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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: 31 min 7 sec ago

Bill Walker Holds Narrow Lead Over Sean Parnell In Gubernatorial Race

Tue, 2014-11-04 21:12

With just 101 precincts reporting in so far, gubernatorial challenger Bill Walker holds a narrow lead over Governor Sean Parnell.

Categories: Alaska News

Early Results Show Sullivan Leading Begich, Young Ahead of Dunbar

Tue, 2014-11-04 21:08

With 101 precincts reporting in, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan is leading Democratic incumbent Mark Begich by about 5 percent.

Incumbent Republican Don Young is leading Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar, 52 percent to 39 percent, with 101 precincts reporting in.

Categories: Alaska News

New federal regulations to favor subsistence users, rural residents

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:48

The Federal Subsistence Board’s rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last month.

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The changes should mean a more favorable process for villages and other rural communities that rely on hunting and fishing. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor told AFN attendees that the new regulations will come soon.

“We’re moving out, beginning the discussions,” Connor said. “We’ve got to consult with the state, overall this is strongly supported throughout the leadership at the department of the Interior.”

Title VIII in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA, mandates a subsistence preference for rural residents on public lands. Every ten years the Federal Subsistence Board determines whether a community meets certain guidelines to qualify for ANILCA’s subsistence preference. That rural determination process has been harshly criticized in recent years.

In 2007, several communities were told that they were no longer considered to be rural, including the Southeast community of Saxman. The board reasoned that the community’s proximity to non-rural Ketchikan put it in the same category. While the community is incorporated as a municipality, a majority of the population is Alaska Native and are members of the Organized Village of Saxman.

The tribe has fought against the board’s attempt to take away their rural status arguing that they have a history of traditional subsistence gathering in the area. The determination was put on hold in 2009 by then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar pending a comprehensive review of federal subsistence policies. That hold was scheduled to expire this past July, which meant that the Organized Village of Saxman’s opportunity to litigate would also expire.

In April, the Federal Subsistence Board voted unanimously to submit new regulations in the rural determination process. The board does not have authority to implement new regulations, but it can propose them to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. While Connor did not give details of the proposal, he did say that the board will defer more to communities and tribes in its decision-making process.

“Once implemented the new determination process will enable the board to use more flexible criteria that could lead to the kind of determinations sought by AFN and others in cases such as Saxman in Southeast Alaska,” Connor said.

Native American Rights Fund attorney Matthew Newman represents the Saxman tribe. He says the proposed rules give residents hope, but that the outcome is still in question. While the tribe favors an administrative fix, Newman says the lawsuit won’t be dropped until they’ve had a chance to review the new rules and are satisfied with them.

“I think everyone is relieved and optimistic that the rule is going to move forward,” Newman says. “This rule moving forward is not just a good thing for Saxman, it’s a good thing for all rural communities subject to ANILCA’s priority. This rural determination process has really been a bane for many communities and this idea that every 10 years your way of life is potentially subject to change causes a very, very uneasy feeling among rural residents in Alaska.”

Deputy Secretary Connor also announced changes in the board’s makeup. Two additional public members were added, Anthony Christianson of Hydaburg and Charles Brower of Barrow. Former AFN co-chair Tim Towarak from Unalakleet was named chair of the board. Towarak has served as a president of the Bering Straits Native Corp. and as rural affairs advisor to Gov. Tony Knowles.

Connor said the Department of the Interior is working on a new process that would make it easier for communities and subsistence users to participate in the board’s decision-making process.

Categories: Alaska News

Domestic Violence Survivor Sheds Light On Difficult Road Toward Recovery

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:47

Less than a year ago, Catherine Walczak was mentally and physically abused by someone she loved and trusted. She is slowly getting her life back on track. The 23-year-old wants to tell her story to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and hope to those who experience it.

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I knew Catherine Walczak as an acquaintance. We had a few classes together in college at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She seemed confident, friendly, and looked as if her life were on top of the world. But underneath she was hiding an abusive relationship.

Catherine says when she first started dating her boyfriend Dimitrios, he seemed like a decent guy and the two were very much in love. Two months later she got pregnant and they decided to move in together. Almost immediately, things changed:

“He’s been abusive towards me, he’s broken sh*t, he’s spilled hot coffee on me. We lived on the third floor of an apartment so he threw all of m stuff out the window and then into the dumpster,” Catherine said. “That went on for months when we were together and living together. But I was so in love with him and he said he was so in love with me and wanted to marry me that I stuck around.”

Catherine stayed with Dimitrios through her pregnancy. In October, their son was born. She thought Dimitrios seemed unhappy as a new dad. He was constantly disappearing for days at a time to hang out with his friends. But he told her he loved their son and that he wanted to be a good father. He watched the baby while she was at work.

One night when she was at home feeding her baby, Dimitrios took him from her arms and went into another room.

“My son screamed on the top of his lungs. He was holding him. A fountain of blood was coming out of his mouth. I asked him, ‘What the f*ck did you do?’ And he’s like, ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything!’” Catherine said. “I went to the emergency room and… the doctor told me that all of his ribs have been broken, his clavicles, his left leg, left arm, he was bleeding internally because he was punched in the mouth a couple of times, his neck is broken. So pretty much my son… his whole body is broken.”

Doctors told her the trauma was not all a result of what had just happened. It was the accumulation of weeks or even months of abuse. She had sometimes noticed slight bruising in the past but because babied bruise easily, she didn’t worry about it. Catherine was devastated.

“He was abusing my infant son on a regular basis when I was at work,” Catherine said. “When I figured it out… ohhh I was out.”

Catherine told police and Dimitrios was arrested and charged with three felonies. She left her apartment and moved back in with her parents. Her son stayed in the hospital for several weeks. He went back home but his health problems persisted to the point that she couldn’t care for him herself.

“I have full custody of Christopher, but my son is living in Anchorage with special parents,” Catherine said. “They’re worried that later on in life he’s going to have a lot of disabilities. He took out all of his aggression on an infant. I don’t know what kind of normal human being would do that.”

