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Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — For those who think the pace of this year’s legislative session has been swift: Watch out, because the proceedings are set to pick up even more speed.
Once a conference committee is named on the state operating budget — and that could happen as early as this week — the Legislature will fall under what’s known as the “24-hour rule.”
That means committee meetings can be held with 24 hours of advance notice. During session, schedules are generally posted by late Thursday for the following week, giving notice of at least a few days.
FAIRBANKS — The scent of fermenting barley filled the air in Rob Borland’s shop on Sunday afternoon, a sour fragrance that he’s been dreaming about for more than a year.
Borland hopes it’s the smell of a promising start.
With a pair of modest homemade stills in one end of the room, his otherwise anonymous shop off Becker Ridge is the new home of Ursa Major Distilling. The batch of vodka that Borland started Sunday makes his business the first local entry into Alaska’s tiny but growing liquor production industry.
HOMER — From a 20-foot skiff to its newest and biggest boat, the 42-foot P/V Churchill, Bay Welding has been building an average of about six Bay Weld boats a year since 1994. Based on activity at the shop on East End Road this week, the pace seems to have picked up a bit. In three main boat sheds, workers are building five boats, from a bare keel laid down for a skiff to the towering Churchill, almost ready for its late April delivery.
There’s no official word yet on the afternoon’s haul. Informal reports on social media suggest fishing was slower than the previous two openers – perhaps around 1,000 tons.
The Department reported nearly 18 miles of active spawning visible from aerial surveys on Saturday. On Sunday, heavy fog in the morning kept the survey grounded.
During his 10 AM update Sunday morning over VHF radio, management biologist Dave Gordon reported numerous smaller balls of herring in Eastern Channel and Redoubt Bay, but no significant fishing opportunity seemed likely to materialize.
The 48 permit holders are hoping to land over 11,500 tons of herring in the Sitka Sound Sac Roe fishery this spring. In the first opener, last Wednesday (3-27-13), they took 2,100 tons. The following day’s harvest was higher – around 3,600 tons. Depending on the results of Saturday’s fishing, they could be about halfway toward this year’s goal.
Last year’s fishery was worth over $8.5 million.
JUNEAU — Jolene Kinsland’s two classrooms look like those at any other elementary school in the United States. An American flag hangs beside the window. Cubbies greet students at the open-door entrance of one room, filing cabinets at the other.
The out-of-place, old-fashioned scale that sits in the back of one room is the first clue that this school with shockingly bright yellow walls and cabinets actually isn’t like every other.
The progress of Alaska Native students from Southeast Alaska trying to balance college studies with the study of their own culture are highlighted in a television documentary that was screened at the University of Alaska Southeast Friday evening.
UAS public relations director Katie Bausler, who produced the first two installations in the “Alaska College Track” series in 2004 and 2007, introduced “College Track III,” directed by Pat Race and produced by Lucid Reverie in association with UAS.
A group of Alaska broadcasters have stepped up their demands in the wake of a letter to the FCC from Juneau’s Sen. Dennis Egan. They ask for a hearing before the Federal Communications Commission. In his letter and subsequent comments, Egan said he felt more information was needed before the FCC approved General Communications Inc.’s permit to take over ownership of Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA, Juneau’s low-powered NBC affiliate KATH and its sister NBC station in Sitka KSCT.
Juneau’s legislative delegation is set to speak at Wednesday’s Native Issues Forum in the Willoughby District.
Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan, Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz and House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula are the guest speakers for the event, which will be held at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall starting at 11:30 a.m.
PALMER — An unwanted, $80 million ice-breaking ferry owned by an Alaska borough has only one bid to buy it, and it’s for $751,000.
The bid was the only entered by Friday’s deadline set up by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which has been trying to get rid of the 200-foot ferry. The borough doesn’t have to accept the offer, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
The vessel was completed in 2011 and born out of a partnership between the borough, which wanted a ferry, and the Navy, which wanted a fast military landing craft.
FAIRBANKS — Fort Wainwright’s Arctic Wolves Stryker brigade is working to earn the arctic part of its title.
In recent years, the more than 4,000-member 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division has dealt much more with dust than with snow during three year-long deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They haven’t had a lot of use for skiing or snowshoeing, but officially, as part of a unit that describes itself as the army’s premier arctic warriors, they’re supposed to have these skills.
