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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 19 min 23 sec ago

In First Batch Of Early Bills, No Big Ticket Items

Fri, 2015-01-09 17:14

In a little over a week, the 29th Legislature will gavel in. In preparation, lawmakers have released the first batch of bills they plan to consider. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joined us to talk about what’s been offered.

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How is the Legislature’s workload shaping up?

The number of pre-filed bills is actually pretty standard. 59 bills and 4 proposed constitutional amendments were released today, which is comparable to the number of early bills filed in the past few sessions. A lot of are bills from the last Legislature that, for whatever reason, just didn’t make it across the finish line — like a bill that would regulate smoking in restaurants, bars, taxis, really any public or semi-public indoor space.

The thing that stands out to me, though, is that unlike the last Legislature, we’re not seeing any ambitious infrastructure bills in this early release. Last cycle, we had early bills to let the state build a small-diameter gasline on its own, or let the state move forward on the development of a bridge over the Knik Arm. Many of the bills offered this go round don’t even look like they’ll need a fiscal note to determine how much they could cost the state.

That’s almost certainly by design. With the state looking at a multi-billion dollar shortfall, any bill that isn’t going to be zero cost will face an extra level of scrutiny.

So, are most of these bills small-bore then?

That depends on your definition. A lot of them do seem to be pretty narrow in scope, like a bill to create a Great Alaska Earthquake Remembrance Day and legislation to exempt Alaska from daylight savings time. There’s one bill that caught my eye that would prohibit the manufacture or sale of cosmetics containing plastic beads — like those exfoliating body washes. (Apparently they’re mearly impossible to deal with when they end up in the water supply.)

But there are some pre-filed bills that tackle important issues even if they don’t cost money . Legislation known as Erin’s Law deals with the problem of child sexual abuse, and has a good shot of passing this Legislature. It nearly made it through last year, but was held up in what looked like a legislative game of chicken between the House and Senate, where the respective bodies wouldn’t advance legislation until the other side did what it wanted. It also didn’t help that it was originally introduced by a member of House’s Democratic minority, as minority bills often have a hard time of moving through the Legislature.

Now, two separate versions of the Erin’s Law bill have been introduced, one by the Democrat, Rep. Geran Tarr, who pushed for it last time, and one by House Majority Leader Charisse Millett. Because who introduces it matters, having a Republican in leadership push for it increases its odds of getting through.

Can you tell us about the constitutional amendments that are being introduced?

Well, an amendment to change the structure of the judicial council has been introduced again, by Fairbanks Republican Pete Kelly. That amendment would have added more public members to the board and weakened the influence of the attorney representatives. It made it all the way through the committee process and was even scheduled for the floor, but it was ultimately pulled after it didn’t have enough votes from senators who were concerned it could politicize the way justices are selected.

There’s also an amendment that would strike the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman from the Alaska Constitution. Gay couples are already allowed to be married because of a circuit court decision last year, but this would clean the language up from the Constitution.

What we’re not seeing is any amendments to create dedicated funds for, say, transportation. There’s also no revival of an amendment to let public funds go to private schools. Of course, just because these things haven’t been filed yet, doesn’t mean they can’t come later.

Another batch of early bills will be released next week. Is there anything in particular you’re watching out for?

Well we know that the Legislature plans to deal with marijuana. Rep. Bob Lynn has said he wants to introduce legislation to keep marijuana retail sales far from school, and Sen. Lesil McGuire has said she’s thinking of legislation to create a marijuana control board. But the only bill released today that has anything to do with marijuana is one dealing with industrial hemp.

Because there’s a strict implementation timeline for the marijuana regulation initiative that passed this year, the nascent marijuana industry in this state will be keeping an eye on how quickly the Legislature decides to take up the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Resident In Paris During Attack On Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:47

Juneau resident Henry DeCherney arrived in Paris on Monday as part of an extended holiday traveling in Europe. He was there for Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 12 dead and today’s dual hostage situation, which killed four. The two main suspects in Wednesday’s attack and an associate were killed as well.

