The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly voted during their regular meeting Thursday to approve a land exchange sale between the Borough and Chena Hot Springs Resort.
It’s a deal that’s been in the works for more than a decade. It stalled earlier this year after a disagreement over the appraised value of the property.
Assemblyman Michael Dukes has been unhappy with the negotiations to sell nearly 1,500 acres of Borough property to Chena Hot Springs Resort for most of the year.
“I cannot support it based on all the shenanigans,” he said. “Even just the appearance of shenanigans in my opinion at this point.”
Resort owner Bernie Karl originally agreed to purchase the land at fair market value. The property was appraised at $390 per acre in the spring, but Karl told the Assembly he didn’t believe he was getting a fair deal.
In July, Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins’ administration proposed an ordinance that applied a credit of more than $282,000 to the total purchase price for improvements and access easements.
Dukes says the credit fundamentally changes the terms of the original purchase agreement.
“The whole reason this land sale exchange has gone forward as an exchange was because there was something being offered and it was the easements,” he told the Mayor. “The access at no costs to the borough, meaning they weren’t going to get a credit for it.”
Lance Roberts offered an amendment to raise the purchase price of the land based on his estimation that trail improvements made by the Resort, would directly benefit Chena Hot Springs.
“There’s going to be more public out there using those trails and this is going to get the resort more business because of a better trail system out there,” Roberts said.
The amendment failed after a lengthy debate.
John Davies pointed to the Resort’s reputation arguing that what’s good for the Resort is also good for the Borough.
“The role that Chena Hot Springs has played in increasing winter tourism in this town is in no small measure due to the marketing and attraction that the Karl’s have created out there at the Hot Springs,” Davies said.
In his closing remarks, Presiding Officer Karl Kassel told the assembly he believes negotiations went poorly, but he doesn’t think either party could have fared better.
“The bottom line for me is that we’ve gotten to what I feel is probably a fair price for the property and it’s within our best interest to move forward even though I’m not happy about the process of how we got here,” Kassel said.
The Resort will pay more than $297,000 for the land with 10 percent down at 6 percent interest over 15 years. The Borough will survey the boundary at a cost of $15,000.
The Alaska State Troopers’ largest patrol vessel is back in service after an engine upgrade in its home port of Dutch Harbor. The patrol vessel Stimson was out of commission for 10 days earlier this month during the overhaul.
Skipper Troy Magnusen says the patrol vessel’s engines were well past their prime.
“One of our engines was about 800 hours over rebuild time, and the other was about 1800 hours over,” he says.
So Magnusen says the engines were upgraded piece-by-piece while the vessel was in port. The project cost about $175,000.
There were no impacts to patrols, though the maintenance work did keep the troopers from helping respond to a maritime disaster — the grounding of the fishing vessel Arctic Hunter on November 1st.
Now that they’re up and running, Magnusen says the Stimson has one patrol left this year — though he couldn’t say when or where to avoid tipping off fishermen who might be breaking regulations.
“We do a lot of the Bering Sea patrols, for the king crab, opilio,” he says.
Next year, they’ll be back on their other beats.
“We do the Bristol Bay red salmon season in the summertime. We enforce the … Sand Point/False Pass area, for cod and salmon,” Magnusen says. “We run out to Adak a couple of times a year to do cod out that direction and also for the caribou season, the hunting season that they have out there, [and] search and rescues if needed.”
Even though there’s plenty of work for the Stimson in Western Alaska, the engine maintenance project reignited rumors that the troopers wanted to move the vessel elsewhere.
Operations commander Burke Waldron says it’s staying put for now. But he says there is some truth to those rumors.
“We are constantly evaluating where our boats, both large and small, airplanes and people are stationed, and if we can be more efficient or better serve the state by moving those assets or resources around,” Waldron says.
Kodiak is the homeport for the P/V Woldstad. Together, the Woldstad and Stimson cover Western Alaska.
Waldron says it makes sense to keep the Stimson where it is — so it can focus on the Chain.
“Right now it’s suited well for the Aleutian chain and Bristol Bay and Arctic fisheries patrols. [It] also, you know, provides public safety services to the Aleutian chain,” he says. “Obviously if we move the boat away from that region, that would have additional costs for us, and travel time, to get to some of those patrols.”
With money tight in the state right now, that’s something the troopers are trying to avoid. With their latest investment in the Stimson, Waldron says the troopers should be able to get a lot more work out of the vessel.