Domestic Violence in Alaska is a serious issue. In 2011 a UAA victimization survey found that in Anchorage alone, 60 percent of women have experienced domestic violence. But there are organizations like Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, or AWAIC, to help victims get out of abusive situations. Deputy Director Melissa Emmal explains rates of domestic violence are increasing for people like Catherine, aged 18 to 24.

“Our community needs to do a better job at targeting young people with information about what healthy relationships look like,” Melissa said.

Those who do get out and get help take months, or even years to recover. But Melissa is proud of what they can accomplish.

“I’ve been working with people who have experienced abuse for a little over 10 years and I’m always amazed by the resiliency and strength that I see in people who’ve been through trauma throughout their whole life and a big traumatic incident of violence to get out of a relationship,” Melissa said.

It has been over nine months since Catherine left her boyfriend. She says surrounding herself with friends and family has helped her recover.

“I had my head back on my shoulders. Honestly I don’t know. I am just a tough cookie. I am really strong. I have to be strong for my son because I’m the only thing that he has really,” Catherine said.

Her ex-boyfriend is in jail awaiting sentencing. Her son is still living with his professional family, continuing to recover from his injuries. Right now Catherine is in Nevada with her parents, but plans to move back to Alaska and be closer to her son until he can live with her again next year. Then she plans to move back to Nevada to start a new life for her and her son. Catherine is hopeful about the future but picking up the pieces hasn’t been easy.

Categories: Alaska News

Kalibo, Philippines Is Juneau’s New Sister City

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:46

Juneau gained its fifth sister city this weekend. Representatives from Kalibo in the Aklan Province of the Philippines signed documents Saturday afternoon to formalize the agreement. Juneau and Kalibo are both vibrant tourism centers and regional capital cities.

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About 3,000 Filipinos live in Juneau and roughly 800 of them are from Aklan. Vicky Roldan is one of them. She’s been in Juneau for 21 years and says family is the reason so many Kalibo residents move here.

“There’s a big number of them here because of intermarriages and all that and they keep bringing family over here.”

Kalibo Mayor William Lachica (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KTOO)

Alex Carrillo  was born and raised in Juneau and says the Filipino population has always been a tight-knit community.

“Just growing up in the Filipino Hall around even people who weren’t our relatives. We were so close back then because that’s all we had was one another. The Filipino Hall is a really big part of my life.”

He says Juneau’s bond with Kalibo is more than just a sign of good will toward the Philippines.

“Filipinos are a big part of Juneau, I think. And it just shows that the city of Juneau really appreciates us.”

While in Juneau, the Kalibo delegation did some sightseeing including visits to the Mendenhall Glacier and the Shrine of St. Therese. They also visited local businesses, like the Alaskan Brewing Co.

Many expressed hope that the sister city connection will encourage an exchange of goods, services and information. Dr. Makarius Dela Cruz is Kalibo’s municipal health officer. He says Aklan needs support to provide better health care to its residents.

“Your government could help my government to provide medicines, equipments and also promote nutrition in our town.”

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November and damaged buildings in Aklan. Juneau’s Filipino Community Inc., or FilCom, reached out to those affected across the Philippines. Larry Snyder is on the Juneau Sister Cities Committee.

“The FilCom had a fundraising event for relief money to assist Filipinos. And then the state of course donated two cargo planes full of Alaska sea products, salmon, canned salmon.”

Seafood is important to both Southeast Alaska and Aklan. Jenny Gomez Strickler is the Philippines’ honorary consul to Alaska. She wrote to Alaska Airlines to explore the possibility of a direct flight to Manila that could increase the amount of fish exported. She says there are products that people in the Philippines could use that would otherwise go to waste in the United States.

“In Alaska, our fishermen grind up the salmon heads and throw it back in the ocean. I joke that that would be a taboo to Filipinos. Filipinos love making fish-head soup. They call it sinigang.”

John Pugh is the chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast. He says there could be a trade in education.

“Having the sister city relationship will enable us to work towards maybe some educational exchanges through agreement with Aklan University – for students, for faculty exchanges – and we think that would be a real benefit.”

If the sister city relationship is successful, members of both communities hope it will also spark more tourism.

Categories: Alaska News

New Bethel Pool Closes Temporarily Due To Safety Issue

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:45

Bethel residents enjoy the new pool. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.

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Acting City Manager Pete Williams, says a State Fire Marshall inspected the building before the grand opening on Saturday and found a problem with the sprinkler system.

“They gave the blessing for the opening as long as the fire truck was hooked up to the building for the opening,” Williams said.
“Right now we have some test equipment that is not in town that’s en route and hopefully late tonight or early tomorrow morning they’ll do some more testing and hopefully solve the problem.”

Williams says the pool will remain closed until the problem with the sprinklers is fixed.

Original story:

New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes

The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.

Hundreds watched as Beverly Hoffman made the grand opening plunge down the new slide. With that splash, the new pool was officially open, and the early reviews are positive.

“It’s really fun,” said a group of Bethel youth.

The pool quickly reached its full capacity and dozens waited in line for their chance to swim. The 25-million dollar six-lane pool is part of a complex that has a hot tub, weight room, and an open exercise room. Bethel’s largest windmill provides about half of the electricity.

The pool has been a dream for three decades. Looking across the pool full of splashing kids, Hoffman, who’s been the persistent voice for years was emotional.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s just what we wanted for this community, a place where families and kids can learn how to swim and be comfortable and dive in water. It’s amazing,” said Hoffman.

The city presented Hoffman with a lifetime pool pass for her many years of work. Ella Kinegak cut the ribbon Saturday and reflected on the long process.

“I used to go into these hotels and they have swimming pools, I used to wonder, if they can do it, I bet if we try in Bethel, it wouldn’t be too hard to try it out,” said Kinegak.

