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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: 54 sec ago

Rie Muñoz Leaves A Legacy Of Delight, Joy And Laughter

Wed, 2015-04-08 17:13

Rie Muñoz with her dog Muncie in the Mendenhall Wetlands, Juneau in 2008. (Photo by Mark Kelley)

Beloved artist Rie Muñoz passed away Monday night at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau after a stroke. She was 93. Muñoz was active until the end, a prolific artist and traveler who drew inspiration from everyday Alaskans.

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Rie Muñoz was born in southern California in 1921 as Marie Mounier. Her parents were from Holland and she spent a lot of her childhood there, where Rie was a common nickname.

Daughter-in-law Cathy Muñoz says, as a teenager, Rie and her two brothers were separated from their parents for 4 years. They were on a boat to the United States and their parents were supposed to meet up with them one week later, but World War II broke out.

“It was her brothers and her that went on to California and on their own, they took care of themselves, they got odd jobs, they got a place to stay. After she graduated from high school, then she was reunited with her parents,” Cathy Muñoz says.

Rie Muñoz moved to Juneau in 1950, traveling by steamship up the Inside Passage. In 1951, she and newlywed husband Juan Muñoz Sr. went to teach on King Island, located in the Bering Sea, near Nome. “King Island Christmas” is based on her time there. Muñoz illustrated the children’s book and the late Jean Rogers wrote it.

Rie Muñoz teaching in King Island in 1951. (Photo courtesy Juan Muñoz)

After their time on King Island, Muñoz and her husband later divorced and she raised their son, Juan.

“When he was young, they were often on the road in the summertime. They would load up her van with artwork and they would travel to remote communities and they did what was called a series of clothespin art shows, where they would come into a community and string a line and then hang her paintings for sale,” Cathy Muñoz says.

That built up Rie Muñoz’s following and reputation as an artist. After holding a number of jobs like teacher, journalist and curator at the Alaska State Museum, Muñoz started making a living as an artist in 1972.

Kes Woodward is an artist, art historian and teacher. He met Muñoz in 1977 when he moved to Juneau to be the state museum curator.

He said Muñoz considered her work expressionistic. She was known for her watercolors of Alaska scenes, such as fishermen at work, children at play and life in remote villages. Woodward says Muñoz was the mostly widely traveled Alaskan artist and her art focused on Alaskan people.

“She depicted them enjoying themselves. For her, Alaska is a place that is joyous. It’s a place full of delight and joy and laughter, and I think that’s her real legacy is that she captured that better than anybody else, better than anybody ever has,” Woodward says.

Muñoz described her process in 1985.

“The subjects that I like to paint are people, people doing things. Now that doesn’t mean somebody in an office typing. But people doing things that appeal to me such as working outside in any sort of occupation mostly. And I go to many, many places to sketch and then come back with those sketches and do the paintings from those sketches,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz was speaking in a KTOO-TV series “Conversations.” At the time, she said she was painting up to 85 original works a year.

A Rie Muñoz weaving hangs in the office of daughter-in-law Rep. Cathy Muñoz. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

“I think that art should be creative and honest. And by creative, I mean just that – you have to create something out of yourself. As far as the honesty is concerned, I think that an artist should paint exactly what he or she wants to paint and not ask him or herself, ‘What if I paint this, will this sell?’ It just doesn’t work that way,” Muñoz said.

Her work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries in Alaska, Seattle and elsewhere in North America. Her work is also in many homes.

“Well, I find my art in a lot of bathrooms and one reason I do is because I’ve done a number of nudes and, of course, they’re perfect in a bathroom,” she said.

Muñoz’s death was unexpected. She was at Easter Brunch on Sunday. On Friday night, she went to her granddaughter’s first solo art show. As her granddaughter was growing up, they used to spend hours together, sitting side by side, painting and sketching.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 8, 2015

Wed, 2015-04-08 17:12

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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Action On Same-Sex Marriage Leaves Democratic Lawmakers In Uncomfortable Spot As Attorney General Confirmation Looms

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Last week, Alaska Attorney General designee Craig Richards joined 15 other states in asking the Supreme Court to uphold their bans on same-sex marriage. This comes just as legislators are deciding whether to support his confirmation in a vote later this month. The action has a left some Democratic lawmakers in an uncomfortable spot.

State House Passes Surcharge On Refined Fuel

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Since the Murkowski administration, the Alaska House of Representatives has not passed a taxation bill where the levy goes beyond the oil industry. That changed on Wednesday, when the House narrowly passed a surcharge on refined fuel. The tax amounts to one cent per gallon.

Gov. Walker Issues Disaster Declaration For Dalton Highway Flooding

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Governor Bill Walker has declared a disaster in response to flooding that’s making the far northern end of the Dalton Highway impassable. The road is used to supply the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. It’s been closed south of Deadhorse since Sunday because an expanding area of overflow from the Sag River and recent blizzard conditions that have hampered Department of Transportation crews. The disaster declaration will amp up efforts to open the road.

Ethan Berkowitz, Amy Demboski Heading For Mayoral Runoff Election

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Ethan Berkowitz and Amy Demboski are headed to a runoff for Anchorage mayor on May 5.

Long After Civil War’s End, Rebel Raiders Fought On in Bering Sea

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

A hundred and fifty years ago this week – tomorrow, actually – General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. Textbooks typically say this event signaled the end of the Civil War. But a few historians make the case that the last shots of the war were actually fired from a Confederate ship off of Alaska’s coast, in the Bering Sea.

Rural Subsistence Hunters No Longer Need Federal Duck Stamps

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

It took a few years and an act of Congress, but today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced rural subsistence hunters don’t need to purchase federal duck stamps.

