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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
April 14, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON

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Alaska: Governor & Senate: No Closures of Alaska’s Pioneer Homes By MARY KAUFFMAN - Thursday, Alaska State Senators sent a clear, formal message of their commitment to seniors and veterans residing in Alaska’s Pioneer Homes.

The Sense of the Senate on the issue was unanimously approved Wednesday by the body, reiterating the Senate’s support for Alaska’s Pioneer Homes and assuring its residents that their housing will remain open and fully operational after final action is taken on the budget. “Sense of the Senate” is a rarely utilized legislative process where a body votes to take a formal position on an issue.

Commenting on the Sense of the Senate, Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) said in a prepared statement, “The reason for the Sense of the Senate is simple: It’s a formal declaration that the Alaska Senate wants seniors in our great state to rest assured that we support them. There will not be any closures of the state’s Pioneer Homes."

Micciche said, "We know the budget process can often be confusing, and wanted to formally clarify that budget reductions will not adversely impact them. In other words, politics be damned. We want seniors, who have earned their place in secure housing in our state, to rest easy knowing that there are people fighting for them in the Senate. We will work with the other body, and the administration, to require that budget cuts are not taken out on them in a way that could compromise their secure housing.”

Sen. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) also issued a statement of the State of the Senate. Hughes said, “I want to assure the precious residents of the Alaska Veterans and Pioneers Home in Palmer and other communities that we are committed to protect and care for them. We will ensure they will be able to continue to live right where they are."

"Those who have served our country and our communities deserve our utmost respect and attention. It hurts me to know that some suffered anxiety unnecessarily over the misinformation that was circulating, and I want to apologize to each and every one for that. Please know that the threat has been corrected,” said Hughes.

In a letter dated April 13th to Pioneer Home Residents, Board Members, and Administrators, Governor Bill Walker wrote he was surprised when his budget was reduced by over $6.5 million in the Pioneer Homes' line items during the legislative process. "These reductions," said Walker, "could have closed two Pioneer Homes effective on July 1st, requiring significant transition time for residents, families and staff." Walker's FY 18 budget provided for a small increase to the Pioneer Homes' budget from $62.2 million to $62.6 million.

The Governor thanked the Senate for their "Sense of the Senate " to confirm their storng support of the Pioneer Homes and bringing finality to the issue. Walker wrote, " I will continue to do everything withing my power to assure no Pioneer Home will be closed while I am Governor."

Wednesday, some members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition also responded to attempts by some members of the Senate Majority and the House Minority to shift blame for this dangerous budget cut to Alaska Pioneer Homes to the administration of Governor Bill Walker.

The budget passed by the Alaska Senate and voted for by many members of the House Minority Tuesday included a $6.5 million cut to the line item for the Alaska Pioneer Homes. That budget cut would force the closure of possibly two Pioneer Homes.

House Finance Committee member Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) said, “The Senate Majority is playing a losing game by forcing through a dangerous cut to Pioneer Homes and then trying to blame Governor Walker when the impact of the cut became known.”

“We have been saying since day one that willy-nilly budget cuts come with consequences," said Kawasaki. "Even after working on their budget cuts for months, the Senate could find no place to better allocate another $6.5 million reduction than on the backs of Alaska seniors. The Senate Majority and House Minority might think they are winning some kind of political game by claiming they tried to make cuts and were stymied, but in reality they are playing with people’s lives, ”said Kawasaki.

Governor Walker’s administration this week took the only responsible course by notifying residents of the Palmer and Juneau Pioneer Homes and their families that the homes face closure if the budget reduction proposed by the Alaska Senate Majority is left in place. The version of the budget passed by the Alaska House funds Pioneer Homes at the level requested by Governor Walker to ensure all six Pioneer Homes remain open. 

Alaska Senators still have the opportunity to recede from their ill-conceived cuts to Pioneer Homes, community health centers, and education by adopting the fully-funded budget from the Alaska House on a simple majority vote.

However, it is likely working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the operating budget may be the task of a Conference Committee made up of members of both bodies that represent the Majority and Minority Caucuses.  - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

Alaska: Alaska House Passes SB 26 Creating a Draw from Permanent Fund Earnings - The Alaska House of Representatives passed a major component of a budget plan put forward by the members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition to fully address Alaska’s $2.7 billion funding gap. 

