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The Ketchikan City Council Thursday night voted to terminate funding for a controversial, decorative rain gauge. The council previously approved up to $100,000 for the project. The planned source of funding has been a topic of debate. Some believed it would come from Cruise Passenger Vessel taxes. City Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon, at an earlier meeting, stated the money would come from the Port Enterprise Fund.
Public testimony lasted more than an hour with most commenting on the rain gauge.
Artist Dave Rubin says he benefitted through the same selection process when given CPV grant funding for his piece “The Rock.” Rubin served on the committee that chose the rain gauge design.
“It’s not what we all pictured as art. I stood before you and said, ‘Look. My idea is art. It’s conservative, conventional, old-time art.’ And this isn’t. But then when I understood it, I realized that could be really cool.”
Rubin requested that the council postpone the decision until January so people can understand how the selection was made.
Ketchikan resident Dick Allen says he opposes the design, comparing it to a Ford Edsel. He says the design should have been presented to the public much earlier.
“The people that I’ve talked to have said ‘what’s wrong with the one we’ve got.’ …I can’t see $100,000, wherever it comes from. I hope next time that you have something like this that you put it out to the public so they can see and be able to talk with their council members.”
Allen says it may not have been intentional, but the process seemed secretive.
Ketchikan Arts Council Director Kathleen Light says in addition to “The Rock”, the same process was used to select art for the library and the salmon sculpture on Ketchikan Creek.
Light also asked the council to postpone a decision until after a proposed open house regarding the project.
“We would love if you would suspend your decision until January, like you said you would, and let us have this meeting on December 12th so that we can answer questions like Mr. Allen’s and this other gentleman’s, and we can clear up any misunderstandings that they may have about this piece of artwork.”
Because of some confusion, Light asked that the funding source be clarified so all can provide accurate information to the public.
Ray Troll wanted to share the viewpoint from an artist. He presented a document signed by other local artists in support of the rain gauge.
“We’re all in favor of the new rain gauge and the talented duo of Dutch artists that have been chosen by the citizen selection committee. We’ve reviewed their other works carefully, that means we’ve all looked at their websites and the artwork they do. As professional artists, we can feel confident that they will deliver a remarkable and professionally crafted piece of art that we can all be proud of.”
The piece is designed by two artists from Amsterdam. Troll believes it is already a successful piece because of the discussion it is generating. He noted that some Ketchikan artists have work displayed throughout the world.
Bianca Jurczak, who submitted a proposal for the rain gauge design, says she is not against the concept of getting a new gauge or the funding. She says she has legal and technical concerns.
“I don’t think that the bid procedure was actually put out properly. With something of such a high value, I think it’s why the KPAW structure maybe didn’t work so well or why it’s such a big thing. Also the fact that, they’re not from this country. That stings. That really hurts. I didn’t expect my piece to get picked, but I didn’t expect something that looked like that or that came from another country to be chosen over me.”
Jurczak says work visas would be required, and tax laws and additional costs have not been considered. She added not picking a local artist is a slap in the face. Jurczak says she would file an appeal if the project is approved.
About a dozen people spoke to the council about the rain gauge. About half in support of it and half against.
Part of the purpose of the design was to cover a gas vent adjacent to the Ketchikan Visitors Center building. There was some debate as to whether or not that criteria was met.
Council member Bob Sivertsen introduced the motion to eliminate funding for the rain gauge. He says the proposal does not address the objective of covering the vent pipe. Sivertsen feels the money should be directed elsewhere.
“The rain gauge is a want. It’s not part of one-percent-for-art, or any of those types of things. The city has more than its share of needs at this time. I think this money can be better spent.”
Sivertsen added that he has heard overwhelming negative input on the project.
Council member DeAnn Karlson says she supports art because it enhances the community. She too does not feel the selection process was adhered to.
“If they want us to back the process and support the process, I think there has to be a consistency to what that is. And if it’s not being supported in the RFP and their decisions, it makes it difficult for me to support it in terms of this particular project.”