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Categories: Alaska News

Borough Seeks Railroad Funds

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:45

The price of oil briefly dipped below fifty dollars a barrel early this week, highlighting state budget concerns.  Governor Bill Walker has issued a statement putting six major state – funded projects on hold.. among them, the Knik Arm Crossing and the Susitna- Watana Dam. Both those projects were slated for the Mat-Su. Missing from the governor’s hit list, however, is a state appropriation for the final phases of the Port MacKenzie rail spur linking the Port with Alaska Railroad’s main line in Houston.

 John Moosey, Mat Su Borough manager, told a joint session of the Anchorage Assembly and the Borough Assembly on November 14 that it will take 120 million dollars to finish constructing the Port MacKenzie rail spur. Moosey told the panel that several investors are waiting, like California based WesPac, which is ready to build an LNG facility at the port, but the plan is contingent on rail link access.

“We need to have some funding to keep this in step.  Because if the WesPac project goes, they will need rail service in two years. And we are also working with REI, which has a Japanese market.  So, our problem with how the state has been dribbling out the money is that we can really not tell our customers when the rail will be complete.  It has always been our top priority every year for the past seven years. The legislature has been good at getting us the funds.”


 The legislative appropriation for the rail spur is at the top of the Borough’s wish list, approved by the Borough Assembly in the fall. The rail link between Houston and the port is necessary to make Port MacKenzie a viable economic engine for the Borough and the rest of the state, according to Moosey.

 But the Borough’s priority list,  and Moosey’s November comments, were made before oil prices went into freefall in December.

The total cost of the rail link is estimated to be 272 million dollars. Part of the spur has been completed, but the Borough needs the state to ante up more money to complete the job.

Within a month of his election, Governor Walker released a trimmed down version of the state budget that cuts spending by some 600 million dollars, with capital projects taking the brunt of the cuts.  

But  Moosey is not losing optimism concerning the rail spur appropriation, for several reasons.

“With this latest drop in oil prices.. we are very heavily dependent, as everybody knows, on state oil. By finishing up this rail project, it helps us to bring additional resources to the market to really give us a piece to help diversify the Alaska economy.So, with that, we think we have a great opportunity here.”

Moosey says the rail spur is 2/3rds  complete, and he is meeting today [Friday ] with LNG producer WesPac. WesPac wants to build an LNG plant at Port MacKenzie to ship LNG to Fairbanks, possibly competing with a state plan to truck LNG from the North Slope. Moosey says the WesPac project would be funded entirely by private money, cutting state costs in the process.

“There has been a push and quite a bit of investment on energy and planning on bringing North Slope LNG down to Fairbanks. And that investment was going to be at least 300 million $ from the state. The WesPac project which will bring to the city gate cheaper product, does not have a single dollar investment from the state of Alaska.  So that is one good point. ”

In December, Governor Walker announced a state agreement with Japan- based REI to construct an LNG export facility at Port Mac. The gas would come from Cook Inlet. Teddy Pease, a staffer at REI’s Anchorage office, says the shipments do not depend on rail access to the Port MacKenzie dock.

Construction of the rail spur has come under criticism by some conservation groups, notably Cook Inletkeeper, because of concerns about costs and about possible impact on salmon habitat.

 In August of last year, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, told the Borough Assembly that the rail project is over budget and behind schedule. Work on the rail link started in 2008, but Perkins said that the way it had been funded, through yearly legislative appropriations, had not worked to keep costs down.

“We had intended to have the train running by now, had we received sufficient funding to do that. So, we have had some impacts from delays in funding. Our construction management people are having to stay a considerable number of years past what we have anticipated, same thing with our engineering people. So, again, the way this thing has been funded with eight different appropriations and some more to come, has certainly increased our costs.”

 The rail spur construction was divided into six segments. Three are complete, and another near completion. Perkins said that a major cause of cost over-runs were delays spurred by litigation against the project filed by the Sierra Club and Cook Inletkeeper.  The lawsuits caused stop work orders which lasted months. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has since given the go ahead for the project.