Lower Kuskokwim school officials say it was a 2nd grade student with a lighter that caused the fire in a detached building’s bathroom.
The school will be disciplining the 2nd grade student according to the district’s policies.
“Typically that would be a suspension and the days would be the determining factor, it could go up to an include expulsion, but that would really depend on the age of the student and the conditions surrounding the event,” Jacob Jensen, the Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent, said.
No flames left the bathroom, according to the fire department, but the classroom suffered serious damage.
“There was quite extensive damage to the building, so we’re investigating what repairs might be necessary to bring it up to code, or if that building is even worth repairing or not,” Jensen said.
Jensen says that the teacher, Jill Hoffman, did an exemplary job of evacuating students and keeping everyone safe and calm. He says the response was textbook and the fire department put out the fire before it could spread beyond the bathroom. Jensen says incidents like this are something that the district is working to prevent.
“Obviously we’re not going to frisk every student that comes in the door. We’ve go to take into account that kids do things and don’t think about them. We’re going to be looking at protocols and policies and procures to see if there is something we can do in the future to prevent something like this,” Jensen said. ”But a lot of it has to do with awareness and talking to the kids and having the fire department is in there talking abut fire safety. And that we’re taking those lessons and making kids understand that fire is dangerous.”
The 2nd grade class is a bit in limbo at the moment, as students are spread amongst other classrooms while the school works to find a permanent solution.
Alaska’s congressional delegation is pushing for disaster funds related to 2012’s low Chinook runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. Twenty-two new lawmakers are now included on a letter of support for $150 million in relief to be spread across other national fishery disasters.
The group now includes prominent East Coast senators like Charles Schumer and Marco Rubio. A total of 38 senators and house members are listed.
The $150 million have been included in a 2014 appropriations bill, but it has not been passed. The lawmakers say the money could be used in a variety of ways, including direct assistance to residents and scientific studies.
The funding would also covers disasters related to Cook Inlet salmon, plus Florida oysters, Mississippi blue crab, and lost fishing from Hurricane Sandy.
Bethel’s rural status is not immediately at risk. But once the population hits 7,000, it will be presumed to be non-rural unless it proves to have rural characteristics.
The federal subsistence board is in a multi-year process of reviewing how it decides which communities have the critical rural priority for accessing resources on federal lands as described under ANILCA.
That process was the subject of a meeting in Bethel Wednesday, but most people gave their thoughts on Bethel.
Alan Joseph said that the population thresholds are somewhat arbitrary.
“Say if the community became non-rural at 7,000 it would be like telling Yup’iks in Bethel that at 12 o’clock that that stop being Yup’iks,” Joseph said. ”You have to look at the way the people live and decide to keep it that way.”
There are communities above 7,000 people still considered rural, like Sitka and Kodiak. To remain rural, they have to show rural characteristics. Mary Gregory made the case that subsistence is at the core of many people’s lives.
“If you come to my house right now you will find 10 pikes hanging in my kitchen trying to dry out and a string of tomcods that are also hanging and my house smells like fish because I’m a 99.9 percent subsistence food user,” Gregory said. ”A lot of people are like that, especially the elderly people who live here.”
Ignacious Louie Andrew recognized that change has accelerated in recent years, but the basic native values are still strong:
“We have gone through a tremendous changes, but as we continue to change, subsistence traditional native practices and values will provide a continuity to the past,” Andrew said..
Bethel specifically sees a lot of turnover, according to Roberta Chavez.
“People come and go to bethel all the time you see them moving here, leaving here,” Chavez said. ”The people that remain have been here since time immemorial and they have the right to continue to live that way.”
There are a total of 10 meetings happening all around the state. Comments will be analyzed and brought to the Federal Subsistence Board. Steve Kessler works as the Forest Service’s subsistence program leader and says the comments are important to the process.
“Are these thresholds guidelines the correct ones to use, or should we be using something else,” Kessler said. “Should we be aggregating communities in some other way?”
“What does the public think the federal subsistence board and the secretaries of interior and agriculture ought to be using to determine which communities are rural?”
The board will meet in April and could propose changes to pass up to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, who ultimately make the call. You can give comments by emailing email@example.com. The deadline for comments is Dec. 2.
President Obama said today insurers can continue offering the plans they intended to cancel as part of the Affordable Care Act.
