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Alaska

U.S. Congress 2019-2020: Bills that have passed the House & Senate and become Law

U.S. Congress 2019-2020: Bills Introduced (Over 5,000 in the House and over 3,000 in the Senate)

Southeast Alaska: Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Work Group Releases Final Report to the Public Posted & Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN - After months of information gathering and deliberations, the Alaska Marine Highway (AMH) Reshaping Work Group, formed following Governor Dunleavy’s Administrative Order No. 313, has released a final report of findings and recommendations regarding the future financing, governance, and service levels of the AMHS.

“I thank the members of the AMHS work group for their dedication and commitment to the future of the Alaska Marine Highway System,” said Governor Michael Dunleavy. “I am confident that this report will assist in forging a more reliable and efficient marine highway system to serve coastal Alaska for years to come.” The report was made available to the governor on October 2nd and released to the public on October 22nd

Going forward, as the budgeting process unfolds in the coming months, DOT&PF will be vetting the recommendations and developing a plan that integrates with the Governor’s proposed budget, to be released in mid-December 2020. A DOT&PF presentation outlining the proposed implementation of that plan will be shared with the legislature and the public after the 32nd legislature convenes.

“The AMHS needs to provide Alaska coastal communities with reliable ferry service, while achieving efficiencies that help sustain the system for the long-term,” stated Admiral Tom Barrett, chair of the Work Group.

Barrett said, “The reshaping work group has offered recommendations we believe can advance both of these goals and improve the system for the benefit of all Alaskans.”

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) has exited to provide ferry transportation to certain Alaska coastal communities and the ferry system has provided access to other communities, to larger road systems, including the interstate highway system. The AMHS has benefited the economic, physical, social, and cultural quality of peoples’ lives along with the overall quality of life in the communities served.

Over the years previous reports have suggested many system improvements. Virtually none have been implemented. And some problems that plague the system today are not new, they evolved over time and could have been avoided or mitigated if lessons from the past were learned and applied. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Southeast Alaska: Legal Victory in POW Forest Logging Plan Goes Unchallenged by Department of Justice Posted & Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN -  The U.S. Department of Justice has decided against appealing the decision by a federal court in June 2020 which vacated the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to log a 1.8 million-acre project area on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. The court entered its order to dismiss the previously filed appeal last week.  

A coalition of rainforest defenders who successfully halted a massive timber sale on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest received word this week that their legal victory would go unchallenged. The U.S. Department of Justice informed the court that it would not pursue its previously filed appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, instead opting to end the dispute with a motion for voluntary dismissal. According to Earthjustice, this puts to rest the largest logging operation proposed by the U.S. Forest Service in decades.

“Putting an end to this logging plan protects the voice of the people in federal decision making processes. The Forest Service was trying to fast track logging without listening to the needs of communities, and ignoring the devastating impacts of their actions on wolves, deer, birds, and salmon.” said Natalie Dawson, executive director at Audubon Alaska.

Dawson said, “The large old-growth trees and rich ecosystem of Prince of Wales Island contributes to the region’s tourism, fishing, and recreation. The time to embrace sustainable economies and turn our backs on expensive, destructive, fast-tracked logging is long overdue.”

The court case was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of National Audubon Society, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, National Audubon Society, and Natural Resources Defense Council. The court’s opinion was issued on June 24, 2020.

Quoting a news release from Earthjustice, this legal victory spared centuries-old trees on 1.8 million acres across Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest, quelling fears of traditional hunters and others in Southeast Alaska who rely on the area for wild food gathering, fishing, tourism, and recreation. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020


Trump Rally and Car Parade Held in Ketchikan

Trump Rally and Car Parade Held in Ketchikan
Posted & Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN
Leslie Becker and her husband Dr. Steve Becker were riding atop Mayor Rodney Dial's Troop Transporter. Leslie Becker is challenging Rep. Dan Ortiz for D36's seat in the Alaska House.


