APRN Alaska News

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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: 58 min 14 sec ago

300 Villages: Wrangell

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:24

Carol Rushmore works for the city and Borough of Wrangell.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 2, 2014

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:16

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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Two Alaska State Troopers Slain In Tanana

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A 19-year-old Tanana man has been arrested in connection with the murder of two Alaska State Troopers on Thursday. The bodies of the two slain law officers were brought to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage on Friday, accompanied by a Trooper escort.

Tanana Residents Devastated By Trooper Deaths

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Tanana is an Athabascan village about 130 miles west of Fairbanks, near the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. The village’s 300 residents all know one another, and many are related.

Tensions Bubble Up Between Alaska GOP, Tea Party

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

For years, there’s been conflict between the Alaska Republican Party’s establishment wing and its more conservative Tea Party faction. Those tensions bubbled to the surface Friday when the party’s U.S. Senate candidates took the stage at the state convention.

Firefighters Respond To Caribou Lake Wildfire

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Firefighters with the Alaska Division of Forestry are responding to a wildfire near Caribou Lake today.

Rep. Lindsey Holmes Will Not Seek Reelection

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

West Anchorage Republican Lindsey Holmes will not be running for reelection to the Alaska House of Representatives.

Carl Moses Remembered For ‘Full Career’ Of Public Service

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Flags are at half-staff today as Alaska says goodbye to its longest-serving state representative. Carl Moses died in Sand Point on Wednesday after a long illness. He was 84. He leaves a legacy of service in Southwest Alaska and across the state.

Fairbanks Schools Anticipating Teacher, Staff Reductions

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The State Legislature has boosted money for education, but it’s not enough to stem cuts by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The district is getting 6 million new dollars from the state, $3.3 million more than the expected increase, but acting Superintendent Karen Gaborik says it’s not sufficient to avert teacher and staff reductions.

AK: Smokejumpers

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Red Flag warnings have already been issued for parts of south central and the Interior and wildland firefighters are gearing up for the season. Some of them will approach wildfires from the ground, but there’s one elite group that’s been training for more than two months to fight fire from the air. KUAC’s Emily Schwing caught up with the Alaska smokejumpers to find out how they train and why they do it.

300 Villages: Wrangell

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Anchorage

Carol Rushmore works for the city and Borough of Wrangell.

Categories: Alaska News

Miller Rejects Unity Pledge At Republican Convention

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:00

For years, there’s been conflict between the Alaska Republican Party’s establishment wing and its more hard-line faction of Ron Paul supporters. Those tensions bubbled to the surface on Friday when the party’s U.S. Senate candidates took the stage at the state convention. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports from Juneau.

Up until the very end, the Republican Senate candidate forum was a mostly a kumbaya-type affair. The candidates avoided personal attacks, and they stuck to their message of beating Democratic incumbent Mark Begich.

Dan Sullivan, a former attorney general and natural resources commissioner, sprinkled the word “unite” throughout his speech. He hammered that point when the moderator asked if he would support the party’s nominee even if he lost the primary.

“We need to unite,” Sullivan told the audience. “What I’ve been trying to do for the last six months is unite all Republicans.”

Mead Treadwell, the sitting lieutenant governor, also promised to support the nominee, if Republican voters don’t choose him.

“We as a party need to stick together,” said Treadwell.

But then the moderator got to Joe Miller.

“I think that when we make such a commitment, it takes a baseline of trust. Both of my opponents who are sitting here today supported Lisa Murkowski in her war on the Republican nominee in 2010,” said Miller. “Without that baseline of trust, I cannot make such a commitment.”

Miller won the party’s Senate primary back in 2010, defeating Murkowski in an upset.

While Murkowski had initially said she was going to support the party’s choice, she ended up launching a write-in campaign and beating Miller in the general.

Sullivan and Treadwell are seen as representing the party establishment in the current Senate race. Neither one publicly endorsed a Senate contender in 2010.

After the forum, Miller reiterated that he did not feel comfortable promising to support Sullivan or Treadwell.

