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Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee has advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would make the state attorney general an elected, rather than appointed, position.
Proposed constitutional changes require a two-thirds vote in each the House and Senate before qualifying for the ballot. That means HJR18 would need at least 27 votes in the House.
Under the proposal, a person would not be eligible to serve as attorney general unless that person is an active member of the state bar association. The proposal also lays out terms for filling a vacancy.
JUNEAU — The House State Affairs Committee Thursday moved a bill adding the grizzly bear to the list of options people can choose for an Alaska license plate.
House Bill 293, sponsored by Republican Rep. Peggy Wilson of Wrangell, gives Alaska residents the option of having the bear on their license plates. The bill calls for a repeat of the bear design used on the 1976 Alaska vehicle tag.
Rep. Wes Keller of Wasilla said Alaska vehicle plates are seen as a symbol of state pride and promote the state when vehicles are driven in other parts of the country.
ANCHORAGE — Three young men have been arrested in connection with a car vandalism spree in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Daily News said 19-year-old Elijah Dutton, 20-year-old Evan Young and a 17-year-old boy were arrested Wednesday on criminal mischief charges.
Authorities say at least 50 vehicles that were randomly targeted in five neighborhoods early Wednesday.
Police say additional charges could come and more people could have been involved.
The three were arrested after they were found with a pickup truck described by a person who called police.
JUNEAU — Alaska’s Department of Law has raised concerns with a bill that would allow defendants to question the merits of a law and urge a not-guilty vote by juries, regardless of the evidence.
Annie Carpeneti, with the department’s criminal division, told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday that the bill would create for unfair trials.
JUNEAU — An 18-year-old woman has died in a Juneau traffic collision with a semi- truck that left a 20-year-old man in critical condition.
Juneau police say Jessica Louise Billy was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash reported shortly after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Billy was one of two passengers in a 1999 Honda CRV driven by an 18-year-old man.
Police say the Honda was heading south on Yandukin Road when it went to turn left onto Old Dairy Road. Police say the Honda failed to stop for an oncoming semi-truck.
JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate has passed legislation that would criminalize distribution or publication of audio or video recordings of an interview of a child gathered during a child abuse investigation.
SB187, from Sen. John Coghill, passed 19-0. It next goes to the House.
Coghill, in a release, says the bill is based on a situation that happened in Alaska in which video of children being interviewed in an abuse investigation was posted online. He says no child should have to be revictimized.
JUNEAU — The Senate Judiciary Committee has moved a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the federal constitution.
House Joint Resolution 22, sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, requests the U.S. Congress to call a convention to consider limiting jurisdiction of the federal government, term limits for federal offices and fiscal restraints to be imposed upon the federal budget.
FAIRBANKS — The director of the Alaska’s Air Quality Division says Fairbanks is making progress toward cleaner air but could be classified as a “serious” offender in 2015.
Alice Edwards says Fairbanks can meet federal air pollution standards by 2019 but may not reach a 20 percent reduction in particulate pollution by next year.
High levels of particulate are linked to respiratory problems and heart attacks. Wood stove emissions cause most of the pollution.
As fall transitions to winter each year, legislators want Alaskans to remember a Tlingit Native of the Raven clan who devoted much of his life to advancing Alaskan Natives’ civil rights.
The state House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to set aside Nov. 14 each year as Dr. Walter Soboleff Day. Soboleff died at age 102 in 2011. He was born Nov. 14, 1908.
“Celebrating Dr. Soboleff every year will be a fitting honor to this wonderful statesman and his family,” said Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
JUNEAU — The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday unveiled a $9.2 billion state operating budget, details for which were still being finalized before the bill advances to the floor.
Amendments, including one related to tentative labor agreements, were expected to be taken up Friday, said co-chair Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks.
SCVB director Tonia Rioux told the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that Facebook was now her third largest source for inquiries about the community. There are over 13,000 people following and sharing the SCVB’s posts on Facebook — roughly double the number at the beginning of 2013.
