Bikers obliterated a previous course record in this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational. The first riders pedaled across the finish line Wednesday morning to complete the 350 mile race between Knik and McGrath. Four of the race’s top five finishers this year are all cyclists from Alaska.
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Thursday evening, 15 women will be inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Anchorage. The recognition of women’s contributions to the state started in 2008 during the 50th anniversary of statehood.
Former Anchorage Assembly chair and prior year inductee Jane Angvik is on the steering committee. She says women from several service organizations decided the statehood celebration was a good time to honor great Alaskan women.
“How do we make sure that we find the women who have made a difference in Alaska in any field, in any community activities or who made a difference statewide or impacted the nation, from Alaska,” Angvik said.
This is the fifth year of recognizing those contributions. There are 15 women being inducted Thursday evening bringing the total to 110. One of the inductees is Judge Karen Hunt. Judge Hunt was the first female superior court judge appointed in Anchorage in 1984. She was a teacher in Los Angeles schools but decided to go to law school in the 60s. She says things have changed dramatically from the time when the big issue was whether women could work in a private firm.
“Pretty much the federal government was hiring, the state government was hiring and so the entry for many women into the practice of law was in government agencies. But trying to get a job in a private firm, in which you would face the responsibility of meeting face to face with clients was a hurdle that women lawyers were having trouble getting over,” Hunt said.
Judge Hunt was appointed by Governor Bill Sheffield. After years of being a trial attorney, she says the first day she entered court as a judge and everyone stood up. She turned around to see who was behind her and then, embarrassed, realized she was the reason they were standing. She says being inducted into the hall of fame is humbling.
“I have a little trouble thinking that I belong in that group, but I have to tell you that I’m extraordinarily pleased to have been considered and included. It’s, it’s quite humbling,” Hunt said.
Marie Nash is another inductee this year. She is of Aleut and Japanese descent and was born in a Japanese internment camp during World War Two. After college, Nash first worked for Alaska Congressman Howard Pollack. She went on to spend 20 years working for Senator Ted Stevens.
Nash also served on the Bristol Bay Native Association board for more than a decade. From her early beginnings as an American whose rights were stripped because of her heritage to working for a powerful U.S. Senator, Marie Nash is happy to be inducted.
“Well I was surprised and like Judge Hunt, very humbled,” Nash said.
The Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Thursday evening at 6 p.m., at the Wilda Marston Theater, in the Loussac Library in Anchorage.
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The judge in the John Nick Marvin, Jr. case has turned down a request for a new trial which could have led to a shortened sentence for the murder of two police officers.
Sitka Superior Court Judge David George on Thursday declined to set aside earlier findings that one of the Hoonah police officers was actually in performance of his official duties when he was shot over two years ago.
Judge George also denied a companion motion for a new trial to determine whether Sargent Anthony Wallace was actually performing those duties when he was chatting with a colleague’s children on Front Street in Hoonah.
Public defender Eric Hedland filed the motions following last November’s trial in which Marvin was convicted in the murder of Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka. Both were killed during the August 28, 2010 shooting.
Marvin could be sentenced to anywhere from 20- to 99-years for Tokuoka’s murder, but a straight 99-years for Wallace’s murder because the sentence for a first degree murder of a peace officer is defined in statute.
Wallace, although in uniform, was socializing with the Tokuoka family at the time of the shooting. Hedland argued that was not part of his official duties.
Marvin’s sentencing is still scheduled for April 5th.
New Lynn Canal shuttle ferries will be 280 feet long, seat about 300 passengers and operate no more than 12 hours a day.
Part, but not all, of the car deck may be open. And the ships will have no staterooms or crew quarters.
That’s according to a draft design-concept report prepared for the Alaska Marine Highway System by Anchorage-based Coastwise Corporation.
Officials say it’s one of several steps in the design process for what’s being called the Day Boat-Alaska Class Ferry.The shuttle plan replaces an earlier Alaska Class design that called for a larger vessel that could sail longer routes.
Deputy Transportation Commissioner Reuben Yost says amenities will be limited, including food service.
“What we envision at this point of time is vending machines. So it would be similar to what we have on the fast ferries, in terms of amenities. So there won’t be a cafeteria, there won’t be cooked for but there will be food in machines and drinks in machines most likely,” Yost says.
Hulls and decks will be configured so vehicles can drive in one end and out the other, for quicker loading and unloading.
Yost says the ships could carry 53 large vehicles, but not all would be under cover.