It took three decades, and no one claims it was easy. A group of mothers, the Y-K Delta Lifesavers over the years have baked and sold 20-thousand pounds of cookies to raise funds. Bethel citizens twice voted for increased sales tax for the pool.

The future of the facility was never certain, as it faced opposition in some city councils and an uphill battle for grant money. Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman and Representative Bob Herron worked to secure a 23-million dollar state appropriation 2012. Hoffman says he made the case for the region’s safety.

“People live off the river, hunting, fishing, and we’ve had some of the highest drowning rates in the state and in the nation. I don’t think it’s a nicety, I think it’s a necessity to the people out here. It’s such a good feeling to finally be inside, this is my first day here, it’s totally amazing,” said Hoffman.

At the opening, the hundreds who were eager to swim listened to remarks from a long list of local and state leaders who described the community effort. The local Kuimarvik advisory board has advocated for the pool, while the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s diabetes program and Rasmussen Foundation were major donors to outfit the center with equipment. The city hired an Atlanta based company, USA Pools, to manage it.

Bethel Mayor Rick Robb says the community and region have a great opportunity before them.

“I think this facility will improve the quality of life here, and our people can live better, our kids can grow up with healthy recreation and physical activities. We’ve got a first class pool, a first class gym, it’s really about improving our quality of life,” said Robb.

Categories: Alaska News

LGBTQ support group meets in Ketchikan

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:44

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are gaining more rights and acceptance throughout the country. Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska.

While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ non-profits or advocacy groups in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems. One such group is called “Transgendered Ketchikan.”

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Transgendered Ketchikan is an informal support group for queer people in Ketchikan. Six of them met at The Point Café on a recent afternoon.

Jacob Trumble, Holly Nore, Tyler Varner, “Izm,” and Austin Kalkins meet up in a casual support group for LGBTQ people in Ketchikan.

“I think there should be more safe places for people who are questioning their identity, just gender identity, sexuality, etcetera,” said Izm, who used to identify as transgender, but now doesn’t identify as any gender.

Izm is one of the people who started this support group about a year ago. Izm says there is a Gay-Straight Alliance at UAS Ketchikan, but they didn’t seem to be accepting of transgender people. And with the challenges queer people face in Ketchikan, a support system was needed.

“Like most traditional, old-fashioned towns, it’s kind of a hush-hush situation if you don’t follow the norm,” said Holly Nore, who identifies as pansexual, or attracted to people based on personality rather than gender.

Nore moved to Ketchikan from Wrangell, with the hope that it would be a more accepting environment. And it is, but there’s still occasional abuse.

“You know, when I was kissing my girlfriend, a man started talking about how we’re gonna burn in hell,” Nore said. “Things like that.”

For Tyler Varner, outright discrimination isn’t the biggest struggle. He’s gay, and says his family accepts him. But it’s taken him a while to accept himself.

“I feel like I have to put on this show so I can go out to dinner,” Varner said. “And I think I just want to strap on some damn fairy wings and go to the club and pump it up. I need to let go, it’s stressful.”

Austin Kalkins, who identifies as gender fluid, says the people in this group often have to explain themselves to others.

“There’s always people looking, people asking, people…all this stuff, inquiring just because you don’t fit into the norm type of deal,” Kalkins said.

The only transgender person at this meet-up is Scott Davis, or Sheen, who identifies as transfeminine. She has lived in Ketchikan for more than 30 years, but didn’t feel comfortable coming out until a couple years ago.

“[You] just get to a point in your life when you go, “It doesn’t really matter, and I’m gonna be happy.”” Davis said.

Davis says at this point, she feels about 75 percent comfortable with being “out” in Ketchikan.

“Because of occasional physical or verbal abuse,” she said. “This morning, at a local place downtown, one worker referred to me as a freak. It hurts a lot less than it used to.”

Davis says this group has given her the strength to ignore harassment like that. The group has helped other members in different ways.

“It took me a long time to accept that I didn’t see myself as being of any gender,” said Jacob Trumble.

Trumble was only able to accept it and come out after this group was formed.

“I probably wouldn’t have said anything for even longer had this group not been formed,” Trumble said.

The people here have found friends who accept and support them in Ketchikan. But there are still times when they feel like outsiders.

“We’re not a circus, we’re not an act for somebody to watch, we’re people,” said Holly Nore.

For now, there are only unofficial support systems in Ketchikan for LGBTQ people, like this group. But that might change in the coming months. Davis says she and others are working to form an official LGBTQ advocacy group with non-profit status.

“If you have an actual formed LGBTQ group in a community, I think businesses, public government is a lot less likely to violate somebody’s rights as a human being based on gender preference or appearance,” Davis said.

James Hoagland is a board member with the Juneau non-profit Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He says he doesn’t know of any other similar organizations in Southeast. Without those support systems, Hoagland says LGBTQ people may feel isolated.

“I think it would be really hard to connect to other people who have that shared identity,” Hoagland said. “I think people would feel alone.”

Back in Ketchikan, Davis says the non-profit she and more than 10 others are forming is private right now, because some of the members aren’t out. She hopes by next year, the group will be public and Ketchikan will be home to a more prominent organization that can advocate for people like those gathered here.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 4, 2014

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:30

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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Anchorage Voters Motivated by Different Causes

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaskans across the state are casting ballots today. There is a lot at stake. Voters are deciding two of Alaska’s three seats in Congress, along with the governor and state house and senate seats. There are also three statewide ballot measures- on marijuana legalization, the minimum wage and Bristol Bay.

A steady stream of voters filed into Airport Heights Elementary this morning to vote.

New federal regulations to favor subsistence users, rural residents

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The Federal Subsistence Board’s rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last month.

Fairbanks City Council Dumps Police Contract

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks City Council has unanimously voted down a labor contract with public safety employees. The council took the action at a regular meeting last night.

Domestic Violence Survivor Sheds Light On Difficult Road Toward Recovery

Ashley Snyder, APRN – Anchorage

Less than a year ago, Catherine Walczak was mentally and physically abused by someone she loved and trusted. She is slowly getting her life back on track. The 23-year-old wants to tell her story to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and hope to those who experience it.