In her presentation, Rioux emphasized that relationships — in whatever form — were an important tool for marketing a destination like Sitka. Hosting the Alaska Travel Industry Association convention last October sent a message that Sitka is capable of more than what many in the industry expected, and that the connections people made within the community can be converted into advertising value.
Here are some of her remarks on the power of word-of-mouth.
We’re a destination marketing organization. They expect us to say, Sitka’s amazing! You should come here! That’s our job, right? But when other people are recommending Sitka, when other people say what a special place this is and have amazing experiences, and tell other people about it, that’s where the value really lies. So this year the SCVB is going to be focusing on number 1, communications outside of Sitka and sparking interest. A more focused communication stream with media and travel writers. Because travel writers have the ability to spark interest in a different kind of way than we can. When there’s a feature article about Sitka in a magazine, it’s a recommendation from a writer who came here. It’s their opinion. So that’s extremely valuable. And the conversion rate, if you have a two-page feature publication on your destination in a major magazine, that could equate to $20,000-40,000 of advertising, if you were to purchase that as an ad. It’s a really big bang for our buck.
Besides increasing Sitka’s reach on social media last year, Rioux said the SCVB helped bring more actual people. There were 15 groups who held meetings in 2013, with a total of 1,425 people, and an estimated economic impact of $1.5-million.
Thursday morning’s (3-27-14) live test of the state’s Tsunami Warning System went pretty well — except many people didn’t realize it was a test.
Most of us are accustomed to hearing the words “This is a test” with the routine monthly broadcasts. This message however, was triggered using so-called “live codes.”
Jeremy Zidek is the public information officer with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“The live code has a little bit different message that is broadcast over televisions and radios. It really enables us to see the reach and effectiveness of those live codes before there is an event that happens.”
The test — at least as heard over coastal public radio stations — gave a rundown of warning areas. It was eerily similar to what we heard following the earthquake in January 2013 — because it was that message, more or less.
According to Joel Curtis with the National Weather Service, the message that was broadcast was an actual warning “template,” which overwrote the warning message composed for the live test.
In short, it was a software error.
And errors, says Jeremy Zidek, are what the tests are designed to discover.
“Every year when we test the live codes we do find anomalies, some places where we do need to improve the system. But that’s the purpose of the test.”
The live test was targeted at coastal communities — and that part of the test worked — except for receiving the same alarming test message.
In Sitka, the test was followed-up by a call burst from the Code Red system in the Police Department, reassuring residents that the tsunami warning message was just a test.
The annual live test has taken place for the last several years on the anniversary of the 1964 Alaska Good Friday Earthquake, which killed 131 people — 116 of them in the subsequent tsunami.
For the 50th anniversary of the quake this year, public safety officials conducted a day-long preparedness event called “Alaska Shield.” Fourteen communities participated, along with the Alaska National Guard, active military personnel, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and numerous state agencies.
The live Tsunami Warning Test was the kick-off for a pretty big day, says Zidek.
“The exercise is really focused around an event similar to the 1964 event — a 9.2 earthquake — and the impact that type of event would have in today’s built environment.”
So, the fact that the live test message got our attention may have actually been a good thing.
Said meteorologist Joel Curtis, “At least the message, however poorly it was constructed, was heard by an awful lot of people along the coast. We’re pretty happy about that.”
An environmental activist from Oregon is the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s new executive director. She’s also worked in the region that’s the focus of the organization.
Malena Marvin says she’s been in love with Southeast since she visited during college.
She interned for watershed protection councils in Haines, Skagway and Yakutat. And she went on to teach Tongass science and policy classes – which were held on the water, in kayaks.
“This last year, teaching my course, I started learning more about the industrial development planned for the cross-border watersheds, such as the Stikine and the Taku. I got pretty concerned about that and started digging into it,” she says. “So when I saw the job with SEACC come up, I saw it as an opportunity for me to weigh in and have a say on that issue.”