“Essentially the vehicle space for the last 15 vehicles, if the car deck was full, would be in an area that we’re saying potentially could have an open roof,” he says.
Yost says high walls and other design elements will protect against ocean spray. He also says the vehicle deck is usually not full in winter months when wind and waves are at their worst.
Marine Highway General Manager John Falvey says the ships will be designed for Lynn Canal’s harsh conditions. For example, they’ll lack sponsons, which project from the side of the hull.
“It will not have the sponsons forward, which eliminates a lot of the slamming and potentially a very flared … bow which will deflect the spray. We feel that a vessel of these characteristics will have very good sea-keeping ability,” Falvey says.
They would be built to sail at an average speed of 15-and-a-half knots. That’s about the same as other ships in the fleet, except the fast ferries.
The design document estimates the final design could be completed by next November. And officials hope to keep costs within the $117 million put aside by the state.
Falvey says plans are to build two identical vessels.
“The shipyard is, in essence, lofted up and tooled up as far as their particular class of vessel that they’re building. You can throw a lessons learned and experience factor into the second vessel. There are actually many savings we will be able to see on the second vessel if we are able to sign a two-ship contract with the shipyard,” he says.
The draft plan will be presented to the Marine Transportation Advisory Board and the House and Senate Transportation Committees this week.
Opportunities for public comment will come later in the process.
After a decade of review, the Anchorage Assembly passed Title 21 Tuesday night.
Several versions of the Assembly have been revising Title 21, or Anchorage land-use law, for about 10 years. At their regular meeting Tuesday night the current assembly finally approved it, with more than 150 amendments. One major revision was the elimination of all commercial design standards, with an exception for big box stores. Assembly member Bill Starr spoke in support of the amendment.
“And if buildings become ugly, unsafe, unusable, too icy, to slippery, I think tenants won’t move into them. That’s the other motivation there, let the free market do it’s work. I’m gonna support the deletion of this small section and I think the industry can police itself,” Starr said.
The amendment was submitted by Assembly member Chris Birch. It passed 6-5. The design standards that were deleted called for windows that are visible from streets, clear entryways and easier pedestrian access. Municipal planners were in favor of them. Besides Trombley and Birch, Assembly members Bill Starr, Cheryl Frasca, Ernie Hall and Jennifer Johnston voted in favor of the amendment. The Title 21 process began back in the early 2000s and included a chance for the public could weight in on how they wanted the city to grow and develop. It was linked to the city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan, Anchorage 2020, which was meant to serve as a blueprint for 20 years. When Mayor Dan Sullivan came into office he began a review Title 21, using consultants. Critics say the process was directed away from the goals of 2020 and ended up being taken over by special interests.
Another major change was the decision to allow mother-in-law apartments on single family residential lots. Ossiander proposed the amendment. Gray-Jackson spoke out against it.
“This is a real big change and we really need more public discussion on this issue. And to go ahead and approve this amendment right now, I think, disenfranchises our community and I think it’s just simply not fair,” Gray-Jackson said.
The amendment passed 8-3.
Assembly member Patrick Flynn proposed amendments that would have limited invasive plants and trees, but they were shot down. He also proposed an amendment that would have made stream setbacks 50 feet versus 25. Ossiander was concerned that municipal stream-mapping was poor. She said she wanted to wait six months for a study to come out that would provide more information. That didn’t fly with Flynn.
“Jumpin’ Jimminy Cricket on a Pogo stick. We have been working on this for 10 years! Now we want six more months. Please, as much fun as this is, let’s just be done with it,” Flynn said.
There was a an exception for existing homes that were built closer to streams. The amendments was voted down 7-4 with Flynn, Traini, Honeman and Gray-Jackson voting in support of larger setbacks.
Another big issue was lighting. Assembly member Johnston proposed an amendment that allowed lower lighting on some streets in more rural areas. The assembly passed it. Then Mayor Sullivan vetoed it. Some assembly members said lower lighting was more appropriate in rural areas, despite the concerns of attorneys. The Assembly overrode the mayor 8-3, with Traini, Honeman and Gray-Jackson supporting the Mayor.
There was also a push by Trombley for to allow electronic signs to flash messages every two seconds instead of every 20 seconds, but it was voted down.
Former Assembly member and previous Planning Director, Dr. Sheila Selkregg, says the Title 21 passed Tuesday night has taken a U-turn away from the direction of Anchorage 2020. The deletion of commercials design standards, in particular, she says, will have dire consequences for the look and feel of the city.
