A multi-year, international investigation into illegal bear and goat hunts has resulted in the sentencing of a longtime big game guide from Haines.
Seventy-two-year-old Ronald Martin pled guilty and was sentence Tuesday in U.S. District Court after admitting to multiple illegal hunts, falsifying documents and importing illegally taken wildlife between Canada and the U.S.
Martin has been a big game guide in Haines for more than 30 years. On Thursday morning he was at a downtown bar discussing the case with friends and patrons, but he wouldn’t comment to KHNS for this story.
According to assistant U.S. attorney Jack Schmidt, the joint U.S. and Canada investigation was dubbed “Operation Bruin,” the Old English word for brown bear.
Law enforcement documented 10 illegal brown bear hunts, three illegal black bear hunts and four illegal mountain goat hunts. The violations involved Martin allowing his Canadian and U.S clients to take brown bears after illegally baiting them, hunting without proper licenses and failure to be present with the clients during some of the hunts.
Schmidt said it was also discovered Martin and his clients would then falsify records to smuggle wildlife hides, furs, horns and meat between the two countries. The violations spanned nine years, from 2002 through 2011.
Transporting illegally taken game across state and international borders triggers a violation of federal law, known as the Lacey Act. That’s when the U.S. Attorney’s office got involved, Schmidt said.
“The Lacey Act is to prevent the commercialization of wildlife trafficking. Lacey violations can occurred in several different ways. In this particular case there was underlying state law violations. When those state law violations include the trafficking of those illegally harvested wildlife then it becomes in the purview of the federal government,” Schmidt said.
Besides Martin, the investigation resulted in 17 Canadians being charged with 55 violations. Some of them have also been charged in the U.S., Schmidt said.
State law enforcement worked with federal and Canadian officials for several years, says Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen. She called it one of the most extensive wildlife investigations she has seen at the state level.
As many as 10 wildlife troopers from across the state worked on the case, including serving state and federal search warrants and conducting interviews in Alaska and the Lower 48.
“This was a big operation and the different federal, state and Canadian entities were pretty interwoven and worked well to put this together, because this was huge,” Ipsen said.
Martin was sentence to four years probation and fined $40,000.
During his probation he can’t hunt in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world for two years or provide any guiding- related services.
The investigation also brought about state charges.
As part of that conviction earlier this year, Martin forfeited his Piper airplane, a pickup, an ATV, several weapons and he surrendered his guide license for life.
Another Haines guide is also facing charges in the investigation. Martin’s half-brother, John Katzeek, and three of his Canadian clients have been indicted in U.S. District court also charged with conspiracy and smuggling violations related to illegal hunts. That case is ongoing.
Enrolling in the new federal marketplace is off to slow start in the capital city. Ongoing technical issues with the insurance website have made it difficult, but those charged with helping Juneau residents enroll expect interest will pick up.
Tyann Boling, Enroll Alaska’s chief operating officer, says, “I’ve stopped enrollments.”
But that hasn’t stopped Alaskans from trying – four have been successful on the federal marketplace.
“We have well over 1,700 individuals that we will be working with to get enrolled once the marketplace is up and going,” Boling says.
Of the 1,700, more than 75 are from Juneau.
The Affordable Care Act allows each state the opportunity to build its own marketplace. Governor Sean Parnell opted not to do this, so Alaskans are dealing with the same difficulties as others dependent on the federal website.
Enroll Alaska currently has one agent in Juneau. Boling hopes to eventually add two more.
“We will have more join that team there; however, we are not deploying agents to our locations because the marketplace is not functioning. We don’t want to discourage the consumers. We’re definitely in a holding pattern,” she explains.
When the Marketplace is functioning properly, Boling says Enroll Alaska agents will be placed at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Wal-Mart.
“We’re ready,” says Boling. “Our spaces are ready and we’d love to be there today, but we don’t want it to be a service that we’re not able to provide.”
United Way navigator Crystal Bourland has been stationed at the National Alliance on Mental Illness office in Juneau since earlier this month. Bourland has been educating people on the marketplace, eligibility for subsidies, and the difference between insurance plans. Each week, she’s getting more and more calls.
“The interest is growing especially as people are finding their way to me. Even today, I’ve set up several appointments for the coming week,” Bourland says.
Bourland has not enrolled anyone from Juneau in a healthcare plan yet, but she’s not discouraged.