Senate Bill 26 passed the Alaska House Wednesday by a vote of 22-18. Senate Bill 26 creates a sustainable draw from the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund, while still paying out dividends and protecting the principle of the fund.

In a prepared statement Governor Bill Walker stated, "[Wednesday], members of the House of Representatives took a significant step toward building a more stable future for Alaska. Their courageous actions show we are making progress toward a complete solution. I look forward to working with legislators in both chambers to reach the finish line on fixing Alaska this year."

“Passing this bill will help stabilize the Alaska economy and remove the uncertainty that comes from relying solely on oil revenue, which swings wildly up and down based on the price of a barrel of oil,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham).

Edgmon said, “Today is an important day because a majority of the members of the House ignored political risks and instead acted for the wellbeing of Alaskans, their jobs, and the economy.” - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

Southeast Alaska: Alaska Senate Approves Land Exchange to Allow for Timber Harvest - The Alaska State Senate unanimously approved a measure Thursday allowing for a land exchange between the state and federal government to make 20,000 acres available for timber harvesting.   

Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Sen. Bert Stedman (R-Sitka), would facilitate a land trade between the Alaska Mental Health Trust (AMHT) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), in which the state of Alaska would receive nearly 20,000 acres available for timber harvesting in exchange for approximately 18,000 acres near and adjacent to several Southeast communities.

Completing the transfer requires legislation from both the Legislature and the Congress. SB 88, in conjunction with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s S. 131 and U.S. Rep. Don Young’s H.R. 513 details the process of the land exchange, including maps of land parcels, costs that must be paid by the AMHT and other involved parties, the timeline and order of priority for the exchange and how to handle potential differing value of the final appraisal. - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

Outboard motor class offered in Ketchikan by Alaska Sea Grant - After many months of winter, spring is finally making itself felt across many parts of Alaska. The snow is melting, grass is starting to green up, and Alaskans are getting ready to hit the water to fish and recreate. What better time to take a class on outboard motor maintenance?

Alaska Sea Grant, in partnership with the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus, is offering an outboard class April 21-23. The instructor is Dillingham-based Marine Advisory agent Gabe Dunham.

The class will be held at the Ketchikan campus, and is geared toward outboard engine-powered boat owners and operators. It will consist of lecture, lab activities, and demonstration-based training.

“We have two outboard shops in town and during the summer they are always backed up. This class will give people basic skills to keep their engines running smoothly,” said Larry O’Loane, assistant professor of power technology. - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

Ketchikan: Explore SE Alaska's World War II legacy at the Friday Night Insight; The Alaska Hummingbird Festival continues - Holding the World by the (SE) Panhandle: Alaska’s Strategic Place in WWII will be presented by Tongass National Forest Archaeologist Theresa Thibault on Friday, April 14. The presentation takes place at 6 p.m. in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Theater, inside the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is also serving as the hub for a series of educational and creative events to promote awareness of the spring migratory birds of Southeast Alaska through April. Alaska Hummingbird Festival events include:

Birding at Ward Lake with Amy Russell and Leslie Swada. See, hear and learn to identify birds while walking around the lake. Bring binoculars and water, and dress for the weather. The walk begins at the Rotary Shelter (8 a.m., Saturday, April 15).  

A Tern's Journey with Travis Mason-Bushman at the Discovery Center. Take a globe-trotting journey with Arctic terns, one of earth's greatest travelers. (1 p.m., Saturday, April 15). - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017


Southeast Alaska: Artwork examines 1867 transfer of Alaska to the U.S. By THERESA BAKKER - As an Alaska Native artist who grew up in Southeast Alaska, the idea that the land of her ancestors could be bought and sold out from beneath them still baffles Mary Goddard.

Artwork examines 1867 transfer of Alaska to the U.S.

Sitka artist Mary Goddard stands with her artwork “Selling Alaska,” a copper cuff and a digital print on vinyl.
Photo by Karinna Gomez

“I find it hard to accept that people could purchase land without regard to who it really belonged to and use the natural resources without proper precautions and respect,” she said.

So she did something about it. She created a work of art to express her feelings. “Selling Alaska” is now on display at the Sitka National Historical Park as part of the exhibit Voices of Change: Perspectives on the Transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. The artworks on display all depict artistic interpretations of the responses of Alaska Native peoples to the transfer of Alaska in 1867.

The sesquicentennial exhibit was created through a partnership between the Sitka NHP and the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Project manager Karinna Gomez said eight artists responded to the call to reflect on the Alaska Purchase, also called the Treaty of Cession, and the subsequent 150 years of American governance of Alaska Natives.