Rie Muñoz Leaves A Legacy Of Delight, Joy And Laughter

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Beloved artist Rie Muñoz passed away Monday night at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau after a stroke. She was 93. Muñoz was active until the end, a prolific artist and traveler who drew inspiration from everyday Alaskans.

Categories: Alaska News

Long After Civil War’s End, Rebel Raiders Fought On in Bering Sea

Wed, 2015-04-08 15:49

Crewman’s drawing of CSS Shenandoah towing 200 prisoners in boats in Bering Sea

One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va. Textbooks typically say this event signaled the end of the Civil War. But a few historians make the case that the last shots of the war were actually fired from a Confederate ship off Alaska’s coast, in the Bering Sea.

She was the CSS Shenandoah, one of a handful of Confederate “commerce raiders,” commissioned to bruise the Union economy by ruining the U.S. shipping industry. The Shenandoah continued its destructive mission until the summer of 1865, nearly three months after Appomattox.

“Well, you can’t really call it ‘the last shots of the Civil War,’ because there was only one side that loosed a blank cartridge in capturing a whaling ship in the Bering Sea,” says Sam Craghead, of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, who has studied its strange story and its last acts of aggression near the Arctic Circle.

The Shenandoah was a 230-foot ship with both sails and a steam engine. She seized more than three dozen commercial vessels, often without firepower, though the crew burned many to the waterline and forced others

Model of Shenandoah, in front of her Confederate flag, the last lowered in surrender.

to transport prisoners.

“So they destroyed the enemy’s ships and that is perfectly legitimate, under naval warfare,” Craghead says.

It sounds brutal, but Craghead isn’t one to judge Captain James Waddell harshly.

“The Shenandoah captured 1053 sailors. Not a one was harmed,” he says. “They were all sent to a friendly port on a ship that he bonded.”

By 1865, U.S. cargo ships were scarce. All the raiding and burning scared off customers and drove insurance rates sky high. So the Shenandoah chased the Yankee whaling fleet in the Pacific. In the Caroline Islands, Micronesia, Waddell burned four whaling ships he found in the harbor. But first, he took their nautical charts, revealing the Arctic whaling grounds. By then it was early April.

“So they start steaming north, heading toward the Bering Sea,” Craghead says. “That was four days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox. But if you have any idea where the Caroline Islands are — that’s out in the middle of nowhere. They might as well have been on the other side of moon, because they had no information.”

How long they remained uninformed would later be in dispute. In any case, in June the Confederate raiders were north of the Aleutian Chain, destroying one ship after another.

“All right, on the 25th, near St. Lawrence Island, they captured the whale ship Gen. Williams,” he says. “On the 26th near the same place the William C. Nigh, the Catherine and the Nimrod.”

At one point, Craghead says, the Shenandoah had 200 captives on board, and a string of a dozen small, open boats, taken from whaling ships.

“And they put those 200 men in those 12 whale boats and tied (the boats) end to end and then hooked them to the Shenandoah and pulled them along,” he says.

No need to feel too sorry for them, Craghead says, since these were hearty whalers used to traveling in these boats over long distances in icy seas.

The Shenandoah continued destroying ship after ship until June 28, 1865, when they hit the jackpot near the Bering Strait: A whaler had crashed into ice and was totaled. Other ships had gathered for an auction of its valuable whale oil and bone. The Shenandoah took them all.

“Besides the Brunswick, they burned the Congress, Covington, Favorite, Hillman, Issac Howland, Martha Second, Nassau and Waveryly,” Craghead says.

They left two whaling ships intact to carry prisoners. Craghead says one, called the James Murray, had its captain’s distraught widow and children on board.

“This captain had died during the voyage, and they preserved his body in a barrel of whiskey to take it back to New England,” Craghead says.

Finally, on August 2, 1865, after sailing south to ice-free waters, the Shenandoah came across a ship with a newspaper that said the South had surrendered, President Lincoln was dead, and the war was over. Only then did crew of the Shenandoah give up the mission.

Some historians, like U.S. authorities back in the day, accuse the men of the Shenandoah of piracy in the Bering Sea, because they must’ve known by then the war was over. Some say their prisoners told them. Capt. Wadell, though, claimed he had no proof. Yes, one ship they took in June had a newspaper that told of the surrender, but that paper also said the Confederate president had vowed to fight on. Craghead believes the captain. Regardless, Craghead says he wishes more people knew the tale.

“It’s a fascinating story! One that most people haven’t explored. We spend so much time with Grant and Lee and Jackson, that we don’t get into what happened in the Navy,” he says.

As for the captain and crew of the Shenandoah, they sailed on to England and escaped prosecution.

Categories: Alaska News

WAANT Makes Arrests for Alleged Bootlegging

Wed, 2015-04-08 10:42

Investigators from the Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics team arrested two people in seperate incidents Monday. They say 23-year-old Olivia Guest was contacted as she attempted to fly to Chefornak with five bottles of alcohol in her luggage and purse. They say she became confrontational and pushed the investigator away from her luggage. Guest is being charged with alcohol importation and disorderly conduct.

They also arrested 40-year-old Theresa Sipary of Bethel. She is accused of attempting to import 13 bottles of liquor to Kipnuk. Both were taken to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center.

Investigators also allege that 40-year-old Wilson Beaver of Bethel brought 22 bottles of whiskey to Tuntutuliak by snowmachine. They were in contact with the community earlier this month. The alcohol has a local value of $3,300, or $150 per bottle. Felony charges were forwarded to the district attorneys office.

