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Southeast Alaska News
Of the 850,000 or so cruise passengers expected to visit Ketchikan this year, about a quarter will arrive on ships docked at Berth 4. That’s the newest of the city’s cruise ship berths designed to handle the huge floating cities that dominate the local waterfront each summer.
For many years, the city has employed downtown crossing guards to help visitors get across the street safely, and to stop them from crossing in dangerous areas. But there aren’t any crossing guards for Water Street near Berth 4.
Some business owners with shops on Water Street have asked for crossing guards over the past couple of years, stating that safety has become an issue.
City Mayor Lew Williams III wanted the City Council to at least give it a try, preferably at the crossing near the old Marine Bar, a little up the street from where Hopkins Alley branches off.
“Do it for the first month of May and see if it’s helping with anything or not,” he suggested. “I’d hate to say no for a third time. I’d like us to at least do a test – does it help, does it hinder? (Don’t) just cast it away.”
Council Member Bob Sivertsen suggested as an alternative that the city try using cameras to count how many people cross the street in that location. He also suggested approaching the state Department of Transportation about installing a flashing crosswalk for Water Street, which is part of the state highway.
Council Member Dick Coose, who works on the dock during the summer seasons, said most cruise passengers get onto buses right away, anyway. Of those that choose to walk, he said most head straight downtown, so only a small percentage crosses Water Street.
“I guess I haven’t noticed that it’s that much of an issue. The drivers are doggone good people, and they will stop,” Coose said. “If we want to put a crossing guard in, the one thing I don’t want to do, I don’t want to spend any more money. There’s enough people now they can do the job with the number of people.”
Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon estimated that it would cost about $10,000 per crossing guard if the Council chose to add Water Street to the program. He also said that port personnel monitor all the downtown crosswalks during summer, and the pedestrian volume on Water Street has not risen to the point of needing a crossing guard.
Mayor Williams still wanted to give it a try, though, and asked for four-hands support of a trial run.
“Is there four people interested in testing a crossing guard for May down there? One, two, three?” But a fourth hand did now appear. “It dies.”
Sivertsen, while not supporting the motion, said he wants city port personnel to continue monitoring pedestrian traffic on Water Street.
In other cruise-related action, the Council approved an adjusted cruise ship berth assignment schedule. The reassignment is a response to a recent announcement that the Carnival Miracle needs maintenance work and has cancelled 15 scheduled port calls starting in late May.
The city assigns berths in hopes of evenly distributing cruise passengers along the downtown dock’s cruise ship berths.
The next cruise ship is the Carnival Miracle, which arrives Sunday, bringing more than 2,000 passengers to Ketchikan. The first multi-ship day is Thursday, when the Golden Princess and the Westerdam will bring nearly 4,500 passengers into town.
Sitka has won a spot on top of yet another list. The online realtor Movoto says that Sitka is the most liveable community in Alaska. Just ahead of Anchorage and Juneau.
Movoto uses government data to create a preliminary ranking, but the final product has a more subjective feel.
Movoto’s blog, called “The 10 Best Places to Live in Alaska,” gives Sitka credit for once being known as “New Archangel,” and having an average summer temperature of 55 degrees.
Curious to learn more, KCAW’s Robert Woolsey called up Movoto, and spoke to online associate Patrick Brown in Lafayette, Indiana.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/02RANKING.mp3
And Movoto isn’t the only organization with its eye on Sitka. In 2008, National Geographic Magazine ranked Sitka 68th out of the 100 most historic visitor destinations — in the world.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meets on Monday, and will discuss various topics, including whether to establish a school reserve fund, and whether to temporarily change the term of office for borough mayor from three years to one.
The proposed school reserve fund would help pay for unanticipated shortfalls in revenue for local education. The ordinance establishing the fund was introduced at the Assembly’s April 21st meeting. Monday’s vote is the second reading of the motion, and if it passes, it will be adopted.