“There may be some frustration out there, but I’m finding in the interactions that I’ve had that people are really in the information-gathering stage and they just have a lot of questions about the marketplace and what options are available to them,” says Bourland.
Alaska has 140,000 uninsured residents – more than 5,000 are in Juneau – and Bourland’s main job right now is reaching out to those people.
“We’re still getting started so just continuing to create awareness and outreach opportunities to see what that need is,” she says. “There are thousands of people in Juneau and thousands of people in Alaska that are uninsured so knowing that there are new healthcare options out there, I think the interest is strong.”
Bourland says the majority of calls she gets are from people looking for individual plans, a few have asked about plans for dependents, but there’s been no interest in Juneau from small businesses, businesses with fifty or less full-time employees.
Bourland hopes this will change.
It costs more than $1,000 to rent a one bedroom apartment in Anchorage according to the most recent rental survey by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.
That number has convinced the city to make affordable housing the main priority in its 2014 Housing and Development Plan.
That means money that used to go to social services agencies that serve the poor and homeless will be redirected to projects to help lower rental prices in the city.
Two kinds of federal funds are distributed by Anchorage: Those that fund building projects and those that fund public service projects, mostly helping the poor.
Every year, the city writes a plan for how it’s going to spend that federal money. In 2014 there is just one priority: affordable housing.
In past years’ plans, planner James Boehm says the city would fund all kinds of projects.
“So we did projects like neighborhood parks,” Boehm said. “We gave money to Catholic Social Services for Claire House, Covenant House for their Shelter, Salvation Army for their shelter.”
The way things look now, Boehm says, such projects will not be funded this year or anytime soon.
“Well, right now our direction is programming most of our funding for rental housing development,” Boehm said. “We’ve changed complete direction.”
In 2013 the city got about $2.5 million in federal grant money.
In a survey the city conducted, residents ranked affordable housing right behind homelessness projects and those that help victims of domestic violence. The city made affordable housing the priority because access to housing can help reduce homelessness and make it easier for domestic violence victims to leave difficult situations.
Britteny Matero works on homelessness issues with the Department of Health and Human Services. She’s happy the municipality is finally responding to the need for affordable housing.
“It’s been obvious from the data that’s been collected and from the community and their responses to us that affordable housing is very, very important and that that’s the direction that we need to go,” Matero said.
But the new priority for the city will come at the expense of some social service providers. Catholic Social Services is set to receive $30,000 in public service grant money from the municipality to fund the overflow facility for Brother Francis Shelter this winter.
Susan Bomalaski, with Catholic Social Services says if public service funding is eliminated, they’ll have to stop some services.
“We’ll cut the overflow shelter to Brother Francis Shelter which currently operates out of Beans Café,” Bomalaski said. “If we don’t receive the funding we can’t take it from our regular donations.”
“We have too much to raise just to keep our core programs running.”
But Bomalaski says if the money is reallocated for supportive housing it might not be such a bad thing. She says it may give homeless people who can’t find appropriate, affordable housing a chance to get out of the shelter cycle.
“With more supported housing we could likely move people of Brother Francis Shelter and then we wouldn’t have to use the overflow and that would be a good situation,” Bomalaski said.
Officials with the Municipal Department of Health and Human Services say the funds would likely be used to build and operate supportive housing projects.
The Assembly will consider the Municipality’s 2014 Action Plan for how federal grant money will be used soon.
Specific projects will likely go before the body for approval in early 2014 and can be designated or chosen through an application process. Municipal officials say NeighborWorks Anchorage and RuralCap are likely choices for funding affordable rental developments.
In June, the Choggiung Limited board of directors voted to restrict wood cutting on the corporation’s lands to shareholders only. The board further decided that harvest would be for personal use only, denying others the chance to buy cut wood from a Choggiung shareholder.
Those decisions left some area residents concerned about their home heating options this winter.
Several began calling and emailing Rep. Bryce Edgmon and Sen. Gary Stevens, and DNR’s Forestry office in Palmer as well.
“The newly announced policy of Choggiung LTD as well as the closure of state lands to firewood cutting is leaving a number of families totally without options to heat their homes,” reads one email copied to all three offices. “The ultimate result of these policies is that some families are feeling their basic well being deeply threatened.”
The pressure may have paid off. DNR’s Forestry Division office in Palmer said some state lands north of Dillingham and near Aleknagik should be open in time for winter.