The treaty explicitly excluded Alaska Natives from the rights and freedoms offered to white inhabitants. Gomez said the artwork conveys a sense of the broad effects this marginalization had on Alaska Natives.

“I was impressed with the historical research, creative insight and emotional response each of the artists put into their projects. They responded with thoughtful projects that together create an exhibit that illustrates the impacts of the transfer,” she said.

Goddard said she wanted her artwork to feel both contemporary and relevant. “Looking back, I can imagine how the Tlingit people must have felt when their land was sold,” she said. “I wanted to tell the story in a way that my ancestors would. I wanted to capture people’s attention but pull them in to really look at the art and discover its message.”

Kelsey Lutz, the Sitka National Historical Park curator, said the exhibit expresses the personal experience of those who were affected by the change and plays an important role in humanizing an otherwise political event.

“At its core, this exhibit carries a message about the cultural diversity that exists in Alaska,” Lutz said. “The exhibit is intended to provide a wide breadth of perspectives about the transfer of Alaska to the U.S. It is important to remember that we are commemorating the anniversary of the sale rather than celebrating it. Not everything that came out of the transfer was positive.”

While many of the pieces in the exhibit capture a feeling of loss, she said, they also demonstrate the vibrancy of Native culture today. - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017




TOM PURCELL: For Tax Day - Taxing Quotations - April is the most miserable month of the year — because that’s when I must make a massive "contribution" to the federal government.

It consoles me, however, to learn what some of our greatest minds have to say about taxes. I found their quotations in Inc. Magazine:

"We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." — Winston Churchill

"They can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money." — Al Capone

"I don’t know if I can live on my income or not — the government won’t let me try it." — Bob Thaves

Hey, Winston, progressives will never understand your point. Al, thanks to taxes, legitimate work, like crime, also doesn’t pay. And Bob, you couldn’t have described our silent business partner, the government, any better. - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

DANNY TYREE: Stress Awareness Month: Can We Survive It? - "Stress Awareness Month," sponsored every April since 1992 by the Health Resource Network, is now half over. Are you stressed out that you haven't done more to celebrate it?

I'm glad I survived the pre-1992 Bad Old Days, before we numbskulls had a special month to make us slow down and realize the health impact of stress. 

Yes, before 1992, the generations who put a man on the moon and developed the internet would succumb to depression, stroke or addiction because of tyrannical bosses, three-hour commutes and cheating spouses ---- without ever putting two and two together! Thankfully, "Stress Awareness Month" (inspired by "Gaping Chest Wound Awareness Month") came along.

(To be fair, a lot of us did think putting a piece of duct tape over the "check engine soon" light would signal the car fairies to solve all automotive deficiencies, so maybe the Stress Awareness nudge isn't so condescending after all.) - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017


ARTHUR MARTIN: The U.S. Census 2020 is Coming Up... and I’m Coming Out as a Self-Identifying Squirrel or an Apache Attack Helicopter... Don't Judge Me!” - From the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development:The U.S. Census Bureau has invited 80,000 U.S. households to participate in a practice census test this year. Participants can take the 2017 Census Test online, over the phone, or via mail. The test has two primary goals:

1. Help the Census Bureau assess response methods before the 2020 Census and optimize online delivery for smartphones, tablets, and Web browsers.

2. Test potential tribal enrollment questions. - More...
Friday AM - April 14, 2017

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Editorial Cartoon: United Airlines Passenger Transportation
By Sean Delonas ©2017,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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March - April 2017
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letter Oil Revenue - Senate Budget By RK Rice - "Meanwhile, there is no consideration of oil tax subsidies for which next year's bill will be a cool $1.37 BILLION when the state will earn production taxes of just $87 MILLION. While schools are denied the funding they need, the oil and gas industry rolls along untouched by cuts. The contrast could not be more stark." - More...
Monday PM - April 10, 2017

letter No to Alaska Income Tax By Lance Clark - In response to Rep. Dan Ortiz' letter, he mentioned a modest income tax. There is no such thing. Once an income tax is established it just gets bigger and bigger. - More...
Monday PM - April 10, 2017

letter Budget Proposals; Let your voice be heard By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As expected, it’s been a challenging legislative session, and from here on, the budget will be the forefront of every discussion. Both the House and the Senate are creating Alaska’s budget, but it’s clear that the bodies have differing approaches. - More...
Saturday PM - April 08, 2017

