The more than 30 speakers at Monday’s Save Our Schools hearing were preaching to the choir; that is, the Alaska House and Senate Democrats who called it to bolster their fight for increased public school funding.
Minority members say they’ve been getting hundreds of emails and other comments from frustrated parents, teachers, school administrators and education boards asking for the same.
They want money for pre-kindergarten programs, inflation proofing for the Base Student Allocation, and no constitutional amendment to allow public dollars to flow to religious and private schools.
Anchorage parent Matt Johnson spoke at the end, summing up two hours of testimony:
“We really need to fully fund our public schools and our pre-K early learning programs. I don’t think money’s always the bottom line, but I think it’s a proven fact that early education saves everybody money. Saves our state money, saves our society money. I strongly oppose any voucher system for our public schools, and strongly oppose any tinkering with out Alaska constitution. And finally I would say that I believe we are one of the wealthiest states in the union if not the wealthiest. What kind of a people can’t fund their public education system but can hand over billions to the oil companies.”
Johnson was alluding to the bill moving through the legislature that would reduce taxes on Alaska’s oil producers. The latest fiscal note indicates the state would lose between $4.5 billion and $5.8 billion dollars in revenue through 2019.
Only two speakers at yesterday’s hearing took the opposite stance, including
John Thomas, of the Mat-Su region. He agrees with many in the Republican-led legislature who say public schools aren’t wisely using the money they get.
“The answer is ‘throw money at it, throw money at it. The children; education is untouchable, this is our primary responsibility.’ We’ve tried it that way for decades, people. Now it’s time to tighten our belts and get with the program.”
Democrats are a small caucus in the legislature and their Republican colleagues were not at yesterday’s hearing.
And, the Democrat’s legislation to inflation-proof the Base Student Allocation (HB 95) is not moving. The BSA is the formula used to calculate the per-student cost of education. It’s remained $5,680 dollars since FY 2011. According to the Legislative Finance Division, the BSA would be worth $5,569 dollars in the upcoming fiscal year, due to inflation.
Republican chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees say proposed increases in education funding are not likely to gain traction in these last three weeks of the session.
There’s been a major shake-up at the top of Koniag Incorporated, the regional Native Corporation for the Kodiak Islands area. In a release Tuesday, it was announced that Will Anderson has agreed to step down as the president and chief executive officer, positions he has held for the past seven years.
No reason was given for the departure.
Tom Panamaroff will serve as interim president, while board chair Ron Unger will serve as interim CEO.
A new interactive map lays out the earthquake potential across Alaska. The online map uses a color coded system to identify locations that have experienced earthquakes.
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A school group from earthquake and tsunami ravaged cities in Japan visited Fairbanks over the weekend. The Japanese government sponsored cultural exchange includes 26 high school students and their teachers.
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A Seldovia family that has made a habit of taking on long journeys around some of the wildest parts of Alaska is at it again. Later this month, they’ll be taking off from their yurt on the south side of Kachemak bay for an 800-mile walk along the entire coast of Cook Inlet.
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The newest piece of art for the new Ketchikan Public Library building is an installation called “A Trip to the Library.” Artists Evon Zerbertz and Rich Stage were at the library after hours last weekend, working out the logistics of hanging the complex piece.
As Zerbetz watches, getting a crick in her neck from looking up, Stage noisily elevates the lift 25 feet into the air, to bolt the sculpture, swathed in bubble wrap, into place.
Art isn’t usually that loud. Neither are libraries, for that matter. But once it’s in place, the newly installed artwork will be quiet, albeit full of movement, both real and implied.
The name of the piece, “A Trip to the Library,” is a play on words. It portrays a young man who has stumbled on his way out.
“He has found so many books in this library that he wants to read, that he has amassed this huge stack of books,” Zerbetz said. “As he leaves, they are just flying through the air.”
Zerbetz and Stage knew they wanted a young man for the main sculpture. Zerbetz says she loves the “guys read” campaign that encourages reading among boys.
The sculpture was modeled after a real person, who agreed to endure, well, here’s Zerbetz again to explain the process.
“We used Andy Pankow for the head cast,” she said. “He was incredible. He had rubber – I don’t know how many pounds – like five or six pounds of rubber and plaster on his head for two to three hours. I don’t think very many people can do that.”
Stage then sculpted the resin head cast, so it doesn’t really look like the model anymore. Stage, who was reluctant but not completely opposed to talking on the record, also created the metal-frame skeleton for the piece, which isn’t as heavy as it looks.