Categories: Alaska News

Blue Crest Plans New Onshore Wells, LNG Shipments

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:44

The resurgent boom continues in Cook Inlet. At the annual Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum this week in Kenai, new oil and gas player Blue Crest, based in Forth Worth, made some of the biggest announcements.

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CEO Benjamin Johnson says they’ve partnered with a California company called Wespac to build a new LNG facility that would make natural gas available across the state.

“Put it in small containers that can fit on barges, on rail cars, on trucks, and basically provide a cheap alternative to diesel fuel that most of the communities in the state are using.”

Johnson offered few details about what communities might provide a market for the gas, when it could be available or for how much. He says bringing in someone else to produce the gas will get it to market faster.

“They (Wespac) will drill these gas wells and they’ll deepen some into the oil zones. They’ll also put the platforms and pipelines in place. And then at some point after they’ve reached a minimum return, or are able to get their money back, then Blue Crest will come back in and begin owning the assets and eventually end up the majority owner.”

Wespac will own the gas producing portions of the fields, located near Anchor Point, while Blue Crest will operate them and several onshore oil wells it plans to drill in 2015 and 2016.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: The Art Of Medicine

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:42

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Physicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix the human body. A group of young doctors in Anchorage recently had the chance to draw it instead. They are all overworked, over tired interns- halfway through their first year of residency. They spent a morning in an intro to drawing class in an effort to get them to think more creatively about their careers.

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At first, Doctor David Silbergeld wasn’t sure what to make of the drawing class that popped up on his schedule.

“I think my first thought was, ‘uh oh,’” he said.

Silbergeld’s dad teaches art history, so he’s had lots of exposure to art. But the last time he remembers producing any of it was a long, long time ago.

“When I was 4 or 5 years old I used to do art my dad said was amazing, and I have not done anything since then,” he said.

Silbergeld is in his first year of the Alaska Family Practice Residency in Anchorage. Since July, he has been whizzing through a series of challenging rotations, working 80 hours a week and getting very little sleep. But for a month in the depth of the winter, all of the residency’s interns have a break of sorts called ‘trans-cultural medicine.’ It’s like an extracurricular holiday- a feast of lessons in things like cultural diversity, wilderness survival and nutrition.

And for three hours one recent morning – drawing.

University of Alaska Anchorage art professor Garry Mealor is teaching the class in figure drawing. He explains the students will have 90 seconds to draw each pose the model takes. He offers a few quick pointers – like how to get the proportions right (a human figure is about eight heads tall).

Then the model takes off her robe and more than a dozen doctors start to draw. Silbergeld is clearly enjoying himself, but it isn’t easy. He develops a coping strategy early on.

“I simply can’t recreate the human head or the human face in any beautiful or realistic way, so I’ve sort of given up on that and I’ve focused more on the torso or to some extent the legs, and I’m more pleased now that I’m doing that,” Silbergeld said.

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

This is the fourth group of interns to take the drawing class. Dr. Susan Beesley, an Anchorage pediatrician, came up with the idea. Beesley thinks medicine is both a science and an art. She helped start an arts program at her medical school in Colorado. And she wanted to offer a small piece of that experience to the Alaska residents. Beesley likes that it pushes them out of their comfort zone.

“I think it’s important to think creatively when your subjects are humans,” Beesley said. ”Humans don’t really follow textbooks all the time and I think if you can integrate a little bit of creative thought into your healing practice that it will benefit both the doctors and the patients.”

Beesley also hopes the class offers the doctors a different perspective after six months of looking at disease and illness in the human body.

“Now we’re asking them to just look at it as a piece of art and think about it as just beautiful and miraculous and something that they can enjoy,” Beesley said.

The morning’s last challenge is to use different erasers to create an image of the model on paper blackened with charcoal, which Mealor assures is “going to be messy, but fun.”