Kalibo, Philippines Is Juneau’s New Sister City

Kayla Desroches, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau gained its fifth sister city this weekend. Representatives from Kalibo in the Aklan Province of the Philippines signed documents Saturday afternoon to formalize the agreement. Juneau and Kalibo are both vibrant tourism centers and regional capital cities.

New Bethel Pool Closes Temporarily Due To Safety Issue

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.

New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.

LGBTQ Support Group Meets In Ketchikan

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska. While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ organizations in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems.

Categories: Alaska News

Top Parnell Aide Outlines National Guard Response Timeline

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:26

In September, a federal report on misconduct in the Alaska National Guard was released. And since then, it’s been an open question as to why long-running allegations of cronyism, fraud and the mishandling of sexual assault reporting didn’t result in reform sooner. News outlets, including Alaska Public Media, have sued the Parnell administration for access to records that could provide insight into their response. APRN’s Lori Townsend spoke with capitol correspondent Alexandra Gutierrez about where things stand today.

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The Attorney General released over a thousand pages of e-mails concerning the Alaska National Guard this weekend. Was there anything illuminating in there?

For the most part, no. Hundreds of pages were totally redacted, and a good chunk wasn’t germane to the request at all. Some complaints about the National Guard’s leadership are included, and those are interesting. Some are signed, some are anonymous. Some are reasoned, some are totally vitriolic. And they came in waves and spurts from 2010 to present day.

What have we learned about how the Parnell administration responded to them?

The documents don’t give us a lot of specifics in this regard, especially because they’re so heavily redacted. But they do show the Office of the Governor discussing allegations on a regular basis and communicating frequently with whistleblowers.

A lot of the emails are to or from Mike Nizich, Gov. Parnell’s chief of staff. He rarely gives interviews, but I sat down with him for 45 minutes to talk about when the administration started hearing about trouble in the Guard, and what it did about it. He outlined the chronology of the administration’s response and supplied copies of some of the investigation reports that they tracked through the years.

The first contact with an investigating agency was October 2010, which was before any National Guard chaplains had made serious contact with the Office of the Governor. Nizich says he visited the Federal Bureau of Investigations, after two whistleblowers reached out to him with serious allegations about drug smuggling and gun running. He stressed that it’s pretty serious and unusual for the governor’s chief of staff to report a commissioner to the FBI. Obviously, that would have serious implications if the person were found to be in the wrong. But a few weeks later, he was told that there nothing to it.

In 2012, there was a National Guard Bureau inquiry into sexual assault response that was called by Sen. Mark Begich. That came up dry. That same year, another aide to Parnell, Nancy Dahlstrom, says she went to the FBI, too. Again, nothing. In 2013, the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency looked into a complaint that then-Adjutant General Thomas Katkus’ covered up sexual assaults, and they cleared him. There was also a review by the Secretary of the Army, another Army Inspector General review, and a Department of Defense inquiry called by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. None of them found any problems. Nizich said it was like chasing ghosts.

Did the fact that there were consistent complaints raise any questions about keeping Katkus in a position of leadership even if the investigations were coming up dry?

I asked that, because it seems like at minimum, the sheer volume and persistence of complaints would indicate that Katkus was a divisive figure and that there was a low level of morale at least among some members of the Guard. Nizich said the administration understood that Katkus was making some changes that not everybody necessarily liked, but that because Katkus kept on getting a clean bill of health, so to speak, they trusted him. He also stressed that feedback they received wasn’t exclusively negative, and that Katkus did have his fans in the Guard.

Did Nizich have an explanation for why the administration hasn’t been more forthcoming with documents?

One of the interesting things about this whole crisis in confidence in the National Guard’s leadership and the governor’s response is it seems like there’s two components to this. There’s Parnell’s private response and his public response, which are actually pretty distinct things.

As far as his private response goes, we’re still learning about that. On the most skeptical end of the spectrum, one could say the administration is controlling the release of documents, there’s a lot redacted, and there’s still a lot that isn’t yet public. And on the more trusting side of things, you look at the investigation record and the documents that have been released, and take the administration at its word with the rest. Without all the information and with so many different perspectives on how this was handled, it’s hard to be certain where things fall on that continuum.

The public response is a different matter. One of the frustrating parts of the Office of Complex Investigations report that was released in September is that it describes all of this upsetting and unconscionable activity without naming perpetrators or quantifying the number of victims or the extent of fraud. With all of these open questions about just how bad it was, it shouldn’t be surprising that the public and the press have wanted answers. And when the administration didn’t appear to be forthcoming with information about how they handled things, that prompts the question of “Why?”

Nizich’s explanation for the delayed response to – and subsequent denial of – records requests into the National Guard is part logistical and part legal. He says there were large records requests, like one for all of former naturak resources commissioner and current Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s state e-mails, made prior to the National Guard investigation which slowed the response. And he says there were enough legal privileges governing the documents to justify not releasing them – privileges that we’re definitely seeing exercised even with the documents that are now coming out on a judge’s order.

Given the politically fraught timing of this happening during campaign season, voters probably could have had a clearer understanding of what happened had more information been provided and documents released sooner.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich, Sullivan Rally Voters, Each His Own Way

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:25

In the final days before the U.S. Senate election, candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan making their final pitches, aiming to rally their supporters to the polls. Sullivan got help from two national figures representing polar opposites of the GOP: Mitt Romney, an establishment Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero.

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Cruz travelled with Sullivan around the railbelt. At a rally in the Mat-Su Valley Sunday, Cruz spoke for about half an hour, and included calls to abolish the IRS and end federal regulation of fracking. Cruz, frequently adopting the cadence of an evangelical preacher, told a few hundred cheering fans the race would be won or lost right there.

“The men and women in this room, if everyone of you goes out and gets nine other people, you will win this race. You will elect Dan Sullivan and you, personally, will retire Harry Reid,” he said.