Categories: Alaska News

Division of Forestry Stresses Being ‘Firewise’ This Season

Wed, 2015-04-08 10:35

2015 will likely be a year with higher than usual fire risk on the peninsula.

Paul Pellegrini is a fire prevention officer with the Division of Forestry for the Kenai/Kodiak region.

He says conditions this year are reminiscent of last year, before the Funny River fire, and 2005, the year of the Tracy Avenue fire out East End Road.

“What that means for us is that there wasn’t enough snow to compact the cured grasses and that’s a big difference. If the grasses are on the ground and compacted, they burn differently than if they’re standing up. And right now, they’re high and dry.”

Pellegrini says there’s lots of fuel for wildfires, but grasses are some of the most dangerous.

“I fought fire for the State of California and it was all about these really fast-moving grass fires. And [on] the Kenai that’s a recent phenomenon. It’s maybe 10 or 15 years old, where these grasses have pushed in where the forest used to be.”

The changing landscape is due in part to the mass beetle kill that in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the Division of Forestry’s website, since the mid 1970s, Spruce bark beetles have killed mature spruce trees on more than a million acres of land here. That’s about half of the Peninsula’s total forested land.

“Our forest has been falling on the ground. Some of it is still standing up and dead and some of it is alive. But that dead and downed component that we can’t see very well, it’s still laying on the ground and it’s got grass all around it because when that canopy went away, the sun hit our landscape and that’s where all this grass came from.”

Pellegrini says that makes it even more important for residents to be very careful managing fires, especially during hot, dry seasons.

“The majority of fires on the Kenai are human-caused. The majority of human-caused fires are started by debris burning- people having open burns usually on their property, in their backyard, let’s say, where they’re cleaning up branches and woody debris. Most of those fires that we lose- those debris fires- they escape because the folks didn’t follow the guidelines on their burn permit.”

Burn permits are required for open burning from April 1st through August 31st and are subject to burn suspensions and closures.

Pellegrini says regardless of whether or not people plan on burning, they should practice Firewise. That includes clearing dry and dead brush within 30 feet of a house, and not storing firewood and other flammable items underneath decks or patios, among other things.

And he says, always think twice and take precautions before setting any type of fire.

“It’s still risky. Every time you choose to light a fire, whether it’s for a burn barrel or an open burn or even a camp fire, there’s a chance that the wind changes or you didn’t anticipate an event that happens and some ember cast from your fire ignites nearby grasses and you’re going to have a wildfire.”

Information on burn permits and Firewise tips are available on the Division of Forestry’s website,forestry.alaska.gov/burn.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Woman Faces Manslaughter Charge in Heroin Death

Wed, 2015-04-08 10:29

A Bethel woman has been indicted on a charge of manslaughter for allegedly fatally injecting her father with heroin. 35-year-old Shannon Cooke faces the charges for an incident from September 29th, 2014.

The state says that 56-year-old Thomas Tungwenuk was found unresponsive in an Anchorage apartment. Police and medics responded and the man was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Daniel Shorey is an assistant district attorney in Anchorage.

“The manslaughter charge is for delivering heroin to her father, Thomas Tungwenuk. She is also charged with misconduct involving a controlled substance for the actual delivery of the heroin,” said Shorey.

The state medical examiner found that Tungwenuk had died of the acute combined effects of alcohol and heroin. Police received a report that Tungwenuk had injected himself and then was found by his daughter 30 to 45 minutes later, however the state alleges that Cooke injected him.

Cooke was arrested Friday by Bethel police. Bail was set at $20,000 with a third party custodian. If convicted, Cooke faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. A pre-trial conference before Judge Jack Smith in Anchorage is scheduled for May 13th.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Prison Deals With Overcrowding By Housing Women In A Tent

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:30

A view inside the tent at Lemon Creek Correctional Center as seen from a security monitoring screen. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Alaska’s prison population is the third fastest growing in the country, and the prisons are over capacity. The crowding problem is especially evident at Juneau’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center where half the female inmates live in a tent outside. Some of them actually like it, but it’s an indication of a problem one state senator is trying to fix.

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“It kind of looks like a greenhouse from the outside,” says 29-year-old Lemon Creek inmate Catherine Fredrick. She lives in the tent. “It has bunks all in one row and we actually house more than the dorm does.”

The 20 by 30 foot curved roof canvas tent sits on a raised wooden platform. You can see it as you enter the grounds of the Lemon Creek Correctional Center and it really does look like a greenhouse. When I first visited the prison, I had no idea women, up to 20 of them at a time, were living there.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, you know. Sometimes it gets cold in the winter, but they allow for us to have an extra blanket if it’s really cold out. And in the summer, it’s hot,” Fredrick says.

That’s when they can open a window or decide to walk outside to get fresh air. Inside the prison, it’s different.

“You don’t open your own doors, it’s always keys open the doors, moving gates, you hear the clanking, you hear the keys rattling, you hear the bells going,” Fredrick says.

There is one big con with the tent, though. No running water. Two porta-potties sit outside between the tent and the entrance to the prison.

“The outhouse gets full quick when we have too many people, so you have to use the broom with a plastic bag on the end to push the poop down, and that’s kind of disgusting but we take one for the team,” Fredrick says.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Ronald Taylor admits the living situation isn’t adequate, especially without running water. But given the prison overcrowding situation, he says he doesn’t have much choice.

Catherine Fredrick at a prison event in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center gymnasium. Fredrick lives in the tent. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“As long as the housing issues are what they are, then the tent is going to be used for that as an overflow,” Taylor says.

It’s been used that way for more than 15 years. Men have stayed there before, but lately it’s been for women. Since 2002, Taylor says the number of female inmates in the state has been growing at a faster rate than males.