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Silbergeld spends the rest of class immersed in his final piece of artwork.

“It took an hour to get me okay with it but I’m okay with it.”

Silbergeld isn’t exactly sure how this class may affect his decisions as a doctor three months, or even three years, from now. But he appreciates the chance to spend a morning thinking a little differently than his typical doctor routine allows.

“I think classes like this are a good reminder that sometimes when you do that physical exam you do need to step back and get that broader image of the human body when you’re seeing patients,” he said.

As he packs up, Silbergeld decides to take several of his drawings home. He says he’s not exactly ready to frame them, but he doesn’t want to give them up either.

Categories: Alaska News

AK Essay: Barenaked

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:41

Nude is what is it is called. Nude is artsy and sophisticated. But when I crumpled onto the small wooden platform, I was just plain old naked. And then when I crawled the several feet between me and my robe, I was even more naked.

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Apparently, I am told by everyone I have ever told this story to that if one stands with locked knees for too long with locked knees, one faints. Apparently, everyone knows this. I wish I could say collapsing onto a wooden platform, while naked, was the hardest thing that happened as an art model.

It wasn’t.

Walking into the classroom for the first time, naked under my robe, was harder than pretty much anything else I’ve done. Wedding day – easy. Childbirth – pudding. Climbing mountains – yawn city.

The classroom door had a small glass window that I could peer through. I saw them all in there, waiting. I had applied for the job. I had agreed to work. I did want the best paying college job on campus, but I could not open the door. Staying behind the door meant I could still run away. I told myself it would be good for me. I tried to think of other things that would be good for me, but scary, tweezing nose hairs, eating eggs without toast. I still couldn’t open the door.

I told myself the artists didn’t know me. After all, I was one of many models. I would act aloof. I would pretend experience. I would feign boredom, ‘Oh, naked in front of strangers again.’

I opened the door. I walked in. I stepped up on the stage.

“Here’s the model,” the instructor said, “Let’s make her feel welcome, it’s her first time.”

I had been naked before. I was naked before. In fact, I had been naked in front of other people, a few. Sure, it was more like slinking naked in front of one person, or dodging naked in front of another. I had never stood face on in front of 20. And certainly not face on in the bright light that streamed through the windows and surrounded by hot floodlights.

“Model, model – we’re ready,” the instructor said. My sweaty hand pulled the robe tie. My shoulder shrugged the robe off and tossed it off to the side. And then I stood there and didn’t breath. And I’m sure I didn’t breath for at least a couple of minutes.

I did note that that not breathing could cause fainting, so despite the thundering heartbeat in my ears, the cold sweat on my neck and an intense need to urinate, I eventually took a breath.

And then I modeled.

Although the first time was quite traumatic, when I’m asked what the hardest part of the job was, it wasn’t being barenaked, it was not moving. Unless one is getting paid to sit, or stand, or lie down motionless, I don’t think one would ever try this. One pose could last for 45 minutes. Let’s say it’s a reclining pose, one arm down on my back, the other arm bent and resting across my forehead. The pose feels fine, for a minute.

Three minutes into it, my arm, resting on my forehead, becomes heavy. Five minutes into it, my arm becomes The Arm. Eight minutes, I begin to worry about nerve damage to the arm. Then I worry about nerve damage to the forehead.  At 12 minutes, I’m certain the brain is at risk.  17 minutes, breathing, trying to stay calm. 21 minutes trying to pretend I am somewhere else, somewhere without a log pressing on my forehead.

26 minutes and  I’m walking on a white sandy beach.  Breath in, Breath out. 35 minutes and I’m sure I will quit, no job is worth brain damage. 42 minutes and I think about tweezing my nose hair. 45 minutes and the instructor says, “That will be all, model.”

And then using the arm that is still my arm to pry the arm that is a log off the forehead and then placing the log next to the body and then trying to get up, trying to pretend that it is easy to get up.

Stepping off the stage numb, aloof and barenaked.