The proposed change in the mayor’s term of office is an attempt to more evenly distribute the number of vacant borough seats up for election each year. This year, for example, the position of mayor plus three Assembly seats will be open, making a total of four. While next year, only two Assembly seats will be up for election.
Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton proposed the change in the mayoral term, but for just a single year, so that in the future, there aren’t four elected positions open all at once. After that has been accomplished, the mayor’s term of office could return to the regular three-year rotation.
Paxton provided several other options, including changing the term of office for one of the open Assembly seats, instead.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Island Institute is bringing back the Sitka Symposium this July - focused on stories from people instigating change.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Brett and David Wilcox are half way through their run across the country. The first large cruise ship of the season docked in Ketchikan this week. Rep. Sam Kito III is interested in returning to a 120-day legislative session.
Kings of the Wild Frontier, David Rivers and Christian Jensen, performed live on Trail Mix. If you missed the show, here it is…http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Kings-of-the-Wild-Frontier-May-2nd-2014.mp3
FAIRBANKS — Gasoline production has ended at the North Pole Refinery.
Flint Hills Resources spokesman Jeff Cook said Thursday gasoline production ended at 12:01 a.m.
The move is the first step toward a shutdown of the entire refinery, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Flint Hills announced in February that it would close the facility because of the high costs of doing business in Alaska and its ongoing obligations from a chemical spill that has affected local water supplies. The company said 81 of the refinery’s 126 jobs would be lost.
For the first time in at least ten years, a Ketchikan high school student has won the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. The scholarship pays full tuition for up to ten years of higher education. Kayhi’s Martina May Brown is one of 1,000 winners from around the US. She was chosen from more than 50,000 applicants.http://www.krbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/01Gates2.mp3
Martina May Brown, who goes by “May,” has wanted to go to University of Portland for three years.
“I actually had no idea how I was gonna pay for University of Portland, but I did make a plan B in case that didn’t work out,” Brown said. “And that was to go to [University of Alaska] Fairbanks.”
Portland costs more than $50,000 a year to attend. Brown wanted to go there so badly that she applied for 60 different scholarships. The Gates Scholarship is probably the toughest one to get, because it pays for everything for your entire higher education career.
“They’re looking for kids that without this money, they’re not gonna be able to afford school,” said Kayhi counselor Bob McClory. “They’re looking for the kids that are most deserving but least able to make it happen financially.”
The Gates Program is also looking for students from ethnic minorities. There are a certain number of spots for Asian, African American, Native American, and Hispanic applicants. Those requirements are just the beginning of the application process. Applicants also have to answer seven in-depth, 1,000-word essays.
“The questions that dealt with my family, those were hard to answer,” Brown said. “Having to talk about family and all the things we went through…It was like looking back and thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we went through all that.’”
Brown spent hours and hours last fall answering these questions and refining them over and over. She had help from McClory and a professional writer in Hawaii. There was one question that Brown struggled to answer.
“They wanted to know more about my culture and stuff and I didn’t really understand what that meant,” she said. “I asked my mom and she didn’t really have a good answer to that either. Culture? This is who we are. I just found that question very difficult.”
Brown’s mother is Filipino and her father is American. She grew up in the Philippines for the first seven years of her life. Brown struggled to write about parts of her background, which she didn’t want to talk about for this story. But her dedication to the application didn’t falter.
“I’ve never seen anybody work so aggressively and so committedly toward a scholarship application,” McClory said.
Brown’s parents didn’t go to college. And they didn’t expect her to go to college either.
“I was like, ‘Mom I want to college,’” Brown remembers. “And she was like, ‘What?’”
But Brown says the Gates application actually helped ease her parents into the possibility of college. The more they saw her working on the application, the more they got used to the idea. Brown submitted the application in January. In April, a packet from the Gates Program arrived in the mail. She opened it and…
“Oh my God,” Brown recalls her reaction. “And then I just sat there and I was like wow. And tears just started coming out of my eyes. My parents were like, ‘May, what’s wrong?’ And then my mom was like, ‘My baby’s going to college!’”