He says the state’s primary prison for women, Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, recently had a daily count of 441. That’s almost 50 people over capacity.

Taylor says overcrowding issues throughout the state prison system will continue to affect the situation at Lemon Creek.

“When we’re able to really manage our population to where that’s no longer an issue and we can consistently stay down below our numbers in terms of the overflow, then I think that we’re not going to utilize the tent for that,” Taylor says.

A December report from the state’s legislative audit division called the tent a weakness for security reasons. But inmate Veronica Parks comes back to the living standards issue. She lives in the dorm now, but remembers how she used to bang on the prison door for an hour before being let inside to shower.

“We shouldn’t be holding girls in here that we can’t put inside the building,” Parks says.

State Sen. John Coghill has introduced a bill that he hopes will ease the prison overcrowding issue and get more Lemon Creek inmates inside the building.

His proposal would use electronic monitoring to keep nonviolent offenders and people awaiting trial out of prisons, while providing incentives for them to go to treatment programs. The bill would also cap the amount of time someone is in prison for a probation violation.

“We can’t afford another jail. Where would we build it and how would we build it when we don’t have the money?” Coghill says. “So that’s the pressure to keep us being creative, to give people avenues to succeed, hold them accountable and maybe jails isn’t the best way to do it.”

Coghill says he didn’t previously know about the tent at Lemon Creek, but he finds it troubling.

“Just because they’re in prison doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated with the best dignity we can treat them,” Coghill says.

But inmate Catherine Fredrick still says the tent is actually better than living inside the prison.

“Living in a tent is kind of like a privilege for the jail because you get the feeling of being outside, feeling of being home when you can open your window,” Fredrick says.

Of course, she says she’d rather be home with her 11-year-old son. But for now, she says home is where you make it.

Categories: Alaska News

Seaton Suggests Income Tax for Diversification of Revenue Sources

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:29

Peninsula Representative Paul Seaton, a Homer Republican, filed a bill Friday to bring back an income tax to Alaska. Representative Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat, co-sponsored the bill.

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Alaska’s budget is in dire straits. Belt-tightening is happening across the board to compensate for a sharp decline in oil revenue that’s left the state with an immense budget deficit.

Representative Paul Seaton says the hole is so large, cuts just don’t cut it anymore.

“You know, three and a half, four billion dollars of deficit and we know we cannot solve it by just making cuts. [You can] terminate the entire state employee force and we would not get halfway there. So, we need to look at diversifying our revenue sources,” says Seaton.

The state last had an income tax in the 1970s but the growing oil industry and the money it pumped into the economy prompted the state to get rid of it in 1980. Then, the state took a look at reinstating the tax 10 years ago. It was briefly considered and then put to the side. Seaton says his proposal now uses information from that past research.

“I was here during the Murkowski administration in which we looked really carefully and analyzed both a sales tax and an income tax. They both raised about the same amount of money but an income tax was much more efficient to collect; it cost less than half the amount that a sales tax did.”

The income tax he is proposing is based on federal tax rates and brackets. A person would pay to the state of Alaska the equivalent of 15% of their federal tax.

“I think everybody can quickly make their own example. All they have to do is look at last year’s tax form and take 15% of it and that would be what they would pay. If they sent $500 to the federal government, it would be $75 dollars. If they sent $5,000 in taxes, then it would be $750. Now, if you also have capital gains, which the vast majority of people do not have, then you would add 10% of the capital gains.”

Taxes is a buzzword in politics. Voters are often strongly for or against increasing or instating them. Seaton says since he introduced this bill last week, the majority of his constituents that have contacted him have been quite supportive.

He says he thinks that’s because Alaskans are feeling the pressure of the economic shortfall. And he says, it’s becoming clear that the ability to maintain services and programs in the state depends on its one major industry.

“Well, it becomes very volatile when you’re relying only on one source. And we may as well say only one source since I think it’s 92% of our general fund money is coming from taxes and royalties on oil.”

Seaton says this tax is in part bringing home a lesson from other states that have dealt with similar issues.

“It’s hard to maintain responsibility when nobody is paying any taxes. We’re the only state that has neither a state property tax or a state sales tax or a state income tax. So, there is no individual revenue that comes to the state from its residents and so it’s a lot easier to spend somebody else’s money.”

Finally, he says not only would this tax rely on contributions from residents, it applies to non-residents who earn money in-state as well.

“Right now it doesn’t matter if you’re in the tourist business or whether you’re in the fishing business and you’re up here in the summer or you work on the North Slope. All of that money goes outside and nothing is left for the state to help support the infrastructure. So, that brings them into the fold as well.”

Seaton says he doesn’t necessarily expect the bill to pass, but he hopes it will start a conversation about diversifying revenue sources for the state which he says could lead it down a more stable path in the future.

Categories: Alaska News

Villages Seek Yukon, Kuskokwim Salmon Management Change

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:28

The Federal Office of Subsistence Management is holding a series of public hearings on requests for expanded federal control of salmon fishing on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

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Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Faces Big Decision on Local Liquor Licenses

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:26

BNC President and CEO Ana Hoffman speaks at a community meeting in Bethel. (Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK)

Bethel residents are urging the city to protest a package store license that’s before the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The Bethel Native Corporation’s Bethel Spirits LLC application was officially filed Monday morning.

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With a separate deadline of 90 days to act on BNC’s proposal, the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board attended a community meeting in Bethel to bring people up to speed on the process. Director Cynthia Franklin, explained that the board by law must honor a hypothetical government’s protest of a license, unless it meets specific criteria.