Marvin spent the past five years as communications director for an Oregon group called Klamath Riverkeeper. It campaigned to remove major dams on the salmon-producing river.
That’s one of the reasons she got the job.
“I hope that she brings a whole bunch of new tools in terms of how we communicate with our members and the community at large,” says Clay Frick, president of SEACC’s board of directors. “She’s dealt with very complex issues and the Klamath River issues, such as water rights and tribal concerns, she brings that experience to the table.”
SEACC’s new executive director says the organization will continue opposing the Juneau Access Project, also known as the Lynn Canal Highway.
The full plan would extend the capital city’s road system north to a terminal serving ferries sailing to Haines and Skagway. But Marvin notes there’s only partial funding.
“The facts are that the Juneau road would not connect Juneau to the road system, which I think a lot of folks don’t understand. It would, in fact, connect it to the Kensington Mine,” she says. “So, we’re looking at a half-billion-dollar subsidy to a private corporation, which really employs a fraction of the people that the fishing and tourism industries do. And those are the industries that depend on the things that the road will destroy.”
That position puts SEACC in conflict with much of Juneau’s business community, its current mayor and the Parnell – and previous – administrations.
The organization, however, has undergone some changes in recent years. It’s tried a collaborative approach to development conflicts, with more negotiations instead of lawsuits.
One example is the Sealaska land-selection bill, where the group worked for – and eventually endorsed – compromise language.
Such stands led some environmentalists to form a separate organization, the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, or G-SACC.
Marvin’s view is the more, the merrier.
“I look forward to working cooperatively where we can and agreeing to disagree where we can’t, if that’s what it takes. But I’m pretty confident that coming in, I’m opening a bit of a new chapter for SEACC,” Marvin says.
The organization has worked with the villages of Kake, Kasaan and other tribal governments on environmental protection and alternative energy projects.
SEACC continues to fight larger timber sales, and is staunchly opposed by the logging industry. But it also works with small mills, tourism operations and some other regional businesses.
“What makes us a little bit different from some of the larger, national organizations is that we live and work alongside everyone else here. So we see a lot more sides to the story and that’s something we have to juggle and something we have to work out with our friends and neighbors,” Marvin says.
That includes a long-time critic.
“We actually are partnering with SEACC on their food-security efforts,” says Shelly Wright, executive director of the Southeast Conference.
The regional economic-development organization has long battled with SEACC. But Wright says she’s seen changes.
“I think some of the work they are doing is becoming less legal and a little more community driven. But I still believe that they are very supportive of any of the lawsuits that happen within the Tongass of Southeast Alaska,” Wright says.
SEACC’s previous executive director, Lindsey Ketchel, resigned last fall after about five years on the job.
Marvin says while some issues may have changed, the mission remains the same.
“Most of us don’t have time to hang out in the Legislature all day, or read 30,000-page environmental impact statements,” she says. “And our not-so-glamorous job here at SEACC is to do that on behalf of the public. And then let you guys know when those crucial times are, when your voice can make a crucial difference.”
SEACC began in 1970 as a Tongass National Forest preservation group, mostly fighting large-scale logging.
Beginning Friday, March 28th leading up to our One-Day Spring Drive on Friday, April 4th! Tune in for live in-studio performances, special themes, and great programming all week!
Good Day Radio Show – 9am-10am: Rebecca will kick things off with live music by Arsenic & Lace.
Trail Mix – 10am-noon: Don Surgeon will be guiding us on our way to the Spring Drive with the theme “Drive”.
Straight No Chaser – 2pm-4pm: Carolyn Servid will be joined by Mike & Iko Sullivan in the studio, performing some live jazz music.
Earbones – 8pm – 10pm: Ken and Rachel will be puckering up and playing songs involving whistling.
Birdhouse in Your Soul – 10pm-midnight: Maria Tsonis explores the idea of “Birds” as a metaphor for your “Soul”.
At the Hop – 9am-10:30am: Slacktide will be playing some live tunes on Denton’s show.