The announcement is a response to outcry over the President’s “if you like your plan you can keep it” promise, which turned out to be untrue for millions of Americans.
Now, state insurance regulators and insurance companies have to figure out if they can make Obama’s new plan work.
Last month, Premera Alaska sent out health insurance cancellation notices to more than 5000 people in the state. With President Obama’s new announcement, the company may be able to send out very different letters to those same people. But Premera spokesperson Eric Earling says it will take a few days to sort out how to proceed.
“Premera is assessing what this means, we’re going to be evaluating options for our consumers and then getting them information as soon as we feasibly can on what their options are,” he said.
Earling says there is already a lot of confusion over the Affordable Care Act and this new twist is likely to increase that confusion. And he says the change will create a lot of work for Premera, but ultimately, he thinks it’s good for customers.
“As a general principal, yes, we’d prefer to have more options, not less in helping them navigate changes relating to the Affordable Care Act,” Earling said.
There are a lot of tricky details to consider. First, Alaska’s Insurance director Bret Kolb has to figure out whether these canceled insurance plans can be revived. He’s not sure if it’s possible under state law and in such a compressed timeline.
“It will be a big job,” he said. “A lot of the burden I believe would end up falling on the insurers first and then back onto the state to review rates and forms in a very expedited manner, if that’s even a possibility.”
Kolb plans to make a determination as quickly as possible.
Senator Lisa Murkowski has been critical of President Obama’s “If you like your plan you can keep it” promise. But she’s not sure the President has found a good fix:
“I’m just not sure how workable this is,” Murkowski said.
And Murkowski is frustrated the president’s proposal only extends the canceled insurance plans for a limited time.
“Now he’s saying you can keep your plan for a year if the insurance companies are able to kind of recalibrate if you will, and provide for that policy,” she said.
Murkowski’s office has heard from several Alaskans upset over their insurance plan cancellations in the last month.
The State Division of Insurance estimates 9,000 Alaskans received cancellation notices this fall because of the Affordable Care Act.
Western Alaska has been wracked by storms the last few days. The first round occurred Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Before clean-up efforts were even finished in some of the worst-hit communities, strong winds and coastal flooding did more damage last night.
Schools were closed in Fairbanks for a second day on Thursday due to stormy weather. Driving conditions are slick, and more than 13,000 households were without power this morning. Golden Valley Electric Association had the number down to a few thousand by mid-day, but expected it will take until Friday morning to restore power to some remote neighborhoods.
The state is currently putting money toward five different large-scale projects aimed at reducing energy costs on the Railbelt. Some, like subsidizing Cook Inlet gas production, impact energy costs now and in the near term. Other projects, like the proposed LNG pipeline wouldn’t affect prices for at least a decade. The question is—should the state be supporting all of the projects?
State agriculture officials are advising Alaska livestock owners how to cope with the high cost of feeding their animals. Feed prices have risen sharply following last summer’s drought that hurt the interior hay and straw crop.
A new report on suicide in Alaska from the State Division of Public Health’s epidemiology section, found rates are higher in more northern regions. Erik Woelber is a graduate student intern with the epidemiology section. Woelber says the study breaks communities into three categories by size and road access and looks at factors that may have contributed to the suicide rate. Woelber says the rates of suicide at higher latitudes merits more research.
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Townsend – The study was exploratory, but there was an interesting finding regarding higher rates at higher latitudes. Tell us about that?
Woelber – According to the model, the suicide was higher at higher latitudes. And the result was statistically significant even when you controlled for things like median income, or the size of the population or whether it was rural or urban, so it’s a really interesting result. Because the study was exploratory , we can’t really say conclusively that suicide does vary with latitude, but it’s certainly an area that we should focus more work on in the future to see if it actually does make a difference.
Townsend – Were there findings within the higher latitude areas, where the higher the latitude, the more the rate or were there distinctions in that regard?
Woelber – Well the rates actually fluctuate quite a bit from community to community. When you’re dealing with suicide, you’re actually dealing with a low probability event. So, in many communities there are actually zero suicides and then you’ll have a few communities that even with one or two suicides, over an eight year period are already at four to five or ten times the national average just because the communities are so small. So, it’s difficult to look at one community and draw a conclusive data from one, which is why we looked at every community statewide. We have about 300 or so census designated places in Alaska and so when you look at 300 communities you can actually start to develop trends statistically.
Townsend – Any idea what may be going on there with the higher latitudes?
