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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
March 22, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT

Tongass Orca
Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT

Ketchikan: On Thursday, March 23rd from 5:00-6:00pm, Representative Dan Ortiz will be holding a teleconferenced constituent meeting. It will be hosted by the District 36 Legislative Information Offices (LIOs), and interested persons should visit their LIO at the designated time to participate. All are welcome to attend. Ketchikan’s LIO is located at 1900 First Ave, Suite 310. Wrangell’s LIO is located at 215 Front Street in the Kadin Building.

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Ketchikan: KETCHIKAN PULP MILL CLOSED 20 YEARS AGO By DAVE KIFFER - Twenty years ago this week, the hammer fell on the community of Ketchikan.


Ketchikan Pulp Mill
Photo courtesy United States Forest Service Photograph Collection

On March 25, 1997, Louisiana Pacific announced the closure of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill, the primary engine of the Ketchikan economy for more than 40 years. The final bale of pulp - which is now on display at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center - rolled off the production line that same day.

The announcement was not a complete surprise, given the fact that the financial and political realities of operating a large pulp mill in the Tongass National Forest had changed dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s. Louisiana Pacific itself had estimated that it would take more than $200 million in upgrades to bring the nearly half-century-old facility up to current production and environmental standards.

But, for a community that had hummed year round for decades on the strength of the timber industry, the closure announcement was a shock to the system.

The closure immediately cost the community 514 year-round jobs and caused a ripple effect that was estimated at least 500 other direct jobs lost. Untold other job losses occurred as retail sales dropped across the spectrum. One of the local shipping companies estimated its revenues dropped 20 percent in the first month. Ketchikan's housing market flooded and prices dropped accordingly.

When many of the former millworkers, and their families, left the community to find jobs elsewhere the population dipped, from a high of nearly 15,000 in the mid 1990s, to just about 13,000 in 2003. Local schools were hit harder when the number of school children decreased by 25 percent.

But even these drops were not as big as had once been predicted. State surveys taken in the late 1980s had estimated that Ketchikan would lose more than 35 percent of its population and half of its school population if the timber industry collapsed. By the time the end came in 1997, the industry had already been retrenching for nearly a decade and therefore the blow wasn't as hard as it could have been.

In announcing the closure, LP also reached an agreement with the federal government over long-standing timber supply issues. As part of that agreement, the company received $147 million and the right to an additional 300 million board feet of timber for its two remaining sawmills in the region. It was thought, at the time, that the sawmills could keep the timber industry alive long enough for another long term timber harvesting plan to be developed, but by the time that plan - which involved switching from old growth timber to areas that had already been logged and had grown back - was developed, more than 15 years had passed.

There was also another industry, tourism, that was growing rapidly and would quickly replace timber as the town's major industry, although many of the tourism jobs would be seasonal rather than year-round like the pulp mill related jobs. In a sense, although Ketchikan's overall economy eventually rebounded, it was now more seasonal, as in the pre-timber past, when mining and fishing were the major industries. In 1996, slightly more than 300,000 cruise visitors came to Ketchikan between April and October. In 2017, that number will top 1 million.

Although the timing of the mill closure caught some in the community by surprise, there had been local efforts including the ill-fated "2004" effort to get the community talking about what it would look like if Louisiana Pacific didn't get a renewal of its 50 year timber contract and closed the mill. Unfortunately, that "2004" process came to naught when the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly decided to prematurely end the process before recommendations could be made.

When the Alaska Pulp Corporation closed its pulp mill in Sitka in 1994, it was clear that the clock was ticking against the industry. US. Senator Ted Stevens pushed the US Forest Service to begin work on an extension of the Ketchikan Pulp contract and when that didn't happen, Stevens, then head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee arranged for a payment of $110 million to go to Alaska to help offset the economic losses in Southeast. Approximately $30 million was to go to specific industry related measures while $70 million would be distributed between the communities most effected by industry closures, Sitka, Wrangell (which hosted a large sawmill) and Ketchikan.

