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Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan plans to resign amid speculation that he will run for an Alaska U.S. Senate seat next year.
The news came as another Republican, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, officially launched his campaign for Senate on Thursday.
Sullivan plans to resign effective Sept. 24. In his resignation letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, Sullivan said he intends to seek ways to serve his fellow Alaskans as he explores “new opportunities and challenges” in the next phase of his life.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board met in regular session Wednesday. Along with a vote on activities funding, the future of the library consortium came up during public comment.
The School Board voted after some discussion to approve a transfer of more than $40,000 from the district’s reserves to the activities program.
The decision comes after changes in the Alaska Marine Highway System schedule last year. Because new ferry times result in lengthy absences for students who travel for competitions, they have been opting to travel by air. The budget transfer approved by the Board would help ease those increased costs.
Board Member Colleen Scanlon proposed that the board double the amount to $84,000 to account for a larger share of the travel fees. While the rest of the board generally agreed with her in principle, nobody seconded her motion, so it died.
Board Member Michelle O’Brien, who works for Ketchikan Public Utilities, notes that the potential for larger energy costs this year should give the board pause when considering taking more out of the district’s reserve fund.
“It’s no secret to all of us that it’s been very warm and very sunny this year,” O’Brien said. “So I have considerable concern dipping into that reserve knowing that there is a large possibility that KPU will have to run an extensive amount of diesels this winter.”
The School Board voted unanimously to approve the budget transfer while tentatively agreeing to approach the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly at a later date for more activities funding.
The topic of the library consortium came up during the board meeting. Kathleen Wiechelman, head librarian at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus Library, gave an impassioned plea in favor of the consortium. That agreement allows libraries to share services and books between district schools, the university and the public library. Its future is in question though, after Superintendent Robert Boyle hinted that the school district might exit the consortium due to rising costs.
Wiechelman told the board that the biggest losers if the consortium dissolved would be Ketchikan’s children.
“Frankly, the financial fallout to the public library and the campus library if the school district pulls out of the consortium wouldn’t be catastrophic,” she said at the meeting. “What would be a big deal would be the impact on the schoolchildren of Ketchikan.”
Superintendent Boyle reiterated his opinion that, while the consortium is valuable to the community, the district will have to take a hard look at the cost.
“We value the consortium, it’s been a very successful program for a number of years. But we think at this time that it needs to be analyzed,” Boyle said in response.
Any decision on the consortium will not come soon – the School Board recently signed its yearly contract to remain in the agreement.
The Board also agreed to draft a letter to the federal government over the fate of the Secure Rural Schools program. After a number of years of that program, which compensates communities for a loss of timber sales due to federal regulations, it appears funding for it may have finally dried up. Superintendent Boyle agreed to draft a letter to the national government on behalf of the board, requesting that the program continue.
A 34-year-old Ketchikan man was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
According to the Ketchikan Police Department, local police were contacted by Alaska Bureau of Investigation officers, who along with the Anchorage Police Department were monitoring someone in Ketchikan who allegedly was downloading child pornography.
A team made up of Ketchikan police officers, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Marshal Service and Homeland Security served a search warrant at a North Yorktown home, and arrested Ryan Michael Thomas Brown.
Through live video feed, police allegedly obtained and preserved video evidence. Several pieces of computer equipment also were seized.
Brown faces at least three counts of distributing and one count of possessing child pornography. He had his first court appearance Thursday, and Judge Kevin Miller set bail at $25,000 plus a third-party custodian. The public defender agency was appointed to represent Brown.
The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday night voted to tap reserves and add about $42,000 to the activities budget to help with travel costs. Stephen Bradford give details of the meeting. SB091213
ANCHORAGE — A coalition of Anchorage libertarian and tea party groups has launched a campaign to put a measure on the ballot that would bar the city from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.
The coalition has filed an application with the city, the Anchorage Daily News reported. City workers in unions currently have compulsory dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.
JUNEAU — A loan program designed to help cover energy upgrades to schools and other public buildings has gotten no takers even as school districts struggle with energy costs.