The Root Cellar – noon-2pm: Angie Bowers has a live performance by Jim Deginero, featuring the songs of Guy Clark.
Rayo del Sol – 3pm-4pm: Ted Laufenburg is “Drumming” up donations for Raven Radio by celebrating Drums in Latin music.
Garden Show – 5:30pm-6pm: Kitty and Mollie are back with a new season of the Garden Show.
Sonic Repercussions – 10pm-midnight: DJ Jorge plays songs about “Magic”.
Sunday Sunrise – 9am-10:30am: Susan Stanford will explore the theme of “Sun/Rain”.
From the Vault – 11am-noon: Rebecca Poulson shares a special interview with Nancy Ricketts.
Cable House Classics – 2:30pm-4pm: Richard Guhl will celebrate a “Spring” theme.
Paper Wings – 5pm-7pm: Sarah Aday brings you music about “Birds, birders, twitchers and flight”
Swing Set – 6:30pm-8pm: Kayla Boettcher will present a sampler of swing from across the decades (1930-2014).
Nightfly – 10pm- midnight: Peter Bradley’s show theme will be all about Canadian music.
The Roost – 11am-noon: Tracy Gagnon will be joined for a live performance by Jed Delong.
Transglobal Music Express – 2pm-4pm: Jasmine Shaw will share stories and music of Cuba and salsa dancing.
Small Craft Warning – 10pm-midnight: Annabel Lund will be “Singing the Blues”.
Hometown Brew – 2pm-4pm: The Hundred Ukulele players will play live on Kitty Labounty’s show.
R&R for the I&I – 8pm-10pm: Dave Clark will explore music from Sitka and Surrounding areas, and be joined by Hank Moore in the studio.
Dias Corvidae – 10am-noon: Crystal Oostema will be joined by a special guest to discuss how music shapes the story of our lives.
The Axiom – 2pm-4pm: New volunteer, Thanny Bean will bring you his very first radio show, or “First Flight”.
Sunset Symphony – 6:30pm-8pm: Trish Durham will explore classical music featured in movies.
Night Jazz – 8pm-10pm: Martina Kurzer will present a themed show about “Supporting Raven Radio”.
Our One-Day Spring Drive all day! Featuring many local guests, live music, great friends, good snacks, and YOUR SUPPORT! Stop by the station during the day, or help us celebrate the conclusion of the Spring Drive with live performances by Regal Cheese at 7pm and The Lost Boys at 8pm downstairs in the Cable House!
Petersburg could have a new Superintendent as soon as Friday morning. There are two finalists who have been spending the last few days in town getting to know the school staff and community. KFSK news spoke with the two of them to find out who they are and what type of superintendent they would be.
Stroh is visiting from Valdez where she is currently the Superintendent. She is originally from Montana.
She has been an educator for three decades in Montana and Alaska, where she worked in Kodiak and Valdez. She’s been everything from a teacher to a County Superintendent of Schools where she oversaw eight school districts.
She says a superintendent’s role is two parts, at the school and in the community.
“It really is the glue that holds the school district together plus it’s also the liaison with the community,” Stroh says. “You need to really, if you look at the broad sense of it, you’re the umbrella, you work with the city, you work with the borough, you work with community members, you need to have good relationships there because number one it’s for the funding but it’s also, we’re vital parts of a community. The other thing is I need to have a close handle on that budget and especially with declining enrollment and sometimes the state legislature isn’t very kind to the schools, I need to make sure that our school district is very solvent and if we’re declining in enrollment for the next year, project that so that we still can maintain our programs and I think that’s very, very important.”
To come to Petersburg, Stroh would break her two year contract in Valdez. She’s been there for only one year. She’s open about the fact that there has been some conflict with a few members of the school board but she won’t get into too many details. She explains it this way:
“I think that when you don’t have the longevity in a position like as a superintendent, like I’m their fifth or sixth superintendent in a few years, I think that over time, the school board will naturally tend to make decisions that they wouldn’t make if there was a strong leader in that superintendent role,” Stroh says. “And so, after they’ve had five superintendents and then I come in and I’ve got lots of years of experience and ideas on how to do things, it’s very, very difficult to step back and allow that superintendent to make those decisions that they should be making. I don’t blame them for that. They’ve just, they’ve just been used to doing that.”
