Alaska News

A Look At Proposition Two

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

APRN Alaska News - 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

Economists Say It’s Too Early To Determine Effects Of Current Low Oil Prices

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:14

Crude oil prices are hovering in the $80 range, and in Alaska that brings with it worries over the budget. But economists from either side of the political spectrum have roughly the same take on what’s playing out: it’s too early to tell.

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Categories: Alaska News

Leroy B. Dick Jr. Murder Trial Next Week in Dillingham

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:13

Leroy Blair Dick, Jr., now 44, is expected to be tried on a first degree murder charge before a jury of peers at the Dillingham courthouse next week. Pending further delay, jury selection will begin Monday, November 3.

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Dick is accused of killing of Village Public Safety Officer Thomas Madole in Manokotak in March 2013.

Leroy Dick Jr., at his arraignment on a first degree murder charge on March 20, 2013.

“To be honest, I could say I’m guilty of the crime,” Dick told Magistrate Judge Monte Brice at his arraignment the day after the murder.

Officer Madole, a retired minister, was described as a “friend” and “role model” to the Manokotak community, and was highly respected in the VPSO community. Madole had spent six years pastoring a church in Bethel in the early 2000s, and moved to Manokotak in 2011 as a VPSO. Governor Sean Parnell called the murder a “senseless and cruel act” and ordered all state flags lowered two days later in honor of Madole, who was the first VPSO killed in the line of duty since Ronald Zimin was shot in South Naknek in 1986. Tom Madole is survived by his wife Luan and two adult children.

Madole’s death led to the passing of a bill in Alaska to allow VPSO’s to carry firearms. House Bill 199, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, passed the Alaska House and Senate unanimously. Governor Sean Parnell signed the bill into law last July in Naknek.

VPSO Tom Madole was killed in the line of duty in Manokotak on March 19, 2013.
(Credit Alaska State Troopers)

Madole, unarmed, was killed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in Manokotak, after being shot several times with an assault rifle. Madole had gone to Leroy Dick’s house at about 4 p.m. after taking a report of a “possible suicidal person,” according to the trooper affidavit. Troopers said Madole realized he was in danger, and had tried to flee the scene after he heard Dick making threatening remarks and chambering a round into a rifle. When the investigating state troopers arrived from Dillingham shortly after the report of gunfire, they found Madole’s body about 20 paces from Dick’s doorstep.

Dick was arrested that day and transported to the Dillingham jail. He was arraigned the following morning at the Dillingham courthouse, and initially refused legal counsel. A grand jury indicted Dick on the charge a week later.

Attorney Jonathon Torres of the Public Defenders Agency is representing Dick. Judge Gregory Miller denied Torres’ December 2013 motion to change the venue out of the Dillingham court. A psychiatric report was filed in this past September.

Gregg Olson of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals is prosecuting the case. The state filed its intent to seek a mandatory sentence of 99 years in prison if Dick is convicted.

Judge Miller will preside over the trial in Dillingham, which is scheduled to get underway Monday November 3. Two weeks have been calendared for the trial.

Categories: Alaska News

Fire Investigators Wrap Up Work in Bethel

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:12

The aftermath of the fire. (Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK)

Two investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s office completed their work at the site of the fire that destroyed the new Bethel alcohol treatment center.

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“The on scene has been completed, however, more followups with interviews may be possible,” Lloyd Nakano, an assistant state fire marshall, said.

Photo by Dean Swope

Four days after the enormous fire that leveled the $12.5 million facility, which was being enclosed for the winter, Nakano says he doesn’t know the cause of the fire.

“We have to eliminate causes such as natural, accidental, incendiary, before we can do any, that’s what we have to do,” said Nakano.

Nakano would not say what sort of tools, heaters or equipment was present that might have caused the fire. They have not ruled out the possibility of arson, but also will not say whether they believe it was an intentionally set fire.

Nakano says there are no reports of fatalities or injuries after a thorough search. Nakano has no timeline for when the investigation will be complete. The Bethel Fire Department and an insurance investigator for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation have also been involved.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senator Lyman Hoffman Explains Endorsement Of U.S. Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:11

Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman surprised some people when he endorsed Republican Dan Sullivan for US Senate. In an interview with KYUK today, Hoffman explained why he took a stance in the high profile race in which Sullivan is seeking Senator Mark Begich’s job.

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Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Youth Take Part In National Community Planning Month

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:10

Laying out neighborhoods isn’t the world’s most glamorous job. But every October, urban planners make an extra effort to get people interested in that work for National Community Planning Month.

In Unalaska, that meant helping some of the town’s youngest residents design a world all their own.