Woelber – It’s actually really unclear what the reason is for the association is with latitude. You could say that is has to do with differences that vary with latitude in access to services. You could say there are collinear relationships with funding for suicide prevention or weather or physical activity, access to firearms. At this point, it’s just educated conjecture which one of these variables it might be or if it’s in fact a combination of all of them.
Townsend – Has this been looked at before or was this a surprising finding?
Woelber – Geographic latitude hasn’t really been looked at this way in the state of Alaska. Latitude has been shown to correlate with higher suicide rates in Japan for instance. They have higher suicide rates in more northern prefectures. There are also high suicide rates in circumpolar communities such as in Greenland, which actually has the highest suicide rate in the world, which is five times Alaska’s average.
Townsend – In this study, states that have the highest rates of suicide, also have a lot of geographic area that is rural communities. Talk a little bit about what those findings were and the states that are associated with those higher rates that are in the top one or two in the nation.
Woelber – So this study didn’t look at suicide rates by state nationwide, but the correlation we can draw from national data are still relevant for Alaska. For instance when you look at the rates that have the highest rates of suicide, they’re Alaska, Montana, Wyoming. These are all states that have quite a few things in common. Among those are high amounts of rural areas and also high rates of self reported gun ownership.
Townsend – What’s next, do you plan to zero in the latitude issue and also some of these other factors that come into play in states that have a lot of rural territory.
Woelber – In terms of follow up to this study. I think the main thing is to look at latitude more closely and perhaps design a study that’s more focused on figuring out why there’s a correlation there. As I said before, this study was really exploratory so, when you design an epidemiological study like this, you design it differently when it’s exploratory versus where you’re looking at one variable specifically. So what we’d want to look at if we wanted to look more closely at latitude, is looking for some of the variables that actually affect the relationship between latitude and suicide rate and see if it’s not really latitude or if it’s something else because latitude is just a number. So there’s quite a bit that could correlate with it.
Townsend – How long does it take to develop a study like this?
Woelber – I would say the research community in this area is pretty wide. So it’s not just in Alaska that this type of research is going on. It’s really nationwide or even global. So when you release a study like this, it’s possible that future researchers even if they’re in England or Norway or Sweden or Greenland will see it and then determine that maybe they should control for latitude and for further studies in the future.
Townsend – Other findings?
Woelber – We found a couple things. One was that of all the suicides that happen in Alaska, roughly 79% were male. Which is roughly in line with previous studies that have shown that men are at three to four times increased risk for suicide compared to females. Another was 60% occurring in cities, 14% occurring in small hubs and towns and roughly 26% occurring in rural villages. Rates are still higher in rural areas. They’re about 40 to 45 per 100,000 people per year and cities are 15 to 16 per 100000 per year. The national average is somewhere around 10 to 11 per 100,000 per year and Alaska’s rate overall is 20 to 23 per 100,000
Townsend – In the findings, where you were looking at latitude, were there implications that suggested it was because of the extreme change of light and darkness?
Woelber – So when people hear that suicide rates correlate with latitude, one of the ways that a lot of people have interpreted this is that suicide rates are higher in areas where there are low levels of daylight in the extreme winter months in December and January. However, in Alaska and also in many other places, there’s actually no increase in suicide rates during the winter months. In fact if you look at the last eight years of data, there really isn’t any cyclical trend in suicide rates that’s seasonal over the course of the year. If anything, those rates are slightly higher in May and June. That would seem to suggest that it doesn’t have to do with darkness or seasonal affective disorder in the winter, but we certainly can’t rule out that the extreme seasonal fluctuations in daylight don’t cause some other affect by some other mechanism that’s perhaps not an acute affect.
Paratroopers of the 425 Brigade at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice to take on missions ranging from parachuting into a combat zone to providing humanitarian relief for natural disaster victims.
On Tuesday, I had a chance to get a glimpse into the life of Alaska’s Airborne soldiers.
As I stand in the main staging area in the Joint Mobility Center, I try on a parachute to give me a feel for just how much gear a paratrooper carries when they jump out of a plane.
Weighing in at nearly 50 pounds, it’s like walking around with an 8-year-old strapped to your back. And it’s only about a third of the weight a fully-equipped paratrooper might carry into a war zone.
The room is spartan; the plain, white walls are adorned with unit logos and most of the interior is lined with rows of long, wooden benches.