An Anchorage airplane hangar was the scene of a Republican rally with Romney today. Sullivan said he was happy to have the former presidential candidate there.

“It feels amazing! Shoulder to shoulder next to him,” Sullivan said from the stage.

By contrast, Begich’s final campaign days were more in the trenches. He gathered with supporters in Palmer and Wasilla, then met with a few dozen public employees in Anchorage on Saturday. With his wife dispatched to Bethel and his mom in Barrow, Begich handed out hot chocolate to UAF students today before flying back to Anchorage.

“Wherever there’s an undecided voter, I will show up,” he joked.

Polls show Begich is cutting into Sullivan’s lead. Or maybe not, depending on which poll you believe. PPP, a firm that polls for Democrats, called voters over the weekend and says Sullivan is just one percentage point ahead of Begich. But a poll last week, by New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports, says Sullivan has pulled to his largest lead yet in a Rasmussen poll — 5 points.

The Division of Elections says as of yesterday, more than 47,000 Alaskans have already cast ballots, through early and absentee voting. That’s 18 percent of all ballots cast in Alaska’s last mid-term election, in 2010. Spending in the Senate race is now at $57 million, which comes to more than $200 per likely Alaska voter.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott brings principles, finance experience to Lt. Gov. race

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:24

Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long.  A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined the Alaska First Unity Ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.

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Mallott’s decision to drop his candidacy for governor and join Republican-turned-Independent Bill Walker was met with both support and criticism. When announcing the merger, Walker said he and Mallott would make decisions together. Mallott says some people told him to get that in writing.

Candidate Byron Mallott and KYUK reporter Ben Matheson on the set of Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State program. (Photo by Patrick Yack, Alaska Public Media)

“And I said that is just crazy. You have to trust. You have to work together. The offices are constitutionally mandated and their responsibilities are very clear.”

Mallott says he’s ready to fill his role as a senior policy adviser to the governor and as a member of the cabinet, like he did when working as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation under Tony Knowles. That’s where he first worked with Bruce Botelho, the then-Attorney General for the state.

“Byron is an incredibly thoughtful person. Very analytical, very principled. And he applies those principles to his problem solving,” Botelho said when asked to describe the candidate he’s worked with for nearly two decades.

Botelho says Mallott values family, community, and a sense of place, and that he knows how to compromise. But Botelho does admit that when Mallott was younger he was known for passionate, explosive feelings.

But “that is not an issue any more,” he said. “And that’s not to say that Byron will not express himself forcefully when he needs to, but it’s not a situation that causes me any pause for concern.”

Bothelo touts Mallott’s leadership skills and experience with finance management as evidence of Mallott’s readiness for the role of lieutenant governor. Mallott himself says he would look at the state’s budget with a critical eye, though it’s the governor’s job to set the budget.

“Every bit of spending the state does should be on the table for careful analysis, for discussion,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State.

He says that’s true of projects that only impact rural Alaska as well.

“It’s important that, at least for me, that if the village of Kwethluk has a bridge project that’s hugely important to that village, that it get the same scrutiny, the same analysis as the bridge across the [Cook] Inlet.”

But Mallott says that doesn’t mean he would increase taxes to raise money for such projects.

“The notion, again, that we can tax our way either to balancing budgets or to prosperity has been shown never to work.”

Mallott’s main role as lieutenant governor, if he wins, will be supervising the Division of Elections. He says he would follow all laws when certifying ballot initiatives, even if he disagrees with them.

“It is there in order to give voters a voice when they believe their voice is not being heard. So, it is a very precious tool in our constitution, but I think it should be very carefully and not often used.”

Mallott is a Tlingit originally from Yakutat. He’s an independent director of Alaska Air Group.

 

Categories: Alaska News

A Look At Proposition Two

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:24

The pre-election barrage of advertising regarding the vote for or against Proposition 2 — which would allow the use, purchase and sale of recreational marijuana in Alaska for those aged 21 or older — has been aimed at  adult users of the drug.  But teenage use of marijuana is not a rarity in our state, and kids know where to purchase it whether Prop 2 passes or not.

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It’s not hard to find mothers who oppose the passage of Proposition 2.  At a recent Vote No on 2, Big Marijuana, Big Mistake ralley,  Karen Compton, mother of two teens, said

“I don’t want my kids to be guinea pigs.”

But middle school and high school kids are already experimenting with marijuana.

At a local coffee shop, I spoke with fourteen year old Bridger – last name not used at request of his mother – who says it’s not hard to find weed.  He says, kids younger than he get it easily.

“Absolutely, it’s very openly spoken of and lots of kids, they’ll even wear hats with weed on them. “

“Where do they get it? Do you think older kids buy it for them or give it to them?” I asked.

“Well, the marijuana is, but not the like, clothes, they’ll buy it themselves. “

” How young do you think kids start doing marijuana.?”

“Lots of them will say as early as eleven, their parents gave them a blunt, or marijuana…”

Bridger explains that a blunt is a badly rolled marijuana cigarette.   He says he won’t use the drug, but many people his age do.

“They’ll say it helps them, but it really does not help them. Anybody who doesn’t smoke weed will realize that it doesn’t help them. Like it deteriorates them. It’s visual, you can just see it. It deteriorates them.”

I ask how many kids would smoke marijuana, in any given group of ten or so.

“About two would be like the open stoners, getting everyone to smoke. And then about five of them would occasionally smoke marijuana, and then about, you know, six of them would  have smoked maijuana, would have done it at least once.”

Prop 2 prohibits those under the age of 21 from using false identification to purchase marijuana. And it allows the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana edibles. If it passes, Karen Compton says its only a matter of time before the Cannabus rolls down her street.

” I live in Spenard, and you know, where are these retail outlets going to be? They’re going to be in Spenard! You know, my kid is going to have to walk down the street past them.”