Categories: Alaska News

Halcro Files Letter Of Intent In Anchorage Mayor’s Race

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:46

Former Alaska legislator Andrew Halcro has filed a letter of intent to run for mayor of Anchorage.

Halcro filed the letter, signaling his interest in seeking the post, with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Friday.

Halcro is a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for governor as an independent against Republican Sarah Palin in 2006. He currently serves as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

The field of candidates for mayor already includes former Anchorage Assembly Chairman Dan Coffey, current Assembly member Amy Demboski and former Assembly member Paul Bauer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Skiers Placing Well In National Championships

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:44

Alaska skiers continue to post top results at the U.S. cross country ski championships in Michigan.

Thursday, Alaska Pacific University program skier Rosie Brenan won her second straight title in chilly Houghton,Michigan, taking the women’s 20 kilometer classic event. She was joined by three APU teammates in the top 10, including Becca Rorabaugh, formerly of Fairbanks, who finished 5th.

APU skiers also fared well in the men’s 30 K race, with Lex Treinen in second, and four others in the top 10, including former Fairbanks residents David Norris and Reese Hanneman in 5th and 6th.

In the junior men’s race Fairbanks skier Max Donaldson put up another top result, placing 8th in the junior men’s 10k event. Donaldson was the top skier in the under 18 age group and secured a spot on a U.S. team that will travel to races in Sweden.

The National Champions conclude Saturday with a skate technique sprint.

Categories: Alaska News

Food To Schools From Farms

Fri, 2015-01-09 12:00

Click for more information about growing your area’s Farm to School program.

A national effort to bring fresh food from farms to schools has resulted in $385 million in purchases for school lunches and other meals across the country.  More than half the school districts in Alaska are participating in the Farm to School program, feeding more than a hundred thousand kids in the state.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network


  • Deborah Kane, Director, Farm to School Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service
  • Johanna Herron, Farm to School coordinator, Alaska Division of Agriculture
  • Callers statewide


  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.


Categories: Alaska News

The Future Of Alaska’s LNG Pipeline Project

Fri, 2015-01-09 09:00

As the Federal Coordinator’s office for an Alaska North Slope LNG pipeline prepares to close its doors, we take a look at the history of the office, the current state of proposed Alaska LNG pipelines and the outlook on the future of the project.

HOST: Lori Townsend


  • Larry Persily, federal coordinator, Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska’s Gas Line

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker: With State In Red, Tax Credit Payouts “Unsustainable”

Thu, 2015-01-08 18:59

Since the Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Gov. Bill Walker is taking issue with aspects of the current tax regime, without committing to any immediate legislative changes.

On Thursday, Walker took to the pages of the Alaska Dispatch News to raise concerns over how the existing oil production tax works at low prices. With the value of oil now in free fall, Walker explained the state is now collecting less money than it is paying out. The Department of Revenue expects to collect $524 million in revenue this fiscal year, after North Slope producers deduct $750 million available to them in liability credits. Those liability credits can be used to buy their tax burden down, but do not require the state to pay out money. The major producers — Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips — are the top beneficiaries of these credits.

But on top of those deductions, the current tax law also grants smaller producers refundable credits meant to encourage more competition on the North Slope and stimulate production in Cook Inlet. These independent companies are eligible to receive $625 million in subsidies that can be cashed out if they end up exceeding their tax bill.

Once both kinds of credits are applied, the state expects to lose $100 million on its oil production tax.

Walker called this situation “irresponsible and unsustainable,” and said the revenue problem must be addressed “from all angles.” But that doesn’t mean legislators should prepare for an oil tax fight this session. In an interview with APRN, Walker said he does not plan to introduce a tax bill.

“No, no, no. I think we have to maybe look across the board and give it some thought. Nothing maybe this year — I’m not looking at going in and making any significant changes,” said Walker. “But I just feel it’s part of my job that Alaskans know what I know, and this is unusual.”

Walker also has no plans to make regulatory changes to the oil tax system that would affect the credits.