“We’ve been working with [DNR's] Division of Lands,” said Rick Jandreau, a forestry officer based in Palmer. “Lands that were designated for settlement, that at one time they did not want any trees harvested from, we were able to talk to them about doing some dead wood harvest there.”
He could not yet specify exactly how many acres of state land will be open for harvest, but did indicate he thinks it will be enough to cover those who need wood this year.
“I hope so,” he said, “because that’s most of the lands DNR has juridiction over.”
Jandreau said the open lands will be north of Dillingham, predominately to the west of Lake Road.
He said his office is finalizing the agreement and working on printing maps to prevent confusion or accidental trespassing.
Jandreau expects the land to be open within a week or two. No word yet on whether or not a permit will be required to cut the firewood on state lands.
Nine people were arrested in Unalaska Wednesday during a day-long drug bust.
Deputy Police Chief Michael Holman says the operation started around 12:45 p.m. and concluded around midnight. Officers executed ten search warrants, following up on new leads from an undercover investigation into drug sales over the last few months.
With assistance from a police dog and K-9 officer flown in from Sand Point, Unalaska police searched Radiant Heating Fuel Services and the offices Tradewinds Apartments. They also combed through a private residence at Tradewinds.
Officers mostly found meth, along with some heroin and bath salts. In addition, Holman says police seized “multiple firearms and a substantial amount of cash.”
The department is still processing evidence from yesterday’s searches. Holman says have eight more warrants to serve today, which could result in more arrests.
The nine defendants from Wednesday’s will make their first appearances in court today at 1 p.m.
The Alaska Board of Fish voted to set up two new state-managed fisheries in the Aleutians at their meeting in Anchorage this week.
A Pacific cod fishery will open up in the Bering Sea north of Cape Sarichef each year starting a week after the federally managed parallel fishery, and stay open until the harvest is taken or August 28. The fishery will only be open to boats under 60 feet.
The state will also set up a new Atka mackerel fishery for purse seiners under 60 feet. That fishery will start in the Bering Sea on January 1 and run through the end of the calendar year, or until vessels take the available harvest.
The board voted to set the harvest limit at 10% of the total biological limit for mackerel in the federal Bering Sea district.
Alaska State Troopers seek the public’s help in getting information about the musk ox found shot dead Oct. 20 across the river near Bethel. The poaching has also been on the mind of Bethel city council member Mark Springer.
“I am going to put on my qiviut hat and say how sad I am that someone would be callous enough and thoughtless enough and heartless enough to shoot a 3-year-old musk ox across the river,” Springer said.
Springer spoke about the incident at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.
The animal was determined to be a 3-year-old bull. He was shot once approximately three days before he was found near fish camps by the old airport.
Alaska State Troopers and a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted a necropsy. Nothing had been salvaged and the meat had spoiled.
Springer went on to say that he hopes whoever killed the animal is caught and that it’s an embarrassment to that person’s community wherever he’s from.
“You know these musk ox are cool animals,” Springer said. “I’m a qiviut addict, I’ll admit it. A lot of people make a good living from utilizing their wool. And you don’t even have to shoot them to get their wool, you just pick it up off the ground. If you see a musk ox, admire them and leave them alone.”
Even though there is no hunt on the Kuskokwim River at this time that could change if the population grows.
Ken Acton is a Seargent with the Alaska State Troopers.
“We need to get those herds to build,” Acton said. “You know, we’re lucky to have this herd come in here. They wintered here last year and if we can leave these animals alone and have that population we could have, you know in the future, a sustainable hunt for these animals.”
Troopers are asking anyone who might have seen the animals alive or knows about the shooting to contact them.
“We’re just asking for their cooperation. They can remain anonymous,” Acton said. “Wildlife Safeguard does offer a reward so there is a potential reward surrounding this incident.”
The reward would be given out after someone was prosecuted for the crime.
Wildlife Safeguard’s toll-free number to call is 1-800-478-3377.
Six-thousand homes in Alaska are not connected to a central water and sewer system – and the state may want to keep it that way.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has spent decades working with communities to build water and sewer system.
They’re expensive, complicated, and the statewide funding has dropped by half over the past decade, according to Bill Griffith, a project manager with the agency.
That could spell trouble for the 40 communities with no centralized service and for dozens of towns with existing water and sewer.
“Those systems are getting old, they’re falling apart, they may not meet current regulations, they’re undersized, there’s a lot of problems with existing systems,” Griffith said. “It’s also very expensive to try to upgrade and keep those systems running.”