“It means you can pretty much build any kind of design you want on a building. It can be as ugly and and as cheap as possible and you don’t have to meet any expectations.”
Selkregg says she’s disappointed that the Assembly didn’t listen to the public who turned out in numbers to recent public testimony to ask for a return to a provisionally adopted version of Title 21. She says the passage of the amended version can be attributed to one source.
“Big business owners, big property owners, BOMA, who don’t want to pay taxes, they don’t want to be told what to do — they really want to be able to do anything that they want in this town. They’re demonstrating that they’ve really put energy into political candidates and it’s paying off for them. And I think if the public wants something different, they need to get engaged and elect people that expresses their interests,” Selkregg said.
In the end the Assembly passed Title 21, 9 to 2, with Trombly and Flynn the only nay votes.
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Eighty-five billion dollars in federal budget cuts are set to begin Friday.
The U.S. Senate will debate competing measures to replace the cuts on Wednesday, but neither will become law.
The National Park Service is slated to lose 5 percent of its budget, and that would trickle down to every park in Alaska.
On a conference call Monday afternoon, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar laid out what a 5 percent cut to national park spending would look like.
“Reduced hours of operation for visitors centers, shorter seasons, closing of campgrounds, hiking trails and other recreational areas when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, the staff and resources,” Salazar said.
Salazar was joined by director of the National Park Service, John Jarvis.
Jarvis says a 5 percent cut means fewer seasonal workers, highly skilled workers who fight forest fires and perform search and rescues.
“As a consequence we may be reducing access to some areas because of that concern, if we can’t respond, and we don’t really want the public getting into trouble,” Jarvis said.
To some in Washington, the cuts seem a bit draconian. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski says the White House is selecting cuts that people note.
“Is it a Washington Monument syndrome? Yes it absolutely is,” Murkowski said.
The Washington Monument syndrome – the DC term for cutting tourist attractions and popular government services so people take notice.
It may as well be called the Denali National Park syndrome in Alaska, but it’s unclear whether a 5 percent cut to Denali would affect the day-to-day operations just yet.
“This didn’t sneak up on us by any stretch of the imagination,” Don Striker, the superintendent of Denali, said.
Striker has been on the job about a month, coming north from the New River Gorge in West Virginia. But he’s been with the National Park Service for decades.
“The sequestration planning exercises started early last year,” Striker said.
Though it wasn’t formal, Striker says the Park Service warned him last month he’ll need to present a plan on how to operate at 95 percent.
He was prepared. Striker says Denali is operating at about 80 percent employment now. He hasn’t wanted to fill those positions, fearing the new hires would soon be laid off, or furloughed.
Striker’s 5 percent cut will be absorbed by the vacancies – meaning he won’t hire to full capacity. But he won’t need to furlough anyone either. NPS officials say that’s the case for the entire state.
If furloughs eventually come, they’ll need a 30-day advance notice.
Striker says Denali pumps at least $150 million into the state economy through vendors and seasonal companies – like the buses that take people to see Wonder Lake.
“We can’t get the road open unless we have the seasonal employees we need to plow it open, and because of the nature of the hiring process I need to be deciding by next week which positions I’m going to be hiring,” Striker said. “And I need to be making those job offers in order to get the people here in time to start plowing the roads.”
But there’s a hiring freeze. He says he needs to know which seasonal positions he’ll be able to fill in two weeks, otherwise the May 15 opening date is in jeopardy.
It’s unclear whether Secretary Salazar required other Interior agencies to detail a 5 percent reduction in operating expenses.
Jim Stratton is the regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“You’re not going to fix America’s budget problems on the backs of the National Park Service,” Stratton said. “It’s 1/14th of 1 percent of the discretionary money in the budget.”
But if the cuts happen, and Congress delays a solution, that small sliver of the budget could help Congress to act.
In the meantime, Denali Superintendent Don Striker says he’s prepared to plow the roads if he has to. But he really doesn’t want to.
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When he ran for the Alaska House last year, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins visited each community in his district, knocking on almost every door. The strategy paid off. The 24-year-old Democrat won a seat in the Legislature by just 32 votes.
And now that he’s been on the job six weeks, it’s becoming clear that Kreiss-Tomkins’ busy campaign schedule wasn’t a sprint, so much as the start of a marathon.