Colonel Matt McFarlane – the commander of the 425 Brigade – says the time spent in the room is the last chance to make sure everyone is ready to go and on the same page before they head out.
“We come down here as we prepare for a contingency deployment,” McFarlane said. “We’ll finish up our deployment preparation.”
“Sometimes that’s administration like finishing up wills if we have to do that, and other things that allow us to deploy.”
Along one of the walls, there are stations where soldiers can take care of any last-minute legal, financial, and religious needs before deployment.
The days spent in that room are ones soldiers don’t forget.
“I remember December 9, 2011, walking in this room,” Captain Chase Spears said. “I had said goodbye to my family earlier in the day; held my kids for the last time and disconnected, got on a bus and drove over here, and I remember sitting in this very room at the JMC knowing that I had at least a 10-month tour in Afghanistan ahead of me.”
Spears has deployed twice – once to Kuwait and once to Afghanistan.
He says even, at those times, when the soldiers have all said goodbye to their families, the room is filled with an air of confidence and focus.
“It’s just something really humbling to walk in and feel just, everyone is ready,” Spears said. “Everyone has accepted, ‘Yup, we’re gonna be out; I might not be sleeping for a little while; I might not be comfortable for a little while, but, this is what I’ve signed up to do; and this is what I’m trained to do; and this is what I’m proud to do.’”
Even though military units are in a constant state of training and readiness, emotions still come into play, and despite extensive preparation, it often comes down to soldiers supporting each other to make it through a deployment.
Colonel Matt McFarlane remembers one moment in particular when his unit was getting ready to deploy to an area near the border of Albania and Kosovo in 1999.
“I had a young paratrooper that we found crying in his wall locker, because he was scared,” he said.
McFarlane and others talked with the soldier, encouraging him to feel confident in the abilities of his unit, his fellow soldiers, and himself. And, when the time came in combat, McFarlane says that soldier was able to overcome his fear and was the first to return fire.
“Any soldier would attest that they rely on their buddies, we call them airborne buddies in this unit – their battle buddies – to keep them going strong when sometimes they may not be as strong as they should be for whatever reason,” McFarlane said.
So far, the paratroopers of the 425 Brigade at JBER have been deployed to war zones for over three full years on three different deployments since the unit’s inception in July 2005.
During their deployments they have lost 74 soldiers in combat.
Paratroopers from the same brigade – the 425th Brigade special Troops Battalion on JBER – will also be testing out some drones while they’re in Anchorage.
The drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are non-lethal aircraft.
They have a 14-foot wingspan and are about the size of a really small one-passenger plane.
They’re operated remotely from the ground by the paratroopers.
Officials say the drones could be flying over JBER as soon as Friday.
The aircraft will remain over the base at all times, mostly in restricted airspace.
It’s the first time drone training has been approved for JBER in Anchorage.
It was Tlingit weekend at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. recently. Storytellers, artists and dancers from Alaska and Canada performed in the museum’s massive atrium. The museum, a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol, is a branch of the Smithsonian, but it’s unlike the others.
The Fairbanks area continues to experience strong winds Thursday morning with mixed precipitation.
An early winter storm, with snow and freezing rain, has prompted Fairbanks schools to close for a second day. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is open Thursday, but there are widespread power outages.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Brader says winds continue to gust up to 40 mph, and there is a mix of snow and freezing rain falling.
Winds started to pick up about 10 p.m. Wednesday. The highest recorded gust overnight was 55 mph.
About 4 inches of snow fell at the airport in addition to less than inch of liquid, including freezing rain.
Brader says a cold front should come in later Thursday, and temperatures will drop along with several inches of snow.
The Alaska Railroad Corporation has adopted a new policy regarding residential uses of Railroad rights of way.
Over the last 30 years, some property owners adjacent to the rail line have created lawns, gardens, or structures that extend into the right of way near the tracks. Now, in order to begin or continue using the right of way, property owners will need a permit from the Railroad.
Permit application costs $250, and the annual fee is based on the square footage of the right of way that is being used, with a minimum fee of $250.
The Railroad says the new policy was adopted in order to curb the use of the right of ways while still giving some property owners the opportunity to keep gardens or structures that may have been there for decades.
Wendy Lindskoog, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for the Alaska Railroad, says that the enforcement of rights of way has been lax in the past, beginning in the days when the Railroad was federally operated. She says that while the policy applies all along the Railbelt, but that a majority of the property owners using Railroad property are in and near Anchorage.