Ketchikan: Trump Rally and Car Parade Held in Ketchikan Posted & Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN - District 36 Republican Party in Ketchikan hosted a Trump Rally and Car Parade on Saturday, Oct. 24.  Over 150 folks attended to hear local speakers, get campaign gear and meet up with other local Trumpsters!

Local Pastor John Judson, Gateway Baptist Church, started the program with an invocation.  Ketchikan Borough Mayor Rodney Dial led the Pledge of Allegiance and Tiffany Cook sang the National Anthem.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan called in from Washington D.C. and encouraged the crowd to vote for the entire Republican Ticket from the President, Senator Sullivan, Congressman Young, State Senator Bert Stedman,and District 36 Candidate for State Representative Leslie Becker, to keep the momentum for change going.

Leslie Becker of Ketchikan for D36 State Representative spoke about the need for our legislature to respect the rule of law, be fiscally responsible, protect the PFD and restore reliable ferry services.

KGB Mayor Rodney Dial said we need to send Leslie Becker to Juneau.  He said the past practice of the legislature has been to push additional costs of an unsustainable state budget to local borough governments.

Dial also encouraged locals to re-elect US Senator Dan Sullivan because he has been a champion for Southeast Alaska issues.  Mayor Dial told the crowd about the efforts Senator Sullivan has made for opening up the Tongass as well as making improvements to the NOAA dock facility and to homeport the Fairweather in Ketchikan. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Southeast Alaska: Wolf tissue samples requested in Southeast Alaska - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation is requesting wolf hunters and trappers to submit tissue samples and specific harvest locations and dates when sealing wolves.

A petition to list Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on July 15, 2020. Information collected during the sealing process is critical to demonstrating the state's ability to manage wolves and avoid the wolves being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If the wolves in Southeast Alaska are listed, state and federal hunting and trapping seasons will be suspended, and management will be assumed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service until wolves are delisted (years).

Sealers will take a small piece of skin (1.5 in. by 0.5 in) from the cut edge of the hide and a dime size piece of muscle from all wolves. Sealers will also accept a front leg bone (see picture below) from harvested wolves. Be sure to tell the sealer which foreleg bone came from which wolf. Only one foreleg bone per wolf is needed. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Southeast Alaska: Alaskan Healthcare Organizations Receive $9.7 Million from Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund - The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF) have awarded $9.7 million from the Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund (CNRF) to twelve healthcare organizations across Alaska including Southeast. These funds are in addition to the $40 million allocated to the CNRF granting process. 

The Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund (CNRF) is intended to aid nonprofit organizations striving to surmount the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic so they may continue the vital work they perform for their communities. Over $28 million were distributed statewide in the first two rounds, with close to $10 million set for distribution in the third round, which closed October 14. However, DHSS recognized the need for a healthcare-specific allocation of funds as well; the additional $9.7 million was set aside to address the unique challenges nonprofit hospitals and clinics face in these unparalleled times. 

“It has been a pleasure working with DHSS to evolve this project along with the needs of Alaskans,” says Katie St. John, The Alaska Community Foundation’s VP of Programs & Grants. “There is a truly staggering level of need out there, and we are privileged to be able to answer a portion of it. Supporting our healthcare organizations has never been more essential.”

Petersburg Medical Center CEO Phil Hofstetter reports, "The grant funding from The Alaska Community Foundation has greatly assisted our efforts to continue our commitment to excellence in health care, our responsiveness to community needs, and our goals to strive to be the best place for patients to receive care, employees to work, and physicians to practice medicine." - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020


 

jpg video

Alaska: Debate for the State 2020: U.S Senate Debate between Sen. Dan Sullivan and Al Gross & U.S. House Debate between Rep. Don Young and Alyse Galvin - In case you missed the recent debates, Alaska Public Media presented Debate for the State, a two-night debate series featuring candidates for U.S. Senate and House. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020
jpg video

Ketchikan: Early In-person Voting at the Ketchikan Recreation Center By LARRY JACKSON - Last week, Larry Jackson visited the ongoing in-person early voting site at the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Recreation Center.

Anyone who is an Alaska resident and receives a PFD is automatically registered to vote and can vote early. You must show one valid ID and show up between 8-5, Monday through Friday. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020
jpg video

Ketchikan: Interview with Newly Elected City Council Member Riley Gass By LARRY JACKSON - Ketchikan Alaska YouTube news is back after taking a break for a few months with this interview with Riley Gass who has just won a 3 year seat on the Ketchikan City Council. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Fish Factor: “Getting whaled” By LAINE WELCH - Light-weight collapsible pots prevent whales from pirating pricey black cod from longline hooks and give a break to small boats.

“Getting whaled” is so pervasive fishery managers allowed black cod (sablefish) fishermen to switch from baited lines to rigid pots in the Bering Sea in 2008 and in the Gulf of Alaska starting in 2017.  (Interestingly, killer whales rob the hooks in the Bering Sea, while sperm whales are the culprits in the Gulf.)

“The whale predation has just been so horrible,” said Frank Miles of Kodiak, owner of 58 foot and 78 foot fishing boats. “The last couple years I tried to do it with hooks, and it just got to the point to where we left tens of thousands of pounds of black cod unharvested because we were going backwards feeding the whales. You can spread your strings 10 miles apart, and you might get one or two skates up and they find you. And then they pretty much strip you blind.”

Analyses from federal surveys in 2013 showed that when killer whales were present during annual sablefish stock surveys, the whales removed 54 to 72 percent from the hooks.

But switching from lines to pots is no easy deal.

Miles said costs can run as high as a quarter million dollars to buy rigid pots and add hydraulics and all the peripherals needed to run the heavy gear.  The traditional pots also are too big and heavy for smaller boats, and they don’t have the power to pull it off the bottom.

Leave it to fishermen’s ingenuity to solve the problem in the form of collapsible mesh pots with an added whale resistant twist.

“The pots that I'm producing now are a hot dip galvanized, high carbon steel wire that is formed into a helical spring with a closed end at both ends. They also use knotless PE webbing, and the idea there is to have a small mesh size,” said Alexander Stubbs of Stubbs Marine  in San Francisco. “It fishes better and it acoustically masks the fish in the pot. There's a density difference between the PE mesh and water, and the idea is that it will obscure the acoustic echo return of fish trapped in the pot to try and prevent whales from messing with this gear.” - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020



 

Alaska: Fireball in the sky over Alaska By NED ROZELL - Katie Kangas operates a bed-and-breakfast in Ruby, Alaska. On the morning of Oct. 15, she turned to look out her picture window, toward the cabin next door. She was waiting for her client to switch the light on, at which point she would step out and deliver his breakfast.

Staring out into the darkness, she and her husband Ivan saw “an enormous ball of light in the sky to the west. It was moving north to south, and was quite big.”

A few hundred miles northwest, Daisy Sours was standing outside in Selawik, Alaska, at about 7:30 that morning. She saw something she never had before.

“It looked like fireworks, until it split into four dots,” she said.

At villages in northwestern and central Alaska, from McGrath to Wainwright, people saw what scientists think was a meteorite — a rock falling from space burning up and breaking apart in the thick air surrounding Earth.

David Fee thinks it was a bolide, a fiery meteor that exploded in the atmosphere, probably above the quiet spruce swamps east of Kaltag and south of Galena.

Fee is head of the infrasound program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Infrasound is low-frequency noise; elephants might be able to hear it, but our ears don’t work in that range.

Scientists detect infrasound signals with microphones on spidery legs. The stations are peppered all over Alaska.

Those sensitive instruments, maintained by UAF scientists with the Wilson Alaska Technical Center, Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Alaska Earthquake Center, allow researchers to monitor air-pressure changes, as well as low-frequency sounds.

Since the 100-plus stations were installed all over Alaska, in Antarctica and on humid islands in large expanses of blue salt water, scientists have detected nuclear explosions beneath China from as far away as Fairbanks.

Helping determine compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a large part of the Wilson Alaska Technical Center’s existence, but scientists have found the infrasound networks valuable for other things. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Fish Factor: New dates set for state Board of Fisheries meetings By LAINE WELCH - Many Alaska fishermen are likely to be involved in regulatory meetings next spring instead of being out on the water. And Alaska legislators will be distracted by hearings for hundreds of unconfirmed appointments as they tackle contentious budgets and other pressing issues. 

New dates have been set for state Board of Fisheries meetings that were bumped from later this year due to corona virus concerns. During the same time, along with four unconfirmed seats on the fish board, the Alaska legislature also will be tasked with considering nominees for 137 state boards and commissions named by Gov. Dunleavy during the 2020 session. State lawmakers were unable to do the usual in-depth vetting of appointees when the virus forced them to adjourn early.

The upcoming round of BOF meetings focuses on management of subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries at Prince William Sound, Southeast and Yakutat, as well as statewide shellfish issues and hatcheries.

The meeting dates of March 4 for the hatchery committee and March 5-10 for shellfish issues remain the same as originally scheduled. The Prince William Sound meetings, set to be held in Cordova, are now set to occur from March 30 – April 5; for Southeast and Yakutat, the dates are April 17-29 with the meetings scheduled to be in Ketchikan. 

The plan is to hold in person meetings while monitoring Covid threats that could lead to extra costs and complications, said Glenn Haight, executive director for the boards of both fish and game.

The fish board will address 275 regulatory proposals in its upcoming meeting cycle.


 

 

“We’re just going to see what happens with this year and hopefully things will settle down enough so we can get these proposals done,” he added.

“Probably the biggest unknown is what happens if we’re in the meetings and participants get sick, certainly the ones that we are accountable for such as staff, board members and committee members,” Haight said. “That could lead to higher costs if a number of people are forced to quarantine in a hotel out of their own community. And it’s possible that if an outbreak occurs, the meeting is over. There are certain people we can’t conduct the meeting without and it could be that it’s all lost.”

While nothing can replace meeting face to face, Haight said the response to online meetings via Zoom has been positive. One plus is that it is easy to bring in experts from far away to participate.

“It was kind of nice during the recent work session to see how easy it was to bring in subject matter experts out of nowhere,” he explained. “If you’re meeting in Anchorage, for instance, you’re not going to be able to bring in our regional subsistence expert from Fairbanks. But all of a sudden, when we got to that point in the meeting, there she was available for questions. So it has some features that you can do a bit more with sometimes.”

Meanwhile, four of the seven fish board seats are being warmed by voting members not yet approved by the Alaska legislature, along with the hundreds of others.  That means the appointment procedure goes back to square one, according to Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak).

 “Confirmations have to take place before we reconvene in mid-January. And if that doesn’t happen, then all these people have to be nominated again by the Dunleavy administration in the upcoming session,” Stutes said.

But there appear to be some questions surrounding the process.

“Our (natural resources) attorney general, Aaron Peterson, said they don’t have a solid answer and he was going to get back to the board on that,” said Glenn Haight. “It’s top of mind – it’s not just the board of fisheries, it’s all of the boards and commissions appointments that have been made. It’s a lot of individuals. So it’s very concerning for the state and they are looking into it.” - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Alaska: Legislation to Break Cycles of Poverty in Alaska Native Communities Through Smart Economic Development Signed into Law - The Native American Business Incubators Program Act signed into law last week provides essential services such as workspace, collaborative environments, comprehensive business skills training, and access to professional networks that will help increase the availability of startup capital for Alaska Native communities and tribal organizations across the country.

These services are funded through three-year grants to entities with ties to Native communities, higher education institutions, and other related organizations.  This legislation was cosponsored by Congressman Don Young (R-AK).

“My late wife, my children, and my grandchildren are all Alaska Native. To me, breaking the cycle of poverty in Indian Country isn’t just an important policy goal, it’s personal,” said Congressman Young. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Nationwide: Due Process Protections Act Signed into Law - U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today released the following statements after S. 1380, the Due Process Protections Act, was signed into law. Sullivan and Durbin introduced the bill to help ensure that federal prosecutors respect the constitutional right of defendants to access favorable and potentially exculpatory evidence.

“Alaskans are well aware of the problem of federal prosecutors violating their constitutional duties and obligations following the reckless prosecution of the late Senator Ted Stevens,” said Senator Sullivan.

Sullivan said, “I put forward this legislation with Senator Durbin to ensure all Americans’ due process rights are protected, and to hold prosecutors accountable when they violate a defendant’s constitutional rights. This is a good day for justice and the rule of law, and I thank President Trump for signing our bill.”

“The Due Process Clause is enshrined in our Constitution as a check against government overreach, but there are inadequate safeguards in federal law to ensure that this fundamental right is protected for criminal defendants. Our bipartisan bill will help protect the right of the accused to all evidence that could exonerate them and hold accountable prosecutors who fail to comply,” Senator Durbin said. “I’m pleased our bill is now law and I thank Senator Sullivan for his partnership in this effort.” 

Under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, defendants are guaranteed due process under the law. The 1963 Brady vs. Maryland U.S. Supreme Court case clarified that due process entails the requirement of prosecutors to disclose to the accused all “favorable” evidence that is “material” to their case. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

Nationwide: PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act Signed into Law - U.S. Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Ruben Gallego’s (D-AZ) announced last week the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act was signed into law.

The new law is said will enhance the ability of tribes to enter into, and carry out, compacting agreements. It also aligns the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) compacting approval process with the one currently used by the Indian Health Service (IHS) to improve consistency for tribes. These compacts are vital for upholding the federal government’s trust responsibilities with tribes and promoting self-governance and local control.  

“I am very pleased that the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act has been signed into law, and I am grateful to have helped get it across the finish line. Throughout my time in Congress, tribal self-determination has always been one of my highest priorities. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (ISDEAA) was the foundation that empowered tribes with authority to contract and compact federal trust services. This has profoundly impacted Indian country as tribes are the best stewards of their health care, resources, and education.  I was proud to serve as a cosponsor on the PROGRESS Act, which builds on the success of ISDEAA by making practical policy improvements that help tribes enhance and expand their contracting opportunities,” said Rep. Don Young. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020



 
Columns

jpg BEN EDWARDS

BEN EDWARDS: Caregivers Must Also Care (Financially) for Themselves - If you’re a caregiver, possibly for a loved one dealing with an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, you’re probably already facing some significant emotional and physical challenges – so you don’t need any financial ones as well. Yet, they are difficult to avoid. What steps can you take to deal with them?

First of all, you may be interested in knowing the scale of the problem. Consider these numbers from the Alzheimer’s Association: About 5.8 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and in 2019, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias contributed more than 18 billion hours of unpaid care – worth about $244 billion in services. Furthermore, about two-thirds of caregivers are women, and one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020
jpg RICK GREEN

RICK GREEN: NATIONAL LEADERS INCAPABLE OF UNITING AMERICA, SO IT’S ON US - I remember growing up in the 1980s when our neighbors’ political affiliation was a complete mystery.

At least it was to me, a teenager who was more interested in finding a local sandlot game or pickup basketball game at one of the courts in my very pleasant, lower-middle to middle class, Northeastern Kentucky neighborhood.

Those were the days before America’s political parties drew the lines so sharply. The days before opinion programs on 24-hour news channels pitted Americans against each other. The days before social media ripped the decorum right out of us and turned us into something much less sophisticated.

I miss those days.

But more importantly, I wonder if we can ever get back to that place, or at least to a place closer to it than this angry, bitter, divided and, yes, dangerous climate we find ourselves in now.

Can we ever stand united again? - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

jpg MICHAEL REAGAN

MICHAEL REAGAN: TRUMP TAMED IS TRUMP TRIUMPHANT - Listen before you speak.

My mother Jane Wyman taught me that sensible lesson a long, long time ago.

And based on his fine performance at the second presidential debate on Thursday night, it looks like Donald Trump has finally learned that important lesson, too.

The president proved he could listen to what Joe Biden said and then carefully respond to what he heard instead of instantly reacting and interrupting or talking over Biden.

Of course, the president was forced to behave in part because the debate commission added a mute button that allowed each candidate to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to answer the opening question of each topic.

The mute button acted like an electric dog training collar. It didn’t have to be used, and it was invisible, but, ironically, it turned out to be a great blessing for Trump. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020


jpg Political Cartoon: Hunter's Dirty Dealings

Political Cartoon: Hunter's Dirty Dealings
By Gary McCoy ©2020, Shiloh, IL
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


      

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jpg Opinion

Oil Industry Lies Again By Sharman Haley - The October 14 ADN op-ed by Kim Reitmeier claiming the oil tax initiative would cost jobs, and the economic analysis by the American Action Forum (AAF) on which he relies, are fatally flawed. The two academic papers at the heart of the projection are based on Texas and Lower-48 oil field data. The academic conclusions are mis-applied to Alaska. 

The AAF analysis argues that an increase in severance taxes reduces investment in drilling, and reductions in drilling mean lost jobs and revenue. But if you read the cited article by Anderson, Kellogg and Salant, you will discover that they explicitly find that increases in severance taxes do NOT decrease production from existing fields, they only change the investment calculus drilling for new fields. And of course the severance tax changes proposed in Ballot Measure 1 only apply to Prudhoe, Kuparuk River and Colville River Units, not to the newer prospects. So while it might marginally affect enhanced recovery investments in the big fields that are inexorably declining, it will not affect drilling activity on the rest of the slope.

The AAF goes on to reference economic multipliers for oil industry investment. They report $100 million in investment generates about 1,000 direct and indirect jobs. But the economic multipliers for Alaska state services are higher: $100 million generates about 1,260 jobs. So taxing the oil industry to mitigate cuts to the state budget will increase statewide employment, not decrease it. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

jpg Opinion

Confirm Amy Coney Barrett By Laura Antonsen - Her background, experience and performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee inspire hope that Amy Coney Barrett will become an impactful legal heavyweight on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Senate should confirm her.

In Barrett, President Donald Trump nominated one of the most qualified jurists and legal minds in America: a federal judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Notre Dame Law School professor, and U.S. Supreme Court law clerk.  Those that know her best – fellow law clerks, students, Notre Dame Law School faculty, and colleagues – universally praise her intellect and character.  It’s also refreshing to see a nominee whose story – a working mom of seven, including two adopted from Haiti, and a woman of faith – oozes middle America.

Likewise, Barrett’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrated poise and dignity.  In the face of difficult questioning and examination, she was unflappable.  Senate confirmation hearings have increasingly turned into a circus, in recent years.  But how a nominee handles that pressure is informative.  She rose to the occasion. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

jpg Opinion

Open letter to the Ketchikan School Board By Allison Brown - I am writing this letter to the board to express concern and frustration of the complete incompetence of the leadership in the district. At a time when the communities emotions are at al all time high, there is absolutely NO reason that a text, email etc. should have been sent out with inaccurate information. That is NOT a mistake that is taken lightly. Causing fear and panic in this already trying time is unacceptable.

For those of you who are unaware there was a message sent out on Thursday October 15th at 3:03 pm. The message read Press Release: Update- Positive COVID-19 Case at Ketchikan Charter School. Followed by a message at 3:14pm stating to disregard last message. There is no positive COVID case at Ketchikan Charter School. The complete incompetence in the leadership in the district is not a new thing. The community is well aware that its been going on for far longer than it ever should have. As a mother of two in this district, I am trying to make the best of the situation we have been handed. For the safety and well being of my children I rely on open, clear and accurate communication from the district.

The Board was made aware of the communities concerns before voting on a contract for said leadership. The hiring process in this leadership was not done in the proper way. Pretty much everything was behind closed doors and not done in the traditional way it is supposed to take place. There needs to be community input as well as meet and greets and those kinds of things. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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Dan Ortiz has misled the voters By Hans H. Antonsen - The most misleading word on a political candidate’s campaign poster right now is the term “Independent”.

When Alaskans register to vote and list “Independent” as their party affiliation they will automatically be added to the roles of the Alaskan Independence Party (AKIP). According to the AKIP website, www.akip.org, it is “An Alaskan political party whose members advocate a range of solutions to the conflicts between federal and local authority; from advocacy for state's rights, through a return to territorial status, all the way to complete independence and nationhood status for Alaska”.

Further confusing the term “Independent” is the use in political advertising by candidates who are registered as Undeclared (i.e. ”having allegiance to a political party but choosing to not declare that allegiance for personal reasons”) but claim to be “Independent”, yet are not registered as a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. That is false advertising at best, as well as purposefully misleading voters who think they are just voting for a candidate that is unencumbered and owes no allegiance to a political party. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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"The Student Behind the Mask" By Steve Speights - About two weeks ago I was talking with a friend that teaches at Ketchikan High School, he made the comment that this year is so much more difficult both for the students as well as the teachers. He said that the students seem more down, there's no laughter in the hallways. He said that many of the teachers are having a hard time recognizing their students, because of the mask thing.

I gave this some thought and prayer and came up with a worthwhile solution,"The Student Behind the Mask" program. Since I enjoy photography and have a small photography business I did some research and found a company (mpix) that will create a 3.5 inch button with the student's name and picture for about $4 each, including shipping, so I made a few samples (using pictures of my grandkids) and they came out nice.

I was then planning on talking to local businesses to see if they would be willing to sponsor some students. I talked with an elementary school principal and a few teachers, they both said the same thing, this would be good for the Jr high and the high schools but really not for the elementary.

That's when I got overwhelmed. There are too many Jr high and high school students for just one person to complete this idea. That's why I decided to write this, I really didn't want others to make a profit off of this idea, and also take the credit for the idea. - More...
Monday AM - Octobr 26, 2020

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COVID, CARE Funds and KGBSD Building Ventilation Systems By Mark O’Brien - Germany is investing $488 million in an effort to improve air circulation in public buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a professional association seeking to “advance heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration” has established guidelines for building administrators to refer to when dealing with coronavirus-related issues. The United States Congress earmarked Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARE) funds to states to help with the added expense to get buildings better prepared to cope with the transmission of this virus. As a retired elementary teacher with twenty-three years here in Ketchikan, I am concerned with the air quality that students and staff cope with on a daily basis.

At the building where I taught, the air-handling system was a constant issue from one end of the school to the other. Some rooms were too cold, others too warm, and some just had “dead air”. It was my hope that the district’s administrators would have an outside company assess each building’s air circulation system and provide recommendations in an effort to make the return to the classroom a viable option, should the virus persist into the fall. My understanding is that the issue of safe ventilation has been discussed, but little has been done (beyond installing new filters). Now, I understand that the air-handlers are old and the cost to upgrade must be prohibitive. Yet, CARE funds were meant to help offset that financial burden. Funds may have been delegated to buy individual air-purifiers for each room, yet here we are in late October and this has not been done. Two staff members went ahead and bought their own with personal funds, but administration has not even reimbursed those purchases. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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BALLOT MEASURE 2 OFFERS A BETTER PATH FOR RURAL ALASKA By Sen. Lyman Hoffman, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, Sen. Albert Kookesh, Rep. John Lincoln, Mayor Mamie Pardue, Abel Hopson-Suvlu, and Reid Magdanz - This November 3rd, we urge rural Alaskans to vote YES on Ballot Measure 2.

Our current election system of closed primaries and uncompetitive general elections does a disservice to rural Alaskans. Ballot Measure 2 offers a better path forward.

First, we’ve seen increased polarization and gridlock in Juneau in recent years, driven in part by the ideological purity tests placed on legislators by small numbers of voters in closed primaries. We are rural Alaskans with experience working in Juneau. Along with our entire state, rural Alaska loses when legislators are punished by primary voters for daring to act by values we were raised with: cooperation, humility, responsibility to the entire community.

Alaska wins when legislators work to find pragmatic, workable solutions to real problems. Our own rural legislators have a long history of working across party lines to do just that - think about Georgianna Lincoln, Al Adams, Richard Foster, and Lyman Hoffman - but they need similarly pragmatic partners from elsewhere in the state. By making sure all legislators are chosen in competitive general elections, Ballot Measure 2 will help secure those partners statewide. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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Ballot Measure 2 Would Improve Our Election Process by Knocking Down Barriers to Competition of Ideas By Jason Grenn - Would the Founding Fathers recognize our polarized and dysfunctional political system? As Election Day approaches, the airwaves overflow with negative advertising and nary a solution to the problems that plague our state.

As Alaskans, we seem more divided today than ever before. Our hyper-partisan elections stop us from addressing our most significant challenges and building the Alaska all of us want for our children and grandchildren -- one with a strong economy and safe communities.

Ballot measure two offers a practical set of reforms to give voters more choice, more voice and more power. And as Alaskans, we believe improving the way we elect our representatives is a powerful prescription for better government.

Our current first-past-the-post, winner-take-all style elections are not working. Elections are supposed to be a competition of ideas, but when was the last time you heard a candidate offer anything more than a slogan to a problem? Instead of problem-solvers, our existing system produces politicians more interested in obtaining and retaining power than serving the people's needs. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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Al Gross for U.S. Senate By Laine Welch - Alaskans should not be surprised that it took Dan Sullivan a decade to say he opposes the Pebble Mine. That came only after the Pebble Tapes revealed mine backers boasting about how Sullivan was hoping to “ride out the election” and that “he’s off in a corner being quiet.”

Remember that it was Dan Sullivan as Commissioner of the AK Dept. of Natural Resources in 2012 who removed the words “conserve,” “enhance,” and “future Alaskans” from the DNR mission statement, sidestepping a state law requiring legislative approval.

Sullivan said the language was pared down “because it is already implied in the state constitution,” and "it doesn't mean that every one of those concepts needs to be laid out in a mission statement.”

In 2013, in the case of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition vs. DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, the Alaska Superior Court ruled that DNR violated its own rules by denying Alaskans’ their rights to keep water in streams to protect wild salmon runs from a proposed coal mine. - More...
Monday AM - Octobr 26, 2020

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The FDA and CDC Promised Transparency in the Vaccine Approval Process. Here's How Congress Can Hold Them to It By U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Lisa Murkowski - The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the health and economic well-being of families and communities across the country, and this virus will remain a significant threat until a safe and effective vaccine can be made available to all.

While we all hope to get potential vaccines reviewed, produced and distributed as quickly as possible, we can’t sacrifice safety and efficacy for speed. It is also critically important that the public has confidence in the federal government’s vaccine review process, which includes assurances that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has followed the necessary protocols to ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness. Together, we’ve introduced the Safe Authorization for Vaccines during Emergencies (SAVE) Act to ensure that the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follow well-established measures so that COVID-19 vaccines meet rigorous standards that the public can rely on.

The FDA and CDC have existing vaccine review processes that are considered the gold standard by public-health experts around the world. During the normal vaccine approval process, the CDC and FDA each have advisory committees that meet and issue findings and recommendations on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines before they enter the market, including whether specific vaccines are safe for certain populations such as children or seniors. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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Past time for a new noise ordinance in the City of Ketchikan By C. Gellings - It is well past time for a new noise ordinance in the city of Ketchikan. If you confront someone about a noisy activity before 11am they will give you the most banal answer as to why they are going to do it anyway.

“Well, it’s legal…” It matters not to them if you are being disturbed, they have decided that now is the appropriate time to make noise and so they will just go right ahead, even if they could have just as easily started one or more hours later and it would have made no significant difference as to the timeliness of project completion – whatever the project be it construction or yard work.

It is well understood that Alaska is a working mans’ state. This generally means that people get up early, work hard, and quit by early afternoon. This is often to take advantage of the morning sun we get so much of in the summer. While the saying “make hay while the sun shines” is more of a down south saying I believe that most industrial working Alaskans subscribe to the same mindset. They believe the best time to work is right after sunrise. - More...
Monday AM - October 26, 2020

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