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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
The Anchorage Assembly heard final testimony Tuesday on what has become a controversial proposal to build a rec center in the city with indoor tennis courts.
The Assembly never asked for money for the project and accusations flew about how the tennis appropriation came about.
The tennis issue could not have come at a worse time for the Assembly. They’re finalizing their 2014 operating budget and preparing a capital budget request to send to Juneau, among other things.
The Assembly reordered the agenda to take care of more pressing issues and put tennis off until nearly the end of the night on what was a marathon day for the body. So at around 10 o’clock, a woman waiting to testify on tennis walked up to the podium without giving her name.
“I don’t know what the heck this even is but I am absolutely horrified at the way you guys are passing this around and not doing things in order. We’ve had the tennis people down here. We’re here to testify on something important … (Hall:) M’am we’ll get to you. Thank you. Thank you.”
The woman then walked out. About an hour later testimony was allowed. Assembly Chair Ernie hall acknowledged the delay.
“Now, Ladies and gentleman, our apologies,” Hall said. “We know that a lot of you are here to talk about tennis courts.”
“This is what we run into sometimes when we have a lot of testimony and we get things backed up.”
The Assembly has been considering whether or not to fund the Northern Lights Recreation Center, which would include indoor tennis courts. The Legislature approved millions of dollars for the project, but the Assembly never asked for it.
Tennis Association officials admitted they spoke with Mayor Dan Sullivan about the project and then lobbied Juneau directly, but did not consult the Assembly.
Racing the clock toward midnight, testimony from bleary-eyed supporters sounded like this:
“My name is Matt Henry. I think the Alaska Tennis Association did everything that we thought we were doing correctly to pass this through the public process.”
“My name is Scott Kolhaus. I’m also currently serving as the president of the Alaska Tennis Association. The issues that are being decided tonight are going to be decided this fall and tonight are the issues of whether or not high school tennis as we know it is gonna live or whether we’re gonna let it die.”
“I’m Zarina Clendaniel and I support building a public indoor tennis facility.”
But assembly members didn’t sound convinced and had questions about the appropriation.
Anchorage representative Lindsay Holmes, who holds a seat on the House Finance Committee reportedly secured money for the project.
Assembly member Bill Starr said he’d been doing some research on how the funding came about, and spoke with Republican Representative Bill Stoltz, co-chair of the House finance committee.
“I reached out to Bill Stoltz and he agreed to meet with me today along with chairman hall and Mr. Trombly and when I gave him the story that I had, and maybe it is a story,” Starr said. “I said what’s your story Mr. Stoltz. They said that Lindsay Holmes was told that she could have $4 million for that project. Does that make any difference in terms of legislative intent coming out of Juneau?”
Mayor Sullivan admitted that it was his office came up with the $10.5 million amount.
The Assembly chair says the body will likely take a vote on proposals related to the issue at their next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The two proposals on the table would allocate less money for the project.
Earlier in the evening, the Assembly approved requesting $10.5 million for the facility in next year’s capital budget request to Juneau.
Anchorage residents will get relief from the clear and cold weather that has set in over the last few days, but the transition could be messy.
Forecasters expect temperatures to hover in the mid- to upper-teens on Thursday, with up to 2 inches of snow falling in the late afternoon and evening.
National Weather Service forecaster Bill Ludwig says the snow will likely turn into freezing rain early Friday morning, which will continue through most of the day.
“At this point, it really doesn’t look like we’ll have a heavy freezing rain event, that if we get some, it’ll be light, but sometimes you don’t need a whole lot to make things pretty nasty,” Ludwig said.
He says he expects less than a quarter of an inch of freezing rain accumulation.
Temperatures are likely to rise to around freezing by Friday afternoon. Then, between 3 and 5 inches of snow is expected Friday evening.
The National Weather Service is forecasting similar conditions for the Mat-Su Valley.
The federal government has finalized new guidelines on the use of sea otters by Alaska Natives. The change is aimed at better-defining a requirement that hides must be “significantly altered” in order to be considered authentic native handicrafts or clothing that can be sold to non-natives.
“These are guidelines and they are to help the native artisans to understand what exactly qualifies as significantly altered,” Andrea Medeiros is a spokesperson for the US Fish and Wildlife Service which has been working on the revised wording for more than a year
The final guidelines say a sea otter will be considered “significantly altered” when it’s not recognizable as a whole hide and has been made into handicrafts or clothing. The language goes on to define that in more detail.
It’s a positive step, according to the Sealaska Heritage Institute which teaches classes in the native tradition of skin sewing. SHI Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger says the new wording still needs some adjustment but, overall, he says SHI appreciates the change.
Kadinger thinks it helps clear up a term that, he says, has caused significant harm to artisans over the years, “Clarifying significantly altered to more align with the marine mammal protection acts original intent is…. we feel this language is going to help continue a tradition practiced since time immemorial without fear of prosecution….Protecting this inherent cultural right is not only good public policy but it supports and preserves cultural diversity and respects the traditions and lifestyles of Alaska Native people.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new definition of “significantly altered” is very similar to language endorsed last year by the Alaska Federation of Natives. That’s with the exception of a line requiring that an otter skin be changed enough that it cannot be easily converted back to an unaltered hide or a piece of hide. According to Kadinger, S-H-I is concerned over the words “piece of hide” since it would be hard to prevent someone from cutting a piece of fur from finished clothing or handicrafts.