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Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Twin Hills

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:08

This week, we’re heading to Twin Hills, near Bristol Bay. William Ilutsik is a grant writer for the village of Twin Hills.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 31, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 17:07

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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Governor’s Office Releases Hundreds Of National Guard Documents

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

The governor’s office has released hundreds of pages of documents relating to the Alaska National Guard issues.

Economists Say It’s Too Early To Determine Effects Of Current Low Oil Prices

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Crude oil prices are hovering in the $80 range, and in Alaska that brings with it worries over the budget. But economists from either side of the political spectrum have roughly the same take on what’s playing out: it’s too early to tell.

Leroy B. Dick Jr. Murder Trial Next Week in Dillingham

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

The trial of Leroy B. Dick Jr is scheduled to get underway Monday in Dillingham. Dick, now 44, is accused of murdering Village Public Safety Officer Thomas Madole in Manokotak on March 19, 2013.

Fire Investigators Wrap Up Work in Bethel

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Two investigators from the state Fire Marshal office completed their work at the site of the fire that destroyed the new Bethel alcohol treatment center.

State Senator Lyman Hoffman Explains Endorsement Of U.S. Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman surprised some people when he endorsed Republican Dan Sullivan for US Senate.  In an interview with KYUK today, Hoffman explained why he took a stance in the high profile race in which Sullivan is seeking Senator Mark Begich’s job.

Unalaska Youth Take Part In National Community Planning Month

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Laying out neighborhoods isn’t the world’s most glamorous job. But every October, urban planners make an extra effort to get people interested in that work for National Community Planning Month.

In Unalaska, that meant helping some of the town’s youngest residents design a world all their own.

AK: Murder

Dave Waldron, KSKA – Anchorage

Don’t worry, nobody’s actually getting killed. Instead, we’re planning a murder mystery party with an Anchorage business called outcast productions. Elisa Hitchcock and Kimberly Gray have been running the business for two decades. APRN’s Dave Waldron enlisted a few colleagues to give a murder mystery party a try.

300 Villages: Twin Hills

This week, we’re heading to Twin Hills, near Bristol Bay. William Ilutsik is a grant writer for the village of Twin Hills.

Categories: Alaska News

2014 General Election Information

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 16:30
Where do I vote?

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What are the statewide Ballot Measures? Who are the candidates?

Click here to find information about this year’s candidates. Many of this year’s candidates in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley appeared on Alaska Public Media’s 2014 Running program. You can find the videos here. For more information about this year’s candidates for: U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, and Lt. Governor, you can find the videos for this year’s Debate for the State here.

Where can I find more coverage of this year’s candidates and ballot measures?

Alaska Public Media and public radio stations from around the state have worked to provide complete coverage of this year’s election season through both news reporting and public affairs programming. This year’s coverage can be found on our Elections page.

Categories: Alaska News

Pebble Files FOIA Lawsuit Against EPA

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-31 13:38

In October, the Pebble Limited Partnership filed its third lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, this time seeking documents Pebble alleges were not turned over through prior Freedom of Information Act requests. The EPA is moving forward to establish restrictions against water use in Bristol Bay which will likely prevent development of the Pebble deposit.

Pebble’s first lawsuit against EPA, filed in May, challenged the agency’s legal authority to veto necessary permits before the developer has applied for them. That lawsuit was dismissed as premature by Judge H. Russel Holland on September 26. Holland said the EPA must have issued a final agency decision or final agency action to provide the basis for a legal challenge.

The second lawsuit, filed in early September, alleges that the EPA has been collaborating with scientists and environmental groups to implement EPA’s “scheme” to prohibit mining the Pebble deposit. Those collaborations, says Pebble, were violating provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. FACA, established in 1972, seeks to ensure that the outside citizens and committees who consult with federal agencies “provide advice that is relevant, objective, and open to the public.”

Pebble alleges EPA’s work with Trout Unlimited, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and others dating to at least 2008 has been anything but objective and open to the public. Judge Holland will hear from both parties in this lawsuit in November, as Pebble has asked that he issue a preliminary injunction against further EPA action.

Pebble is basing their accusation on a paper trail left behind from years of behind-the-scenes work between a number of environmental groups, scientists, and the EPA. The documents Pebble has obtained come from FOIA requests, but Pebble says the EPA is holding back from releasing more.

“We’ve received what I’d call the tip of the iceberg from EPA,” said Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for Pebble. “In just one of our Freedom of Information Act requests, we now know that EPA withheld at least 30,000 pages.”

Much of what EPA turned over to Pebble so far is “heavily redacted,” according to Heatwole, and there are noticeable gaps in the email chain.