“It’s under a ton,” he said. “It’s all wire frame. It probably weighs 70 pounds. So he’s all hollow inside.”
The main steel rod goes from the sculpture’s foot to wrist, and those two points are bolted to either side of the library’s main glassed-in entrance area. They built a replica of that entrance in Zerbetz’s driveway, to plan the piece out and make sure they had the dimensions right.
The idea for the installation came out of a brainstorming session.
We were going through the ubiquitous fish and birds, but we already did that,” Zerbetz said. “We wanted to do something really different, and Rich is always full of puns.”
Zerbetz and Stage have collaborated before. One of those projects is an installation piece at Fawn Mountain Elementary School that involves all kinds of flying creatures bursting out of pillars in the school’s main corridor. That piece also had lots of parts, and required some interesting engineering to install.
“We like it complicated,” she said, laughing. “Actually we don’t really like it complicated, we
just specialize in complicated.”
Other art pieces already installed at the library include metal sculptures by the Salvage Divas, Rhonda Green and Anne Fitzgerald, depicting Alaska wildlife; and a colorful, whimsical fabric tree in the children’s section. The tree was created by Ann Carlson, Sherry Henrickson, Jackie Keizer and Deb Turnbull.
Another piece still to be installed is a carved Northwest Coast –style medallion by master carver Nathan Jackson.
As of Monday, the entryway art installation wasn’t quite done. It should be completed early this week.
The Kulluk and the Xiang Rui Kou heavy lift vessel have left their anchorage in Unalaska — but the ships aren’t on their way to Asia yet.
The vessels have been moved to Broad Bay, just outside of town, says Coast Guard Lt. Jim Fothergill. They’ll stay there until Friday, when they’re scheduled to leave for Singapore. Shell has pushed back the departure twice now. Fothergill says he doesn’t know the reason for the delays, and a Shell spokesman did not return requests for information.
After three weeks in port, Shell’s Kulluk drill rig is set to leave Unalaska on Tuesday.
The rig has been loaded on the Xiang Rui Kou heavy lift ship in Captains Bay. Coast Guard Lt. Jim Fothergill says the vessels are scheduled to leave at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. That was pushed back from Monday.
Fothergill wouldn’t say why the plan changed, but he says efforts to secure the rig are still going well. Once they leave Unalaska, the vessels are bound for Singapore, where the Kulluk will be repaired.
The Alaska Legislature has passed a resolution about genetically modified salmon.
The Food and Drug Administration is well on its way to approving the Aqua Bounty corporation’s plans to market the fish.
The resolution, which passed the House last month and the Senate unanimously on Monday, asks the FDA to take another look at the potential risks of allowing the so-called “franken-fish” on the market. If the draft finding holds up, the resolution calls on the federal government to require labeling of genetically-modified salmon.
It was sponsored by freshman Representative Geran Tarr of Anchorage.
As part of Women’s history month, Alaska Public Media brings you the voices of influential Alaskan women who have helped shape and define the social, cultural and political discourse in Alaska. 15 women were recently inducted into the Alaska women’s hall of fame at a ceremony in Anchorage. Former Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer was inducted herself in 2009. She was on hand to introduce one of this year’s inductees-public health and community development advocate Jewel Jones.
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A write-in candidate is challenging Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall for Seat D, representing West Anchorage, in the upcoming municipal election — his name is Nick Moe. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton has the story.
“Hey Suzie, how’s it going (suzie: hey nick). I’ve been talking, talking you and I was talking about your accomplishment of calling 190 folks. … Nick Moe here, I was calling to see what you’re up to this next week, could use your help. My name is Nick Moe, i’m the write-in candidate for seat D.”
That’s Nick Moe phoning some of the approximately 100 or so volunteers that he says have teamed up to try and get the him elected to the Anchorage Assembly through a write-in campaign. Moe, who declared he was running on March 19th, says, since then, his campaign has taken on a life of its own.
“Since last week, we’ve grown into a pretty incredible organization. You know we have over 400 likes on facebook. We’ve reached out to over 38-thousand people on facebook now. There are hundreds of people who are getting involved in the campaign, volunteering to connect with voters to put up yard signs, to make phone calls and to get the word out that the campaign exists and that west Anchorage has a choice.”