“We feel it is acceptable to require individuals, or an item, that cannot be converted back into an unaltered hide. Conversely, we feel including the few words ‘cannot be easily converted back into a piece of hide’ is unnecessary and problematic. So the real issue there is the four words ‘piece of hide’ that we hope to continue to work with Fish and Wildlife service to understand what that part means,” says Kadinger.
Sea otters are a federally-protected species and only coastal Alaska Natives are allowed hunt them. The revised language was, in part, prompted by concerns that unclear regulations and past enforcement actions had discouraged native use of the animals.
According to the agency, the final guidelines are based on input from a 2012 workshop with native artisans and hunters as well as extensive public comments on draft language that came out last spring.
Some commenters had found the draft language too restrictive. Others opposed the change as an attempt to weaken protections and encourage more hunting for the animals which have come into conflict with some of Alaska’s fisheries.
The state of Alaska has more time to develop a plan to improve Fairbanks air quality. An Environmental Protection Agency deadline that passed last year is now December 31, 2014. The new timeline also comes with more stringent requirements related to addressing Fairbanks wintertime fine particulate pollution.
Anchorage police say an 18-year-old man found badly beaten in an abandoned downtown house two months ago likely had been attacked two to three days before he was found.
James Clinton was rescued by police Sept. 16 after an anonymous note was left at with University of Alaska Anchorage police.
Anchorage police have arrested four men in the case: 19-year-old Iosia Fiso, 20-year-old Trevvor Trobough, 21-year-old Tye Manning and 22-year-old Michael Liufau.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the four are charged with felony assault and hindering prosecution. Liufau is also charged with coercion.
The beating left Clinton in a coma for weeks.
A 28-year-old man is accused of beating a Healy man with a baseball bat in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Joshua R. Sanford of Healy is charged with felony assault.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says Sanford was arrested Thursday and being held on $25,000 bail at Fairbanks Correctional Center.
Sanford’s attorney, Bill Satterberg, says he is not commenting on the case now.
According to court documents, Alaska state troopers were called Oct. 26 by a man who was driving his injured brother to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
The documents say the injured man told troopers he was at a friend’s house when he was hit on the head from behind. The documents say a witness identified the attacker as Sanford and that he thought he hit someone else.
Though many Anchorage lakes aren't yet suitable for ice skating, that didn't stop some intrepid souls from making their way out to the shallow waters of Potter Marsh Wednesday morning. And a storm system could make Anchorage roads as slick as its lakes.November 20, 2013
An experimental aircraft tested during flights in Alaska and Africa has a unique design element that its creators hope will cut down on stalls, one of the common causes of aircraft accidents.November 20, 2013
Dozens of friends, former staffers and other well-wishers gathered Monday at UAF’s Rasmuson Library to celebrate what would’ve been former Sen. Ted Stevens’ 90th birthday.
Monday’s commemoration also marked the opening of a new exhibit in the library’s collection of Stevens’s official papers generated during his long career as a U.S. senator from Alaska.
There are many tales that are told of Ted Stevens’s nearly 40-year career in the U.S. Senate – like how he wore his Incredible Hulk tie on days when he knew he’d have to do some serious arm-twisting to get fellow senators’ support for a piece of legislation he was pushing.
Marie Matsumo Nash has heard a few of those tales during the 29 years she worked for Stevens, and she shared one of them Monday. Nash says many years ago Stevens asked her at the last minute to cook some salmon for a meeting of Republican lawmakers in Washington.
“We had to dress it up,” she said. “We were peeling the skin off and putting sliced cucumbers on, making it fit for the senators that were going to be eating it. So that wsas kind of fun. It was something that I’d never done.”
Now there’s another Stevens tale to add to the lore. It’s the story behind an exhibit of Alaska maps related to the senator’s career that UAF graduate student Susannah Dowds has set up in the Ted Stevens Papers Project in the Rasmuson Library.
“It was the first map of the United States that had Alaska in the correct proportion, in the correct position, and Hawaii in the correct proportion and the correct position,” she said.
Dowds says it’s called The Stevens Map because early-on in his Senate career, he directed the U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS, to publish a map that would clarify once and for all that contrary to how the state is depicted on many maps, Alaska is not some disembodied land mass located somewhere just off the coast of Baja California.
“When Alaska first became a state … cartographers just decided to put Alaska as an Insert south of California,” she said.
Dowds says over the years cartographers typically stuck Alaska somewhere near the lower left corner off the Lower 48, and usually at a much smaller scale than the rest of the states, because Alaska is so big, and so far away that it was impractical to show it in the correct place and size.
After it came out in 1975, the senator widely distributed copies of The Stevens map – and it quickly became very popular, especially among educators.
“He sent off copies to all the school in Alaska and we got letters from teachers, or his office did, and they asked for extra copies, because their students didn’t really know where Alaska was in relation to the rest of the United States,” Dowds said.
The “Mapping Alaska” exhibit will run through May.