Stroh conducted her PHD dissertation on Alaska schools and the factors most highly related to teacher turnover rates in Bush schools. She says the study looked at different factors that make teachers stay in a school district.
“We know that longevity is very, very important to the education of children, and we looked at what about the location, you know, whether you’re in Barrow or you’re in Southeast. What about the money, what about the socioeconomic, the cultural status, things like that,” says Stroh. “What we really determined from that was that none of those factors were really significant. What was significant was how a person came into a community and acclimated with that community. Like in the Bush communities, many of the people that stayed, those teachers came into a district, they might have married somebody within that district, maybe they married a Native woman, so they just stayed there and built their family there. And I think you can really generalize those findings to Petersburg in that somebody that’s going to stay here is really going to acclimate to the people, the community, and this is really going to be home. And I guess I’m looking for a position where my family, we can stay here for a long time.”
If Stroh got the job, she would bring her husband and 11-year-old daughter to town. She also has two sons who compete in college wrestling. She says her hobbies include quilting, fishing and hunting, and photography.
“Working in a different culture is extremely interesting and in Saudi Arabia women have a very different role than they do here in the United States so I was a female manager on a construction site with 40,000 men,” Jewell says, “and it’s interesting to say the least because women there don’t work and so to be a woman and to be in a management position is kind of a tough place to be until they accept you and it’s brought me to a much more appreciative point in my life where the role of women in the United States society… because you hear a lot of women’s equality stuff here in the United States and it’s like, ‘Trust me, go someplace else, you’ll find out we have it pretty good here’.”
Jewell is impressed with the Petersburg District’s involvement with technology in its curriculum. She has a lot of background in education technology. She was the Director of Academic Technology at Columbus State University for six years and the Director of Technology Integration Support Services for a school district for nine years. She says Petersburg has done a wonderful job but there is room for growth, including to get all students a computer.
“I think that based on your isolation, the fact that it’s an island, the technology is amazing and they have done an absolutely amazing job,” Jewell says. “It think you want to expand a one to one program because how would you do your job without a computer, I mean if you think about it…I mean nobody [can] and yet we kind of expect for students to do their job without a computer. And so I would like to see one to one expanded all the way across the board with 24 hour take home privileges. That’s kind of a hike but I think that that’s a place that you have to get eventually. And I’d like to see kids moving more into digital resources and what I see as really the next stages is there’s going to be a real gamefication, virtual worlds, that’s a lot of where education is headed. About 35 percent of all college students now are a hundred percent on-line students and that trend is going to fall down into K-12.”
Although Jewell is currently based in Kuwait, her home in the states is in Georgia. She’s spent most of her life in the New England area where she was born and raised. She has five grown children. She says she thinks that Petersburg School District would be the perfect fit for her.
“It’s very similar to the way I started my career in a very small rural school district and it’s sort of where my heart is,” Jewell says. “I grew up in small rural communities. Small school districts you really get to know everybody because it’s not a nameless, faceless environment. You know your kids, you know your parent, you know everybody in town, and you come together more, not just as a school community but as a community as a whole to do things and to get things done and that’s where I grew up, that’s what I’m comfortable with.”
Jewell says she has a lot of hobbies including golfing, Kung Fu and Tai Chi, painting, embroidering, fishing and being in the outdoors.
Jewell and Stroh will remain in Petersburg until Friday. The school board could make a decision on one of them at a meeting tonight. If that’s the case, they will make the announcement Friday morning.