The early morning hours in state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins’ office, on the fourth floor of the Alaska Capitol, are actually pretty calm. Coffee is dripping into a pot near the door, and classical music plays softly from a speaker as staffers Nancy Barnes, Tully McLoughlin and Holly Smith pore over calendars and answer e-mails. The calm does not last long.
Kreiss-Tomkins arrives out of breath and wearing most of his suit — the jacket and tie are waiting for him in his office. There’s a strap around his right ankle to keep his pants free from the chain on the bicycle he rides to work every morning.
Kreiss-Tomkins represents Alaska’s 34th district — a collection of communities in Southeast that include Sitka, Haines, Angoon, Kake, Craig, Kalwock, Metlakatla and more.
Today, the 24-year-old freshman Democrat gets to the Capitol at 7:55 a.m. with two meetings already under his belt: one at 6 a.m., the other at 7:30. Next on the schedule is a committee meeting.
Kreiss-Tomkins puts on his tie and jacket, and dashes down the hall to the staircase. He says the frenetic pace of today is typical.
“Well, there’s not enough time in the building during the business day, so I’ve taken to scheduling 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. morning meetings,” Kreiss-Tomkins says as he walks down the Capitol’s main staircase.
He ducks into the State Affairs committee. Today, it’s a presentation on the health care system for state employees. The rest of the day includes a Fisheries committee meeting on derelict vessels, a minority caucus meeting, a flash mob protesting violence against women, a Transportation Committee meeting, and then a variety of visits with an official from BP, and local elected leaders from Anaktuvik Pass, Haines, Pelican and Sitka, all of whom are in the building today to lobby their lawmakers.
About eight hours later, after running down to the legislator’s lounge for his first food of the day, and then running back up to his office, holding some food he calls “breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he finally has time to sit down and talk.
KCAW: How is having the job different than running for the job?
Kreiss-Tomkins: If I closed my eyes when I was a candidate, I couldn’t picture that I’d be waking up at 5:45 to get down to the 6 a.m. meeting, to get to this, to get to that. Going to the lounge to scrounge some leftovers… none of that would have been in my mind. I never could have pictured that, unless I worked here as a staffer, which I never did.
KCAW: What’s the bigger challenge to the way you’re doing your job? Being a freshman, or being in the minority?
Kreiss-Tomkins: Everything is a learning curve. The biggest divide in this building, from what I’ve seen, is not party affiliation, it’s geography. It’s coastal versus rail belt. Juneau is not Washington, D.C. The biggest surprise I’ve had since coming here — and I very consciously tried not to have expectations before coming here — is how collegial this place is. It’s surprisingly bipartisan. There are very meaningful working relationships.
KCAW: During the campaign, one of the primary arguments not to vote for you was that Southeast would be giving up a lot of power if you were elected. Do you feel that’s happened? How’s that shaken out?
Kreiss-Tomkins: Yeah. Southeast, and coastal Alaska — we think in terms of Southeast Alaska, but really, our compatriots from Kodiak and Bristol Bay and the Y-K Delta are just as important to our cause as we are to theirs — lost a tremendous amount of power. And I would argue, and I think almost everybody in this building would agree, that the biggest powershift was not the defeat of Bill Thomas, who I ran against, but the loss of the Senate coalition.
The Senate’s bipartisan coalition was disbanded after Republicans won more seats in November. Kreiss-Tomkins says that the bipartisan coalition was also the Legislature’s coastal caucus. The three most powerful senators in the last session came from coastal communities: Kodiak, Sitka and Bethel.
In this session, he worries those coastal voices are diminished. And as a freshman in the minority, Kreiss-Tomkins doesn’t have a lot of power in the halls of the Capitol. But he says for now, he’s just focusing on doing his job well.
KCAW: Assuming you do want re-election, what do you hope you can tell people in 2014 at the end of your first term, and how are you going to get there?
Kreiss-Tomkins: I’m running for re-election. I believe good government is good politics. So performing in this job to the fullest extent of my ability and working absolutely as hard and as smart and as effective as I can, is the best way in which I can make a bid to have my job for two more years — another two year lease.
KCAW: This job seems very personal to you.
Kreiss-Tomkins: Deeply personal. You’re representing people. People’s lives. The legislation we pass affects people’s lives. I can’t imagine more heady stuff day-to-day to consider.
Our interview ended around 6 p.m., after which Kreiss-Tomkins went to a budget hearing before boarding a ferry for an overnight sailing to Kake. After that, it was back to Juneau, for the start of another week running through the halls of the Capitol, sometimes literally.