Originally, the federal government - through the Department of Agriculture - planned to set up a grant program that would take requests from the communities and then decide which ones to fund. But the Ketchikan Gateway Borough sued the federal government, demanding that the money be released directly to the communities, as directed by the Steven's legislation. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

Long-Term Fiscal Plan Offered With No Income Tax and No PDF Cap - After listening to the concerns from Alaskans, the House Republicans say they are offering a comprehensive fiscal plan with no income tax and no Permanent Fund Dividend cap. Acknowledging the good work done by both bodies and the administration, the House Republican's proposal is striving to reach a compromise that protects the economy and preserves the PFD. The plan calls for a spending cap, phased cuts over four years, and the use of Permanent Fund earnings within a sustainable and structured framework that protects and grows the Fund.

"This plan offers the biggest PFD checks for Alaskans while keeping our economy strong," said Finance Leader Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage). "During a recession, it's essential to keep money in people's pockets and allow their income to flow through the economy."

Over the next four years House Republicans propose $600 million in cuts, a $4.1 billion spending cap, and a 5.25% POMV draw with 50 percent of the draw going towards Alaskans' PFDs.

This year's PFD could grow to $1,900 and in 10 years be as large as $2,300. Modelling shows that by Fiscal Year 2026, House Bill 192 protects and grows the Permanent Fund while providing for essential services without depleting the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

"It is our responsibility to Alaskans to ensure the Permanent Fund remains permanent," said Representative Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks). "This plan represents a balance of smart spending reductions and effective use of state savings."

House Bill 192 differs from other plans by prioritizing the health of Alaska's economy and strengthening the private sector.

"If you listen to some of the rhetoric, you'd think that the only way to address the fiscal gap is by taxing," said Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage). "House Bill 192 preserves the Permanent Fund, ERA, CBR, and uses our existing assets without taking from Alaskans wallets."

Monday House Democrats, and those aligned with them, moved forward with HB57, an operating budget that House Republicans say ultimately hurts Alaskans by growing government, lowering value in the permanent fund and relying on an income tax not in place.

HB57 increases state agency operations by $8.3-million over the Governors amended operating budget. The House Republican members say they are strongly opposed to growing government at a time when budgets need to be shrinking to fit the state's decreasing revenues. Alaska House Republicans said they hoped to have an honest discussion about cuts but instead their voices, and in turn, the voices of more than 300-thousands of Alaskans were silenced. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017


Alaska: New Proposal Would Transform Education in Alaska - A bill to transform Alaska’s education system by increasing access to education for Alaska’s students by allowing them to enroll in virtual courses statewide through a virtual education consortium has been proposed. The measure represents the culmination of numerous joint meetings between the Alaska House and Senate aimed at finding new ways to improve academic outcomes for students.

“Every Alaskan student matters and deserves a high quality education,” said Sen. Hughes. “SB 96 will help districts provide that education by giving them the tools to do more with less.”

Teachers would be required to receive professional development training specific to virtual education, which would be offered at no extra cost to the districts.

Senate Bill 96, sponsored by the Senate Education Committee, also offers incentives to districts to pool their resources by providing grants for cooperative agreements with other districts, other government agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations.

“Direct spending in the classroom correlates with better academic results,” said Sen. Hughes. “This bill will help districts reduce administrative overhead costs in order to focus money on the classroom.” - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

Alaska: Legislation extends authority of Chief Medical Officer to distribute life-saving drug - Governor Bill Walker thanked the Alaska Legislature for taking a crucial step to build a safer Alaska by passing Senate Bill 91, which extends the State’s Chief Medical Officer’s authority to distribute the life-saving drug naloxone statewide. Governor Walker signed the bill Tuesday afternoon from his office in Juneau.

“This is the first bill I have signed into law from the 30th Alaska Legislature, and I am grateful legislators have joined me in prioritizing such a critical issue,” Governor Walker said. “We are saving lives with this law. If administered in time, naloxone gives overdose victims a chance to survive, ultimately reducing the number of untimely deaths caused by opioid and heroin addiction. While there is still a great deal of work needed to combat this epidemic, this legislation will provide first-responders and community organizations across the state with greater access to naloxone.”