“We’ve received no emails from Administrator Lisa Jackson,” he said. Jackson served as EPA Administrator from 2009 to 2013, visited the Bristol Bay region, and was briefed by agency staff about the issues surrounding Pebble. It is also believed that Jackson used a private email account under the name “Richard Windsor,” and Pebble says so far they have received none of those emails either.

Pebble also points to missing emails of former-EPA official Phillip North. From the emails it has obtained, North appears to have been actively encouraging the agency to use its 404c authority long before a 2010 request made by area tribes, perhaps as early as 2005. North coordinated closely with environmental activists and others adamantly opposed to Pebble.

But the EPA told Congress this year that North’s emails from 2002 to 2010 are missing. It was reported by the National Journal that the hard drive on North’s laptop “crashed” around 2010, and the emails have not been recovered.

“If this is the most open and transparent process they’ve undertaken, as they’ve said it is, then the question is what are they hiding?” said Heatwole.

The FOIA lawsuit asks the federal court to force EPA to turn over the rest of any and all documents relating to the agency’s involvement in the Pebble process.

“There’s a counter-narrative to what the EPA has been putting out,” said Heatwole. “They’ve said their interests and actions started against Pebble when they received a tribal petition. But the email traffic clearly shows that they’ve had a lot of internal conversations well before that May 2010 petition.”

The complaint documents filed by Pebble, including some of the memos and emails it has obtained, can be downloaded here.

Categories: Alaska News

In Years Prior To Investigation, Chaplains And Parnell Aide Submitted Guard Complaints To Governor’s Top Staff

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-30 17:46

While the governor’s office is now being ordered by a superior court judge to provide more records or explain the reasons for withholding them, the administration did provide a 352-page log of records that could be relevant earlier this week. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that hints of a timeline emerge in the document that outline the Parnell administration’s response to the allegations.

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The log begins from the day that Gov. Sean Parnell took office in 2009, and was produced using search terms like “National Guard,” “misconduct,” “fraud,” and “assault.” Many of the 12,000 e-mails do not seem relevant to the request, and cover things like Arctic policy meetings and disaster response. But about 60 pages in, the name of a whistleblower shows up in the subject line of an e-mail between the governor in and his scheduler in November of 2010. From that point on, Alaska National Guard chaplain Matt Friese sent 30 separate e-mails to the governor’s office through the end of 2011.

While Friese could not be reached, his colleague Rick Cavens says those correspondences began after chaplains teleconferenced with the governor four years ago and that they were a group effort.

“We then started conversations through Mike Nizich, who worked for the governor,” says Cavens. “We were to go through him and not go through the governor.”

Cavens says many of the complaints specifically concerned National Guard leadership and did not name victims. The subject lines are vague, but many contain subject lines like “Request you forward the attached or “Please forward to the Governor …” and “Toxic Leadership.” Nothing in the log indicates that those records were directly forwarded from Nizich’s account to Parnell. The Governor’s Office declined to comment on the log and did not clarify if the governor was provided physical copies of e-mails or briefed on them, but Parnell has previously said he was informed of every complaint.

Cavens says one of the specific requirements the chaplains had in dealing with the governor’s office is that their communications not be shared with then-adjutant general Thomas Katkus – who was asked to resign in September — for fear of reprisal.

“We didn’t want leadership involved,” says Cavens. “We had tried to talk to leadership, and it hadn’t gone anywhere.”

At the end of 2011, communications between the chaplains and Chief of Staff Mike Nizich suddenly broke down. On December 22 of that year, Cavens sent an e-mail with the subject line “Compromised.” He shared a copy with APRN, and in it, he accused Nizich of violating confidentiality. Cavens wrote that Adjutant General Katkus told one of the chaplains that he was aware that a group of them “have been a conduit to the governor.”

Cavens believed Nizich had identified them to Guard leadership.

“You understood that confidentiality for chaplains is dear and that we all have tried our chain of command and why Chaplain Friese contacted you in frustration,” Cavens wrote in the e-mail. “At this point in time I do not see you as a trusted agent for positive change and growth in the Alaska National Guard.”

Cavens still holds the same view.

“The only way that they would know it was that individual and us is because we had given that information to Nizich. Nizich, in a rebuttal e-mail, became quite agitated but clearly – and I wrote that e-mail – I wasn’t going to communicate with that man anymore. I did not trust him. And if he was giving information to the governor, it was compromised information.”

Nizich emphasized that progress had been made with the Guard that year, and that was because of the work of the Governor’s Office.

“I have served in the military and know all about the chain of command and the sensitivities of going outside those lines,” wrote Nizich. “Since my conversations with DMVA leadership (still on-going) there has been several positive changes made at DMVA and more on the horizon. These changes have not happened by coincidence.”