“Is this protest arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable? When people ask me what it means- is the city council picking on this application? That’s basically what it means in everyday language. Everyone would know arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable if they saw it,” said Franklin.

The city hasn’t taken any action. Bethel is unique in that it’s wet but with no liquor stores or bars. Voters in 2009 went unrestricted and did away with local option laws limiting imports and prohibiting sales. The next year citizens rejected local sales in an advisory vote.

That 2010 vote weighed heavily with Deborah Sampson, one of dozens in the more than four hour meeting who testified against the idea of a liquor store.

“We overwhelmingly said we don’t want alcohol here. We don’t want it sold, we don’t want a distribution point, and I don’t think that status should change until we have another vote,” said Sampson.

And citizens could again go to the polls if the council chooses to sponsor a community vote. Mayor Rick Robb, who has spoken publicly in favor of local sales, says he will bring a proposal before council to have an advisory vote.

People from the villages around the lower Kuskokwim spoke up, mostly to oppose the store. The regional significance of Bethel as a hub was a theme throughout the night. Dan Winkelman, President and CEO of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, cited research about the the effects of easier access to alcohol.

“It is not whether prohibition works or doesn’t work as some have said. But rather as these studies have concluded, the issue is more precisely that as alcohol availability increases, so do alcohol related injuries and death,” said Winkelman.

A handful of the nearly 50 speakers made the case for local sales. BNC President and CEO Ana Hoffman said the choice is not about whether to have liquor sales, but whether to have regulated sales or continue to support an underground bootlegging economy.

“It is time for the community to mature and no longer be crippled by paternalistic mentalities. We manage our lives in the most challenging of environments. We can handle a liquor store in Bethel and the area villages can handle it too. Let’s give ourselves a little credit. We are capable, sophisticated, adapting people,” said Hoffman.

The vast amounts of liquor being shipped in helped shape the perspective of Alan Evon from Kwethluk who worked at an air carrier.

“I used to offload 10,000 pounds of booze a day for Bethel and the bootleggers. We should stop the orders coming in, stop that artery of alcohol coming in, and just sell it at the liquor store,” said Evon.

A variation of what Evon describes would require a change in the local option status, and the idea that came up several times in the meeting. ABC Director Franklin says Bethel’s legal situation makes it difficult to regulate.

“As long as you’re in the wet status, you have no rules, so what I keep trying to let people know, when people stand up and say ‘we can’t let the alcohol come here,’ you’re fooling yourself. The alcohol is here. You’re wet. Wet, wet, wet. You’ve got a lot of alcohol here, and you have no rules that are enforceable,” said Franklin.

Franklin added that with Bethel’s current adjusted population of just under 6,000 people, the law would allow for two package stores, two bars, and four restaurants, plus a few specialty licenses.

The timing for the current licenses is in flux. Currently none of the scheduled ABC board meetings this spring and summer meet both 60 day and 90 day requirements. There is a possibility of more meetings. The board can hold a public hearing related to objections to the license, which can be filed in writing by individuals.

Categories: Alaska News

Co-op Herring Fishery Means Fewer Boats, Quiet Year In Sitka

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:25

Most years, the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka means boats filling the harbor, crew members filling the bars, seiners jostling for position within sight of town, and spotter planes in close formation overhead. But this year fishermen voted to abandon the competitive fishery in favor of a co-op. That meant a much smaller footprint, with fewer boats, crewmen, tenders, and spotter pilots. The reason? Low prices for roe, for starters. And a strong US dollar that makes all American exports more expensive.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Artist Rie Muñoz Dies At 93

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:24

Alaska artist Rie Muñoz has died. She was 93.

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Rie Muñoz. (Photo courtesy Peter Metcalfe)

A statement from her family says Muñoz was “active and independent until her last hours.”

She was known for her colorful watercolor paintings of Alaska scenes, such as fishermen at work, children at play and life in remote villages. Her paintings, prints and reproductions are in galleries throughout North America.

Born in Van Nuys, Calif., in 1921, Muñoz first came to Alaska in 1951, traveling by steamship up the Inside Passage. She fell in love with Juneau and decided to make it her home. She held several jobs, including journalist, teacher and museum curator, before devoting herself full-time to art in 1972.

She traveled extensively in Alaska, visiting every community on the road system and several off of it.

Her experience as a teacher on King Island inspired the children’s book “King Island Christmas” by her long-time friend Jean Rogers. Muñoz illustrated the book. Rogers passed away in 2013.

Rie Muñoz is survived by her son Juan, daughter-in-law Cathy, grandchildren Mercedes and Matthew, and her brother Piet Mounier, as well as a niece and two nephews.

A celebration of life will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 23 at Centennial Hall.

Categories: Alaska News

Historic Auk Totem Pole Being Restored

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:23

The The Yax té totem is 47 feet long (Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

A 74-year-old totem pole that once stood at the Auke Recreation Area in Juneau is being restored for a second time. The Yax té pole had to be taken down in 2010 after it was damaged by woodpeckers and heavy rains. Now after being in storage for five years, it’s getting a new life.

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In 1941, The Yax té pole was carved by Frank St. Clair, a Tlingit from Hoonah as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Originally, it was intended to be one of many in an Auk Village totem park. But World War II broke out and funding dried up. Fred Fulmer, Frank St. Claire’s great-grandson, is helping with the restoration.

“Whenever great-grandpa’s pole needed to be restored redone I wanted to be a part of that. My nephew told me about Wayne over here doing the totem pole so I stopped by and he said come on over,” says Fulmer.