The state thinks it can meet the needs by developing decentralized systems. To kick start that, the state is launching the Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge to bring together experts to design a functional and affordable decentralized system. Instead of a huge community sewage lagoon and treatment plant, each household would be capable in some way of separating waste streams and recycling water.
“There’s ways that you may be able to treat that wastewater, of either kind, on site and dispose of it on site, depending on where you and what kind of environment you’re in. And finally, if you’re able to reduce the amount of waste water that has to be removed from the house, it may become affordable to haul it away,” Griffith said.
Griffith says that rural Alaska presents a unique challenge with its climate and remote locations, but he notes that there is existing technology that can do the job.
“We want to see all of it put together for a whole household system. A lot of the things we’ve see that we think are promising we just haven’t seen them combined with other technologies to create that household system,” Griffith said..
The state is also looking for teams with engineering experience as well as expertise from sociologists and health scientists.
There’s been interest from teams as far away as the Philippines and Bangladesh. Up to six teams will receive money to write proposals and present them to the project committee.
The Alaska legislature set aside a million dollars for the project.
If more funding comes in, then in 2014 and 2015, three teams would develop prototypes and test them in a lab setting.
Passengers aboard an Era Alaska flight got quite a scare Wednesday when their aircraft’s landing gear collapsed shortly after landing at the Homer Airport.
In a statement, Era Alaska officials said the airplane – a 16-passenger Beechcraft – experienced a malfunction of the landing gear and came to a stop in the middle of the runway. The aircraft remained on the runway until all 13 passengers and two crew members were able to evacuate. No one was reported injured in the incident, which occurred at about 3:30 p.m.
The accident is under investigation form the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Shishmaref’s alcohol ban stands. Voters on Tuesday defeated a move to end the community’s three decade alcohol ban.
According to unofficial results, the move to allow alcohol to be sold in the village was defeated 124 to 98. That’s about 56 percent of the vote against the ballot initiative. Voters also cast ballots for city officials. An election canvass is set for Monday.
Protesters gathered in Anchorage on Wednesday in support of Vic Fischer and Bella Hammond.
The crowd was demanding the state call off its efforts to recover $1 million in legal fees from Fischer, Hammond, and their co-plaintiffs in case over the Pebble Mine.
Chants from a crowd of about 50 protesters gathered near the Atwood Building could be heard from a couple blocks away. They held signs that read, “Shame on Parnell, Don’t Evict Bella Hammond,” and, “Real Alaskans Don’t Bully Their Elders.”
The issue stems from a case Bella Hammond, Vic Fischer – and a group of other plaintiffs – brought against the state regarding the public’s right to know about the Pebble Mine’s exploration work in advance.
The court ruled in favor of the state, and the state and the Pebble Partnership are now trying to collect about $1 million dollars in attorney fees.
State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat from Anchorage and a candidate for Lt. Governor, was among the protesters. He says the action is purely discretionary on the state’s part.
“The attorney general could stop it today if he signed a piece of paper, and I hope he does,” French said. “I hope he rethinks his position and I hope the governor tells him to rethink his position, because going after Bella Hammond and Vic Fischer for legal fees is just wrong.”
According to state attorney Steve Mulder, under Alaska’s “loser pay” law, the state and the Pebble Partnership can seek repayment of up to 30 percent of their attorney fees. But, if a certain set of criteria are met, the group might not end up having to pay.
“If a claimant raises constitutional issues and they don’t have otherwise have a sufficient economic incentive to bring the issue, then they might get relief for having to pay fees,” Mulder said. “There’s also a separate provision that if an award would cause undue hardship, that the judge can give relief.”
Hammond, Fischer and the other plaintiffs are seeking relief, and Mulder says whether or not they meet the necessary criteria is in question.
“In this case, the judge has decided, ‘well, there are fact issues about whether they qualify under either of those two avenues,’ and the judge wants to have a hearing about that,” he said.
The decision to be made next is whether or not Fisher, Hammond and their co-plaintiffs will have to furnish any more information in advance of the hearing.
Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, says the state’s actions have a chilling effect and could set a dangerous precedent for lawsuits of a similar nature in the future.
“The message that it sends is, ‘if you’re an ordinary Alaskan, don’t you dare stand up and try to challenge what’s happening in the state, because if you do, we’re gonna whack you with a million dollars in legal fees,’” Wielechowski said.
Nick Moe agrees. He ran a write-in campaign for the Anchorage Assembly last spring and says if the group is forced to pay up, it might make Alaskans hesitant to speak up in the future.