 Spenard is the Anchorage neighborhood once notorious for booze, brothels and life on the edge, although gentrification has come slowly.  Now a yoga studio and an organic restaurant stand where a bar and dance hall were thirty years ago.A young man in a black hoodie lounges against a storefront. He’s got the stub of a cigarette still smoking in his fingers. He’s the first teen I spot.. so I stop and ask him

 ”What do you think of this marijuana initiative?”

He didn’t want to give his name, but he answered readily enough.

“Honestly, I’m not quite sure about it. The fact that, yeah, a lot of people up here do smoke marijuana. But, um, it’s honestly, it’s up to everybody else,  I have pretty much no say about it right now, due to the fact I’m not old enough to vote. But if I did, I’d have to say yes on it, because there’s so many medicinal uses for it. But, people who just go out to use it recreationally, I don’t think it should be legal like that, so..”

“Have you ever used it recreationally?” “No, ma’am” “Do you know people who do?” ” Yes, ma’am.” “Is it easy to get?” ” It is.”

I tell him, “It’s not like this dark alley thing, I’ve been told a lot of people, you know their family gives it to them.”

” Yeah, pretty much. It’s that easy up in Anchorage. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t be that easy, but..”]

If Prop 2 passes, how would it  shape the future world of Bridger and the unnamed teen in Spenard?

Prop 2 support group Yes on 2, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has released a statement claiming that the state could raise 72.5 million dollars in taxes in the first five years after Prop 2 goes into effect. The tax would be $50 on an ounce of marijuana sold.

On a Sunday evening, two volunteers man the phones at the Yes, Yes, Yes campaign office in Anchorage.  Reggae music flows out of the speakers, and a table full of snack food stands ready to fight a snack attack.  Campaign manager Nick Moe says his group targets the 18 – 24 demographic and is working to get out the Yes on 2 vote.

“I think that it’s easier for a sixteen year old to get a joint than it is to get a six pack right now. If we bring it out of the shadows, into the regulatory phase, like alcohol is, I think it will be a lot more difficult for children to get access to marijuana, if they have to show their id’s. And you have to be at least 21 years old. “

 Moe says if Prop 2 passes, regulatoin of the sale of marijuana will actually keep it out of the hands of teenagers.

“In Colorado, those rates have actually declined because there are actually more robust programs to address marijuana usage in schools. “

And, if estimates of millions in tax dollars flooding the state are accurate, Moe says there will be plenty of money around for school programs.

Not long ago, the New York Times ran an editorial urging the passage of Alaska’s Proposition Two.  And last week, the NYT reported that former Wall street equity fund managers are starting their own private equity groups targeting investment in cannabis industries across the nation. Because, one source said “…people have been buying marijuana for years.. there is an existing demand” .

Closer to home, Josh Fryfogle, editor of Wasilla’s The People’s Paper, ran his own editorial, saying that, until now, not one Alaskan cared about marijuana’s legalization.  He says it’s all about the money.

“The only reason this is on the ballot is because two PR firms were hired , and are being paid, to make it an issue. “

The Vote No on 2 campaign has raised just under 150 thousand dollars, for their campaign, all from Alaska donors. The Yes on 2 campaign has been funded primarily by the Washington, DC based Marijuana Policy Project and by the NY based Drug Policy Alliance. The two lobbying groups have donated close to 900 thousand dollars to the Yes on 2 campaign.

Categories: Alaska News

USCG Responds To Grounded Barge Near Kodiak Over The Weekend

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:23

Over the weekend the Coast Guard responded to a grounded fuel barge near Kodiak.

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Coast Guard personal at Sector Anchorage sent a C-130 Hercules Airplane and the cutter Spar to respond to the incident early Saturday morning. Though the nearly-400 foot fuel barge had managed to refloat itself shortly after getting stuck, responders mounted boom and towed the vessel into Kodiak for a damage inspection.

As of today, a Coast Guard official says dive inspections haven’t revealed any damage to the hull or signs of leaked contaminants, and the Marine Safety Detachment is investigating the cause of the grounding.

The barge was carrying 2.2 million gallons of aircraft fuel to the Coast Guard’s Air Station on Kodiak.

Categories: Alaska News

As US Outlines Arctic Council Goals, Native Groups and State Lawmakers Left Wanting

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:22

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp (Ret.) addresses the 2014 Arctic Circle meeting in Reykjavík, Iceland. (Photo: ArcticCircle.org)

The state department has outlined the nation’s top priorities as the U.S. prepares to chair the international Arctic Council in April, but some Alaska Native groups and state officials argue the national goals are lacking.

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In Yellowknife, Canada in late October representatives of the U.S. Department of State gave a presentation closed to media—but directed at the other five nations on the Arctic Council, as well as several observer nations—outlining the U.S. government’s three key “thematic areas” for the country prepares for its three-year term as Arctic Council chair.

Robert Papp, who retired as U.S. Coast Guard Admiral in May and was appointed by Secretary of State John Kerry as the nation’s special representative for the Arctic in July, discussed those themes at the Article Circle 2014 meeting in Iceland last week. Papp said on of the three “themes” the U.S. would focus on includes climate change.

“Reducing black carbon emissions and methane emissions are worthy goals that we need to work on with the international community to achieve,” Papp told the multinational crowd assembled in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík. “I see this as a particular area in which our Arctic Council observer nations can become involved, and assist in some of those forward leaning and actionable outcomes.”

Papp also stressed that stewardship of the Arctic Ocean, including a focus on ocean acidification, would be part of the U.S. emphasis. He stressed better preparation for a maritime disaster or oil spill, especially as a former mariner with the Coast Guard, is an especially high priority.

“We need to be working together, just not coming to agreements on search and rescue and oil [spill] prevention,” Papp continued, “but implementing actionable items, and practicing together, and learning from each other so that we can assist each other when those emergencies inevitably occur.”

Beyond climate change and Arctic Ocean issues, the U.S. chair is also focusing on improving the “economic and living conditions” of Arctic residents, including renewable energy, sanitation and public health, suicide prevention, and telecommunications.