Council member Marty West offered a motion to postpone the decision until January, saying emotions are very high.
“I think the timing was bad to have this during the same time we’re doing the budget. They are separate issues. I do think that we need time to let the Arts Council explain, and let people explore the project and they won’t find it quite as horrifying as they seem to feel that it is now.”
After further discussion votes were taken.
Wests motion to postpone failed 2 to 4 with West and Olsen voting in favor of postponement.
The vote to terminate the project passed 4-2 with West and Olsen voting against.
After the vote, the council briefly adjourned. A visibly upset Ray Troll approached Sivertsen at the council table. The discussion was not recorded or on record, but according the the Ketchikanb Daily News, Troll told Sivertsen, (quote) “This really makes us look bad, not only locally but globally.” Troll added that “he would remember this.”
The council is scheduled to meet Monday (December 9th) to continue budget discussions and select a replacement for Sam Bergeron who resigned from the council last month. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm in City Council Chambers. There will be time for public comment at the start of the meeting.
Representative Bob Herron is being cited for ethics violations, dating back to when he was first elected to the Legislature in 2009.
The House ethics committee found that Herron knowingly withheld “sufficient detail” on his business ventures with another legislator – Senator Lyman Hoffman.
Herron and Hoffman both represent Western Alaska, and they co-own a school bus company in the Bethel area. Golden Eagle Unlimited has a $930,000 contract with the Lower Kuskokwim School District to transport students.
According to ethics law, any time a legislator has a contract with the state that’s worth more than $5,000, they have to report it. The school district is considered a unit of the state.
The ethics board ruled that Herron knowingly left the contract out of his financial disclosures. The Senate ethics committee made a similar ruling on Herron’s business partner, Senator Hoffman, in November.
The House ethics board spent the past year digging through Herron’s financial filings and conducting interviews. They found that Herron also failed to report the seats he held on the boards of corporations since he was elected. And the board dismissed two other complaints against him.
Herron was in Unalaska this week to attend a community event and hold a public listening session at his legislative office. He declined to comment on the ethics violations. But he did hand off a written statement to KUCB.
It read, “I have never knowingly filed a false, misleading or incomplete disclosure statement.”It went on to say that Herron will comply with the corrective actions the committee laid out and follow the filing requirements. The House ethics committee isn’t going to fine Herron at this point. But the Alaska Public Offices Commission has levied a $7,500 penalty against Herron.
A national commission blames the state of Alaska for the epidemic of violence afflicting Alaska Natives, and has come up with a series of recommendations to strengthen tribal jurisdiction. The state Attorney General agrees there’s a public safety problem, but says the Commission’s solutions aren’t suited to Alaska.
The final piece of steel in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s new engineering building was put into place today. It marks the beginning of the end for a decade of vast expansion at the university.
A light drizzle fell on the audience as a crane lifted the final piece to the top of the four-story structure.
The Christmas tree-clad beam, adorned with signatures of most of the onlookers slid smoothly into place with the help of a couple iron workers.
The new Engineering and Industry Building will provide some much needed space for a program that has expanded by 1,000 students since the year 2000.
According to Chris Turletes, the Associate Chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services at UAA, the $78 million building’s new labs and classrooms will be unusual.
“We['re] building the building with a theme of engineering on display,” Turletes said. “So, you’ll be able to see from other parts of the building what’s going on in the labs and what’s going on in some of the classrooms.”
The building is a piece of a three-part project which also includes renovating and updating the current engineering building and adding a parking garage.
This project is the latest – and likely last – in a busy decade of expansion at UAA, which has seen the expansion of the school’s library, the construction of the new Health Sciences Building, ConocoPhillips Science Building, the Alaska Airlines Sports Center and a few other projects.
But, with the school anticipating decreasing state funding in the future, the trend of expansion isn’t likely to continue.
“In general, I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going to be in a robust budget environment over the next few years,” UAA Chancellor Tom Case said. “So, right not the emphasis is on finishing up those things that have gotten started; do the deferred maintenance that we can because delaying deferred maintenance just adds to the problem in future years.”
Also on the docket are upgrades for the older buildings on campus – some of which are approaching the half century mark.
The Engineering and Industry building is expected to be complete before the start of the Fall 2015 semester.
Late last month, residents of Savoonga and Gambell on St. Lawrence Island began finding hundreds of dead seabirds as they washed ashore.
This week, state officials said the event was from a common disease, and is no cause for concern.
On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a press release that tests showed the birds died from Avian Cholera – which is a lot less terrifying than it sounds.
“Avian Cholera is not related to the disease Cholera that affects humans,” Cathie Harms, a wildlife biologist with ADF&G, said. “It is only a disease of birds; it’s relatively common around the rest of the world.”
“The unusual thing is that Avian Cholera had not been detected in Alaska before; it had been found in Canada, but this is the first time we’ve found it in Alaska.”
She says even with a large die-off like the one recently seen off St. Lawrence Island, it’s a relatively natural event.
“We had heard that people had concerns of why birds were dying and appearing on the beach,” Harms said. “The good news is although birds died, it’s not something that can hurt people and it isn’t related to the environment or other issues – it is just an outbreak.”
“These outbreaks tend to run their course in a relatively short period of time and in fact we are hearing fewer reports of dead birds as the days go on.”
The Department of Fish and Game recommends putting the carcasses in vented metal oil drums. That way the carcasses can decompose without causing any more illness to spread to scavengers or other animals.
A deadly virus transmitted by ticks is on the rise, and researchers are studying its prevalence in Alaska. The Center for Disease Control recently published a study on the Powassan virus in the Western United States and Siberia.
The controversial Ambler Road was the focus of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group meeting in Anchorage on Thursday.
This week, we’re heading to Whale Pass, a small community on Prince of Wales Island. Bob Meyer lives in Whale Pass.
In 2003, a Sitka couple proposed creating a bear rescue center from the remains of the town’s decommissioned pulp mill – a plan that raised some local hackles.
Ten years later, the Fortress of the Bear is home to five brown bears and two new black bear cubs – and it has converted some skeptics, including a local biologist.
Les Kinnear may sound like he’s talking to a toddler
“Put your foot here. Huh? Baloo, foot! Foot! No? Ok,” he said.
But Baloo is an 800 pound brown bear
“You’re not listening, huh. Ok,” Kinnear laughs.
Kinnear runs Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear with his wife, Evy. He’s standing nose to snout with Baloo, a 4-year-old, 7-foot-tall brown bear, separated by only a couple inches and a metal grate door.
Kinnear was a hunting guide for years, hunting bears along with other big game. Now, he and his wife take care of seven bears in the remains of Sitka’s old pulp mill. All of the bears arrived as orphaned cubs that would otherwise have been euthanized.
“All you gotta do is have one of those little bears sit there and lick your hand, and you know the answer to that, that’s simple,” Kinnear said when asked why he started the Fortress.
The old pulp mill’s two giant clarifying tanks have been converted into bear pens, with high concrete walls.
Waldholz: It has kind of a post-apocalyptic feel in here.
Kinnear: Yes, it does.
It’s not just the bear pens. All the facility’s buildings were salvaged from the pulp mill or hauled over second-hand. Everything is rusty. There are piles of tires, sacks of supplies. A flock of assorted poultry roams around.
It’s a scrappy operation.
When the Fortress was first proposed in 2003, a lot of Sitkans weren’t thrilled.
“We have one of the highest known density of brown bears in the world – in the world!” Phil Mooney, the regional wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Game said. “So people were saying, why would you put a zoo here. “
He was skeptical at first. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Letters went to the governor; it was pretty divisive in the beginning,” Mooney said. “There was a big campaign to keep our bears wild, that people come here to see wild bears, not zoo bears.”
“There was a lot of really strong emotional response.”
But Mooney has since changed his mind. He remembers a delegation visiting from the Bronx Zoo. One of the women kept saying how impressed she was with the facility.
“And she turned to me and said, ‘you’re missing it because you’re thinking about this facility as a person. You have issues with the aesthetics of it. The bears don’t care about the aesthetics. They care that they have ¾ of an acre in there and they can dig, and do anything they want, like a real bear would,’” Mooney said.
But what really made Mooney a believer was when the Kinnears invited Sitka’s 3rd through 5th graders out to the Fortress. The Kinnears pitched two tents in the bear enclosure. Inside each was a sleeping bag with a hot dog in the bottom.
“And I’m standing in the back, just watching. And the bear ran straight over to the tents, slit the fabric, pull out the hotdogs and held them up…and the kids were like, I’m never taking food in my tent again,” Mooney said.
Mooney was impressed. He spends a lot of his time on bear education, trying to train people to avoid the kinds of interactions that lead to dead bears and orphaned cubs – trying to avoid, in fact, the kind of situation that brought these bears to the Fortress in the first place.
“This is Kilsnoo If you hold the mic up here you can probably hear them breathe,” Kinnear said.
Kilsnoo was the Fortress’s first bear. Mooney captured him in the summer of 2007, after the cub’s mother was shot trying to enter a lodge near Angoon.
“He was malnourished, dehydrated, terrified, traumatized, he had all the hair burned off his front paws clear to the shoulders, a belly full of tapeworms, a mouth full of broken teeth,” Kinnear said.
Kinnear says he understands why some folks object to the idea of the Fortress – in an ideal world brown bears shouldn’t live in old clarifying tanks.
His grand vision for the Fortress is much more ambitious. He wants to expand the habitats and eventually start rehabilitating bear cubs to return to the wild. This has been done in British Columbia and the Lower 48, but isn’t permitted in Alaska.
“We aren’t going to save a lot of bears,” Kinnear said. “We’ve only done a dozen in the last 10 years.”
“Some of the other places around the country where they process and release, they’re into the hundreds.”
Mooney says releasing bears isn’t likely any time soon, but he says the Fortress has a role even without that. He thinks these bears in captivity might turn out to be some of his best tools for keeping the rest of Sitka’s bears wild
They say the most important piece of safety equipment outdoors is your brain, and that is particularly true with staying alive in avalanche country. We’ll address the most dangerous backcountry hazard with an avalanche prediction expert and an educator who specializes in tuning up that safety gear inside your head. We’ll talk about how to recognize danger, how to prepare for winter travel in the backcountry, and when to stay home.
- Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center
- Alaska Avalanche School
- Avalanche Science and Safety, BLM Campbell Creek Science Center
HOST: Charles Wohlforth
- Kevin Wright, Director, Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center
- Aleph Johnston-Bloom, Alaska Avalanche School
PARTICIPATE: Facebook: Outdoor Explorer (comments may be read on-air)
BROADCAST: Thursday December 12, 2013. 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm AKT
REPEAT BROADCAST: Thursday December 12, 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
Federal wildlife managers are asking for proposed solutions to the herds of some 1,000 feral cattle that have lived on two small islands off the coast of Kodiak Island for more than 100 years.December 6, 2013
Anchorage lags behind much of the nation in protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens from discrimination, but does that mean they face more prejudice or have a harder life here? Our guests address the lgbt experience in Anchorage, the good as well as the bad. Join us and call in for an open discussion and honest questions about navigating sexual identity.
- Identity Inc., GLBTA non-profit organization in Anchorage
- PFLAG: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
- UAA SafeZone
- New York Times: Anchorage voters reject gay rights ordinance
- Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
- Send e-mail to email@example.com 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)
- Drew Phoenix, co-chair, Identity Board of Directors
- Drew Lemish, UAA student, SafeZone Student Worker
- Other guest TBA
HOST: Charles Wohlforth
LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, November 6, 2013. 2:00 – 3:00 pm (Alaska time)
REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, November 6, 2013. 9:00 – 10:00 pm (Alaska time)