“I would definitely think twice, because, you know, I don’t make a lot of money working at a non-profit, yet, you know, our voice should count just as equally as somebody with a lot of extra money that could spend [it] on legal fees,” Moe said.
The case will go before the state Supreme Court in December, where a judge will eventually decide how much money, if any, the group will have to pay.
Three organizations that have come out in opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine – have formed a new group to lobby for permanent protections for the natural resources of the Bristol Bay region.
The Elders and Youth Conference, a precursor to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention wrapped up Wednesday at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
On the eve of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, a free concert to promote native subsistence rights is happening in Fairbanks tonight.
ANB harbor is usually packed with commercial fishing vessels, but this week, it’s empty. Its regular occupants have moved to other harbors around Sitka, as the city prepares to demolish all of the existing structures and replace the harbor entirely. Construction is scheduled to start in early November.
ANB harbor was first built in 1956, and though it has been renovated over the years, it’s showing its age.
“We’ve got timber elements that are rotting,” says city engineer Dan Tadic. “We go to replace deck boards, and there’s nothing to nail the deck boards to, everything’s mush.”
Tadic points to a laundry list of problems. There’s grass growing out of the wood decking. The ramps are slippery, and ice over in the winter. The floats are slowly sinking into the water.
So this winter, Sitka will completely replace ANB harbor. Plans call for larger slips and wider entrances to accommodate today’s longer and wider boats. It will have galvanized steel pilings instead of creosote-soaked wood. The new floats will sit higher up out of the water. A new gangway will be longer, better lit, and handicap accessible. And the contractor will also excavate rocks that currently obstruct parts of the harbor.
“You’re not just getting a harbor,” says Deputy Harbormaster Chuck Hackett. “You’re getting, in a sense, a new facility downtown.”
The full project is expected to cost $7.7 million. The city won a grant from the state, which will cover half of construction costs, up to $4 and a quarter million dollars. Hackett says the investment is more than worth it.
“Sitka’s the largest small boat harbor system on the west coast,” Hacket says. “We just have a huge fishing fleet and they bring a lot of money time, we’ve got to take care of them. That’s what holds Sitka together, that’s the glue, the fishing industry. If we don’t look to take care of them now, with the docks, we’ll never have anything in the future.”
Contractors will have until mid-March to complete the project. The city wants the new harbor ready in time for the spring herring run.
Tourism numbers are in for the 2012 summer season, and tourism experts say that the results are encouraging. Now, the state and tourism groups are looking at expanding their strategies to bring even more people to Alaska.
The Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s annual convention was held earlier this month in Sitka. According to Sarah Leonard, President of ATIA, there were over 400 attendees representing tourism-centered business from around the state.
One of the discussions each year at the convention is the number of visitors from the previous year. Sarah Leonard says 2012′s numbers are encouraging.
“We received 1.8 million visitors in the  summer season, and that was the first jump in three of four years, where the visitor industry had seen a flat rate of growth,” Leonard said. ”So, that’s positive, and along with some of the new investment and strategies from the State of Alaska, the Governor, and the Legislature, we’re predicting a conservative 4 percent growth for next season.”
The tourism industry, local convention and visitor bureaus, and the State of Alaska spend millions of dollars each year in an effort to keep that number growing.
This year, the state is going back to spending money on network television advertising. For years, Alaska’s television ads have been limited to cable TV. Kathy Dunn, Tourism Marketing Manager for the state, explains the return to advertising on network broadcasts.
“It just broadens your reach,” Dunn said. ”There are some people who watch national broadcasts or cable exclusively, but there’s a lot of people who cross over and watch all kinds of programming over through course of the day, week, or month.”
“Wherever you can reach people, and as many times as you can reach people, that message starts to sink in, and they’re more likely to take action after seeing your ad.”
Part of this year’s expanded television advertising will also touch on winter tourism, an area that both the industry and the state hope to grow. Kathy Dunn says that her office tries to encourage visitors throughout the year, and says the state is elevating its efforts with regard to winter travel.
“We’ve been working with industry members and the Alaska Travel Industry Association and talking about what winter product is available out there,” Dunn said. “Obviously, if you’re going to promote winter travel, you have to make sure that there’s enough product out there. The hotels, obviously, are open, but are some of the main tour operators or attractions open as well? You want people to come up and have a fabulous vacation, and you want to have lots of different activities for them to choose from.”