JUNEAU — The House Resources Committee has released a version of the oil tax bill that co-chair Eric Feige believes is fair to Alaskans and to the oil companies.
The proposal, like the version that passed the Senate, would fix the base tax rate at 35 percent and provide a $5-per-barrel credit for oil produced. But that $5 credit would only apply to what would be considered new oil and production that also would qualify for a 20 percent tax break, known in this version as a gross value reduction.
Sealaska’s approximately 21,000 shareholders will get their spring dividends around April 12th. Sealaska’s Board of Directors approved the distribution of more than $12 million at a meeting today at its Juneau headquarters.
Here are details of how the distribution is divided up. Totals assume ownership of 100 shares, the most common number.
- Urban and At-Large Shareholders: $698
- Elder Urban and At-Large Shareholders: $852
- Non-Elder Village and Leftout Shareholders: $154
- Elder Village and Leftout Shareholders: $308
- Descendant Shareholders: $154
Here‘s how the shareholder categories are defined:
- Urban: Also a shareholder in an urban Native corporation, such as Juneau’s Goldbelt or Sitka’s Shee Atiká.
- At-Large: Not a shareholder in any urban or village Native corporation.
- Village: Also a shareholder in a village Native corporation, such as Huna Totem, Kake Tribal, Klukwan and Cape Fox corporations.
- Leftout: Those who were eligible in 1971, when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act became law, but enrolled later.
- Elder: Original Sealaska shareholder who has reached the age of 65.
- Descendent: Direct descendents of original shareholders who are at least one-quarter Alaska Native.
Here’s where the money comes from, per 100 shares:
- $544 from ANCSA Section 7(i) (regional corporation resources earnings) revenue sharing. A $5.44 per share payment will be made.
- $100 from corporate earnings. 35 percent of the corporate consolidated net earnings averaged over five years, minus earnings associated with the Permanent Fund. The distribution includes an operations dividend of $1.00 per share.
- $54 from dividends from the Marjorie V. Young Permanent Fund, which are based on a percent of market value (POMV) of the fund balance. Based on the POMV calculation, the 2013 April dividend will be $0.54 per share.
Some members of the Juneau-based regional Native corporation have more or fewer than 100 shares due to inheritance or gifting.
Much of the dividend – close to $550 – comes from a pool of regional Native corporation resource earnings. Most of that money comes from Northwest Alaska’s NANA, an owner of theRed Dog Mine.
Sealaska’s urban shareholders receive that part of their dividend directly. The corporation pays village members’ share to their local corporations, which decide whether to pass it on.
Last spring’s distribution was about 20 percent more for urban shareholders and about the same amount less for village members.
Sealaska’s shareholders are mostly of Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian descent. Close to half live in Southeast.
Senate Bill 24, which would add a 12th seat to the Marine Transportation Advisory Board, passed the Senate Friday morning in a unanimous vote.
The bill by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, seeks to split off several communities in the Kodiak Island Borough and on the western Kenai Peninsula from the “southwest Alaska” seat currently represented by Unalaska Mayor Shirley Marquardt on the board.
“It’s simply a better opportunity to have the representatives from those communities to have input and to have something to say and to be at the table,” said Stevens on the Senate floor.
The advocacy organization Backbone is calling on opponents of Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax reform proposal to join rallies in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
The Friday announcement by Backbone said that “Stop the Giveaway” rallies will be held at noon Thursday, with the Juneau rally taking place on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol.
The Sitka Assembly suspended Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley for two weeks without pay, in response to a harassment complaint. The decision comes after nearly two months of investigation.
The Assembly spent more than an hour in executive session on Thursday night, then voted in open session on the suspension.
In February, the Assembly hired Anchorage attorney Sara Heideman to look into the complaint. Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell said the Assembly decided to suspend Dinley after hearing the results of Heideman’s investigation.
“In some respects it was difficult. This was, as it will come out, an anti-harassment issue, dealing with our policy that deals with anti-harassment,” McConnell said. “We needed to get all the facts and make sure that we were responding in an appropriate fashion.”
McConnell and city officials have declined to reveal the specifics of the complaint, or who filed it. When it came to light initially, McConnell told reporters that outside counsel was needed to look into the issue because then-city attorney Theresa Hillhouse was a witness to one of the incidents in question.
McConnell said Friday that it’s not known exactly how much money the outside attorney’s work will cost the city in total, but that the bill for February’s work was around $6,000.