“We’re unwilling to unilaterally disarm and make a pledge when they supported who looked the Alaskan people in the eye and lied to them about what she was doing,” Miller told reporters. “That really questions, in my mind, how trustworthy they are as well. So, we’re unwilling to make sure a pledge.”

In April, Politico magazine published a piece by University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Forrest Nabors suggesting that Miller could run as an independent candidate should he lose the Republican primary.

Miller responded with a piece on Thursday saying that he had no intention of running as anything but a Republican.

The Alaska Senate race is one of the mostly closely watched races in the country. It is considered a toss-up, with polls showing voters split between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Categories: Alaska News

Two Alaska State Troopers Killed In Tanana

Thu, 2014-05-01 22:39

Two Alaska State Troopers were killed Thursday while conducting an investigation in the Interior Alaska village of Tanana, agency spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters identified the victims as Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, both of the troopers rural unit operating out of Fairbanks.

Authorities are releasing few details. Peters does say one person has been detained.

Peters says the troopers were following up on a Wednesday night report that someone had brandished a gun in the village.

Shots were fired somewhere in the town at about 3 p.m. Thursday, Tanana resident Mary Edwin told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Other troopers had responded to Tanana by 6 p.m., said Edwin, a former schools superintendent.

An Alaska Bureau of Investigation crew was headed to Tanana, Peters said.

Tanana has a population of about 238 people and is located about 130 miles west of Fairbanks. There is no highway leading to the community.

Because of its location two miles west of the junction of the Tanana and Yukon rivers, the community was a trading post for Koyukon and Tanana Athabascans long before European contact, according to a state website.

Community members continue to live a traditional Athabascan lifestyle, including hunting and fishing for their food.

Categories: Alaska News

NTSB Recommends Safety Review Of Ravn Alaska

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:05

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a comprehensive audit of safety programs and regulatory compliance of the company providing much of the commuter air service within Alaska.

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The NTSB announced Thursday it’s recommending the “urgent” action by the Federal Aviation Administration for a review of HoTH Inc.

That company includes Hageland Aviation, Frontier Flying Service and Era Aviation doing business as Ravn Alaska, Ravn Connect and Corvus Airlines.

The NTSB says it has investigated six accidents and one incident related to the company since 2012.

That includes fatal crashes November 29th near the Saint Marys airport and on April 8th about 22 miles southeast of Kwethluk.

Categories: Alaska News

Major General Thomas Katkus Responds To National Guard Sexual Assault Allegations

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:04

Governor Sean Parnell has been responding to allegations that sexual assault crimes within the state’s National Guard were reported to him four years before he requested a federal investigation. The Governor says as soon as he had specific information, he acted. Parnell’s commissioner of the Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Major General Thomas Katkus says the federal investigation should help improve the system.

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Major General Thomas Katkus, how large do you think the sexual assault issue is within Alaska?

The numbers I’ve got show us below what it would be in Alaska, we have a different number, total number of cases,  because we track victims, don’t track it as if we’ve got that many suspects. We’ve got 37 cases; of those 37 cases we have only 11 reported sexual assaults are Guard members as perpetrators. My position is even one is too many and it’s a problem – a large problem; 37 cases over the past 5 years.

How does Alaska compare to military nationally for sexual assault?

With Alaska being the highest sexual assault in the nation, dark climate, small houses, alcohol, there is a lot of propensity toward that kind of activity, which is unfortunate but also very rampant in cold, dark climates. I think the problem is getting better results with the resources being put toward it. The Guard is community based so we have a lot of resources beyond DOD. We have a lot of members in the National Guard that are counselors or lawyers so we have resources. The issue is out there fairly evenly across all services but we’re better equipped to offer services.

Does the legal structure of the Guard make it more cumbersome, more difficult to track cases and get information, Anchorage Police Department handling cases?  Helpful or more difficult?