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Last year, chinook salmon runs were so weak that the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, along with Cook Inlet, were designated federal disaster zones. Now, a group of legislators from those regions want to create a permanent endowment that would fund research on the fish.
Rep. Bob Herron of Bethel is the lead sponsor of the endowment bill, and he introduced it before the House fisheries committee on Tuesday. He says that long-term research of chinook is needed to better understand their decline — and the decline of other salmon stocks as well.
“The chinook salmon is a trend species,” says Herron. “In other words, it’s the canary in the coal mine. If there’s things affecting chinook, usually it’s the species that tells us that there are issues within its life environment, and the other salmon species may follow unless we do something about it.”
The endowment fund would be governed by six representatives from different regions of state, along with the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That board would be responsible for awarding grants to organizations like non-profits and universities studying chinook salmon. The bill doesn’t mandate that any money be put into the endowment, with the idea that it could be funded down the road.
Herron sees the bill as being different from a research plan back by Gov. Sean Parnell. Parnell’s initiative would give Fish and Game a total of $30 million over the next five years to examine and monitor Alaska’s chinook stocks. Herron says he wants to see partnerships with outside organizations, and for the chinook decline to be studied for a longer amount of time than one salmon life cycle.
“That’s where the governor and I part ways, because I’m not so sure that we want to just dump $10 million over the next three years,” says Herron.
This isn’t the first time the legislature has considered creating a chinook research fund. Herron introduced a similar bill last year before the disaster, but it ultimately stalled.
According to state estimates, fishermen suffered over $10 million in damages as a result of the Chinook disaster.
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Studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Government Accounting Office show increasing numbers of Alaskans will be affected by floods and erosion in coming years due to rising waters and extreme weather events. And the studies predict some communities are likely to be destroyed by 2017.
Of those, Newtok is the furthest along in relocating. But an Anchorage human rights attorney says changes are needed so agencies can more effectively help people being dislocated due to the impacts of climate change.
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A 727 Fed Ex plane landed at Merrill Field near downtown Anchorage at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The cargo company donated the plane to the University of Alaska Anchorage’s aviation maintenance program. It will be housed at Merrill Field.
The spectacle of seeing such a big jet land at a small plane airport in the middle of the city drew dozens of people to the nearby Northway Mall. The mall parking lot was directly under the flight path of the approaching jet.
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Nick Golodoff, author of the book Attu Boy, passed away earlier this month at the age of 77. His memoir about the World War II internment of the Aleut village by the Japanese brought attention to one of the most obscure corners of American history.
As he told KUCB in an interview last year, he was born on the western Aleutian island of Agattu in December 1935, while his parents were fox trapping.
“But I was really from Attu, so I grew up to the age of six in Attu, and never once lived there ever again, because Japanese took me to Japan when I was six years old.”
Golodoff remembered the day the Japanese landed. He was following an older boy toward the beach when he heard unfamiliar sounds.
“Alex Prossoff is the one I was following, and he started running and I ran after him. And I see pieces of mud flying in front of me. I didn’t know why the piece of mud was flying, until later, so much later, I found out it was bullets that were hitting the ground.”
The Japanese occupied the village for nearly three months before putting the Attuans on a freighter. They spent the whole journey in the cargo hold.
“I don’t know how long we’ve been in the hatch, but when we got to Tokyo, they let us out and look around. And then put us back down and took us to Hokkaido, and that’s where they left us.”
The villagers spent three years teetering on the edge of starvation. Although Golodoff was among the 25 Attuans who survived the internment, he never returned to the island. The U.S. government forced families to resettle in Atka, 600 miles to the east. Golodoff went to school there, and spent lots of time outdoors.
“I used to hunt every day, I used to walk all day,” Golodoff said. “Pack a whole reindeer home from miles away. I used to leave in the morning and home at dark. Until I got a boat. I built my own wooden boat, bought the oars and used to oar, row and hunt like that until I got a motor. I used to hunt all the time.”
In his teens, Golodoff started working seasonally in the Pribilof Islands, harvesting fur seals. Later on he worked at the Atka airport, and for the last 30 years was a maintenance worker at the school.
“NG:They don’t want to fire me because they can’t find my replacement. [laughs]
SJ: Do you ever talk to the kids in the school about your experiences?
NG: No, no. Some teachers want me to do that, but I cannot speak in public, I’m not used to that. I never did that in my life, so I don’t know how to do it.”