Assembly chair Ernie Hall was running unopposed until Moe jumped in the race as a write in last week. Moe says he’s challenging Hall, the current representative in Seat D, because he hasn’t been listening to his constituents, especially when it comes to AO37, an ordinance proposed by Mayor Dan Sullivan that would limit unions, and which is supported by Hall.
“You know there was over 1-thousand people that showed up to these assembly meetings to speak out that just wanted to show up to the assembly to improve the document. And not only did Ernie Hall not listen but he shut off testimony.”
Moe says he decided to run when he heard that Hall shut down the public hearing before everyone had had a chance to speak. Moe is no stranger to politics. At 19 he ran against Mark Begich for Mayor of Anchorage. After the election, Begich hired him as a renewable resources intern to work on energy and recycling issues. Since then, the 26-year-old has worked as a legislative aid and as a government relations director for University of Alaska Anchorage. Currently, he works for the non-profit, Alaska Center for the Environment. He says he’s running as a *write-in because Mayor Dan Sullivan, along with Hall, introduced the union ordinance at the filing deadline for Assembly seats.
“Ernie Hall introduced AO37 at the filing deadline when he knew that he wouldn’t have a political consequence for doing so.”
Although AO37 cast Moe into the race, he says he’s not running on that issue alone. Moe says he supports investing in education, renewable energy projects and in improving food security. Assembly Chair Hall has lived in West Anchorage since 1961. He has served on the Assembly in seat D for 3 years. He says in that time he’s done a lot for West Anchorage. Hall owned Alaska Furniture Manufacturers for 45 years and is now retired. He says he’s involved with a long list of community organizations.
“the Anchorage economic development corporation. I was the guy that raged the campaign that raised the money to put the food bank in the new building that it’s in. I’ve served on the board of Alaska children’s service, United Way.”
Hall says he refutes Moe’s accusation that he hasn’t been listening to people in West Anchorage. Hall admits though, that does support the union ordinance.
“That document was drafted by the administration. I was on it as a cosponsor. And the reality is anything that comes from administration to the assembly has to come through the chair. But I do, I am a supporter of it.”
The proposed ordinance was announced on February 8th by Mayor Dan Sullivan. It would limit union’s and give the mayor and assembly increased power over union negotiations. It would impact 22-hundred or so municipal employees Hall ended the testimony after listening to four 5-hour evenings where 285 people spoke before the assembly.
To Moe’s challenge Hall says voters should look at his accomplishments since he’s been serving on the Assembly.
“If you look at the accomplishments that I’ve
had from the Campbell Creek Estuary, Spenard Road, the west anchorage district plan, title 21, I think that I’ve been a big part, a very big part of accomplishing each one of those and that’s four pretty major tasks that have been accomplished during my time on the Assembly.”
But Hall says if West Anchorage voters aren’t satisfied with him, they now have another choice. Municipal Elections are Tuesday, April 2nd.
A federal judge has dismissed Alaska’s court challenge of the roadless rule for national forest land.
Alaska had the last remaining legal case against the 2001 nationwide rule, which prohibits new road construction, reconstruction or logging on large undeveloped areas of national forest land across the U.S. That includes parts of the Tongass and Chugach national forests in Alaska.
U.S. District Court judge Richard Leon ruled this month that the state missed a six-year deadline for mounting its legal challenge.
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Early Saturday morning the U.S. Senate passed a budget, a first in four years.
Joining us from the Capitol to recap the vote and what it means for Alaska is APRN’s Washington correspondent Peter Granitz.
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A move to reduce funding for a new sex trafficking investigation unit has one high-profile critic: Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell.
Parnell appeared in front of the Senate finance committee on Saturday to ask them to reconsider the State Trooper budget. It was her first time testifying before legislators.
Legislators stripped the $827,200 allocation from the governor’s budget because the troopers did not investigate any trafficking crimes last year. The first lady found that reasoning wanting.
“The reason given for cutting the funding, however, is exactly why the funding is needed: Because sex trafficking is a hidden crime that must be unearthed by investigators,” said Parnell. “Its victims do not self-report.”
Parnell added that right now, state troopers have limited experience in recognizing the signs of sex trafficking. She said sex trafficking cases are especially difficult to recognize, and that victims may not even realize what’s happening to them.
“The girls’ identification and cell phones are taken. They are physically threatened and abused,” said Parnell. “And sadly, the girls have bonded with their captors.”
Reducing sex trafficking has been a key issue for both the governor and first lady as part of the “Choose Respect” initiative.