While campaigning, Walker came out against the current tax regime. He was in favor of a ballot referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s 2013 oil tax law, known as Senate Bill 21. When the referendum narrowly failed in August, Walker said that he respected the outcome and that he would give the law more time on the books if he became governor.

Since Walker was elected on November 4, oil prices have fallen from $80 to $50 per barrel. Walker said that drop is responsible for the state going into the red with its production. His office has done an analysis of how Parnell’s Senate Bill 21 compares at current oil prices to the system that preceded it — ACES — and found the outcomes were not “significantly different.”

“Whether it’s ACES or Senate Bill 21, we’d be in this situation either way, quite honestly,” said Walker. “So, it’s not being judgmental on one versus the other. But’s a new place for us. We’ve never been here before, that we’re paying out more than we’re receiving in production tax.”

Historically, oil tax receipts have made up the bulk of the state’s revenue. Last year, the state generated nearly $5 billion in oil revenue, with more than half of that coming from production taxes.

The state still expects to collect $2 billion this year from other forms of oil revenue, including royalties, corporate income taxes, and property taxes from production.

Categories: Alaska News

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

A University of Washington researcher says a strong desire to pass down traditional knowledge may be related to high levels of optimism that he’s found among homeless Alaska Native elders. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

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As an Aleut who grew up in Naknek, Jordan Lewis knows a little something about Alaska Native culture. Whenever he’s back home, Lewis says he likes to talk to elders and soak up traditional knowledge.

“They tell stories about how Naknek used to be when they were kids, because it’s changing so much now,” he says. “And I think just the fact that they talk to you and share their experiences, and pass on recipes, or how they used to make things, or where they used to pick berries, is this idea that they are hopeful that you’ll take that knowledge and use it to benefit your own life, but then pass it on again.”

Lewis is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. His research focuses on Alaska Native communities and generativity, a concept developed by psychologist Erik Erikson. It says that as we grow older, humans tend to want to pass on their experiences and knowledge to future generations.

“The first generative act most people have in their lives is having kids,” Lewis says. “That’s going to secure your future. But as you grow older there’s this need to pass on your legacy, write your memoirs, storytelling for elders, and passing down stories you heard to your grand kids.”

Lewis has studied how generativity helps Alaska Natives age well and become role models, as well as overcome addictions.

He says he became interested in the homeless because it’s an underserved and often overlooked population. Years ago, he says, his family had a relative involved with the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that provides meals, housing assistance and other services to low-income and homeless Alaska Natives and American Indians. That’s where he and a student interviewed 14 Alaska Native elders last year. He says the results surprised even him.

“All of the elders talked about the importance of giving back and teaching others,” he says. “Whether it’s through sharing a sandwich, giving extra change if they had extra change to someone who wasn’t doing as well as they were. Volunteering at the Chief Seattle Club was almost everybody’s response. That’s what made them happy, that’s what got them up every day. And they all said that they did that because it’s going to come back to them in a positive way.”

He says other themes of the interviews included the importance of laughter and religion.

In addition, each of the elders – ages 45 to 70 – filled out surveys to measure generativity and optimism. Lewis says 12 of the 14 individuals scored very high in both.

“That kind of complimented the qualitative interviews. So I could say, you know, 85 percent of the people I interviewed are very optimistic and like to give back and teach the young people, and then here we have specific examples of what they do to do that,” Lewis says.

While he’s excited about the early results, Lewis admits more research is needed to confirm his findings. He’d like to do more than 100 interviews, and has considered expanding to include American Indians.

He’s planning to present his research at the Chief Seattle Club, and ask officials there for ideas on how to do a broader study of Native homelessness.

“How could we either help the people who are homeless, or how do we prevent homelessness, or how do we make their lives more enjoyable from these experiences of what these elders are doing for themselves,” he says.

Lewis also hopes to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal. The initial study was part of an online Stanford University program on successful aging that he participated in last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 8, 2015

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

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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Is SB21 Working?