Cavens disputes that.

“No, it actually got worse,” says Cavens. “There was more leadership that was installed that had a tendency to bully. We were distanced, or I felt I was. I didn’t see any positive changes and I don’t feel that there were any really instigated.”

Nizich also strongly denied breaching confidentiality in his e-mail response.

“I don’t have much more to say to you except I am extremely frustrated right now and disappointed in receiving your communication suggesting that I breached the chaplains confidence,” Nizich wrote.

After the e-mails from the chaplains stopped at the end of 2011, there was a lull in obviously relevant communication about the Guard’s problems to the Governor’s office. But at the end of 2012, subject lines that directly relate to complaints about the National Guard begin popping up again. They are forwarded e-mails delivered by Nancy Dahlstrom, who was then a special assistant for the Parnell administration. She passed on nearly a dozen complaints between December 2012 and February 2013. One e-mail specifically mentions National Guard whistleblower Ken Blaylock in the subject line. Some are colorfully titled, like “Another example of theft – Ghost Employees” and “Imprecatory Prayers and ‘that Racist Holiday.” One forward is just labeled “Kodiak Entertainment Group,” a pornography company owned by one of the leaders of the Guard’s recruitment unit.

“There were allegations of different kinds of sexual assault, fraud, theft, drug smuggling, gun running, really serious things like that,” says Dahlstrom, who also served as a legislator from 2003 to 2010. She left elected office to serve as Parnell’s military affairs in 2010, before resigning from the position because of ethics concerns. She rejoined his staff in 2012.

Dahlstrom says that when she first reached out to Nizich about complaints about the Guard and its leadership, she was directed to involve Katkus even though some of the messages concerned him. She was also told that the Administration had already addressed these types of allegations.

“When I first brought these e-mails to the attention of the chief of staff, I was told some similar things had come up before and that they had been checked out and that there was nothing to them,” says Dahlstrom. “But when the different allegations kept coming to me, I kept on sending them up the chain, and I was not privy to any information on who had investigated or what. I was just told it had been done.”

Dahlstrom says that one of the people who regularly e-mailed her was perceived as having an axe to grind.

“Well, I was told that one of the people that was complaining was a former employee who was disgruntled and that most likely played into why these things were being said,” says Dahlstrom.

Dahlstrom says that even so, she continued to pass on the complaints and at one point delivered a package related to the National Guard to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. She says that while she can only speak for herself, she took the complaints seriously.

“I knew it needed to be dealt with one way or another,” says Dahlstrom. “If it was true something needed to be done, and if it wasn’t true, something needed to be done.”

Once Dahlstrom left her position with the Department of Military Affairs, there was again a drop-off in clear communication about misconduct in the National Guard. Obvious e-mails only pick up at the end of 2013, when the Anchorage Daily News first published a story about problems with the Guard that October. Communication within the Governor’s office about misconduct within the Guard appears active from that time on, with subject lines referring to news stories, records requests, and involvement of the National Guard Bureau.

["Compromised" e-mail]
[National Guard E-mail Log]

Categories: Alaska News

Judge rules state must comply with National Guard records request

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-30 17:13

John McKay argued the case on behalf of Alaska Public Media and ADN.

An Alaska Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that the governor’s office must start providing documents about the National Guard scandal to Alaska Public Media and Alaska Dispatch News.  The State has until noon Friday to hand over any related public records they have already identified and cleared and a privilege log that explains why they cannot provide other documents.

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Judge Gregory Miller said that the state had violated its own regulations and statues by waiting until September to reply to the records requests submitted in May and June. When the state did finally reply, they did not provide either documents or a privilege log.

Attorney John McKay argued the case on behalf of the news organizations. He says the judge acted reasonably by requiring the release of documents.

“The judge’s order says if there is something that’s disclosable, do it. And if it’s not disclosable, provide a privilege log like the law requires. Neither of which they’ve been doing and both of which they agreed to do,” McKay said.

The news organizations sued the state in the beginning of October and soon after came to an agreement with the Department of Law. The state said they would start producing the documents as soon as possible and provide them on a rolling basis. They did not.

Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar argued the case on behalf of the State. She said that the delay was due to the privilege of the executive branch to review all of the documents and see if releasing them would violate anyone’s rights.

The governor’s office was given 717 pages of documents cleared by the Department of Law on October 21, none of which have yet been logged or released. Bakalar said the governor’s office is working on many issues.

Judge Miller asked Bakalar at least four times how much time the governor’s office needed to complete the request and was never given a straight answer.

The state could still appeal the judge’s order to the state’s Supreme Court.

Categories: Alaska News

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