The Railroad was unable to provide a figure on how many properties in the Upper Valley would be affected.
According to Lindskoog, the current policy is the result of two years of public process. She says that public comment resulted in a number of changes to the policy as it was being drafted and amended.
While the policy does allow for applications for new residential uses of Railroad rights of way, she says that the process will not be “a rubber stamp.”
Property owners who are currently using Railroad rights of way have 180 days to file for a permit to continue using the land. The Alaska Railroad has a page setup on their website with contact info for property owners who have questions.
Homer residents may have noticed a petition circulating around town recently, calling for the formation of a charter commission.
If the petition effort is successful, that commission would then be tasked with writing a new city charter for Homer.
Homer City Clerk Jo Johnson has been researching state and federal law on the subject ever since Homer resident Ken Castner announced that he would lead a local effort to create a commission. Johnson says the first step for organizers would be to gather 185 signatures.
So far, the clerk’s office has given out 12 petition booklets to people interested in gathering signatures. Johnson says those folks will have until Jan. 27 to gather at least 185 signatures and then Castner would file them all with the clerk. After that, the Homer City Council will get a look at the signatures.
The clerk’s office will compare all of the signatures with the city’s voter rolls to make sure they are all accurate. If the threshold is met, then it’s time to find some commissioners for the charter commission.
Johnson says there has to be at least seven commissioners, who would have to gather 50 signatures of support to be considered. The potential commissioners would then be a part of next year’s municipal election in October. At that election, Homer voters will also be asked whether or not to form a charter commission. If the answer is yes, the top seven vote-getters would be the commissioners. If the answer is no, that would be the end of the process.
If the commission gets the green light, it would have one year to write the city charter, which would basically replace the current Homer city code and lay a brand new foundation for how the city would be run. The city would be recognized by the state as a “home-rule” city instead of a “first-class” city and would have broader powers to form a new government.
Johnson says there are state and federal rules, however, governing the charter-writing process.
If the charter is completed in time, Johnson anticipates that voters will decide its passage at the October 2015 municipal election. If the vote fails, the charter commission would get one more chance – another year to rewrite the charter and hold another vote. If the vote passes, the new charter would become law on the date the charter is certified.
Many cities in Alaska, including Kenai and Seward, are already home rule cities, with many of them adopting their charters in the early 1960s, shortly after statehood. Homer is the fourth-largest Alaskan city that remains a general law city.
When I accepted a job in Anchorage more than a dozen years ago, my new boss told me the neighborhood I’d be working in was sketchy.
She said signs of illicit sex and drug use, along with alcohol debris would be common in the parking lot. And that homeless people would sleep on the porch. It was all true.
That was my introduction to Fairview. But last Saturday I glimpsed a very different version of the neighborhood through the stories of smiling residents who love Fairview, faults and all.
“We’re spending a lot of time trying to re-image this community,” SJ Klein, the President of the Fairview Community Council, said. “You know the idea that people get is kind of what they see at 13th and Gambell.”
The idea he’s referring to is one of a neighborhood racked by drugs, theft and prostitution. But Klein, his family and others here on this snowy morning see a neighborhood with a lot of history worth caring for.
“It was an independent city, 30, 40 years ago and one of the first cities in Southcentral Alaska, after downtown Anchorage, there was another basically township here,” Klein said.
The day’s festivities were part of a civic engagement event organized by the University of Alaska Anchorage.
In the Fairview Rec Center parking lot, people gathered around canopies for a few hours at a “pop up” museum. The idea was to bring residents and others interested in the area together to reminisce, share pictures and mementos as well as plan for positive change and a better image for one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
Klein and his family brought old wooden skis to the pop up museum.
“Kind of wanted to highlight the history of the ski area that was in Fairview,” Klein said. “The first ski area in Southcentral was the Anchorage ski bowl and so from 3rd Avenue down to Ship Creek, that’s where everybody in town would go skiing.”
Klein says it’s now referred to as party hill, where inebriates congregate to drink. He says a group of residents are working to turn it into a ski hill again. Undaunted by pitfalls, Klein sees the possibilities.
Bailey Black agrees. She says it’s less expensive to live in Fairview and there’s a good community feel. She and her husband Duane and daughter Lucy were enjoying hot drinks and live music. Seven-year-old Lucy had her own ideas for improving Fairview.