The Senate finance committee is currently reviewing the operating budget and is slated to consider changes to it this week. Money for the sex trafficking unit was included in the House version, and any differences between the two documents will have to be reconciled.
The Sitka herring fishery went on two-hour notice today at 11 a.m. It means if Fish & Game calls an opening, the fleet has at least two hours to make it to the location of the fishery.
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Interior Alaska farmers are losing money, but there’s hope for the industry. That’s the conclusion of a nationally recognized agricultural researcher who recently completed a study of Fairbanks area farming.
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How to successfully live off the grid in remote areas is the subject of a new book called “The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier.”
The book features profiles and how to tips by Alaska homesteaders and offers practical advice on a wide range of topics from How to age game meat to packing horses for the backcountry to safely crossing rivers.
The book’s authors Tricia Brown and Nancy Gates divided 44 homesteader interviews. Nancy said it was a bit intimidating to go to their homes and ask personal questions but she says once she did, it was so interesting, she couldn’t take notes.
“Because I was so riveted by their expressions and by how they looked off in the distance and how they looked at their wives and smiled at certain, and so I started taking a tape recorder so I could get all of the words and still be able to watch their faces,” Gates said.
Building root cellars, feeding your family and how to handle isolation are also covered, along with many other useful wilderness survival tips. Tricia Brown says they wanted to cover the entire state because challenges vary by region.
“I talked with the Helmericks family that lives on the Colville River on the Arctic coast, and they’re second generation, actually have kids and grandkids there,” Brown said. “Their difficulties vary greatly from Steve Axelson who’s in a boat in Southeast.”
“So that whole aspect was extremely fun because we understand the breadth of Alaska and how it has all these micro climates and ways of living, but our outside readers don’t always.”
Nancy Gates says the book won’t give you everything you need to live off the grid, but does help you consider what those needs are and how to cope with things that will happen. She says the last homesteader in all of America is living here. His name is Kenneth Deardorff.
“He told us how to live in a tent in the winter and he told me about how he didn’t sleep on a cot because having cold air underneath you it was hard to stay warm enough, so he would build up snow, he would shovel the snow away from where the woodstove was going to go inside the tent and he would pile that where he was going to sleep and he would put caribou skins over that and then his bedding on top of that,” Gates said. “And he’d always arrange it so he could reach the woodstove and put in kindling and get the fire going before he had to get out.”
The women say there is a difference between the latest survival movement, called preppers and Alaskan homesteaders who were practical preppers. Not preparing for the end of anything, but with an eye toward living in the moment, being in Alaska and being self reliant. They also found that most homesteaders learned a lot from local Native people about how to survive. Tricia Brown says Dick Proenneke’s book “One Man’s Wilderness” attracted many people to Alaska in the 70s. One of the people they profiled, Roy Corral, had a copy.
“He had Dick Proenneke’s book in his cabin in the Brooks Range and then while he was away trying to make money so he could live without money, a bear broke into his cabin and ate the book,” Brown said. “He said there was some of Dick Proenneke’s words here and some of Dick Proenneke’s words there. So yeah, “One Man’s Wilderness” got spread around a little bit.”
The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook is available now.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium is full. In Division C – which is roughly ages 32-42 – 7-year defending champ Kake is playing Hydaburg. Tournament co-chair and player Edward Kotch from Klukwan says it’s for more than just the basketball.
“They come back every year so they could meet their friends from other communities ‘cause it’s so hard for people to travel around in Southeast. Some of them come to barter for native foods. We have a lot of people out in the commons selling their beadwork. They reminisce about the old times, the old timers do, and the younger ones watch and say I’m going to be like them when I get older,” Kotch said.
Kotch guesses that 95 percent of players are Alaska Native. It’s all about the economics.
“Since it’s a fundraiser, the communities with the biggest crowds are the ones who get invited because we need the crowd to come in and that’s how we give our money to other people,” Kotch said.
And when a team from a village plays, much of the village comes with them.
“A long time ago in the villages there really wasn’t a lot to do but they had ANB and ANS camps so they built big halls and they used the halls as gymnasiums and that where people gathered to burn some energy and they just got to be real competitive in basketball and they used to take seine boats from village to village so they could compete,” Kotch said.
One of the guys who used to take a seine boat to play is hall of famer William Bean. He’s on the top bleacher of the Kake cheering section. He’s watching his son, point guard Rudy Bean.