Students from Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka High Schools joined community members, Sitka’s domestic violence task force, and a contingent of State Troopers, among others, as they marched through downtown on Thursday (3-27-14), as part of the 5th annual “Choose Respect” rally to raise awareness of domestic violence. The Sitka rally was organized by Sitkans Against Family Violence. It was one of 150 demonstrations scheduled to take place around the state, as part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s “Choose Respect” campaign to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake. The largest impact was felt at the epicenter, but 600 miles away in Sitka it still made a mark. Here are three short stories from people who were living in Sitka in 1964.
When the Alaska Pulp Corporation pulp mill was evacuated during the earthquake, Larry Calvin was out on the floating logs. They had forgotten about him. Had he not moved onto a raft, he would have been squashed between the logs as a tsunami wave rolled in.
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While the pulp mill failed to warn Calvin, they managed to spread the word to the US Coast and Geodetic observatory – the group responsible for recording magnetic and seismic activity. Willis Osbakken was a geologist with the observatory in Sitka, and has the story of why the experts were late to the game.
Kent and Marilyn Hanson lived on Japonski Island, before the the bridge. The evening of the earthquake they decided to visit with friends in town. They took a skiff over to the Sitka side. Immediately after the earthquake the current was too strong to go back. They spent the night separated from their kids.
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The Ketchikan School Board talked funding at its meeting Wednesday night. The Board is about a month away from handing off next school year’s budget to the Borough Assembly for approval.
Superintendent Robert Boyle said that lower levels of funding from both the state and the borough make it difficult to stay positive about next school year’s budget.
But he said the school district’s finances are strong enough that Ketchikan is not looking at any significant cuts to core staff.
School Board members expressed their frustration with the Borough Assembly, which has decreased its school district funding the past few years.
“I know what the borough can afford, and it’s even easier when you look at their reserves again,” said Board Member David Timmerman. “So as we cut and cut and cut in these times of things costing more, we have to bear that whole thing on the shoulder of the district.”
Board Member Colleen Scanlon said she feels the borough is holding the School Board hostage over funding.
“We were elected by the citizens of this community to establish this budget and for them to be micromanaging us is just plain wrong,” Scanlon said.
The school district is still waiting on some funding variables. For one, state funding for base student allocation could increase.
As the budget stands now, the biggest funding cut is in the district’s preschool program. The program would still run, but with fewer teachers, fewer classrooms and shorter hours.
The School Board quickly approved Shannon Sines as the new curriculum director for the school district. She’ll take over for Linda Hardin, who is retiring.
“Ms. Sines comes to us with 16 years experience,” said Board Member Misty Archibald. “I think the starting salary of $103,000 is appropriate for her skill set and what she has to offer the district.”
The Board also decided to take a closer look at wellness policy revisions after student Board Member Evan Wick voiced his concerns.
The policy, which follows federal guidelines, requires concessions sold at events during the school day to meet certain nutrition requirements; requirements that popular concession foods like nachos and candy would probably not meet. Wick said this would take away from fundraising opportunities for sports and other school groups.
“I quite frankly am appalled by some of the things that are in here,” Wick said. “And I believe there’s a way to fight obesity and then there’s micromanaging. And in my person opinion, micromanaging is exactly what this is.”
However, going against the guidelines could put the school district in jeopardy of losing federal support for the school lunch program. More discussion on that is likely at the next School Board meeting on April 9th.
KFSK is celebrating National Poetry Month with poetry readings submitted by area listeners. If you would like to share a reading, call us 772-3808 to make an appointment to record your poem, original or a favorite.
More than 100 communities around the state are expected to hold rallies and marches Thursday, March 27 as part of Choose Respect. That’s Governor Sean Parnell’s awareness campaign about the epidemic of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in Alaska.
Here in Petersburg, the local advocacy group Working Against Violence for Everyone, or WAVE, will have a free viewing of a documentary film on bullying. Joe Viechnicki spoke with WAVE’s program manager Annette Wooten and vice president Sunny Rice about the film.
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The movie will be shown at the Wright Auditorium Thursday night. Doors open at 6:30 and the movie starts at 7 p.m. Find out more about WAVE on their website. The office phone is 772-WAVE and the crisis line is 518-0555.