“Kind of want less stealing and like they need to make a couple more skate parks because they only have like three here,” Black said.
Crime is part of life in Fairview. Orion Donicht took a break from playing the guitar for some coffee. He and his wife own a home a few blocks away. He says more help for alcoholics might help.
“You know, last year they had a big police push, there was a bigger police presence and that certainly cut down on the crime, that’s nice. Hyder is basically a hobo highway from Chester Creek up to Bean’s Cafe. So we’re limited by our location, you know what I mean? It’s the nature of where we’re located and how this situation is set up. I think the homeless problem is Anchorage’s biggest problem right now, obviously I think that because I live in this neighborhood,” Donicht said.
But he says he loves Fairview and he thinks it’s getting better. That good natured tendency to love or at least accept the good with the bad in Fairview is a common theme among residents. Mark and Janet Stoneburner have moved to Spenard, but lived in Fairview for five years. Mark told the story of a drunk who insisted a party was at their house at 2 am one night and wouldn’t quit pounding on the door. He said it was scary. But Janet just called it local color and recalled waiting for the bus, working on a crossword puzzle in the paper.
“And this guy with just wild hair, one eye, sees me from about 30 feet away and starts yelling, and he’s coming toward me yelling, waving his arms, ‘what are you doing writing in the newspaper? who does that? What kind of person writes in the newspaper?’ I look at him and I go, crossword, ‘oh, give me four down. And he stood there did the crossword with me until the bus came and then he wandered off!” Janet Stoneburner said.
The characters in Fairview may be part of its charm as well as part of its problem, but historic gems were also revealed at the pop up museum. Resident Christopher Constant explained the photo display of a man in Fred Astair like outfits named Mike Madill, who lived in a red log cabin.
“He was a internationally recognized performer, dancer, actor. He gave voice lessons to Morgan Freeman, I mean, this guy knew everybody. And so he was really an amazing gem of Anchorage’s history,” Cross said.
As UAA student Devin Johnson entertained the growing crowd, a display of teeshirts under one of the canopies seemed to capture the sentiment of local residents..People’s Republic of Fairview.
Just 53 Alaskans have selected health insurance plans on healthcare.gov. The federal government released marketplace numbers today for every state. Nationwide, 106 thousand people have signed up for plans. That figure includes people who have fully enrolled and people who have a plan in their shopping cart but haven’t paid yet. North Dakota is the only state with fewer people in that category than Alaska. But Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius expects to see all the numbers increase a lot in the next several months:
“There’s no doubt that particularly the early experience with healthcare.gov was enormously frustrating. It is getting better. It’s getting better every day. So I’d urge people to visit the site.”
Enroll Alaska says it’s confident enough in the federal site to begin signing Alaskans up again. The company suspended enrollments on healthcare.gov last month, after discovering the subsidy calculations weren’t working properly for Alaskans. Chief Operating Officer Tyann Boling says the federal government has fixed the problem. She says Enroll Alaska signed up one person on the marketplace yesterday, and it only took 20 minutes:
“This is really encouraging. Our agents are really excited to get out into the community and start helping individuals. This is really good news for us.”
Boling says the company will start deploying more than two dozen insurance agents to Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs and hospitals in communities across the state.
Boling says anyone who signed up for health insurance on the marketplace before November 11th may be due a larger subsidy. To get the problem fixed, those who have already enrolled need to file an appeal. Boling says the federal government is working on finding a quicker remedy for Alaskans who received the wrong subsidy amount on healthcare.gov. She says Enroll Alaska can help with filing appeals.
The country could face a second round of automatic budget cuts if Congress can’t agree on a spending plan by year’s end.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said at hearing on Wednesday that the sequestration cuts already imposed on the Pentagon are throwing the military off its geostrategic goals.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m so concerned that in an effort to chase the dollars, in an effort to drive down the costs we’re putting our country, we are putting our national defense in jeopardy because decisions are being driven by sequestration and we’re not keeping our eye on the bigger picture,” Murkowski said.
The Alaska Republican said the Air Force’s recently shelved plan to move F-16s fighter jets out Eielson Air Force Base was an example of putting cost-cutting above defense strategy.
Among the unmet needs, Murkowski said, is new rescue helicopters for the Alaska Air National Guard.
Military service chiefs said last week that sequestration is forcing them to cut programs that will ultimately leave the country less prepared to counter global adversaries.