Dunn says that the partnership with the tourism industry has allowed the state to put together a “winter inventory” of tourism-related activities that remain open all year to help better spend the more than $18 million that is budgeted for 2013.
The investment of $6 million into television ads is a substantial chunk of the state’s tourism budget, but ATIA President Sarah Leonard says it’s been paying off.
“I think that type of broad-based national television campaign helps raise all boats. It helps keep Alaska competing at a national level for visitors as a destination of choice. It’s been great,” Leonard said. ”We’ve seen the return on investment with some of this exposure so far, but we can’t stop. We want to keep promoting and keep Alaska in there competing on the national level so we can continue to see that return on investment.”
New ads, including one focusing on winter tourism, are currently airing in the Lower 48. ATIA, the state, and business owners across Alaska are all hoping that the good return on investment will continue,
University of Alaska Southeast and Yukon College signed an agreement this weekend that renews a more than 25-year relationship. The two institutions will continue to work together in various academic fields, including resource development and Native languages.
The agreement says both schools are committed to finding future academic cooperation for the benefit of the region’s people. Chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast John Pugh and Yukon College president Karen Barnes signed a memorandum of understanding during the Al-Can Summit at UAS hosted by the Juneau World Affairs Council.
“We’ve been working together for 25 years plus and we have lots of relationships in the program areas, but it’s a bit of a push for us,” explains Barnes. “We wanted to resign it to say we’re really serious about this relationship and we can see lots of future possibilities that we want to explore so I think it was a bit of an incentive for us to keep moving and keep growing.”
Barnes hopes to collaborate more with UAS on scientific research, “particularly climate change research and cold climate technologies and I think that there’s been some discussion with our faculty across the line and I think that’s an area that we could see some activity. We’re building a new graduate certificate in climate change and I think that might be a place we could really share,” she says.
Pugh says UAS’s strong expertise on climate change allows it to offer an inter-disciplinary course on it, “Our faculty are looking at that from many different areas, not just the science of it but also the economics of it, the political science of it, and I think that’s something we can really do together in the future.”
Both schools are already teaming up in the area of natural resource development.
“Mining has taken off in both the Yukon and in Southeast Alaska, and we’re both using high tech equipment in terms of training folks and we’ve been able to share the expertise back and forth between Alaska and Yukon, and I think that’s been a really good learning experience and sharing experience,” chancellor Pugh says.
Another established partnership is language instruction. UAS Native language faculty members have visited Yukon College to share teaching materials and strategies.
“I think the partnership between Alaska and the Yukon is a natural one that’s existed before that border was ever there. My people are evidence of that. The stronger that we make that, the more beneficial it’ll be in every area, including language,” says Tosh Southwick, a citizen of the Kluane First Nation in Canada and director of First Nation initiatives at Yukon College.
Southwick says the condition of first languages in the Yukon is at a crisis point, similar to what it is in other indigenous countries. She’s impressed with the language offerings at UAS.
“When I walked past the sign in the hallway that said Tlingit 101 or whatever it is, we’re not doing that,” says Southwick. “That’s great. The fact that anybody in Alaska can come here and take a class in Tlingit is amazing to me.”
Besides Tlingit, UAS also offers classes in Haida and Tsimshian. Southwick thinks the relationship between UAS and her institution will increase the opportunity for the indigenous languages to stay alive
“What we do at an academic institution is share knowledge. Language is a form of knowledge, so that empowerment is crucial. So all of the Yukon First Nation languages will benefit from the stronger partnership here,” explains Southwick. “The Tlingit that’s spoken here – the more fluent speakers we have of Tlingit anywhere – makes it better for my family and for my son.”
Representatives from UAS and Yukon College met in Whitehorse in August. A new component of the agreement commits the two schools to hold an annual meeting to discuss ways of how to keep building the relationship.
The two have signed an agreement for Northrim to acquire Alaska Pacific in a stock and cash transaction valued at about $14.31 million, or approximately $17.28 per share of Alaska Pacific common stock.
Craig Dahl and Joe Beedle have known each other since they were teenagers in Juneau. Now they’re both presidents and CEOs of publicly traded banks – one company in the Railbelt, the other in Southeast Alaska.
Alaska Pacific’s Dahl says the two started talking more than six months ago.
“They wanted to expand their market and we wanted to see a way to grow the bank in this market,” Dahl says.
Northrim’s size dwarfs Alaska Pacific and Dahl says his small company will now be able to grow “from the standpoint of increasing the products and services that our customers will have. It’ll bring to our market a much larger lending limit capacity to assist our business customers and we feel that for the employees of the bank, this will offer other opportunities for career growth that we might not be able to give them as a smaller institution.”
Northrim CEO Beedle calls Alaska Pacific a strong company.
“There are not issues with this bank,” he says.
Alaska Pacific has rebounded from problem loans and losses earlier this decade and become profitable again. Beedle says Alaska Pacific had choices in merging, and the two institutions are compatible.
“We’re about 6 and a half times the size of Alaska Pacific so together we grow from being a 1.2 billion dollar bank to a 1.35 billion dollar bank. And that means that individual loans, our lending limits, will after this merger be in the 25 million dollar range,” he says.
Northrim BanCorp, Inc. is the parent company of Northrim Bank, with ten offices in Anchorage, the Mat-Su and Fairbanks as well as a lending division in Washington state. Alaska Pacific has branches in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.
The merger is subject to review by the Federal Reserve and FDIC. While both companies’ boards of directors have approved it, Alaska Pacific shareholders will vote on the merger early in the first quarter of 2014.
Beedle says at least one member of the Alaska Pacific board of directors will become a member of the Northrim board.
The transaction will not close until next year, according to Dahl.
“After the merger, there’s still a good five to six, seven months involved in actual conversion of systems in products and services. So from this moment forward we’re really looking at almost a year in the process of bringing this altogether,” he says.
Beedle says Alaska Pacific branches will eventually be called Northrim Bank, but no branches will close. The current Alaska Pacific management team will stay in place. Beedle says some backroom functions, such as computer and processing systems, will be consolidated in Anchorage.
When the deal is closed, Craig Dahl says he is headed to retirement and sailing the waters of Southeast Alaska.
A conference call on the merger is set for Wednesday, at 8:30 a.m. Alaska time. The number is (480) 629-9643, or listen online.
Assembly chambers were packed and after hearing around around a dozen citizen’s testify, mostly against the controversial labor law, the body voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO37. But Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed their decision. Two Assembly members, Adam Trombley and Bill Starr switched sides on the issue. He said they’re migrated to the other side caught him off guard.
“I didn’t see them identify anything in AO37 that they had problems with or that didn’t make common sense. So yeah I was surprised.”
Sullivan maintains his labor law makes sense — that people paid by tax dollars should not have the right to strike, that union contracts should not span more than three years and that raises should be linked to the consumer price index plus one percent. He also noted that the law would standardize health plans and holidays making government more efficient. And stands by the the elimination of pay enhancements for college degrees … and a ban on binding arbitration. Sullivan said he was making up for a previous administration’s leniency with unions.
“It basically protects the tax payer from having what happened in 2008 when Mayor Begich and a complicit Assembly essentially in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years made one of the worst decisions in Anchorage history, dramatically increasing prices when you’re in a recession and all your revenues are falling. Terrible business decision. So this prevents that from happening in the future.”
It wasn’t the Mayor’s first veto of the evening. Earlier in the meeting the Assembly passed a measure setting April 2014 as the date for a referendum on the labor law by a 6 to 5 vote, but the Mayor quickly passed a veto note the the Assembly chair. However attorneys disagreed whether the veto was legal and the measure is set to be decided in court.
Assemblyman Dick Traini, who authored the ordinance to repeal AO37 said the thought all vetoes, after clear votes by the Assembly and months of public testimony against the labor law were quote, “Ridiculous”.
Derek Hsieh with the police union said during his testimony just before the Assembly’s vote to repeal AO37 and the Mayor’s subsequent veto, that the fight against the labor law, which has spanned the better part of a year, has actually made Anchorage unions stronger.
“You don’t need laws. You don’t need restrictions on peoples’ voice, their vote, their activity. The scariest thing for a union boss is good management. It causes the employees to start to question why they’re even why they’re paying dues. And as you can tell by the crowd out here tonight, our members know precisely why they’re paying dues now.”
If Assembly members don’t set a date to vote on the labor law, the city charter requires a special election in December. The Supreme Court of Alaska is set to expedite a decision on whether a referendum to repeal the law can go forward.
The First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference got underway Monday in Fairbanks. The annual precursor to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is in its 30th year, bringing together Alaska Natives from across the state of all ages to hear speakers and participate in issue and culture focused workshops.