Instead, Golodoff wrote down his story with the help of his granddaughter, Brenda Maly, and National Park Service anthropologist Rachel Mason.
Mason says the Attuans’ story never would have been told otherwise, because the older survivors didn’t talk about it.
“And his perspective was different.For example, he had very warm feelings towards Japanese people. And he’s pictured on the cover of Attu Boy as a small child riding on the back of a Japanese soldier. So the eyes of a child were really unique.”
Mason also credits Golodoff with bringing together the descendants of Attu survivors during a reunion organized by the National Park Service last year.
“At one of the events at the Attu reunion, he was signing his book. And it was just such a symbol of their pride in being from Attu, in the fact that Nick, the oldest person that had actually lived on Attu, had produced this memoir that told the story of their community. So, I think it’s a big loss, and yet I’m happy that he was able to be there and to be that symbol of unity for them.”
Golodoff will be laid to rest in Atka.
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The Ukelele, or more properly pronounced, OOO kalele, originated in Hawaii in the nineteenth century. The small, four stringed instrument was influenced by Portuguese immigrants on the Islands. By the early 20th century, the ukelele reached the United States. These days, its distinctive sound is showing up in pop music
Young ukelele virtuosos, like Jake Shimabukuro, are using YouTube and their own websites to widen the tiny instruments’s appeal to the general public
You’re hearing Jake Shimabukuro now, who’s no slouch when it comes to bending the ukelele’s strings.
Jake shreds, and one of his biggest fans is none other than Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe who, when not on the bench, plays the ukelele herself. She says it runs in her family.
”Dad was a lifelong learner and he took piano lessons with us and he taught us to play the ukelele.”
She and her sister played as kids
” He told us that if we knew three or four chords, we could play any song. So we learned those basic chords and learned to play from him.”
She likes ukelele’s so much she owns three of them. The Chief Justice says it’s an easy instrument to learn.
She often gives them to friends as gifts. And she leads others within Anchorage’s legal circle for regular ukelele jams that go on for hours
”Partly it was motivated by selfish reasons, that I wanted people to play with. “
Retired judge Elaine Andrews is part of the ukelele gang. We’re in Andrews kitchen while she practices. Andrews says she’s no virtuoso, but she’s hooked on the instrument
”The people who play it tend to put their forefinger and their thumb together and strum in that fashion”… (music ambience ). ” It has a lovely tone. When I first picked this up, they just kept telling me, if you just pick up two or three chords, including a C that takes one finger, an F that takes two fingers, and a G.. with those three chords, you can play a song. “
The group calls itself Ukealaska, and has put together its own songbook, chock full of old favorites. Andrews strums the chords to “Mack the Knife”.
“It’s like a tumbleweed, [it] keeps picking up people who, either have an interest, or they used to play it when they were younger, and they want to get into it. We have such a wide range of talent, and it is a very accepting, non-judgemental group, people just show up.”]
Attorney Barb Malchek is a mainstay of the group. She too played as a child. Now she’s got several ukeleles.. bass, tenor, soprano and classical.
“And the first time I can ever remember playing a ukelele, I was in seventh grade. And we must have had one hanging around the house, and I picked it up, and then my cross the street neighbor and I came in second in the school talent show playing our intstruments and singing. And I can’t really remember ever playing it again after that.”
But in later life, she picked it up again. Malchek remembers how the ukelele band got started over dinner at Chief Justice Dana Fabe’s house
..”and she mentioned that she mentioned that she plays the ukelele, so Dana pulled out her ukelele’s and we just started strumming. And it just came back right away. So we were playing a little bit and that was really kind of the beginning of our group. And then she invited these other friends of hers, a lot of whom are judges or ex-judges, and it was very intimidating for me, at first. I mean, these are the people I am used to calling ‘your honor’ , but, I don’t know, the ukelele is kind of the great equalizer. “
Malchek owns several of them these days.. one’s even electric. She picks it up and gives it a strum. The sound is irresistable and fills the room.
She plays a tag line a Hawaiin elder showed her how to do once.
Chief Justice Fabe says the ukelele can accompany any kind of music –pop, jazz, folk
“And it’s a very forgiving instrument, you don’t have to be playing it for very long and get a great sound out of it. “
Ukelele actually means ” jumping flea” in Hawaiian, and despite its growing versatility, will ever be synonymous with the Islands. I’m Ellen Lockyer