Dinley was in his office on Friday — the suspension is effective starting Monday — and declined to comment or respond to the Assembly’s vote to suspend him.
He has been municipal administrator since 2008, and draws an annual salary of about $122,000. At his rate of pay, a two-week unpaid suspension equals roughly $4,700.
The Assembly voted 6-0 in favor of the suspension. Mike Reif was busy with Thursday’s herring fishery and did not attend the meeting.
Following widespread criticism, including from Republican leadership, Alaska’s Rep. Don Young has apologized for his use of a derogatory term earlier this week during a news conference in Ketchikan.
It’s not common for Young to apologize for anything he’s said, but it happened Friday morning.
Young is the focus of national headlines, blogs and a flurry of official statements, all criticizing the 79-year-old Republican.
Young used a derogatory term for Mexican field workers during a news conference Wednesday in Ketchikan. The original story aired Thursday, and quickly went viral.
Young’s office issued a statement Thursday evening that fell short of an apology. It didn’t satisfy Republican leaders, who are trying to boost their image among immigrants. Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner condemned Young’s use of the word, and called for a true apology.
Later Friday, Young issued another statement apologizing for the “insensitive term.” He said there was no malice in his heart, and no intent to offend.
Lupe Marroquin of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska said she was disappointed that Young would use such a word, apparently without understanding that it’s derogatory. She said his explanation that it was a word used in his childhood was a poor excuse.
“We’ve all grown up with things we’ve heard. And when we know that they’re wrong, we grow up and we learn not to do that,” she said. “It surprises me that after all these years – Mr. Young is a very smart man – that he wouldn’t discard that word from his vocabulary and use respectful words.”
Marroquin said her reaction upon hearing that term from Alaska’s elected representative was offense.
“I was totally offended that he just used that word,” she said. “And the surprising thing was that he used it without – the inflection in his voice doesn’t change — it was just part of his vocabulary. That’s just what he calls (migrant farm workers).”
Marroquin notes that migrant farm workers are part of Mexican American culture, and that they are strong, hard-working people, “but the term ‘wetback’ was never meant as a term of endearment.’
In his Friday apology, Young says “that word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
During his Ketchikan visit, Young did address immigration reform in response to a question from the audience at a town-hall-style meeting. He did indicate that a change is needed in the system.
“Anybody who is here illegally, is here illegally,” he said. “They’re not going to get in front of the line; they should go behind the line. It is very difficult to get into this country. I’ve talked to some illegal people and they said it takes me 14 years to get into the United States legally. I can get here in 12 hours illegally. Why should I wait 14 years?”
Young says the U.S. should expedite the process for legal immigration.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Young, the gruff Republican veteran who represents the entire state of Alaska, apologized Friday for referring to Hispanic migrant workers as “wetbacks” in a radio interview.
“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska,” Young said in a statement after lawmakers from both political parties called on him to apologize.
Seiners participating in the Sitka sac roe herring fishery will stand down today (Friday, 3-29-13) while tenders and processors deal with yesterday’s catch. That’s according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Dave Gordon, who oversees the fishery.
Preliminary numbers show a catch of about 3,600 tons in the 3.5 hour opening yesterday. Gordon said roe samples taken on the grounds were “high quality,” and that the range of mature roe averaged from 12.3 to 15.9 percent. The threshold for fishing is around 10 percent.
Gordon also noted that there were more than 2 nautical miles of spawn visible Thursday and that he expects to see more today.
The two openings held so far this year have yielded 5,700 tons of herring. That leaves roughly 5,800 tons left on the overall harvest level of 11,549 tons.
Hundreds turned out in Petersburg for a Choose Respect parade and rally Thursday afternoon. Marchers made their way down main street under sunny skies as the road construction project took a break. The marchers gathered afterward at the Sons of Norway Hall to hear from Deputy Commission of the Alaska Department of Revenue Bruce Tangeman, along with local officials and clergy.
Joe Viechnicki attended and put together this audio postcard of the event.
For iFriendly audio, click here:
Those voices were master of ceremonies Jo Ann Day, school superintendent Rob Thomason, Deputy commissioner of the Department of Revenue Bruce Tangeman, Father Thomas Weiss and Carrie Case. More than 100 Alaskan communities held events Thursday to highlight the problems of domestic violence and abuse in the state.
For a video of Thursday’s parade, click here: