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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 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.
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Mt. Edgecumbe Volleyball coach Rich Calkins, and juniors Taryn White (Hoonah) and Renatta Olson (Golovin), recount the team’s tough loss to Grace Christian in the state finals. The Lady Braves Volleyball team has been in the state championship match the last four years, and won three times.
Around the world, children are slowing down. Researchers have found that kids don't run as fast as they did in the 1970s. The finding suggests a potential uptick in future heart problems because running speed is a proxy for aerobic fitness and a measure of overall cardiovascular health.
President John F. Kennedy's relationship with civil rights was far from simple. Host Michel Martin speaks with one of the last living leaders of the civil rights movement, Georgia Representative John Lewis, about his own relationship with President Kennedy. Stanford historian Clayborne Carson also joins the conversation.
Public disapproval of the Affordable Care Act has pushed President Obama to his lowest ratings yet, according to a new poll. But does it matter? And how will the Cheney sisters' disagreement over gay marriage play out in the polls? Host Michel Martin asks journalists Callie Crossley and Keli Goff.
Among others receiving the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom: writer/activist Gloria Steinem, newspaper editor Ben Bradlee and jazz musician Arturo Sandoval. Posthumous honors went to astronaut Sally Ride, Sen. Daniel Inouye and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.