The state spends $100 million each year on school district utility costs. In 2010, the Legislature created a loan program to help bring down the costs, with the loan to be repaid with money saved on heating fuel.
WASHINGTON — Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists.
The research represents one of the first tallies of eagle deaths attributed to the nation’s growing wind energy industry, which has been a pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Wind power releases no air pollution.
ANCHORAGE — A federal study of polar bears in the Chukchi Sea has detected no ill effects to the animals from a loss of sea ice.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service study of the ocean waters between northwest Alaska and Russia indicates polar bears are as healthy as they were 20 years ago, Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
“So, despite some significant sea ice loss in the Chukchi Sea region, bears have maintained their size, they’ve maintained their body condition, which means their fatness and their level of reproduction,” biologist Eric Regehr said.
The City and Borough of Juneau will interview five finalists for the state lobbyist position on Sept. 21.
Juneau solicited applications last month, and applicants provided letters outlining the role they sought to fill as the city’s state lobbyist, along with the necessary salary for them to accept such a role.
The highest salary request from one of the finalists was $85,000 a year, and the lowest was $52,000. The information was presented to the Assembly Finance Committee Wednesday night before the interview process happened.
JUNEAU — Former state Rep. Alan Dick has been ordered to pay nearly $18,000 related to violations of state ethics rules, including living in his office.
A legislative ethics committee announced Wednesday that it had found Dick in violation of five allegations, including using state resources for his personal benefit by living in his Fairbanks legislative office with his wife and sometimes his son, off and on in August 2012 and for about a month between mid-October and mid-November of 2012.
ANCHORAGE — The father of a Rhode Island man who was mauled by a grizzly bear in Alaska said Wednesday it’s a miracle that his son is alive after suffering bites to his head and leg.
John O. Matson Jr. of Charlestown, R.I., was listed in fair condition Wednesday at an Anchorage hospital.
“He’s got a hell of a headache,” said his father, John O. Matson Sr. of Hopkinton, R. I., adding that his 46-year-old son was recuperating after head surgery. “His spirits are great.”
Two members of Alaska’s Washington, D.C. delegation have reacted to President Barack Obama’s televised speech Tuesday on the crisis in Syria with expressions of concern for Syrians, but no message of support for a limited strategic bombing campaign.
Obama told the nation that he’s asked Congress to postpone a vote on a U.S.-led military strike in Syria while his administration pursues a diplomatic solution.
James Marcus brought 250 red currant bushes and several dozen Saskatoon berry bushes to communities in Southeast Alaska over the last year. The bushes were part of an effort to spread the word about the Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District, an organization that hopes to serve as a kind of clearinghouse for information and resources to support agriculture and fight invasive species in the region.
“We sold them at the wholesale price,” Marcus said. “The idea was to get out into communities without nurseries.”
KCAW’s Caitlin Woolsey is a Stanford senior, and the SoCo teaching assistant. She sent this audio postcard from what is proving to be a hands-on adventure in higher education.
A new preschool is opening in Sitka this fall, with the aim of closing the gap in achievement for low-income students.
The preschool will be housed in Baranof Elementary, and will help transition three-year-olds from the existing Head Start program into kindergarten.
Members of the team collaborating on the project outlined their plans for the Sitka School Board this week (9-10-13).
The name is going to be a challenge, for sure. But if assistant superintendent Mary Wegner can get there, so can the rest of us.
Mary Wegner attempts — with mixed results — to teach the school board the pronunciation of Wooch.een Yei Jigaxhtoonei.
And now it’s my turn. Wooch.een Yei Jigaxhtoonei. It means “We are all working together.” It’s the result of a multi-year collaboration between Head Start, the Sitka Native Education Program, the Sitka School District, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
Wegner told the board that the new preschool was not intended to compete with other programs in the community.
“This is not to serve students who are currently enrolled in a preschool. We are working with Head Start, using their enrollment process. Although you are not limited to being eligible to enroll in Head Start to be eligible for the Woo.cheen Yei Jigaxht? Jigaxteen? (Laughs) Jigaxhtoonei program.”
Wooch.een Yei will operate in Baranof Elementary, and serve 4-5 year-olds. 3-4 year olds will continue to go to Head Start in the Rasmuson Center on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Next year, after work on Pacific High is complete, Head Start will relocate to the Southeast Alaska Career Center building next door to Baranof.
Tristan Guevin, a planner for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, says Wooch.een Yei will roughly double the capacity of the Head Start program to 30 students, and possibly more.
“So Head Start is still a program run by Tlingit & Haida Central Council. STA and the Sitka School District are really bringing their resources to bear. And so rather than having Head Start operate in isolation, they’re going to have support from the Tribe and support from the district.”
Guevin and Nancy Douglas, who is now cultural director for the Sitka School District, have done pilot work integrating culture into early education. That partnership between the Sitka Native Education Program and Head Start formed the basis of Wooch.ein Yei. People liked it.
“And I think families are really excited. One of the big pieces that people are excited about is the cultural enrichment, and more opportunity for Tlingit language.”
But Guevin also assured the board that cultural education was meant to be inclusive.
“Through Tlingit language we can really focus on building a sense of identity and a sense of pride in students, and particularly in Native students. Additionally, we’ll have a diversely populated preschool. It’s an opportunity for those Native students to be culture-bearers, and for non-Native students to learn about the place they live in, and the culture that’s been here since time immemorial, for thousands upon thousands of years.”
About five years ago the Sitka Tribe of Alaska initiated a language revitalization grant from the Administration for Native Americans. Guevin says tribal elders wanted to strengthen early childhood education, and integrate culture and language.Wooch.een Yei really got its start then, and with the partnerships that formed around the language revitalization effort.
The program is being funded through a pooling of existing resources. The Sitka district is contributing space and Special Ed support. Head Start is providing staff and transportation. The Tribe’s education department helped create the model, and will support families with social services.
The pooling resources is very intentional, Guevin told the board, and should ensure Wooch.een Yei’s stability. He said all involved believed the new preschool was “Not something that disappears in a year or two.”
Preschool opens September 23.
Candidates for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and School Board answered questions during a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum Wednesday, with a focus on school district funding.
Education funding is an annual argument between the two governments. The Assembly decides what the local funding contribution will be each year, but only after the School Board submits a budget based on how much that elected body believes it should get. The two numbers rarely match.
Incumbent Alan Bailey said the Assembly shouldn’t micromanage how the district spends that local contribution.
“We will probably disagree in terms of specific amounts, but let there be no question as to the commitment of what I believe the Assembly (has) to the students, to the teachers, and to making that successful,” he said.
Bailey gave some details about how the Assembly, because of reduced federal funding, has gradually cut the local contribution, but he said the district budget continues to increase despite those cuts.
John Harrington, a former Assembly and School Board member who hopes to return to the Assembly, said there will always be tension between the two bodies.
“The only kind of salvation I see out there is the actions the Borough Assembly has been taking lately regarding trying to get the state to step forward and do what is their responsibility, which is to totally fund basic education,” he said.
Incumbent School Board Member Dave Timmerman agrees with Harrington that full state funding is essential. He added that the board does feel micromanaged by the Assembly, but that could be a personality conflict.
“Some of the problems I have with getting along with the Assembly in the past is when certain Assembly members roll their eyes at certain comments, and public displays of aggravation at the table instead of being able to deal with that personally, or in a room, or professionally,” he said.
Trevor Shaw, a high school student running for School Board, agreed that the process is broken, but said it’s up to the elected officials to fix that process.
“The students that we are providing an education for, they are the future constituents, they are the future taxpayers, they are the doctors, the business people, the people that are going to build our future,” he said. “And if we can’t even work things out between us, how are we going to help get them from point A to point B and even beyond that. We have to work together; we have to find common ground. It has to start with us right here, right now.”
Incumbent Assembly Member Bill Rotecki, running to keep his seat, said he supports public funding of education, even though he has no children in the school system.