Wayne Price finishes painting the top of the pole (Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Wayne Price is the master carver for the restoration and has been doing this kind of work for over 43 years—making dugout canoes and totems. He’s a Tlingit from Haines and says he found his calling watching his dad.

“I remember looking up watching him carve. That’s it. That’s what I want to do. I got the opportunity to start sweeping up the wood chips,” Price says.

He’s worked on 36 different totem poles in his career, and he says the feeling he gets is the same every time.

“You walk into the room and smell the red cedar and see the tools and create the artwork that means so much and goes so far back,” he says.

In Tlingit, Yax té means “Big Dipper.” The raven sits at the top of the 47-foot tall pole. Price says it’s one of the tallest totems he’s ever worked on.

This isn’t the only time the pole has been restored. In the 90s, the base was vandalized by arson. The carver who worked on that first restoration made a startling discovery: several bullets had been shot into it. Rosa Miller is the tribal leader for the Auk Kwaan. She remembers being heartbroken seeing it in that state before.

“I don’t understand why people shoot at things like that,” Miller says. “It’s obviously there for a reason. The reason it was put there was to honor us. We are the original settlers here. The clan of the area.”

Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO

Fred Fulmer, the original carver’s great grandson, says he has childhood memories of taking care of the totem. He’s from Hoonah but when he would come to Juneau, his mom would want visit the pole at Auk Bay Village.

“She would go around and pick up garbage and start weeding. All of us would jump in and start cleaning. She didn’t say anything. She just went to it. You know, you got the cue, get in there and do that,” Fulmer says.

He’s passed on that reverence for the Yax té pole to his daughter, Yolanda.

“The feeling I get is just one of connection with my ancestors,” she says. “You know with my great-great grandfather. I can imagine the hands that worked on this pole. So it’s a real visceral feeling. I get the tingles and I get the chills.”

The restoration will be completed in the following weeks. The wings will be put back on the totem. It’s being repainted turquoise, yellow and red. Wayne Price says story poles like this one are, essentially, a history book of Native culture.

“We didn’t have paper but we carved the whole tree. This is classical example of that. Being a part of keeping that book so people can read it is very, very rewarding,” he says.

Yolanda says it’s going to be wonderful to see the pole return to its home.

“Know that our ancestors are with us and that we can sing and celebrate and bring this pole back to life,” she says.

But it might be a while before the Yax té totem returns to the Auke Recreation Area. The Juneau Ranger District is still looking for funding to put the pole back in its place.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 7, 2015

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:22

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Juneau Prison Deals With Overcrowding By Housing Women In A Tent

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska’s prison population is the third fastest growing in the country, and the prisons are over capacity. The crowding problem is especially evident at Juneau’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center where half the female inmates live outside, in a tent. Some of them actually like it, but it’s an indication of a problem one state senator is trying to fix.

Seaton Suggests Income Tax for Diversification of Revenue Sources

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Representative Paul Seaton, a Homer Republican, filed a bill Friday to bring back an income tax to Alaska. Dillingham Democrat Bryce Edgmon co-sponsored the bill.

Villages Seek Yukon, Kuskokwim Salmon Management Change

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Federal Office of Subsistence Management is holding a series of public hearings on requests for expanded federal control of salmon fishing on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

Greenpeace Protestors Board Arctic Rig

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Royal Dutch Shell is seeking a court injunction to remove Greenpeace activists who boarded a vessel carrying a Shell oil drilling rig across the Pacific.

Bethel Faces Big Decision on Local Liquor Licenses

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Bethel residents are urging the city to protest a package store license that’s before the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The Bethel Native Corporation’s Bethel Spirits LLC application was officially filed Monday morning.

Co-op Herring Fishery Means Fewer Boats, Quiet Year In Sitka

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

Most years, the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka means boats filling the harbor, crew members filling the bars, seiners jostling for position within sight of town, and spotter planes in close formation overhead. But this year fishermen voted to abandon the competitive fishery in favor of a co-op. That meant a much smaller footprint, with fewer boats, crewmen, tenders, and spotter pilots. The reason? Low prices for roe, for starters. And a strong US dollar that makes all American exports more expensive.

Alaska Artist Rie Muñoz Dies At 93

Casey Kelly & Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau
Alaska artist Rie Munoz passed away last night at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. She was 93.

Historic Auk Totem Pole Being Restored

Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau

A 74-year-old totem pole that once stood at the Auke Recreation Area in Juneau is being restored for a second time. The Yax té pole had to be taken down in 2010 after it was damaged by woodpeckers and heavy rains. Now it’s getting a new life.

Categories: Alaska News

Greenpeace Protestors Board Arctic Rig

Tue, 2015-04-07 11:26

Credit: Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace

Shell’s Arctic drill rigs have picked up some unwelcome guests on their trip across the Pacific Ocean.

On Monday, six activists from Greenpeace boarded the Polar Pioneer rig. Their goal is to raise awareness about climate change, says senior Arctic campaigner Laura Kenyon.

“We as humanity really can’t afford to drill for oil in the Arctic and we can’t afford to let Shell open production in the Chukchi Sea if we want to avoid dangerous climate changes,” Kenyon said Monday.

She was speaking from the Esperanza — a rainbow-painted, 237-foot research vessel that’s been following Shell’s Arctic rigs as they head north to Washington State. Continuing that chase to Alaska isn’t out of the question.

But for now, Greenpeace wants the group that’s actually camped out on the rig to speak for itself. The activists have been outfitted with satellite phones and wireless internet, and they’ve already started posting updates about their trip on Twitter.

“The plan is to let them use this Arctic oil drilling platform as a platform for themselves — for their messages they want to send to people,” Kenyon says.

In a statement, Shell spokesperson Megan Baldino said the company values opposing viewpoints on Arctic drilling — but they don’t support “illegal tactics” like boarding a rig.

“Nor will we allow these stunts to distract from preparations underway to execute a safe and responsible exploration program,” Baldino said.

Baldino wouldn’t comment on whether Shell will seek another injunction to keep Greenpeace away from its Arctic fleet. A federal court granted Shell a restraining order in 2012 after activists climbed onto the Noble Discoverer rig in New Zealand.

The actress who portrayed TV’s “Xena, Warrior Princess” was part of that group. But this time around, Lucy Lawless is not involved.

Categories: Alaska News

2015 Anchorage Municipal Election

Tue, 2015-04-07 11:22

Voting day is here for the 2015 Anchorage Municipal election. Click here to find your polling place and check out a sample ballot before you head to the voting booth.

Categories: Alaska News

House Passes Bill To Seize Federal Lands

Mon, 2015-04-06 17:25

Of the nearly 200 bills that have been introduced in the Alaska House of Representatives, fewer than 20 have been put to a vote. On Monday, a controversial bill that would seize millions of acres of land from the federal government joined that group. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

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To say Alaska has a complicated relationship with Washington, DC, would be an understatement. The federal government spends billions in the state, but it also owns millions of acres of land in Alaska and often manages those lands in a way that is not to the liking of the state’s leaders. Now, lawmakers are moving legislation to seize those acres, with a few exceptions.

“The bill requires that the federal government turn over the lands held by the federal government except for lands that are in private ownership, lands used for military or naval purposes or military reservations, and land that was a national park on January 1 of 2015,” said Rep. Steve Thompson, a Fairbanks Republican, while carrying the bill on the House floor.

If the bill becomes law, Alaska could lay claim to nearly 170 million acres of federal land within the state. But there may be a slight problem: The federal government may not feel legally obligated to comply with the bill.

“The Constitution says it’s illegal,” said Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat. “The Supreme Court reading the Constitutions says it’s illegal. The lawyers we pay in the Terry Miller building say it’s illegal. And our past attorney general says it’s illegal.”

Josephson cited a memo, drafted by the Legislature’s legal department, that plainly said as much. He also pointed to unintended consequences, like the state unintentionally seizing United States post offices and interfering with the delivery of mail.

“Now, some people will say, ‘Andy, this is hyperbole, and you’re overdramatizing this,'” said Josephson. “I’m just reading the words. I don’t mean to overdramatize it. I really don’t. It’s just what the words call for.”

Other opponents, like Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage, argued that the bill should not be a priority at a time when the state is facing a fiscal crisis. In Utah, such legislation is expected to cost $2 million to litigate.

“We’re facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit. We don’t have the money to litigate a bill that is 100% unconstitutional,” said Gara.

When a similar bill passed in Arizona, its Republican governor vetoed it because of its questionable legality.

But defenders of the bill pointed out that Alaskans still should be able to take the battle to court, if they want to. Referencing the Declaration of Independence, Wasilla Republican Wes Keller argued that the state had grounds to pursue the land seizure policy.

“It’s never unconstitutional to fight what’s rightfully yours,” said Keller. “That’s just part of the fundamentals of the pursuit of happiness — it’s ours, we can fight for it, whether we’re talking 5.5 acres, a million acres, or more.”

Anchorage Republican Gabrielle LeDoux noted that the state has defied the federal government by legalizing marijuana, and the federal government has not yet interfered.

“I suspect that at least some of the lawyers might say that the pot initiative was unconstitutional, and yet we’ve done that. Colorado has done that. Several other states have done that,” said LeDoux. “And guess what? The federal government blinks. If enough states do it, and enough states say what they want, and say we’re going to take it — we just might get what we want.”

The bill passed 27 to 11, on caucus lines. It will now be sent to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Haines School Restricts Yoga Pants And Saggy Pants

Mon, 2015-04-06 17:14

Haines School is now one of many around the US that have put restrictions on yoga pants and leggings. These rules have sparked discussions about appropriate school attire and personal choice.

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At Haines School, the new dress code slogan is ‘hitch up your britches and cover your bums.’ Students who wear leggings or yoga pants must wear a long shirt or skirt that covers their rear. And students whose pants sag are reminded to pull up their britches.

Dean of Students Rene Martin says this was the problem: some students were wearing leggings and yoga pants that were see-through, and there were also some boys who wore pants that sagged and showed their underwear.

“Quite honestly, no one needs to know what underclothing you have on,” Martin said. “And when you can see or not see underclothing, that is impacting education setting. Both for males and females and staff and teachers and visitors to our building. It’s a distraction.”

She says she talked to individual students about it, but they kept wearing the same thing.

“You know, I was giving them a chance, giving them a chance,” Martin said. “And then it’s like the day I had to see everybody’s something-something, I was like, ‘okay, it’s time.’”

The week before spring break, the school made an announcement: Students wearing baggy pants, pull them up and wear a belt. Students who want to wear yoga pants or leggings, wear a shirt or skirt that covers your butt. They said the updated restrictions would go into effect after spring break.

Martin says this isn’t a change to dress code policy, but an update. The dress code states: “Undergarments including bra straps and sports bras, underwear, are not to be visible.”

The “hitch up your britches and cover your bum” update applies to all grades, Kindergarten through 12. Martin says even though see-through or baggy pants weren’t a problem in younger grades, it’s just more equitable to apply restrictions throughout the whole school.

A group of high school students sitting together at lunch last week said they think the rule is mainly targeted at girls who wear yoga pants and leggings. The saggy pants restrictions aren’t new.

“I don’t really care. I’m a jeans person. I don’t wear leggings, I don’t wear yoga pants as often,” said Gabrielle Galinski.

Rachel Haas says she does wear leggings and yoga pants.

“Since we’re going through high school,  everyone’s having their own body issues — like gaining weight and stuff like that,” she said. “And some people grow out of their jeans and leggings are just way cheaper. So that kind of made me mad.”

Rachel is wearing a long, knee-length rainbow sweater. She says she’s worn the sweater almost every day in order to keep wearing leggings.

A group of middle school girls across the cafeteria had even stronger feelings about the rule. Ashley Williamson says not all yoga pants are see-through, so why put restrictions on them all? She also feels like the dress code rules are unfairly enforced.

“The authorities are nagging on girls for, like, leggings but there are also guys who sag their pants. I’ve never heard any teacher talk to them about that, ever.”

Ashley and her friends say a rule that focuses on whether or not your butt is covered makes them uncomfortable. One girl put it this way: “When someone says you need to cover your butt, I’m like, ‘why were you looking at my butt in the first place?’”

“I walked in one morning and I heard several people in the hallways arguing about the rollout of the policy,” said high school English teacher Ryan Harms. He says when he heard how fired up some students were about the dress code, he decided to have class discussions about it.

“[Students said things] ranging from the sense of victimization as a woman that they’re being sort of objectified. And then there were other people who said ‘It’s not a big deal, I’m not violating the dress code anyway so it doesn’t affect me.’”

Martin says only one student has come to her with concerns about the dress code.

“Their biggest concern was, are we picking on the girls for what they’re wearing? And that it should never matter what you’re wearing, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed,” Martin said. “And I reassured them that it wasn’t about personal choice of clothing, it wasn’t about shaming them for what they’re wearing. It’s about professionalism in an educational setting, and appropriate wear for this setting.”

A few years ago, the student council appealed a dress code rule banning hats. And now, high schoolers are allowed to wear hats in the building. Martin says if students want to change dress code restrictions, that’s the way they can do it.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 6, 2015

Mon, 2015-04-06 17:12

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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Bill To Seize Federal Land Goes To Vote In Alaska House

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Of the nearly 200 bills that have been introduced in the Alaska House of Representatives, fewer than 20 have been put to a vote. Monday, a controversial bill that would seize millions of acres of land from the federal government joined that group.

Anchorage School Board considers wide-ranging budget cuts

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage School Board is discussing the possible ways to cut $29 million from their budget for next year. The $784 million budget passed last month, but needs to be adjusted for proposed funding cuts from the legislature.

School District Faces Potential Revenue Loss of $8 Million

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing a potential revenue loss of nearly eight million dollars, if current proposed budget cuts stand. That’s more than double the three million dollar cut the district was already preparing for.

Dalton Highway Closed South Of Deadhorse

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The far northern end of the Dalton Highway will remain closed until Tuesday morning.  The section south of Deadhorse, was also closed for 2 days last week as overflow from the Sag River continues to impact the only road supply route for North Slope oil fields.

First Two VPSOs Graduate From Firearm Training

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

Two Village Public Safety Officers graduated from firearm training Friday, becoming the first officers in the 40-year history of the program to be armed.

New Version Of Erin’s Law Targets Teen Dating Violence

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The latest version of a law to mandate sexual abuse prevention education in public schools is unlikely to reach the governor’s desk this year.

That’s according to Senate Rules Committee chair Charlie Huggins, who said in a committee Thursday that an expanded version of Erin’s Law would likely be a two-year bill. Sen. Lesil McGuire’s rebranded Alaska Safe Children’s Act includes teen dating violence prevention.

Community Potluck Shows Support For Local Refugees

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

More than 200 people crowded into the main hall of Northway Mall in Anchorage on Saturday afternoon to show their support for Anchorage’s refugee community. The event was organized in response to vandalism aimed at Sudanese refugees.

Chief Mat-Su Medical Services Official Resigns

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A February union complaint has resulted in the resignation of the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s chief medical services official.  Clint Vardeman handed in his resignation Monday. Vardeman directs the Borough’s emergency responders.  His resignation is effective April 20.

Haines School Restricts Yoga Pants And Saggy Pants

Emily Files, KHNS – Haines

At the Haines School, the new dress code slogan is ‘hitch up your britches and cover your bums.” The school is now one of many around the US that have put restrictions on yoga pants and leggings. And the new rule has sparked discussions about appropriate school attire and personal choice.

Cim Smyth Wins The Kobuk 440

Francesca Fenzi, KNOM – Nome

Big Lake musher Cim Smith won the Kobuk 440 sled dog race this weekend.

Categories: Alaska News

Chief Mat-Su Medical Services Official Resigns

Mon, 2015-04-06 16:50

A February union complaint has resulted in the resignation of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s chief medical services official. Clint Vardeman handed in his resignation today Monday. Vardeman directs the Borough’s emergency responders. His resignation is effective April 20.

Vardeman and two other Borough emergency services officials were placed on administrative leave last month. The others are Brian Wallace, head of EMS in the Wasilla-Palmer area, and Gene Wiseman, who heads response for more rural parts of the Borough.

Borough officials are saying little about the reasons for Vardeman’s departure, or about the complaint that seems to have sparked it. An internal investigation is ongoing.

Last month, Dennis Brodigan resigned his job as director of the Borough’s Emergency Services department, citing personal reasons.

Big Lake Fire Chief Bill Gamble has been named inerim replacement for Brodigan and Casey Cook, the Borough’s emergency manager for disaster planning, is to be Vardeman’s interim replacement.

Categories: Alaska News

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