fest,” says one customer.

“Talked to a few people around here and they said, yeah it sells out within Saturday,” says another patron. “People come and get dozens of them and bring them back to the tribe and everything like that. It’s that amazing. I’ve walked around and everything looks so good, but I’ve always learned follow the line. The one longest line is the best one.”

The bruin burger isn’t just a fried guilty pleasure or fairgrounds treat. It’s also fundraising gold.

Inside the Sno-Bruins food cart, volunteers arrange, fry, and package up bruin burgers. The bruin burgers look like square burritos with the ends tucked under, and they fill the table tops.

22-year club member and volunteer, Tom Abell, stands at the window speaking with customers. He takes a break to explain the origins of the Kodiak Sno-Bruins.

“It started out in 1968 and Karen Sayling who passed away this last month was the person that thought of making the bruin burger, just to raise a few dollars for the club to have a banquet at the end of the year, the snowmobile season and etcetera , and it’s bloomed into the people gotta have their bruin burger every year,” says Abell.

Proceeds go toward the Sno-Bruins’ promotion of winter sports, their safety education efforts, and their donations to local nonprofits. A couple of the young people volunteering in the food truck are from groups like the soccer team and the Kodiak branch of Health Occupations Students of America

One person mans the fryer.

According to Abell, that’s the only treatment the bruin burger gets the day of Crab Fest.

“They cook 1100 pounds of the meat one day, which is secret ingredients, I can’t tell you that – it’s just meat – and then the next two days on Saturday and a Sunday, they roll them up, and they bring them in and defrost them and deep fry them and sell them out the window,” says Abel.

Abell says they sold about 2,500 bruin burgers the first day. According to a for mer Sno-Bruins volunteer who stands in the line outside, buying one is a given.

“It’s one of those things that it’s crab fest, go and get a bruin burger,” he says. “I think it’s kinda ‘when it Rome.’”

Especially if it’s your first visit. It’s a rite of passage.

Categories: Alaska News

UAS Chancellor John Pugh leaves behind a legacy of caring for students

Fri, 2015-05-29 11:18

John Pugh joined UAS in 1987. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

John Pugh’s last day as chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast is Friday. He’s retiring after almost three decades with the college. Pugh leaves a legacy of being much more than a chancellor to students — he was a teacher, adviser and friend.

Valerie Davidson was 19 when she met John Pugh. She was interning for the Alaska Legislature and studying elementary education at UAS. He was her college adviser.

“As many 19-year-olds are, I had these grand visions of how I was going to change the world and what I so appreciated about John was he enthusiastically accepted all of my grand visions of the world, but helped me to establish more realistic timelines,” Davidson says.

Davidson is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, a position Pugh formerly held. When she was appointed, Davidson and Pugh saw each other at a governor’s reception and they reconnected. She says he continues to be her adviser.

“You know there are just times in your life when you meet people who are there at exactly the right time, exactly the right place and for exactly the right reason. And I was very fortunate because I got not only one of those experiences with John but I got two, at times in my life that were really critical decision points for me,” Davidson says.

Pugh arrived in Juneau in 1978 to work for health and social services. Afterward he worked briefly as a legislative staffer before joining UAS in June of 1987 to help with the budget. By fall, Pugh was the dean of Arts and Sciences.

Since then the number of full-time students has grown from 300 to more than 800. Several facilities, like the Egan Library and residential housing, have been built on the Juneau campus.

Pugh was also part of the 1987 reorganization to integrate what was then Ketchikan Community College and Sitka Community College into campuses of UAS. Pugh says that was a hard transition.

“We worked constantly getting to Sitka and Ketchikan and making sure they felt a part of this, and I’d say it took a good ten years to get to where there was a real comfort level of trust,” Pugh says.

Ketchikan Campus Director Priscilla Schulte has been at the school for 35 years, back when it was a community college. She says Pugh has done a great job of being inclusive.

“We get the feeling that he understands our community. He has always kept us in mind so that when issues came up he was always, ‘What does Ketchikan think?’” Schulte says.

She says Pugh really supported the bachelor of liberal arts distance program, which helped UAS Ketchikan evolve.

“Once the pulp mill closed and we were losing the local students, moving into the e-learning was really important for us,” Schulte says.

Pugh was appointed chancellor in 1999. He says his biggest challenge was making sure UAS got enough funding to be a quality institution. With UAS representing less than 10 percent of the entire University of Alaska budget, Pugh says it was never about competing with the bigger schools for resources.