“Why? Not because of the kids but because of society,” he said. “I hire people – I’m a carpenter – I hire people, and if they can’t do fractions, it’s like, ‘Yeah, it’d be great if we have a decimal system, but we don’t.’”
The two School Board candidates were asked what they would cut from the budget, if they had to make a choice, and both said they couldn’t make that decision now. They agreed, though, that activities and classes such as music are what keep many students from dropping out.
The Assembly candidates addressed the ongoing contentious relationship with the City of Ketchikan. Bailey said the two governments generally work cooperatively, and blamed the media for making the relationship seem more rocky than it is. Rotecki said he supports a consolidated government, but that will have to come from the people.
Near the end of the forum, Timmerman had a question for Harrington, who had been elected to the School Board a couple of years ago, and then resigned in the middle of his term. Timmerman asked whether Harrington would remain on the Assembly for a full term, if elected.
Harrington answered with an explanation: “The problem was I had a choice to make. Either I had to be far more aggressive, far more assertive and far more argumentative, and as I perceived it, that wasn’t going to go very far. It was only going to cause disruption and instability. Or I could quit and shut up about School Board stuff. I toyed with that decision for quite a while, and said, ‘I’m going to opt to get off and shut up.’”
Harrington said that, if faced with a similar decision on the Assembly, he would choose to stay and fight.
Camille Booth is the third School Board candidate. She was out of town and not able to participate in the forum.
A Chamber forum for Ketchikan City Council candidates is next Wednesday. The local election is Oct. 1.
Southeast Alaska residents from Ketchikan to Skagway participated in Wednesday’s Alaska Marine Highway System public hearing on the proposed schedule for next summer.
The teleconference hearing took place in Ketchikan. Representing the Marine Highway were General Manager Captain John Falvey, Operations Manager Captain Anthony Karvelas, and vessel scheduling coordinator Kerri Traudt.
Those who spoke focused on their community’s needs, and special events they hope would be considered in the schedule. A popular request was for the system to restore service that has been reduced over the years between Seattle, Prince Rupert and Southeast.
Here are some of the comments, starting off with Carol Rushmore from Wrangell .
That was a sample of comments from Southeast Alaska residents on the proposed summer 2014 Alaska Marine Highway System ferry schedule. The deadline for written comments has passed. For more information, see the Alaska Marine Highway System’s website, http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/
Tongass Sanitation in Ketchikan, through its parent company, Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, has applied to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to increase its rates by 24 percent across-the-board.
Tongass Sanitation provides curbside garbage collection primarily outside of city limits. If the rate increase is approved, the cost of residential collection would go from about $18 to $23 a can.
Alaska Pacific Environmental Services also has proposed rate increases of varying levels for its operations in Dutch Harbor, Nome and Juneau. Juneau’s is the highest rate hike, at about 34 percent.
For details on how to comment on this proposal, go to http://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/View.aspx?id=169416
Raven Radio is accepting nominees for Board of Directors elections which will be held by mail in a few weeks. Five seats will be elected and the results will be announced at our on air annual meeting in December. You can nominate yourself or somebody else. Nominees must submit a one paragraph candidate statement by Noon on Monday, September 16th to General Manager Ken Fate at email@example.com or 2 Lincoln St. Suite B, Sitka, AK 99835. Call Ken at 747-5877 with questions.
A fundraiser by Petersburg children last year helped pay for a new schoolhouse for young children in a small Ethiopian community. The project was born out of a chance encounter between Petersburg Forest Service Employee Karen Dillman and Peace Corps Volunteers Bob and Nancy Sturtevant of Fort Collins Colorado. Dillman met the Sturdevants on a trip to Wondo Genet, Ethiopia where the couple was working in conservation and natural resource management. Bob is a forester and Nancy has a background in business and information technology. Their meeting with Dillman led to the fundraiser at Stedman Elementary which eventually brought in much of the funding for the schoolhouse. The Sturdevants were in Petersburg this past week to talk about the results and they joined Dillman for an interview with Matt Lichtenstein. He started by asking Nancy about the couple’s decision to join the Peace Corps.
For downloadable, mobile-friendly audio, click here.
Photos of the construction: