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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
Last year, HB77 stalled in part because its opponents were vocal. People packed town hall meetings to tell their legislators to fight it, and tribes across the state passed resolutions asking for a “no” vote. But how widespread was that opposition?
The Hays Group released a poll this week the gauges public sentiment on the bill. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joins us to walk us through the numbers.
- Trout Unlimited: 2014 General Election Poll (PDF)
- Alaska Conservation Voters: 2014 General Election Poll (PDF)
So, what did the poll determine?
That people mostly don’t even know what it does! I’ve got the poll in front of me, and it says only 15 percent of people they called had heard of the bill – let alone know what’s in it.
But the people who have been tracking it don’t like it. Nearly half of those people who are familiar with the legislation “strongly” oppose it, while another 10% just sort of oppose it. Less than a quarter of people surveyed said they’re in favor of the bill, which is about the same amount of people who said they had no opinion.
Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll. Can you tell us a little bit about how it was conducted?
The survey was commissioned by Trout Unlimited, a conservation group focused on fish habitat, and they project a 4 percent margin of error. The poll was done over the phone – and this includes cell phones — in February, and about 500 likely voters were surveyed.
The Hays Group asked people for their party affiliations, and about a third were Republicans and another third were independents. Just 15 percent were Democrats. The rest identified as other or refused to say.
As far as the language of the survey goes, it’s pretty straight forward when dealing with people who already know what the bill does. But if you’re a respondent who has never heard of HB77, you get the bill described to you in really simple terms. Remember, it’s a super complicated bill. The poll sums it up this way:
“House Bill 77 is designed to allow government officials to issue development permits more quickly by taking away some public participation opportunities from Alaskans.” After hearing that phrasing, nearly 70 percent of respondents say they oppose the bill. Now, if HB77 had been described as something that “streamlines the permitting process,” to borrow the Parnell administration’s terminology, the results might be different.
Does the poll get into whether voters will punish or support lawmakers who come out in favor of HB77?
That’s actually one of the things I think is interesting about this poll.
Even though this is an issue state lawmakers are going to have to vote on, the Hays Group didn’t ask people if a vote for or against HB77 would affect their opinions of their own legislators. They asked if it would make them more or less likely to support Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Dan Sullivan. He was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources up until this September, and he was one of the authors of HB77.
At 32 percent, the most popular answer was it makes “no difference.” A quarter of respondents said it made them “much less likely” to support Sullivan, and about 15 percent said it only hurt their opinion of Sullivan a little. A total of 10 percent of respondents said HB77 made them more likely to support him.
Now, we’ve already talked about how Alaska is really, really difficult to poll, and that language in these polls matters. But whether these numbers mean anything or not, that the poll even asks about this shows that some people are thinking about using the permitting bill as a line of attack.
So far, ads targeting Dan Sullivan have tried to cast him as a stranger to Alaska. They talk about the home he maintained in Maryland, and the fact that he’s from Ohio. Instead, this question focuses on Sullivan’s record, and it looks like people are wondering if this would be a weak spot for him. I guess the proof will be if we see attack ads on this subject.
DEC Commissioner Says Future Sulfolane Spill Liability Shouldn’t Preclude Sale Of Flint Hills’ Refinery
The Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the issue of liability for future sulfolane spills should not preclude Flint Hills from selling its North Pole refinery.
Big Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit.
Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.
Forty-eight communities in rural Alaska, including 26 in the YK Delta will receive 3G or 4G data service, thanks to an FCC grant of $41 million that GCI secured.
GCI’s David Morris says the money come from tribal mobility funds. It’s a a one-time opportunity for underserved populations.
“It’s one of the things that happened at the FCC level you would not expect to happen we’re just happy to take advantage of it and bring better technology out in your direction,” Morris said.
GCI doesn’t have the specifics of when the communities will see the upgrade, but it will take a few years.
“We still have to go through a few admin steps to say with certainty when the build schedule starts,” Morris said.
They are expected to take two years to build out 3G, and three years for 4G services.
It will expand off of the Terra-Southwest fiber optic and microwave towers and satellite where it’s still in use.
“But if you’re terrestrial, terra, it’s going to go a lot faster than it will over satellite, but in any event going from 2G data platform which is in rural Alaska today to 3G or 4G will be a significant advancement,” Morris said.
The full list of communities includes:
- Brevig Mission
- Goodnews Bay
- Hooper Bay
- Mountain Village
- Nunam Iqua
- Pilot Station
- Pitkas Point
- Russian Mission
- Scammon Bay
- St. Marys
- St. Michael
- Tooksook Bay
Petersburg School District won three statewide awards for technology in education. The district- and the community -have made computer learning a priority.
Petersburg is a fishing town of 3,000 on an island in South East Alaska.
But inside the middle school, it’s pretty high tech. As these seventh graders enter their computer class, they pull laptops off a shelf, and settle into desks. The class is teaching them how to navigate google programs and it’s mandatory if they are going to get their own laptops when they enter high school.
It’s this dedication to technology that caught the attention of the statewide group, Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Dr. Mark Standley is President of the organization and a professor at the University of Alaska South East. He says no one at ASTE can remember one school winning so many annual awards.
“We’re calling it the Petersburg sweep,” Standley said.
The district’s three awards were presented at ASTE’s statewide conference in Anchorage February 25. Standley says the sweep reflects on the district’s strong team of educators.
“What Petersburg has done through leadership through the fine work of teachers like Don Holmes who has been there for many years and now more currently with the work Jon Kludt-Painter and your Superintendent Rob Thomason you are seeing the effect of, the results of, Petersburg’s investment over the years in the smart integration of technology in student work,” Standley said.
The district’s technology support teacher, John Kludt-Painter, won an award as did student PK Bunyi for building a quad-copter from scratch and then using it to create an aerial movie called, “A Simple Walk to School”. Superintendent Thomason won the Alaska Technology Administrator of the year. He’s been an educator for over four decades.
“And in all those years, 43 years, five states, two foreign countries, this district with this staff and this technology director, the top of the top,” Thomason said.
The school district follows the belief that technology is a good tool for educators to use and an important skill base for students to learn. And classes use it A LOT. Kids have access to computer devices from Kindergarten on. All high school students have their own laptops 24-7.
Kludt-Painter along with an assistant makes sure they’re all running smoothly.
“Just checked this morning and we had about 500 devices connected to our wi-fi network all doing multiple things,” Kludt-Painter said.
But technology only works if people know how to use it. Kludt-Painter says it’s “mission critical” to what the Petersburg schools do. The district prioritizes real time needs first, addressing students and staff immediately. Say there’s a website that’s not accessible because the school’s content filter has prevented a class from using it.
“Maybe the teacher’s lesson is hinging on that and you have twenty students waiting to access something and it’s blocked and so those sorts of things you have to react quickly,” Kludt-Painter said.
“When Jon talks about opening up a site, it used to be a three week process,” Thomason said. “You had to go through a whole bunch of justifications, and now it’s more ‘here’s what I want to do here’s where I need to do it, I’m in the middle of a lesson, it happens right now.”
It’s basically helping the users use the equipment.
“They call it three click stupid,” Kludt-Painter said, “in the sense that you just need it to work and if it doesn’t work in a number of clicks, then people won’t use it and we’ve invested way too much just to have things collect dust.”
The district’s relationship with technology began about ten years ago when it was awarded a grant for high school laptops called One to One. The students are prepped for it in middle school with classes such as “digital citizenship”.
There have been growing pains over the years. For one, the parents in the community needed to get on board with the idea that computers would help their kids learn. That wasn’t always easy when they saw them surfing the Internet late at night. Kludt-Painter says it has taken a lot of listening and responding to concerns, including working with parents on how to empower themselves.
“Whether it’s timed access so the laptop just happens to turn off at 7 at night so you still retain your family time and then turns back on at 6 in the morning ready to go, those sorts of tools for parents so they don’t feel that the technology is driving it,” Kludt-Painter said. “It’s just a tool that disappears in the background and is just used for education.”
Angela: “IT people, you know, computer experts, etc. are just in high demand, I think, everywhere. . .so why choose working in a school?”
Kludt-Painter: “Oh, boy. . . .(laughs) . . .that’s uh, it’s just um. . .I’m so passionate about watching what the endless possibilities of where students can go.”
Well, they have gone to Australia. . .at least by teleconference when fourth and fifth graders worked with a chemistry teacher there.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that has made this small town an example for how technology can enhance learning with the right dedication.
Representative Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, announced a new political path at the Mat Su Senior Center in downtown Palmer on Friday.
Stoltze told the audience that his heart has always been in Palmer, and now he’d like to represent that city in a new state Senate district. He said he’d done “a lot of soul-searching” before making the announcement.
The northern Southeast city of Yakutat is gearing up for a wave-energy experiment. If it’s a success, the community of about 650 residents could lower its high, diesel-fueled power costs. The system could also be a model for some other isolated Alaska cities.
Scott Newlun opens the door to Yakutat’s new power plant, and it’s really loud.
It’s not so bad outside the sound-absorbing walls. And that’s good news for Newlun, who’s headed up Yakutat’s power system for 15 years.
“That new plant just changed the whole atmosphere, especially where I’m living, next door to it,” he says.
Its generators are more efficient, and Newlun’s proud of that. But power costs remain high.
“Since I’ve been involved here, that’s always been a goal, to find a different source of energy other than diesel fuel,” he says.
These days, he’s thinking about a power source with a different sound.
“Wave energy is about the most exciting thing we’ve got going,” he says.
Yakutat’s geography doesn’t work for hydro. Weather limits what you can get out of solar and wind. Wood-fueled biomass got serious consideration. But with only 450 electrical customers, it’s too small a market.
That’s why the town is looking toward the ocean.
A number of emerging technologies are available. Some use anchored buoys, others long lines of floats.
Yakutat’s trying out a smaller device called the Surge Wave Converter, made by Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy.
It’s sort of like a paddle, hinged to a base on the ocean floor.
“It reminds me of a kelp frond in the water, as waves go by. And it sways back and forth like that. It’s that slow and that mild,” he says.
The back-and-forth movement powers a pump, which pushes water through pipes to the shore. That pressure is the carbon-free energy that runs an electrical generator.
Resolute Marine has tested the Surge at a North Carolina research facility.
Yakutat Planner Bill Lucey says it’s time to try it out in the Gulf of Alaska.
“We know it makes electricity. It’s survived an East Coast storm. So now what we need to know is how much it is going to cost to anchor them to the bottom so they don’t bounce around in a West Coast storm,” he says.
Yakutat hoped to put a test unit in the water this year and add about a dozen more later on. But permitting and other delays pushed that back to 2015.
So the job now, for Lucey and others, is to research possible impacts to the community – and the environment.
“Your sharks and your rays can become attracted to underwater cables. But this project will simply pump pressurized sea water to a shore-based plant and the electricity will be generated on land,” he says.
Lucy says seabirds aren’t expected to be an issue, since the system’s underwater. Acoustic tests will look for impacts on whales and seals.
Commercial fisheries are being taken into account. And then there’s the surfers, attracted by the same ocean power that makes this project a possibility.
“There’s a lot of beach break all along that area. And if we put 14 of these panels out it’s not going to take out all the wave areas for surfing and it might not be an issue where they are,” he says.
Funding and technical help for this testing phase is coming from federal, state and local governments. Early estimates put the cost at about $3 million, but it could be higher.
Borough Manager Skip Ryman hopes it pencil out. But he’s trying to be realistic.
“The big question for us is, is wave energy feasible? Is it going to be something that will actually aid the consumer?” he says. “If wave energy proves to be more expensive than diesel, then certainly, that’s something that will throw it under bus for us.”
It’ll take a couple years ‘til that’s known. But Newlun remains optimistic.
“This might be huge. That’s what I’m hoping, you know. If we can harness some of the kinetic energy out of the ocean, it could change the face of power generation for the world,” he says.
Or at least, for some other coastal Alaska communities.
This week, we’re heading to Tok, where the community is coming together to rebuild a home for a family that lost everything in a recent fire. John Rusyniak is President of the Tok Chamber of Commerce.
Artist / Composer
Roger Daltrey with The Chieftains / Traditional
The Chieftains. An Irish Evening
West Coast of Clare
Maura O’Connell / Andy Irvine
Boys of the Lough (Instrumental Reels)
Aly Bain and Friends / Traditional
Aly Bain and Friends
Dolores Keans Traditional
The Best of Dolores Keane
The Thorn Upon the Rose
Mary Black / Julie Mathews
Babes in the Wood
The Foggy Dew (harp instrumental)
Patric Ball / Traditional
Music on the Wind
Johnny I Hardly Knew You
Karan Casey / Traditional
Ships in the Forest
The Briar and the Rose
Niamh Parsons and Frank McPhail / Tom Waits
Paddy Gavins, Humours of Castlefin (instrumentals)
The Ceili Bandits / Traditional
The Ceili Bandits
Red is the Rose
Nancy Griffith and the Chieftains / Traditional
The Chieftains. An Irish Evening
Morgan Magan (harp instrumental)
Patric Ball / Traditional
Music on the Wind
Dolores Keans Traditional
The Best of Dolores Keane
If you’ve gotten a little sedentary over the winter, the next Outdoor Explorer will have the information you need to up your level of fitness. Host Charles Wohlforth will be joined by a coach, a physical therapist and a dietician to talk about how to safely and successfully start a fitness program, to control weight, improve health or just enjoy life more. For those who already work out regularly, we’ll talk about how to take it to the next level, and even to endurance competition.
HOST: Charles Wohlforth
PARTICIPATE: Facebook: Outdoor Explorer (comments may be read on-air)
BROADCAST: Thursday, March 13, 2013. 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm AKT
REPEAT BROADCAST: Thursday, March 13, 2013. 9:00 – 10:00 pm AKT
SUBSCRIBE: Receive Outdoor Explorer automatically every week via
Go to OUTDOOREXPLORER.ORG
Audio will be posted following radio broadcast
Gov. Sean Parnell has declared this year the education session the legislature, but if you are involved in schools in Anchorage you already know that education funding and policy are hot topics. This is Charles Wohlforth. On the next Hometown Alaska, I’ll be joined by education activists to lead a community discussion on school funding and school choice. Should state funding increase, and should it be available to private and religious schools?
- Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
- Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
- Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)
HOST: Charles Wohlforth
LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, March 12, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, March 12, 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
Audio to be posted following broadcast.
For the first Iditarod musher to reach Ruby, the checkpoint brings the promise of a gourmet meal. For the rest of the field, while there's no champagne, Ruby is still a milestone, marking the beginning of a long stretch of mushing along the Yukon River.March 7, 2014