“We’re not UAF, we’re not UAA. We’re UAS. What is it that we can do? What can we do for our region? What can we do for the state?” Pugh says.

Pugh is known for walking around campus with a smile. He’s a self-proclaimed “glass half full” type of person, but if he ever did find himself down, “I would find where the students are and it always picked me up.”

UAS Student Body President Callie Conerton says Pugh would do anything to make the students laugh.

“John did the dunk tank at Spring Carnival and students, of course, lined up. How many students can say that they dunked their chancellor,” Conerton says.

He’s had pies in his face. He’s jumped into frigid water for the polar plunge. Pugh has even been duct taped to a library pillar.

Conerton says having an approachable college leader has made a difference in her academic career.

“It makes me want to attend school. It makes me realize that people care about me. One thing that UAS is great about is that it’s a community and so John was great about making sure that students knew that they were a part of something bigger than themselves,” Conerton says.

Pugh says he got just as much from the students as they got from him.

“Those interactions really buoyed me and gave me strength and it made me understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, helped me to really push harder to advocate for higher education,” Pugh says.

He says his departure from UAS is filled with mixed emotions.

“I often wonder what I’m going to do when I get up in the morning. I’ve said that to my wife. So not coming out here – that will be very different,” Pugh says.

Pugh became Chancellor Emeritus as UAS’s recent commencement ceremony. Pugh says that means he’ll have a permanent connection to the college. He doesn’t see the rank as just a title, but as a responsibility.

Categories: Alaska News

Canada plans to allow overnight travel at Stewart crossing

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:27

The border between Hyder, Alaska, and Stewart, British Columbia, will open to overnight travelers as part of a pilot program planned by the Canada Border Services Agency.

The agency released some details Thursday on plans recently outlined to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and local officials.

Travelers would use a telephone reporting system to gain entry into Canada at Stewart. An agency media representative couldn’t immediately provide details on how the system would work.

The agency said it was refining the logistics of a plan that will help enable the free-flow of legitimate goods and services while ensuring Canadians’ security. The plan is expected to take effect June 22.

The crossing was closed from midnight to 8 a.m. last month, giving rise to concerns from residents. Allowances were made for emergencies.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Police Ask For Help ID’ing Man in Video Related to Sunday Stabbing

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:26


Bethel Police are asking for the public’s help identifying and locating a person of interest in the homicide of Eunice Whitman. Whitman was found stabbed to death early Sunday morning along a boardwalk in a Bethel park.

Police Thursday released a video from the Bethel AC Quick Stop store. Police have already arrested the primary suspect, but Lieutenant Joe Corbett says they’re trying to identify another male who appears with him in the video taken around the time of the murder.

“The man with the gray sweatshirt over his head, we have not been able to identify yet,” said Corbett.

The video shows two men walking down a hallway at the AC Quick Stop store apartments early Sunday morning. Whitman’s boyfriend Justine Paul walks ahead while the person of interest trails behind in a gray hooded sweatshirt. Paul, the primary suspect, was taken into custody and arraigned on first-degree murder charges Tuesday. But police say they want to talk with the other man in the video.

“We know that he was there right around the time of the homicide or at least the time of the report. He was with our primary suspect, so his role in it is unclear to us and that’s why we want to talk with him and figure out how he was involved,” said Corbett.

Bethel Police are asking anyone with information about the man in the images to contact Investigative Sergeant Amy Davis at the Bethel Police Department.

Categories: Alaska News

Dalton Highway Still Closed, But Repairs Underway

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:22

Repair work is progressing on the northern end of the Dalton Highway, where breakup flooding has made the road impassable for nearly 2 weeks. Water began dropping back last weekend, leaving behind extensive damage, and Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says there’s no repair timeline.

“This is gonna be a really big task. It will take several days, and at this point we really don’t have an estimate on when the road will be able to be re-opened.”

The closure extends from mile 335, all the way to mile 412 near Deadhorse. Bailey says repairs have been focused on at either end of the closed section, laying culverts, filling in erosion and diverting around thawed roadbed.

“Ice lenses have been impacted by the water, so there’s unstable soil now.”

Bailey says a full accounting of the damage won’t be available until crews can reach damaged sections in the middle of the closed area. She says repairs done so far this spring have cost 5 million dollars.