“A lot of the old timers says he plays just like his old man, and I’ll take that as a compliment because he’ll run up 50 points if you let him,” Bean said.
William’s wife Lucile is holding their grandson – Rudy’s 2-year old son who is evidently already dribbling and shooting. William won his first championship in 1966 and watches the game intently. Kake’s 7-year reigning championship status is being threatened by a highly competitive Hydaburg. The play is intense, but so is the sportsmanship. Many opposing players help each other off the floor and shake hands after fouls.
“The interplay between the different towns and the competition trying to outdo one another by playing the game of basketball is a lot of fun,” Bean said.
As a hall of famer he’s given lot of himself to the game, but he says it’s taught him too:
“It got me to realize that as you live your life, just like the game of basketball, people are watching you so when we play, you are playing in front of people, its show time, you’ve got to conduct you self in a manner, you’re entertaining, so train hard, be a good athlete, and the people will enjoy watching you,” Bean said.
And that’s become as much a part of culture in Southeast as anything else. Despite some valiant efforts by Kake, Hydaburg wins comfortably. Unfortunately for Kake and Rudy, their reign comes to an end. Hydaburg’s hall of fame center Sid Edenshaw gives credit to some young new speed on his team, and humbly ignores his own part in the win:
“Of course it keeps me in good health and that helps, but I made a lot of friends in the northern communities. And just to come up here and get together and see friends since 1983. I got a ton of friends from all the villages,” Edenshaw said.
Friends, good health, community, and competition–all to raise money for those in need. Seems like a good game.
Hydaburg C went on to win on Thursday and Friday, but lost to Hoonah in Saturday night’s championship game. Angoon won division B and Klukwan won the Masters division.
A series of public meetings in Anchorage is aimed at gathering input from residents on an update of a master plan for the Ted Stevens International Airport. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require an airport master plan that envisions short, medium and long term plans for airport devel0pment
The airport master plan does not mean expansion or construction is imminent. The outcome of the process is a plan for growth, according to Evan Pfahler, project manager with the Florida aviation engineering and design company Reynolds, Smith and Hills. Pfahler hosted this week’s meeting. He says although Ted Stevens International Airport is operating now at a slower rate than in the past, future growth is on the horizon.
”Passenger enplanements were at their peak in 2008, and the airport handled the most cargo in any given year in 2006. However, we are still forecasting growth to occur, and eventually we’ll see new record passenger numbers, new record cargo numbers, although that rate of growth, that overall rate of growth, will be a little slower than forecast back in 2007, about half the rate of growth. “
Pfaler says a master plan update will take about a year and a half to complete. The last actual airport expansion was finished in 2005 with the opening of the C Concourse
”And so the facilities are going to continue to need improvements in order to accommodate that overall growth throughout this twenty year planning horizon.”
The meeting was the fourth in a series, and more of them are coming up. Planners want input from residents of Anchorage on what is the best way to prepare for future expansion. Questions from the public ranged widely and reflected concerns about parking, expansion into park areas, and disposal of runoff from de-icing solutions. Audience members spoke into a wireless microphone passed around the room so everyone could hear. One man asked
” Is Fairbanks currently going through a master plan update also, and how much of a competitor with cargo would you say they are to Anchorage?”
” The answer to the first question is ‘Yes’, the Fairbanks international airport is conducting a master plan update as we speak. And given the fact that the Alaska International Airport System owns and operates both airports, Anchorage and Fairbanks, there is no competition because they have the same ownership structure and the same customers.”
Working groups have been established at prior meetings during the fall of last year to represent residential, environmental and business interest groups. A Technical Advisory Committee represents commercial airlines, airport leaseholders and the FAA.
Airport facility requirements do not determine whether a facility should be built, or where it should be built or even what it ought to look like, Pfaler told meeting goers. Requirements merely outline the additional facilities that will be needed to meet potential demand, and requirements depend on the forecast of aviation activity.
”The forecast of aviation activity for this study was prepared under the Alaska International Airport System Planning Study, which looked at future activity levels, not just for Anchorage International Airport, but also for Fairbanks International Airport. “
The results were presented in September at an earlier open house, he said, and that data from those studies is being used in other projects, such as noise level studies for both the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports. Another public meeting is scheduled for May. Details can be found at
A series of public meetings in Anchorage is aimed at gathering input from residents on an update of a master plan for the Ted Stevens International Airport. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require an airport master plan that envisions short, medium and long term plans for airport development.
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