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage & Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Since the Frank Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Governor Bill Walker is expressing concern with aspects of the current tax regime.

Chugiak Lawmaker Proposes Legislature Move

Jeremy Hsieh & Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze plans to introduce a bill to move the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage.

On Murkowski’s First Day Chairing Energy Committee, Panel Passes Keystone Bill

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Lisa Murkowski held her first hearing today as chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The committee promptly passed the first priority of the Republican leadership: a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada through Nebraska. Murkowski also outlined what she wants the committee to accomplish.

UAF To Field Wildfire Crew

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will field a wildfire fighting crew. The tram will be staffed by students in a wild land fire science program.

Petersburg’s New Superintendent Resigns

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

Petersburg’s School board will be searching for a new superintendent again this year. The superintendent of the school district has resigned after six months on the job.

An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

Categories: Alaska News

Is SB21 Working?

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:59

Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, has been a vocal critic of the state’s new oil tax structure. He says the law provides larger tax credits to oil companies as the price of oil declines.

Senator Cathy Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage, helped craft the new oil tax law. She says the tax structure is designed to bring in more revenue at lower oil prices than the previous law, ACES.

Listen for the full interviews with Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage)

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Categories: Alaska News

Chugiak Lawmaker Proposes Legislature Move

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:58

The Alaska state capitol building in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Update | 4:05 p.m. Jan. 8, 2015

Sen. Dennis Egan, a Juneau Democrat, says he thinks the bill “is a crock.”

“I’m really dismayed that he’s pitting one section of Alaska against another,” Egan says.

Through a spokeswoman, Gov. Bill Walker said he typically doesn’t commit on how he’ll deal with legislation before receiving it. But, he added, he doesn’t favor moving the capital.

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Original post | 7:27 p.m. Jan. 7, 2015

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, plans to introduce a bill to move the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage. Stoltze isn’t proposing a full-on capital move. Instead, KTUU reports that the bulk of state government would remain in Juneau and legislative sessions would be held at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.

“I have always been a vocal advocate for relocation,” Stoltze told KTUU.

This is the second time Stoltze has advocated for such a move. In 2008 he supported a similar bill introduced by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.

Many attempts and discussions to move the capital have taken place since the days of Alaska’s first constitutional convention. According to a brief history compiled by The Alaska Committee, the last attempt to swing the legislature away from Juneau happened in 2002. Voters defeated a ballot measure that required the legislature to meet in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Stoltze’s bill will be introduced as the state grapples to deal with a $3.5 billion budget shortfall and declining oil prices.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF To Field Wildfire Crew

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:56

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will field a wildfire fighting crew. The tram will be staffed by students in a wild land fire science program.

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Categories: Alaska News

An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:55

SEAGLA members get together to march in Juneau’s 2014 July 4th parade. (Photo courtesy James Hoagland)

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

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SEAGLA has been around since the early 1980s providing support for the LGBTQ community in Juneau. The name used to be an acronym for Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance, but it’s moved away from that strict definition to be more inclusive.

For years, SEAGLA’s programming consisted of a weekly Friday night social and an annual picnic. Last year, SEAGLA organized a first ever Pride Week in Juneau with several events.

“We did a film festival, a hike, a kickball game, a karaoke night, a big dance and a picnic,” says James Hoagland, one of eight volunteer board members. “All sorts of different kinds of events because we wanted to see who was out there, who our community was and what they needed from us, and we found that they liked all the events and they said, ‘We need more of this and we need to do it even bigger.’”

The annual picnic last year drew about 200 people, the biggest attendance in the organization’s history.

It recently received a $5,000 grant from thePride Foundation, which supports LGBTQ groups in the Northwest. It awarded funds to 56 organizations – three in Alaska. This is the largest grant SEAGLA has ever received.

The money will help expand programming.

“We know that there are hundreds of people out there who just even locally want to get together and do things and build community in all sorts of ways,” Hoagland says.