The most northern section of the closed section of the highway, between mileposts 391 and 412 is the focus of a scheduled 27 million dollar reconstruction project to elevate the roadbed. Bailey says the new damage has changed the project timeline.

“Originally this was going to be divided into 2 separate construction projects, and were going to start on one half this year, and start on the other half next year, and instead of doing that we’re gonna go in and start on the entire flooded section this year, which makes sense because we have all of this repair work that will have to happen anyways.”

Bailey says the project also includes additional culverts and hard surfacing of the highway. Some overflow and flooding have been an issue on the Dalton Highway south of Deadhorse for years, but Bailey this spring’s more extensive problems are considered an anomaly, and the state does not anticipate having to raise the grade of other sections of the road.

Categories: Alaska News

Earthquake rattles Southwest Alaska

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:15

There were no tsunami warnings, but last night’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake northeast of the Chigniks rattled residents all over Southwest Alaska. The quake happened at 11 pm sharp.

Alvin Peterson in Chignik Lagoon says it’s the strongest earthquake he’s felt in decades.

Map showing the location of the 6.4 earthquake off the coast of the Alaska Peninsula.
Credit Alaska Earthquake Center

“Well, it was almost comparable to 64 earthquake. The house was rocking pretty good,” stated Peterson. “I understand there was some rock slides and stuff falling off the selves and breaking. It defiantly rattled everybody’s nerves”

The quake was initially reported as a 6.8 magnitude but was later downgraded. Residents all around the region took to Facebook last night to discuss the earthquake and its effects. Many of those commenting said the earthquake’s unusually long duration was a bit shocking. Peterson agreed.

“I heard a couple reports it lasted almost a minute but it was pretty long, and pretty violent,” added Peterson.

Closer to the coast, residents in Chignik Bay headed for the tsunami shelter last night to be on the safe side. Fire chief Guy Ashby, speaking this morning, said the quake started as a slow roll.

“It started of maybe like a three, just shock a little bit. And then you can start hearing it building and it starts shaking a little harder,” said Ashby. “It probably shook about 35 or 40 seconds.”

The quake happened at a depth of 35 miles. It had a magnitude, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center, of 6.42 on the Richter Scale, and according to posts on Facebook, was felt as far west as Platinum, and Wasilla in the east.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon Quest board announces best finances in 6 years

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:09

Yukon Quest leaders announced a $38,000 surplus, the largest surplus the organization has seen in 6 years.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that leaders of the 1,000-mile Fairbanks-to-Whitehorse sled dog race announced the budget at their annual meeting Thursday. Board President Bill McDonald says he expects prize money for the race to stay the same or increase in 2015.

The announcement comes in stark contrast to the organization’s Yukon board meeting held last week, where members announced a $50,000 debt. Yukon Quest has two nonprofit boards in both Alaska and Canada.

The Quest has struggled to break even since the global recession reduced sponsorships and finances in 2009. Officials talked about halting the race four years ago and reduced the purse to $100,000 in 2013, half of 2007’s purse.

Categories: Alaska News

Low oil prices could threaten trans-Alaska pipeline

Fri, 2015-05-29 10:06

A high-ranking federal Energy Information Administration official has said lower production levels could threaten the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, and that oil prices may not rise above $100 a barrel until 2030 or later.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that EIA administrator Adam Sieminski said Thursday at the Alaska Oil and Gas Associations annual luncheon that geopolitical tension could drive prices up much sooner than 2030.

He said the agency is concerned that engineering complications could jeopardize the oil pipeline if the flow falls below 300,000 barrels a day, potentially resulting in an unexpected shutdown.

The pipeline is designed to move 2 million barrels of oil daily. Today production is about 525,000 barrels daily.

Oil prices are currently around $60 a barrel, leaving the state with a $3.5 billion deficit.

Categories: Alaska News

The purpose and history of Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend

Fri, 2015-05-29 08:00

Today, we’re talking about the Permanent Fund. Some House Republicans want to move some of the fund’s earnings into the body of the fund so it can’t be touched. Others are tossing around the idea of using the Permanent Fund as collateral for earning more money for the General Fund. Is this what the Fund is for? So, we’re taking a step back and looking at the history of the Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund Dividend.

HOST: Anne Hillman

GUESTS:

  • Sterling Gallagher, former commissioner, Department of Revenue
  • Cliff Groh

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 30 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 30 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

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