Difficult to address. We as a National Guard, we don’t have an independent criminal justice system. We’re not like active duty that has its own Uniform Code of Military Justice to address specifically infractions within the National Guard, because we have members that are also traditional, that go home at night and are under the laws of their communities. The authorities that cover our members are really the local authorities, the state troopers or other law enforcement. It’s not our purview to supplement that. We take our own disciplinary actions through normal business practices, rules and regulation enforcement and then we have discipline. But we don’t incarcerate individuals. We don’t have a requirement; that our preponderance of evidence is what we go off of, 51% is civil action as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt in any type of criminal investigation.

Governor Parnell said he acted to call for a national investigation as soon as he had specifics. What kind of specific information is needed to prompt an investigation?

For the National Guard Bureau that the Governor asked, it’s just the request of the Governor. The Governor, anytime he has a desire to have an independent assessment or look into an organization he’s responsible with, which would be the Air Guard or the Army Guard, he can contact the National Guard Bureau, advise them of the problem and they would propose the best solutions to step forward to look into it. Because it could be a safety issue, it could be an area of concern on finance, so either the safety investigators would come out or an auditor. Or in this case to look at a problem with how the reporting system is or an assessment of how overall, we are addressing sexual assaults or sexual harassment in the National Guard. So, in this case, again, he puts the problem statement forward and they provide the resource that best answers that.

Why wouldn’t chaplains risking their positions to bring the concerns forward to the Governor be enough to prompt an investigation by the DOD?

I don’t know that I have an answer for that. The Chaplains shouldn’t be at risk for bringing any of these issues forward. There’s no risk to them to, matter of fact it’s incumbent on them to bring those issues forward. Their job description is pretty much, they advise the command….trying to make sure I get this right so that this is fairly accurate. The significant responsibility that they’re held to is to advise the commander of issues of ethics, morals and morale within an organization. So they’re almost held on a no harm, no foul. They’re required to bring the bad news forward if they’ve got the bad news.

Well it seems there was some confusion or hesitancy in that regard. Your deputy commissioner asked the chaplains to sign a document saying they wouldn’t speak on behalf of the Guard, when actually what they were doing was bringing victims concerns forward. Did you ask him to do those things or was that something he felt he needed to do as deputy commissioner?

I believe the letter you’re referring to is a letter that went out to all of our members as we approached the political season. It was advising everyone to be very judicious and cautious on how they answer anyone that is approaching them and asking them for an official position of the department. So in that sense that was just to reiterate to clear it with a supervisor and we’re not prohibiting anybody from talking to the press, their chain of command or other people. Just that they try to clear that, get the best information possible and if they’re speaking for the department, make sure they clear it through our public affairs office in order to make sure we have the best, most accurate information out there.

Do you think there needs to be changes in reporting and how people can bring these concerns forward to help boost confidence for people who are taking on the very difficult thing to have to come forward and talk about trauma and painful episodes they may have experienced?

Absolutely, especially with as many deployments as we have because it’s not only in the area of sexual assault, it’s any type of experience that they are not normally exposed to in civilian activity. So there are traumatic events in everyone’s life. We follow DOD policy and its changing constantly. I think in the last five years the department of defense has definitely stepped up its game. It’s provided additional resources and of the limited training dollars, a significant amount of that resource is directed to bystander training, self help awareness to educate people about reporting any type of sexual assault or activity related to it. Then the resourcing for the investigation of those has increased and we’ve worked on training our investigators to investigate the civilian equivalent complaints of sexual harassment. WE have additional resources that would look into any allegations of sexual assault, after the law enforcement have also been engaged on that same topic. And then the victim advocacy program we have. Multiple victim advocates have been assigned to the Guard as of late. Currently have three sexual assault coordinators assigned and 42 victim advocates assigned to the National Guard. So your question was, do I see better ways to do it? We can always improve but it is an incredible change over the past five years to where we are now.

Major General, how damaging is this for morale?