SEAGLA is meant to be an alliance group for all of Southeast Alaska, but it’s historically served just Juneau. The grant will allow the nonprofit to bridge gaps and offer services to other Southeast communities. Hoagland says individuals in Ketchikan, Haines, Sitka and Skagway have reached out to SEAGLA.

Josh Hemsath with Pride Foundation in Anchorage says the organization gave funding to SEAGLA for this very reason. Anchorage-based Identity Inc. also received a grant to bring students from rural areas to a youth leadership summit at Birchwood Camp.

“The need that we were seeing was how best to address serving individuals, whether they be youth or people who experience geographic isolation because they live in rural and remote communities,” Hemsath says.

Outside of grant funding, Hoagland hopes SEAGLA can grow in other ways.

“It’ll be particularly interesting during the legislative session and figuring out how to plug SEAGLA into the really dynamic political landscape that’s going on right now in Alaska for LGBT people,” Hoagland says.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, Hoagland says other issues are ripe for change. Representatives Cathy Muñoz, a Republican, and Democrat Andy Josephson have pre-filed billsto add sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Hoagland says SEAGLA can play a role in education. He says many Alaskans don’t even realize that people can get fired from a job because of sexual orientation.

“They thought that maybe we’re protected under another law or something like that and it’s just not the case and I think that most people understand that that’s just not fair. And just opening up their eyes to the importance of putting that on the books in writing so that we can make sure that people don’t experience a really tragic situation like losing your job just because of the person you love,” Hoagland says.

Hoagland says making a political impact will be a natural outcome of expanding membership and strengthening SEAGLA.

Categories: Alaska News

Tongass Supervisor, Deputy, Leaving The Forest

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:35

The Tongass National Forest will soon be without its two top officials.

Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole plans to retire in April after about a dozen years in the job. He’s overseen timber sales, stewardship efforts and other agency programs in Southeast Alaska.

The Tongass National Forest makes up most of Southeast Alaska (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

Cole’s deputy, Tricia O’Connor, is moving to a new Forest Service job in Wyoming. She’ll be supervisor of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which borders Yellowstone National Park, starting in February.

Both have been based in Ketchikan. Neither was immediately available for comment.

The supervisors work under Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, who also oversees Southcentral’s Chugach National Forest.

Cole came to the Tongass about 35 years ago and worked in management positions throughout Southeast. Most recently, he’s been a leader in the forest’s transition from old-growth logging to harvesting younger trees.

O’Connor has been Tongass deputy forest supervisor since 2011. She’s been in the region almost 15 years, beginning as Yakutat district ranger.

Both positions have been posted on USA Jobs, a federal employment website.

The Tongass is the nation’s largest national forest, at about 17 million acres. Most of Southeast Alaska is within its borders.

We’ll have more on the Tongass management changes in future reports.

Categories: Alaska News

Human Remains Found In ‘Talkeetna Area’ Cabin Fire

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:18

The Alaska State Troopers report that a cabin fire in the Talkeetna area killed one person.

According to troopers, the initial call was received just before midnight on Saturday night. When troopers arrived from the Talkeetna post, the cabin had burned to the ground.  The next day, they returned with a Deputy Fire Marshal to search in the daylight.  Human remains were found during that search.  No positive identification has been made of the remains, and the investigation is ongoing.  Troopers say foul play is not suspected at this time.

Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says that, since there is currently no positive ID, no further details, including the location of the fire, are being released.  Talkeetna Fire Department Chief Ken Farina says that the Talkeetna Fire Department did not respond to any structure fires in on Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

On Murkowski’s First Day Chairing Energy Committee, Panel Passes Keystone Bill

Thu, 2015-01-08 08:21

Sen. Lisa Murkowski gavelled in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this morning with a Tsimshian mallet. On her first day as chairman, the committee passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, by a vote of 13 to nine, without amdendments. The bill is the first priority of the new Republican leadership of the Senate. It now heads to the Senate floor and debate scheduled to begin next week. The House is expected to pass its version tomorrow.

Categories: Alaska News