It’s official. Brown is moving to Portland in the fall. She’ll study nursing there, and is thinking about eventually becoming a nurse practitioner or going into healthcare management. Her thoughts about the big move echo many other 17-year-olds’.
“I’m really excited to make my own decisions,” she said. “I’m not ready to grow up, but on the other hand I want to grow up,”
Brown is one of three Alaska students to win the Gates Scholarship this year. The other two are from Chevak, a town of about 800 in Western Alaska.
ANCHORAGE — Two fatal crashes of Alaska commuter aircraft and five other accidents or incidents have led the National Transportation Safety Board to recommend a comprehensive safety audit of the company that provides most commuter air service within the state.
The NTSB announced Thursday an “urgent safety recommendation” that the Federal Aviation Administration review of the businesses operating under HoTH Inc. to check for regulatory compliance and operational safety.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski grilled the head of the U.S. Forest Service during a congressional hearing Wednesday over the slow pace of timber production in the Tongass National Forest.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, said chief Tom Tidwell’s appearance before the Senate Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee was like “Groundhog Day.”
ANCHORAGE — Two Alaska State Troopers were shot and killed Thursday when they were conducting an investigation in the Interior Alaska village of Tanana, the agency and a local shopkeeper said.
Killed were Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich,” agency spokeswoman Megan Peters said in a release. Both worked out of the troopers’ Fairbanks rural service unit.
JUNEAU — The co-chair of the Republican National Committee said Thursday that there is an excitement within the party to reclaim the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mark Begich.
Sharon Day was in Juneau to address the state GOP convention.
In an interview late Thursday afternoon, Day said the enthusiasm has been rewarding. She said she has not sensed any divisiveness within the party and believes the GOP is united in wanting to oust Begich and to see that Republican Gov. Sean Parnell is re-elected.
ANCHORAGE — The number of Alaskans who signed up for a health insurance plan using the Affordable Care Act’s health care marketplace fell short of the government’s initial goal for the first year.
Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that nearly 13,000 Alaskans had signed up for coverage. Federal officials had originally targeted 16,000 Alaskans for enrollment, a goal set before the rocky launch of the online exchange.
SITKA — Alaska Wildlife Troopers will investigate the shooting death of a young brown bear in Sitka.
The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported wildlife officials found the bear dead near a residential area and golf course Tuesday.
The bear was found about 35 yards from a home, near where it was shot by someone called in by neighbors.
State wildlife biologist Phil Mooney said the bear was a male, probably between 3 and 4 years old.
ANCHORAGE — A nonprofit animal group is campaigning to lower the number of feral cats in Anchorage by catching them, spaying or neutering them, then returning them to the streets.
KTUU reported the group behind the effort is called Mojo’s Help, which was co-founded by Shannon Basner.
The group typically helps special-needs pets like her dog Mojo, which used a wheelchair.
Basner said feral cats also are special-needs animals because of their avoidance of human interaction.
ANCHORAGE — The names of two men killed in the line of duty will be added Thursday to the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Artesia, N.M.
Those honored will be Manokotak village public safety officer Thomas Madole and Sgt. Robert Baron of Sandoval County, N.M., according to Alaska State Troopers.
Madole was shot and killed March 19, 2013, while responding to a domestic violence call in the Alaska Native village. Baron died a day after he was struck Dec. 5 while directing traffic along Interstate 25 near San Felipe Pueblo.
The Alaskan Independence Party announced Thursday that it is endorsing Bill Walker and Craig Fleener for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.
According to a press release, the decision was made at the party’s recent statewide conference. AIP chairwoman Lynnette Clark said Walker sought the endorsement in 2010 but failed to secure it. His showing at the polls that year, however, began to change minds.
JUNEAU — The Fairbanks-area plaintiffs in the long-running court fight over Alaska’s redistricting plan are seeking more than $450,000 in legal fees.
Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy last month found George Riley and Ronald Dearborn to be the prevailing litigants in the lawsuit against the Alaska Redistricting Board from the filing of the original complaint in 2011 until July 14, 2013. He found the board to be the prevailing party on litigation after that date.
Attorneys for the men have asked for more than $437,000 in legal fees in line with the ruling.
JUNEAU — One Juneau lawmaker says the current leadership in the Alaska state Senate may not survive.
Sen. Dennis Egan told KTOO that Senate members may try to form a bipartisan majority caucus next year.
Republican victories in the 2012 election helped dismantle a bipartisan coalition that had ruled the Senate since 2007.
However, Egan said he believes there was a lot of dissatisfaction with how things were run this year.
The father-son team from Sitka is running across the country to raise awareness about genetically-modified-organisms — or GMO’s — prevalent in the American diet.
The runners are in Parsons, Kansas, a little beyond the halfway point of their journey from Huntington Beach, California, to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
KCAW’s Robert Woolsey caught up with the Wilcoxes by phone, to find out how things are going.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/01GMORUN.mp3
Brett Wilcox is 53 years old. After running 20 miles each day, he takes a nap in the family’s camper.
If there’s a wi-fi signal, though, his 15 year old son and running partner, David, has to do his schoolwork online.
“It’s totally unfair. Yes. Kris and I quit our jobs to do this, so it does seem like a little bit of a walk in the park for us. But the flip side is that we’re having to deal with the financial burdens.”
Brett and his wife Kris have been planning this trip for months. The run across America started on January 18 from the Pacific side of the continent. Their younger daughter, Olivia, and dog Angel, round out the support team.
The team has grown along the way.
“And we now have a new dog, Jenna, that we picked up in Dalhart, Texas. So imagine two parents, two teenagers, two dogs, living in this small trailer. It makes for living the way our grandparents may have done on a small farm in a home. And we’re together all the time.”
When they’re not running that is. Brett and David are on the road six days a week, putting in 20 miles a day.
Read the Wilcox’s Running the Country blog.
Including schoolwork, David says it is like having a full-time job. And for a sport that requires little but shoes, the shoes are taking a beating.
“I’ve finished three pairs, but I’ve only worn out two.”
David and his dad spent some time early in the trip running on interstates, but the route lately has been two-lane highways, which can have a lot of traffic. He says people often stop to offer them rides. And sometimes they call the authorities.
In the past few days, three or four policemen have stopped to see about our baby in the stroller.
KCAW – Baby in a stroller?
David – We carry the stroller for our gear. And when Jenna — our dog — is tired we can put her in the stroller and push her until she wants to run again.
KCAW – Okay…
David – People think we’re taking a baby somewhere.
At home in Alaska, the family eats as much organic food as possible, and as much non-GMO food as possible. Brett says traveling across the country — from a culinary perspective — can be discouraging.
“Living in Sitka it’s much easier to get the foods that we would like to eat, than running through America’s heartland, which seems kind of strange. But we can go two- or three-hundred miles without being able to find an organic loaf of bread.”
“Going through some of these small towns, there are no choices,” says Kris Wilcox. She hit a low point in Gallup, New Mexico.
“I went into a Wal-Mart a month or so ago and got angry, because I wanted to feed my family. And there were tons of food there, but nothing that I could get for them. We wanted something quick and easy, and ended up getting bananas. And I wanted them to have a meal.”
Kris says the warmest surprise of the trip was dining at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Wichita. The chain serves a non-GMO menu. When the managment learned that the Wilcoxes were running across the country to spread the word about genetically-modified-organisms in our diet, the meal was served on the house.
Their next stop is a spring planting festival in Mansfield, Missouri, which could be attended by as many as 7,000 people. The Wilcoxes hope to arrive in Atlantic City by mid-July.
David Wilcox says he’s already looking forward to getting back to Sitka and trying out for the high school Cross Country team.