The Alaska House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 91 to extend the current disaster declaration for the opioid epidemic in Alaska. The bill gives Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer needed statutory authority to proceed with the planned statewide response to the opioid epidemic.

“Opioid abuse is tearing apart families and endangering public safety across Alaska,” said House Health and Social Services Committee Chair Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), who carried the bill on the floor of the Alaska House. “Governor Walker took the bold first step to declare a disaster declaration for the ongoing epidemic but he needed our help to continue the coordinated statewide response. The House and Senate recognized the urgency of passing this bill, which is why it went from introduction to final passage in 11 days. I want to thank every member of the House and Senate for recognizing the importance of this bill by helping expedite its consideration.” - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017



TOM PURCELL: Sharpening Health Care? Consider the Pencil. - To understand the primary problem with the American health-care system - cost and massive inefficiency are two major causes - it's helpful to revisit a 1958 essay, "I, Pencil," by Leonard Read.

A pencil appears to be a very simple, inexpensive tool. Read, however, explains that its production is incredibly complex.

The standard pencil begins when a cedar tree is cut down. Ropes and gear tug it onto the bed of a truck or a rail car.

But lots of people and skills are needed to mine ore and refine steel to produce the saws, axes and motors that fell that cedar tree.

Lots of people are needed to grow hemp, then transform it, through various stages, into the strong rope that pulls the tree onto a truck.

The logs are shipped to a mill and cut into slats. The slats are kiln-dried, tinted, waxed, then kiln-dried again.

How many skills were needed to produce the tint and the kilns, Read wondered. What about the electric power? What about the belts, motors and other parts at the mill?

The cedar slats are shipped to a factory. A complex machine cuts a groove into each. A second lays the lead into every other slat's groove. Glue is applied. Two slats are sealed together as one, then cut into lengths that form pencils. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017


ARTHUR MARTIN: What Ever You Do, Don’t Go to College! - As spring blooms (or in SE rains) into view, high school seniors around the country scramble trying to decide what they will do in the next chapter of their lives after receiving their high school diplomas.

If the Generation Z seniors are a reflection of my own experience, they are currently pushed very strongly by their mothers, school counselors, teachers, pastors, Hollywood, news anchors, magazine ads, and virtually everyone else “to go to college and better yourself.”

If you express any doubts about college and perhaps suggest alternative options like joining the military or just taking a year off from school you are immediately shut down with a myriad of excuses. I know I was. The public pressure and the shaming of not going to college was so strong that I, dear reader, made the single worst decision in my life.

I went to college.

I still have nightmares of the sleepless nights writing essays, failing tests, and filling in multiple-choice bubbles during exams. That is nothing however, to the true nightmare of graduating from college with a worthless degree and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

jpg Political Cartoon: Gorsuch Mainstream

Political Cartoon: Gorsuch Mainstream
By Rick McKee ©2017, The Augusta Chronicle
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Town crier By Rodney Dial - I think most are starting to come to grasp with the state budget deficit and what it means; Ketchikan is a smart town.

I have lived in every region of the state, spent part of my school years in the YK delta, worked in Bethel as a young Alaskan and served as a State trooper; making seven moves over nearly 26 years. I’ve watched this state change dramatically over the years; we used to be so much more, rugged, independent. I remember as a kid driving with my dad down 4th Avenue in Anchorage seeing a sign on a building that said something about a “Chechacko”; ask an old timer what that means. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

letter "THOSE PEOPLE" ARE YOU AND ME By Janalee L. Minnich Gage - My blood pressure is high, even though it's going on 21 years since May 31st 1995... I still get worked up, it still brings tears to my eyes, not for the reasons you might think, nor out of regret or anger, but out of the harsh lesson I witnessed.

Two minutes doesn’t even begin to touch on the stories of those who find themselves in need but that is what I had to work with on Wednesday March 15th at the Legislative information office or (LIO) but my grandmother always said acronyms were for lazy people and used to confuse people, so I try not to use them. - More...
Wedesday PM - March 22, 2017

letter How Will Don Young Vote? By Ghert Abbott - On March 14th I spoke on the phone with a staffer for Congressman Don Young’s Washington office about my concerns regarding the Trump-Ryan American Health Care Act, which will repeal the Affordable Care Act. If this bill becomes law the Medicaid expansion will be rolled back and Alaskan Medicaid cut, an estimated 1,000 Ketchikan residents could lose their healthcare, Federal subsidies that help Alaskans buy insurance will be cut by 75%, Alaskan insurance premiums will go up and coverage quality down, and elderly Alaskans will be forced to pay more. When all of these effects are taken together, I believe they will greatly harm rural Alaska and result in people dying for lack of affordable care, and I told the staffer this. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

letter The Age of Propaganda By Michael Spence - In the 1970's scholars dubbed it the Information Age , a future in which computers would increase all levels of communication between humans. It was widely believed then that such an increase in access to knowledge would transform our world for the better. Where isolationism and illiteracy were once common, there would be a trans-formative shift towards education, democracy, and prosperity. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

letter Rebuilding Our Military By Donald Moskowitz - As a Navy veteran and a strong supporter of our military I commend President Trump for initiating a program to rebuild our military with a defense budget increase of $54 billion, but it should be decreased by $1.3 billion and the $1.3 billion added to the Coast Guard budget within the Department of Homeland Security so it is not cut by $1.3 billion. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 22, 2017

letter SAY NO, PROTECT TAKU By Chantelle Hart - I am a Taku River Tlingit (TRT) woman from Atlin BC and I have lived my entire life in fear of “the mine” that might come to my home territory and cause disastrous impacts to my community and the surrounding environmental areas. Even as a young child, I lived with terror and unarticulated fury over the various investors that have come to capitalize off the Tulsequah Chief mine. First there was Redfern (later called Redcorp Ventures), and they went bankrupt – but the long and drawn out legal battles my First Nation became embroiled in was a tremendous financial sacrifice we have not yet recovered from. My people have never been able to breathe easy for long, because there is always a wolf at the door, attracted by the possibility of profit. - More...
Saturday AM - March 18, 2017

letter RE: Voting to Increase State Spending By Rodney Dial - Regarding this response to Rep. Ortiz’s letter, again, I am voicing my opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of the Ketchikan Assembly… In my letter, I used total spending, all funds, and compared the budget the Governor sent to the house, and the budget after amended by the house majority budget sub-committee process. I didn’t pick and choose one budget or spending item; I didn’t pick different years, just what the legislature has done this session. Total spending… isn’t that what really matters? Anyway, all I did was cut and paste the info from the media which reported the $127 million increase on March 8th, (also reported by the legislative watchdog AK Headlamp on 3/14). They even attached documents from the legislature showing the increase (see below). - More...
Thursday AM - March 16, 2017

letter RE: Voting to Increase State Spending By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Under the State’s constitution, one of the primary tasks of legislators is to adopt a capital and operating budget for the State of Alaska. As a member of the House Finance Committee, that is the most primary of my duties. It is because of these duties that I read with extreme interest the letter written by Rodney Dial and the inaccurate and misleading numbers he presented. Let’s dig into the numbers behind the budget: - More...
Tuesday PM - March 14, 2017

letter Autism, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act By Bill And Jennifer Whicker - We are long-time residents of Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan, AK and are the parents/guardians of a 23-year-old young man with moderate to severe autism. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

letter The American Corporate Health Care Act By Michael Spence - Today [Thursday] the Speaker of the House of the US Congress declared that the health care legislation he is promoting will face trouble in the senate if it is not passed as written. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

letter Leaked budget cuts threaten Alaskan way of life and prosperity of coastal communities By Becca Robbins Gisclair - Alaska would be hard hit with the cuts proposed for just one of the agencies targeted by the Trump administration. Taken together, the proposed budget cuts for NOAA, EPA and the Coast Guard represent a dangerous triple threat that risks hundreds of Alaskan jobs, millions of dollars that flow into the state, and the clean water and healthy fisheries on which Alaska’s economy, culture and way of life is based. - More...
Monday AM - March 13, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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