You know, it’s damaging for morale, but where I’m very, very concerned, is we’ve made great strides in making people aware, we have a process in place, it’s very transparent and they can feel comfortable reporting and they’re going to get the help. With all of the adverse press and the senior officials who have basically expressed their concern and trust, I would hope that would not translate to the other end of the food chain to the young members who may be victimized and may now decide not to come forward because of lack of trust in the system. The DOD has spent five years trying to put in place a system that works and I’m very afraid that this might be undermined by the lack of confidence that may be generated by this perception that is out there.

Are you confident that when this investigation is over, that the system will show there are no major problems with how the guard is handling reporting and the cases that come forward?

I’m confident that the assessment will come in with a better way of doing it. This is the first time we’ve really stepped back and evaluated from top to bottom, the entire process.  I would hope they would come in and advise us of better ways to do business. So we look forward to what we will get as feedback. My feeling is we have a good system in place right now, it’s a workable system that follows all of DOD’s processes and regulations and I’m thinking an outside look will provide that much more suggestions that we can incorporate and make this better.

My last question would be, you just mentioned Guard members and a perception of what’s happening. What would be your concern about perception? We know there are high rates of assault, what perception are you concerned about?

Well, the perception I’m concerned about is that, in the past five years, 70% of reported assaults, the perpetrator was a member of our community, not the National Guard. So 11 assaults in five years, those members were Guard members who committed those acts, so out of 37 cases, only 11 have we had to discipline one of our own members over. The rest, the other 26 cases, are all cases were we have provided exceptional support for the victim. Those victim advocates have engaged. We’ve taken the victims to local law enforcement, supported them through all of the issues and tried to make sure we could be there for them. That’s what’s not getting reported here is DOD as an organization has provided incredible response in taking care of the soldiers and airmen that are assigned in the National Guard and that’s where I’m really afraid the perception is being missed here.

Is the Guard looking at, the people who have been victimized. Are there efforts underway to track back and look at where are people getting into positions where they’re at risk. Is there research into that so you can help young men and young women avoid some of those pitfalls?

There’s always different types of training we have people exposed to and mandate and some of the best is bystander training where not only do you train people to look out for themselves and not put themselves into harm’s way but also train soldiers to look out for other people that may be inadvertently putting themselves in harm’s way. So they teach them how to carefully approach a situation and defuse it. Sometimes a third party, that extra set of eyes that the potential victim may not be able to see. So your answer is yes, we’re training people to be safer and we’re training them to look out for each other and realistically that’s how you start solving all of these problems is everyone becomes aware of looking out for each other.

Categories: Alaska News

Flint Hills Begins Shutting Down Fairbanks Refinery

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:04

Officials with Flint Hills Resources-Alaska began shutting down the company’s North Pole refinery on Thursday.

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Categories: Alaska News

Project To Restore Herring, Starting In Sitka

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:04

Aerial view of the Starrigavan boat launch, looking south. (ADF&G photo)

Before statehood and the advent of scientific management, Southeast Alaska’s herring populations were harvested – and depleted – without much thought for the future. Many believe the herring population in Sitka Sound now is a fraction of what it was in those days, and wonder if herring stocks – like salmon – can be restored.

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Just look at Raven Radio’s Facebook page. Photos of active herring spawn in Sitka Sound and hemlock branches coated with eggs are the kind of posts that go viral. It’s clear that many more than the 9,000 people that live in Sitka are herring obsessed.

“Culturally it’s important obviously as a major subsistence resource in the Sitka area but also very important in trade,” says Chuck Smythe, the Director of the history and culture department at Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Smythe says there are places that used to attract herring that don’t anymore. “Some of the oral history suggests that herring just sort of stopped coming and moved to another area.”

He is working with the Sitka Tribe to figure out why they stopped coming, and how the population might be restored throughout Southeast. The Alaska Native Fund granted SHI $15,000 to develop a herring restoration plan in the Sitka vicinity. They chose Sitka because it still attracts heaps of herring. Jeff Feldpausch, STA’s Resource Protection Director, agrees. “Right now Sitka has one of the larger herring stocks in Southeast.” Close to 80,000 tons of herring.

“So, if you were looking at transferring eggs to other locations Sitka would probably have the biomass available,” says Feldpausch, “as far as herring eggs to be able to do that.”

Figuring out exactly how to transplant herring eggs is the tricky part.

“I’ve been told stories about how harvesters from other communities would come over to Sitka and pick up eggs for their community and on their way home they would place a few branches in the water in different locations,” says Feldpausch.

Anecdotes like this one will be heavily weighted in the brainstorming process. But, a recent study on Pacific herring will serve as the framework. Anthropologist Tom Thornton was the principal investigator of the Herring Synthesis Project. Smythe says it’s the most thorough attempt to date at demystifying the Pacific herring.

Forman: And so, why now?
Smythe: Well it was just realizing that this significant study had been completed. I came to the realization that it would be good to use this information and take it to the next step.

The Herring Synthesis Project combines archaeological, biological, and cultural data. It identifies things like how herring were distributed throughout Southeast, what factors could have changed spawning location, and where herring could thrive. And basically concludes that there are a lot less herring than there used to be.

Feldpausch says the goal is to return herring to historical levels, “before the late 1800s.” Back before commercial sac-roe fisheries, back before herring were mainly reduced to oil, and back before herring were simply fished for bait.

Smythe says he is in the midst of working his way through Thornton’s study. “And there’s just a lot we don’t know about herring.” Smythe says there are a number of factors that explain why herring left certain areas: pollution from logging and the pulp mill, other industrial activities that may have contaminated the water, or hatchery salmon released when the herring are most vulnerable – to name a few.

STA will host a panel discussion of experts in June. Thornton’s study will serve as the framework for the discussion. And Feldpausch says the project is a productive step. And hopes the end product will be implemented throughout Southeast.

Categories: Alaska News

Peggy Wilson Ending Long Legislative Career

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:04

One of Southeast’s longest-serving lawmakers is retiring. Peggy Wilson says she will not seek re-election to her Wrangell-based House district.

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She’s stepping down for two reasons.

Wrangell Rep. Peggy Wilson addresses the Southeast Conference in 2011. She’s retiring after seven legislative terms. (CoastAlaska News)

“My mom hasn’t been well. And I just worried about her so much. And because of session I couldn’t go,” she says. “And since December, I’ve had four great-grandbabies being born and there’s another one on the way. I missed it with my grandchildren and now my grandchildren are having children. I feel like it’s given me a second chance.”

Wilson says her own health is fine. But at 68, the long days and late nights are taking their toll.

“I don’t want to be falling asleep in committees. And maybe I need to let somebody younger do this,” she says.

Wilson’s been in Alaska’s House of Representatives for 14 years. She began as the Wrangell-Petersburg-Sitka representative. Then reapportionment dropped all but Wrangell and added Ketchikan, Saxman, Hyder and Prince of Wales Island.

She originally planned to run for re-election this year. But she knew it would be tough.

“Ketchikan really is so used to having their own person that they really want somebody from Ketchikan. But they wanted somebody from Ketchikan last time and I made it,” she says.

Wilson’s first big issue was education. And she’s continued to push for funding and other improvements.

“It was my legislation that got the cost differential into place. And I feel real good about that,” she says.

But she’s very concerned about the Legislature and administration’s recent directions. She says focusing on charter, church and home schools will hurt existing public schools.

“We do need to make changes in education. But we can’t make them and leave people out. We’ve got to make the changes so that it can ultimately reach everyone and not just a select few,” she says.

One of Wilson’s biggest disappointments was the failure of a roads, ferries, harbors, airports and highways infrastructure fund.

The retiring Wrangell lawmaker authored bills for the past six years. One measure made it through the House and to the Senate Finance Committee this year. But it remained there when the final gavel fell.

She hopes to find someone to carry the ball.

“I definitely am going to look for people who will continue, because I firmly believe for the health of Alaska overall, our roads need fixing. We need to have more roads. And it’s not going to happen with the current status quo,” she says.

Wilson continues on the job until her successor is sworn in early next year.

That’ll cap a 19-year legislative career – 14 in Alaska and five in her previous home of North Carolina.

“I’m will miss it. There’s a little bit of emptiness in my heart already and I can feel it. You just can’t walk away and forget it. It’s impossible,” she says.

Hear an interview from her last campaign.

At least two people are running for Wilson’s House seat.

The most recent to announce is Ketchikan Visitors Bureau CEO Patti Mackey, a Republican who ran two years ago. Another is Ketchikan teacher Dan Ortiz, an independent. Others are expected.

Wilson, a retired nurse, says she’ll endorse whoever wins the August GOP primary. Wilson won her first Alaska election in 2000, making her the first woman to serve in two states’ legislatures.

Categories: Alaska News

Historical Photo Collection Being Made Available Online

Thu, 2014-05-01 18:04

This photo of a Koryak boy with his bow and arrow in Russia, 1901, is one of about 700 that was recently digitized and made available online by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

In 1897 the American Museum of Natural History sent a team of anthropologists to the Pacific Northwest and Siberia. Six years later, they had confirmed the theory that humans migrated across the Bering land bridge. And they brought back thousands of photographs – many of which are now available online for the first time.

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Categories: Alaska News

Ballot Initiatives Could Boost Younger, Liberal Voter Turnout

Thu, 2014-05-01 17:58

When the Republican-led Legislature went into overtime last week, they knocked a set of citizen’s initiatives onto an already packed November ballot. In the process, they changed the playing field in a fight for a U.S. Senate seat that their party needs to pick up if they want to take control of Congress. But the shift might not be in their favor.

Caroline Tolbert has studied politics for decades. A professor at the University of Iowa, she’s written dozens of papers on elections and she’s given special attention to the role ballot measures play in them.

Among her big takeaways?

“Ballot measures do have an effect in increasing turnout,” says Tolbert.

And people tend to factor those issues in when they’re voting on candidates. If a measure is popular, voters are more likely to support a candidate who is seen as sympathetic to it.

Alaska voters are looking at three initiatives this November. There’s one to increase the minimum wage, one that would make it harder to build the proposed Pebble Mine, and another that would regulate marijuana like alcohol. There’s also a city-wide question in Anchorage that would repeal a controversial labor law.

Tolbert says that combined, these initiatives could boost turnout by as much as five percent.

“The conditions are ripe for these ballot measure to potentially increase turnout and potentially shape the races in 2014.”

With the caveat that Alaska is uniquely difficult to survey, all three initiatives have polled favorably. They’re especially likely to attract support from younger and often more liberal voters. February results from Public Policy Polling show that 88 percent of people who identify as very liberal support raising the minimum wage, while just 24 percent of people who say they’re very conservative like the hike.

The numbers are similar for marijuana.

Tolbert says this could amount to an advantage for Democrats.

“If there’s going to be a spillover effect from minimum wage, or legalization of marijuana, or an environmental type ballot measure, it should if anything it would have a positive effect on the Democrats running for office,” says Tolbert.

And that advantage could be a special boon to Democratic incumbent Mark Begich, who is fighting off three Republican challengers in the U.S. Senate race. That race is one of the most closely watched in the country, and it’s been listed as a toss-up by all the big political analysts.

None of the Senate campaigns, including Begich’s, would speak to how they see the initiatives affecting the race.

But the initiative campaigns acknowledge their ballot measures could shake things up.

“It has the potential to, without a doubt,” says Art Hackney, a political consultant working on the anti-Pebble Mine initiative. “A lot of that has to do with the candidates as they go forward to the election. I mean I said early on that if they moved them across to the general it would certainly have a big benefit for [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Byron Mallot and Mark Begich.”

That’s because those Democrats have come out against the development of Pebble Mine.

Even though Hackney sees Democrats benefiting, he says initiatives like his should still cross some political lines. He can see a person supporting the anti-Pebble initiative and voting for a Republican ticket. After all, he’s a prime example of that.

