Alaskan Author Don Rearden will be visiting the Haines Public Library on Friday March 14th to...
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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
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.
A Sitka man was indicted last Friday for receiving a package containing over $30,000 worth of heroin and methamphetamine.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Sitka Superior court, a United States Postal Inspector had intercepted the package addressed to 35-year-old Jeremy Claggett on November 4, and notified the Sitka Police Department.
The package contained 1.63 ounces of methamphetamine and 24.8 grams of black tar heroin – quantities worth $9,000 and $24,000, respectively.
Four days later, police officers tracked Claggett as he picked up the package, traveled with it to an industrial site, opened and discarded the packaging, and drove away with its contents. Officers stopped traffic to detain Claggett on his way home.
According to court records, Claggett admitted to police that he had expected to receive a box containing controlled substances in the mail. He confirmed his address on the package. Claggett also admitted to being a convicted felon, and to possibly having handguns at his residence.
The Sitka Grand Jury indicted Claggett on four felony charges: possession with intent to manufacture or deliver heroin, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine, possession of a concealable firearm after having been convicted of a felony — this count applied twice for the two handguns found in Claggett’s possession.
Claggett’s next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, November 20.
Another member of Bartlett Regional Hospital’s leadership team is stepping down.
Chief Financial Officer Ken Brough will resign at the end of the year, according to a hospital news release. Interim CEO Jeff Egbert made the announcement in an email to hospital and medical staff and the Bartlett board of directors.
Brough has been with Bartlett since August 2012. He’s the third member of the hospital administration to resign or announce plans to resign in the past three months. CEO Chris Harff resigned last month, and Human Resources Director Norma Adams resigned in September.
Earlier this year, some hospital employees complained publicly about a culture of fear created by senior leadership officials. The city launched a personnel investigation in June.
When CEO Harff left the hospital in October, Brough was named acting CEO – an action that was questioned during public participation at last month’s board of directors meeting.
“How could the board allow Chris Harff to appoint Ken Brough as interim CEO knowing that both of them were under investigation?” asked Ron Gardner, spouse of Bartlett’s director of materials management Sue Gardner. The board did not respond to the question.
Brough plans to move to Prince of Wales Island, where he wants to build a fishing lodge and work as a health care consultant.
Egbert says Bartlett plans to name an interim CFO to serve during the search for a permanent replacement.
Bartlett Regional Hospital is owned by the City and Borough of Juneau. Its board of directors is appointed by the Juneau Assembly. It operates largely on patient fees.
KTOO’s Casey Kelly and Lisa Phu contributed to this report.
State officials announced this week that the tanner crab fishery would not open for the 2014 seasons in the eastern Aleutian Islands. But Unalaska’s small boat fishermen think they’ve found a way to expand the fishery — in an area that’s been closed for two decades.
Unalaska’s tanner crab fishery opened up for the first time in years in January 2013, only to be shut down again for the upcoming season.
State area management biologist Heather Fitch says fisheries can be unpredictable, but in this case, the problem could be in the management.
“Our surveys kind of seem to not necessarily line up. One section’s open one year, it’s closed the next,” she says. “We want to have a better idea of what’s going on.”
Right now, the Department of Fish and Game relies on trawl surveys to keep tabs on crab stocks. State biologists compared the results of this year’s surveys to decade-long averages.
The results varied in the three areas where the tanner crab fishery is located. In Akutan, the number of mature male crabs was far below the legal threshold to open the fishery. In Unalaska and Skan Bay, there were enough mature males to satisfy that requirement — but not enough that fishermen could make their quota without depleting the stock.
Fitch says the crab that’s out there now might be ready to harvest in a couple of years.
“From what it looks like through the rest of the survey, it looks like there’s a big incoming recruit class, so my feeling is if you wait, like, two years, you’ll see them before they come into the fishery — maybe a year, maybe two,” she says.
But local fishermen don’t want to get stuck in a cycle of closures and openings. Instead of waiting for these tanner crab stocks to stabilize, they’re looking for a new area to fish.
Beaver Inlet has been closed to fishing for about 20 years. Fitch says trawl surveys there don’t produce good results.
Zac Nehus is a small boat fisherman and a board member of the Unalaska Native Fishermen’s Association, or UNFA. He says there’s enough crab in Beaver Inlet to support a new fishery, if you know how to look for it.
“It’s kind of our belief that they’re just not seeing the tanner crab, and that’s why a pot survey is needed where you can access these deeper depths and these areas where tanners reside,” he says. “And if we can show that there’s a harvestable biomass there, then maybe we can have a fishery there in the future like we’ve had in other areas around the island.”
Ten members of UNFA met Monday with Heather Fitch to talk about the fishery closure and their pot study idea. They voted to look at sending one boat out next August to do the study. The boat would throw back all the crab it caught, rather than selling them.
Nehus says they’d hoped to do the study this season, but he says August works too — the weather is good and the crab is of legal size, but there’s not much meat on it. He says they want to do the first survey by 2015.
“Once the process is in the works, maybe then you’re able to do it every two years or every three years, and you start to have data to compare against,” he says.
And that’s data that could help the state improve how it manages the fishery as a whole. But those kind of changes are a ways off. There still won’t be a tanner crab season this January.
Nehus says the closure of the Unalaska section, the most active of the three, is more of a loss for the community than it is an economic blow.
“It’s a fun fishery to do,” he says. “A lot of the locals are able to participate with small boats, especially when it’s in Unalaska Bay. Friends go out together, and yeah, maybe they don’t make a lot of money, but people enjoy it.”
He says while the fishery is closed, they’ll focus on getting state approvals for the pot study and finding out how much UNFA would have to pay for it.
The Anchorage Assembly passed a $467 million municipal budget for 2014 Tuesday evening. It’s about half a million dollars more than the one proposed by Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Anchorage libraries secured the $260,000 for better connectivity and supplies.
Other winners include community councils, the Anchorage Service Patrol, legal services, senior centers and community centers.
Losers include public transportation.
Assembly member Patrick Flynn, who represents Downtown Anchorage made a plea for the Assembly to support his amendment keeping bus fares at 2013 levels.
“It’s not just that costs are going up. It’s also that there’s more demand for service. And you know I represent an interesting district,” Flynn said. ”Half of it never uses the bus; half of it depends on the bus more than any other part of town and so I don’t do this to get votes.”
“I do this so that people can get to work and so that people can get home and take care of their kids and support their families.”
The assembly rejected Flynn’s amendment 8-3. It would have added $600,000 into the budget to maintain bus fares at current levels. Adult fares will go up to $2.00. Seniors fares and Anchor Rides will also go up.
The assembly also rejected funding for a homeless coordinator, among other things.
The Municipality’s Chief Financial Officer Lucinda Mahoney explains that reductions were made in another area to offset some of the cost of some of the amendments.
“All of the spending amendments total just over a million dollars,” Mahoney said. “And then Bill Star had an amendment related to property tax relief of $500,000 and this was essentially reducing a budget in another area. So there were budget increases of a million and then a budget decrease of $500,000 for a net increase of $516,000.”
The Assembly also approved a budget increase to help the financially struggling Anchorage School District by picking up the cost of police officers who work in the schools, but sources say it’s likely that Mayor Sullivan will veto the item. The Mayor has line item veto power which he may use within seven days.
The Mayor’s proposed budget would have increased property taxes by 2.7 percent. The Assembly’s amendments will increase property taxes by 3.4 percent.
The total budget is around $267,000. That’s still $1.4 million under the tax cap and several million dollars less than last year’s.
Contract bargaining between the Juneau School District and teachers resumed Monday evening, and as negotiators entered NEA-Alaska offices they were greeted with chants and signs calling for a fair contract.
This is the first negotiating session since early October. Teachers are working for the second year on a one-year contract that remains in effect until a new agreement is reached. They’re clearly frustrated by the lack of bargaining.
Despite blustery winds and temperatures in the low teens, about 20 teachers gathered outside the downtown Juneau office building where the session was held.
Juneau Education Association negotiators entered to cheers, while school district officials heard “settle our contract.”
Teachers started gathering after school as negotiating teams walked into a bargaining session.
Teachers received no salary increase in last year’s contract. They’re asking for no less than a cost of living increase in this year’s agreement.
The two sides met in arbitration in October. The arbitrator’s opinion is expected by the end of the year, but it’s only advisory.
School district officials maintain there is no money in the budget for a raise for teachers.
A young man was sentenced in Bethel Superior Court to 45 years in prison for murdering a Korean cab driver a few winters ago. Kyle Motgin pled guilty to murder in the second degree which dropped several other charges. He was 21 years old when he stabbed Young Suk Chong to death on January 31, 2012.
The victim, “Suzi”, as she was known by her friends, was a 54-year-old cab driver working the early morning shift. Wind chills were 55 below zero. Motgin had been drinking and called the Quyana Cab Company from a home in Bethel. The Kuskokwim River was frozen and he wanted a ride downriver 10 miles to the village of Napakiak. Instead of bringing money to pay for the ride, he brought a knife.
Judge Dwayne McConnell spoke at length at the sentencing.
“The kind of injuries that you inflicted are hard to imagine,” McConnell said.
McConnell reviewed the evidence. In Bethel they found glasses, a boot, and blood; inside the SUV cab car in Napakiak, it was another gruesome scene.
“It’s clear to me that she fought, she fought, she fought really hard to stay alive to try to stay alive and he did his best to make sure she didn’t for whatever reason,” McConnell said.
Motgin stabbed Chong too many times to count. He dragged her into the back of the cab and left her body there to freeze. She was found the next day.
In sentencing comments, District Attorney June Stein said Chong was working in Bethel to earn money for her family back home in California. Part of that family is her daughter Alisha McGinty who addressed the court in person.
“My mom is the rock of my family and my extended family. Not only only financially but emotionally,” McGingy said. “She always hosted out family gatherings, Christmas, any holiday, any Korean holiday, Thanksgiving. Celebrating our first Christmas without her last year, despite having almost every family member there. . .felt empty and cold.”
She expressed her grief that her mother missed her recent graduation from college. She says her mom overcame a lot in her life including extreme poverty and a bout with cancer which doctors told her would leave her six months to live.
“I’ve always thought that she was like a super hero and for her to go the way she did is so unbelievable unfair,” McGinty said.
Motgin also got emotional when he spoke and apologized to Chong’s family.
“It’s hard on me, it’s hard on my family, it’s hard on the victim’s family. I’m sorry,” Motgin said.
Through long pauses in his comments, Judge McConnell said there were a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the murder. He said they’re never going to know exactly why it happened but they do know who did it.
The judge talked at length about Motgin’s past criminal history. At the time of the murder he was on felony probation for assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
“You assault women. . .and you seem to like knives,” McConnell said.
McConnell says the fact that Motgin might have been drunk that night is no excuse.
“Alcohol lets you do things you want to do. It makes it easier to do things you want to do,” McConnell said. “That’s what alcohol does. It dis-inhibits you. It makes you more likely to do what you want to do. It’s why people get in trouble. It shows me that you’re such an angry person.”
Whether it was anger that Motgin felt that night and whether it can be resolved in the future is unknown but the sentence allows for the possibility of rehabilitation.
He was sentenced to 80 years with 35 suspended. That leaves him 45 years to serve with 10 years probation, which would put him up for parole when he’s about 50 years old. He also has to serve an additional 1 and a half years for violating his previous probation.
There is several probation conditions including one that prevents Motgin from ever taking a cab again.