But for groups like the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an international body representing more than 150-thousand Inuit peoples across the world, the priorities lack focus on the rights of the North’s first peoples.

“I think it’s been very clear for quite some time that when it comes to indigenous rights, both the US and the State of Alaska have been very hesitant to open up that discussion,” said Jim Stotts, the president of ICC Alaska.

Stotts said the three broads themes the U.S. is advocating aren’t a surprise, and he stressed ICC agrees they are important, but Stotts said issues like self-determination for native peoples, along with hunting and fishing rights, that are absent.

“ICC has been promoting for some time to have a project at the Arctic Council that would look at food security form the perspective of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples,” Sotts said. “In particular, the safety of the food, the access to the food, and the health of the environment … As of yet, it hasn’t really been addressed, [and] the food security is one that we wished would have been addressed.”

Stotts said those conversations will continue on the local and national level, if not at the international Arctic Council.

The state’s own Arctic Policy Commission also criticized the national priorities. Last month Anchorage Senator Lesil McGuire and Bethel Representative Bob Herron wrote an open letter to Papp, saying the national priorities must do more the emphasize job creation in rural Arctic communities. That’s an imperative the state’s two top Arctic commissioners say is lost with the fed’s more general economic focus.

“We are very concerned that our number one priority, jobs and economic opportunity for Arctic residents, is being ignored,” McGuire and Herron wrote. “We believe that jobs and economic development for the people that actually live in the Arctic is a high priority and not an afterthought for Alaskans.”

The two state lawmakers are urging the State Department to create an advisory committee from Alaska, made up of local government and Alaska Native representatives, to ensure the three years the U.S. will spend as as chair of the Arctic Council reflects the priorities of America’s only Arctic state.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 3, 2014

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:22

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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Questions Remain As National Guard Documents Are Released

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

In September, a federal report on misconduct in the Alaska National Guard was released. And since then, it’s been an open question as to why long-running allegations of cronyism, fraud and the mishandling of sexual assault reporting didn’t result in reform sooner. News outlets, including Alaska Public Media, have sued the Parnell administration for access to records that could provide insight into their response.

Begich, Sullivan Rally Voters, Each His Own Way

Liz Ruskin, APRN

In the final days before the U.S. Senate election, candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan are making their final pitches, aiming to rally their supporters to the polls. Sullivan got help from two national figures representing polar opposites of the GOP: Mitt Romney, an establishment Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero.

Mallott Brings Principles, Finance Experience To Lt. Governor Race

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long. A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined Bill Walker’s unaffiliated ticket as the Lt. Governor candidate.

A Look At Proposition Two

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Ballot Initiative Two – which would allow the use, purchase and sale of recreational marijuana in Alaska for those aged 21 or older – has Alaskans at odds over the legalization of a federally prohibited drug. Teen use of marijuana is not a rarity in our state, and kids know where to purchase it whether Prop 2 passes or not.

USCG Responds To Grounded Barge Near Kodiak Over The Weekend

Zachariah  Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Over the weekend the Coast Guard responded to a grounded fuel barge near Kodiak.

Coast Guard personal at Sector Anchorage sent a C-130 Hercules Airplane and the cutter Spar to respond to the incident early Saturday morning. The nearly-400 foot fuel barge had managed to refloat itself shortly after getting stuck.

A Coast Guard official says dive inspections haven’t revealed any damage to the hull or signs of leaked contaminants.

The barge was carrying 2.2 million gallons of aircraft fuel to the Coast Guard’s Air Station on Kodiak.

As US Outlines Arctic Council Goals, Native Groups and State Lawmakers Left Wanting

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The State Department has outlined the nation’s top priorities as the U.S. prepares to chair the international Arctic Council in April. Retired Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp expanded on the three major themes at the recent Arctic Circle meeting in Iceland—covering climate change and Arctic Ocean issues.

But, some Alaska Native groups—and state lawmakers—say the goals are lacking.

Scientists Note Temperature Spike In Gulf of Alaska

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Scientists say temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska recently spiked over a very short time span. The warmer temperatures are a byproduct of mild winter weather and could have serious consequences for marine life. The latest temperatures come from a monitoring program that has collected data from the Gulf Waters for the past 17 years.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Scientists Note Temperature Spike In Gulf of Alaska

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:21

Scientists say temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska recently spiked over a very short time span. The warmer temperatures are a byproduct of mild winter weather and could have serious consequences for marine life. The latest temperatures come from a monitoring program that has collected data from the Gulf Waters for the past 17 years.

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Categories: Alaska News

House District 21 candidates blur some party lines but not others

Mon, 2014-11-03 13:05

Two candidates are running for Democrat-turned-Republican Lindsey Holmes former seat in West Anchorage’s House District 21. And like their predecessor, some of their views blur typical party lines. 

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/31-house-21-EDIT.mp3

Matt Claman is a Democrat. And like many Democrats, he supports same-sex marriage.

“Well, I have been a long supporter of equal rights, and some people say that I actually took a lot of heat when I was acting mayor for supporting equal rights in our community,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Running.

His opponent, Republican Anand Dubey, also supports marriage equality, despite it being against his party’s platform.

Matt Claman (D) is a candidate for House District 21. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“Let me just put it this way, I’m against discrimination in all forms,” he said in a phone interview when asked to clarify his positions.

Dubey also strays from his party line on the issue of abortion–sometimes. Dubey has made many different statements about abortion. In response to two different conservative group surveys, he and his campaign identify him as pro-life. After making confusing statements on the issue during Running, he was quick to agree with Claman’s position.

“I will continue to support a woman’s privacy, and health care privacy, and want to do everything I can to keep politicians out of the private relationship between a woman and her doctors,” Claman said on the program.

“And so would I,” jumped in Dubey.

When asked to clarify his position, Dubey said he opposes all types of non-natural death because he was raised with Hindu values. However, he said he does not think the state should be regulating abortion.

The two opponents also agree on the importance of involving their constituents in the legislative process and making decisions based on their opinions.

The differences between the two men start to show when discussing budget matters. One major issue is funding the public schools. Claman promises to try to inflation-proof the Base Student Allocation, a position supported by groups like Great Alaska Schools. Claman said the legislature needs to take a local approach by supporting local school boards.

“The school boards around the state are some of the organizations that we elect that are best able to know the best needs of that district,” he said.

But Dubey said focusing on the BSA oversimplifies the issue. He said he wants to revamp the way school budgets are made.

Anand Dubey (R) is a candidate for House District 21. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“I don’t need anybody’s help, I just need time. I need to be given data and if I get elected, I’ll sit down single-handedly and then show you how to do it. Much like any chartered account and or any business expert would do. And we’ll go through it and we’ll figure out, ‘ok, where do we need money?’” he said.

Dubey argued that all of the state’s budgets can be reduced by eliminating redundant services. He said the state’s medical costs would be lower if there was more competition in the marketplace.

“So the bottom line is this: as a legislator I don’t believe in creating additional laws to circumvent a problem. I believe in maybe deregulating it to see if more competition in the market could solve the problem. So that would be my idea.”

Claman said health care costs are rising around the nation, not just in Alaska. He said solving the problem locally requires more efficient systems and for the state to accept federal Medicaid money.

Neither candidate has served in the state’s legislature before. Claman works as an attorney and is a former Anchorage assembly member. Dubey runs his own IT company and has degrees in engineering and business.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Live Video: The Annual Polar Bear Migration In Churchill, Manitoba

Mon, 2014-11-03 12:14


Courtesy of explore.org, Polar Bears International, Frontiers North Adventures

Catch a glimpse of the annual polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba, brought to you by Explore.org, the philanthropic media organization and division of the Annenberg Foundation.

Categories: Alaska News

More National Guard Documents Released, Most Unresponsive

Sat, 2014-11-01 19:54

The Alaska Attorney General’s office released a fourth and fifth set of documents concerning the Alaska National Guard on Saturday. One 171-page packet contained mostly press releases and official photographs. Another 151-page set is made up of duplicate records from previous drops.

While much of the material is unresponsive, the fourth packet contains a 2009 letter from then-Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom takes great exception to a letter sent to her from Debra Blaylock, wife of whistleblower Kenneth Blaylock. Debra Blaylock, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Alaska Army National Guard, wrote to Dahlstrom before Thomas Katkus was appointed adjutant general.

Blaylock asked Dahlstrom to “seriously look into Tom Katkus’ background if his name comes up for nomination.” She went on to write that Katkus was under investigation for “numerous allegations.” Blaylock acknowledged her husband had filed one of the complaints against Katkus and stated she had retired from service, “rather than suffer any more of his abuse.”

In her response, Dahlstrom chastised Blaylock, writing that Katkus had served for more than two decades as a captain and division commander with the Anchorage Police Department without complaint or discipline. Dahlstrom wrote that “because of your credentials as a military officer” Blaylock should be “sensitive to the extreme damage that results from reckless and baseless allegations.” Dahlstrom also expressed “great offense” to Blaylock’s “statement that [the Guard] is a ‘good old boy’ network with corrupt leadership.”

Dahlstrom concluded by voicing confidence in the governor and legislature’s vetting process for selecting and confirming a replacement adjutant general. Katkus was ultimately appointed by Gov. Parnell to replace Craig Campbell.

Dahlstrom later went to work for the Parnell administration, first briefly in 2010 and then again in 2012 to 2013. In her second stint as a military affairs aide, Dahlstrom received numerous complaints about the Guard, which she then forwarded on to Parnell chief of staff Mike Nizich.

The fifth packet also contains correspondence from a former Parnell aide with a record in the legislator. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who currently serves in the State Senate, sent an e-mail with the subject “Investigation” to Adjutant General Thomas Katkus and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre on April 26, 2011. He also forward a copy to Nizich and to Parnell policy director Randy Ruaro. The substance of the e-mail is entirely redacted, for reasons of deliberative and executive privilege.

Only 30 of the 171 pages in the fourth packet appeared responsive to the request by Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News.

With only two days remaining before the state’s election, the attorney representing the media organizations sent a strongly worded letter Saturday afternoon demanding that documents be released rapidly, with less redaction and in a process that avoids “further obstructing or delaying or denying access to the requested public records.”

This story has been updated to include information about a fifth packet of documents.

[Fourth Document Packet (25mb)]
[Fifth Document Packet]
[Attorney Letter]

Categories: Alaska News

Governor’s Office Releases Hundreds Of National Guard Documents

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:15

The State of Alaska has released letters, emails, and other documents related to the Alaska National Guard scandal (175 MB). A “privilege log” listing why some details in the documents were redacted was also released.

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Copies of all notes, correspondence, memos and emails related to sexual assault in the Alaska National Guard were requested in May by Alaska Public Media. It took until Sept. 26 for Gov. Sean Parnell’s policy director, Randy Ruaro, to deny the request.

Alaska Public Media and Alaska Dispatch News sued the state Oct. 8. Two weeks after filing the lawsuit it appeared that the state was willing to release the documents without litigation. A week later the state had only released few of requested documents.

The media organizations advanced their lawsuit Wednesday to force the release of the documents before the Nov. 4 election. Alaska Superior Court judge Gregory Miller ruled on Thursday that the state was to comply with the records requests by Friday at noon. Reporters received an 596-page document around 1 p.m. today.

This is not the first time reporters have had difficulty requesting documents from the Parnell administration. Last year reporters requested copies of an $80,000 study commissioned by the state to look at the effects of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The Parnell administration maintained that the report was not a public record because it was protected under the “deliberative process privilege.” Seven months later Parnell released the report after he’d made the decision that Alaska would not expand its Medicaid program.

Alaska National Guard emails – 175 MB pdf

Privilege Log – 58 KB pdf

Categories: Alaska News

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