On top of his initiative work, Hackney has a portfolio of Republican clients.

“We are involved in a super PAC trying to help Dan Sullivan beat Mark Begich,” says Hackney. “Will we do that heart and soul? Absolutely. If there is some level that Mark Begich will try to trade upon the Pebble issue, so be it.”

Taylor Bickford is a spokesperson for the marijuana initiative, and he’s kind of in the same camp. Like Hackney, he’s mostly worked to get Republicans elected. He also thinks the ballot measure he represents has crossover appeal, especially to the state’s more libertarian leaning voters.

“If you were looking at it objectively, I think it would be safe to say that having the marijuana initiative on the ballot will have some impact on turnout,” says Bickford. “It’s just very, very hard to say how significant that’ll be.”

Of all the initiatives, the minimum wage measure seems to be the one that most obviously helps Democrats.
Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami has been a major backer of the effort. His union has put money into the initiative and helped gather signatures to get it on the ballot. He says his constituency will definitely be coming out to vote on it.

“We’re going to be very motivated and our membership will be very motivated to turn out,” says Beltrami.

Beltrami points out that the Alaska minimum wage initiative was in the works a year before national Democrats seized on it as a strategy. And originally, all of the initiatives were scheduled to be on the primary ballot, alongside a referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s law capping oil taxes.

But he says it became apparent the other party was afraid of it after a bloc of Republican state lawmakers tried and failed to pass their own minimum wage hike that would have taken the initiative off the ballot.

“You’d have to be blind not to see the implications that it has on the elections,” says Beltrami.

Now the question is just how big those implications will be.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 1, 2014

Thu, 2014-05-01 17:19

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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NTSB Recommends Safety Review Of Ravn Alaska

The Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a comprehensive audit of safety programs and regulatory compliance of the company providing much of the commuter air service within Alaska.

The NTSB announced Thursday it’s recommending the “urgent” action by the Federal Aviation Administration for a review of HoTH Inc.

That company includes Hageland Aviation, Frontier Flying Service and Era Aviation doing business as Ravn Alaska, Ravn Connect and Corvus Airlines.

The NTSB says it has investigated six accidents and one incident related to the company since 2012.

That includes fatal crashes November 29th near the Saint Marys airport and on April 8th about 22 miles southeast of Kwethluk.

Major General Thomas Katkus Responds To National Guard Sexual Assault Allegations

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Governor Sean Parnell has been responding to allegations that sexual assault crimes within the state’s National Guard were reported to him four years before he requested a federal investigation. The Governor says as soon as he had specific information, he acted. Parnell’s commissioner of the Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Major General Thomas Katkus says the federal investigation should help improve the system.

Initiative-Packed November Ballot Expected To Influence Voter Turnout

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

When the Republican-led Legislature went into overtime last week, they knocked a set of citizen’s initiatives onto an already packed November ballot. In the process, they changed the playing field in a fight for a U.S. Senate seat that their party needs to pick up if they want to take control of Congress. But, the shift might not be in their favor.

Flint Hills Begins Shutting Down Fairbanks Refinery

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Officials with Flint Hills Resources-Alaska began shutting down the company’s North Pole refinery on Thursday.

Project To Restore Herring, Starting In Sitka

Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka

Before statehood and the advent of scientific management, Southeast Alaska’s herring populations were harvested – and depleted – without much thought for the future. Many believe the herring population in Sitka Sound now is a fraction of what it was in those days, and wonder if herring stocks – like salmon – can be restored.

Peggy Wilson Ending Long Legislative Career

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

One of Southeast’s longest-serving lawmakers is retiring. Peggy Wilson says she will not seek re-election to her Wrangell-based House district.

Historical Photo Collection Being Made Available Online

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

In 1987 the American Museum of Natural History sent a team of anthropologists to the Pacific Northwest and Siberia. Six years later, they had confirmed the theory that humans migrated across the Bering land bridge. And they brought back thousands of photographs – many of which are now available online for the first time.

Categories: Alaska News

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