letter Thomas Basin, Spruce Mill Sheet Pile Fix By Charlie Freeman - It is my understanding that the proposed fix for the rusted out sheet pile in front of the old Spruce Mill property is to dump rock and fill in front of it, on the basin side, to contain the sluff. This, if true, may well be the worst idea since the T-pier. - More...
Saturday PM - April 08, 2017

letter Private Health Insurance is gouging us By Michael Spence - According to Alaska Dispatch News, Premera Lifewise of Alaska recently announced it had profited $18 Million from Obamacare plans last year, and another $20 Million in Individual Health plans. These figures were sharply higher than what the company officially predicted which was $2.7 Million.During the same year, it was reported, the deficit-bound State of Alaska subsidized Health Insurance industry in Alaska to the tune of $55 million dollars. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 05, 2017

letter Walker's big take from economy By James Dornblaser - The Ketchikan Borough Assembly faces a dilemma! Sales tax issues are foremost on their agenda. Same is true with most of our state's local governments. They face the question of how to make up the shortfall caused by our governor's brainchild of confiscating 1/2 of all our permanent fund dividends last fall. - More...
Wednesday PM - April 05, 2017

letter Think About It By Donald A. Johnson - I noticed with interest that Lisa Murkowski voted with the Democrats to fund elective abortions thru Planned Parenthood. This is just one example (and there are many) of why we have excessive taxes and the average working man cannot make ends meet. - More...
Monday PM - April 03, 2017

letter HB 159 is a State Government overreach By John Suter - In regards to HB 159, prescription pain medications are regulated by the Federal Government and Medical Professionals.  HB 159 is a State Government overreach, which will consequently cause harm to seniors, the chronically ill and those who are recovering from surgery.  HB 159 is treating monitored prescribed pain killers as if they were illegal drugs.  Taxing prescribed opioid drugs is attacking the weak; those who are undergoing treatment for pain.  Limiting prescribed opioid drugs will make it more difficult for those people who are ill because they will have to rely on others to take them to the pharmacy on a weekly basis vs. a monthly basis.  Right now under Federal Law people who need prescribed pain medicine must see their doctor on a monthly basis.  If HB 159 passes then, those who are in need of pain management will need to see their doctor on a weekly basis.  - More....
Monday PM - April 03, 2017

letter What’s obvious to Alaskans continues to bewilder legislators By Curtis W. Thayer - Decisions regarding the size and funding of government impact all Alaskans so it’s important to have current, comprehensive information to help make wise choices. Each year, the Alaska Chamber asks Alaskans a broad range of topics. When it comes to funding State government, we find issues like taxation and use of the Permanent Dividend will forever be contentious. Alaskans are evenly split on restructuring the Permanent Fund to pay for state spending. How these overarching issues color Alaskans thinking is obvious when you look at the numbers. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 29, 2017

letter Oil companies bought Alaska legislature back By Ray Metcalfe - In 2004 I speculated in an ADN op-ed that several members of both houses of our legislature were taking bribes from oil companies with Bill Allen and VECO acting as their surrogate. While I only had a smattering of hard evidence, my real confidence in risking that the most powerful people in Alaska would not sue me for saying it stemmed from my confidence that bribery was the only logical reason any legislator would pretend to believe that profits to the big three producers needed to be increased at our expense or they would leave. Over and over I had documented that oil company profits in Alaska dwarfed oil company profits in other parts of the world. Over and over I documented that other countries kept a much larger share of the profits than we were keeping. Over and over seated legislators would pretend to believe and act on oil company rhetoric that I knew that they knew had to be false. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 29, 2017

letter Alaska Income Tax By Lance Clark - Here we go, a nice new income tax to punish anyone who is even a little successful. All an income tax does is take money away from private businesses and service providers and feed it to the government greed monster, which will always need more. Unlike the state, when our income goes down we spend less. The less we spend the more businesses suffer and either lay off or drop out. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 29, 2017

letter Invitation to Welcome Interim Pastor By Steve Kinney - Please join us at the Ketchikan Presbyterian Church on April 2nd to welcome our interim pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert Nicholson. He is eager to share God’s Word with us! Worship is at 11:00 followed by coffee and conversation. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 29, 2017

letter Fake News Prevalent in Alaska By Bethany Marcum - During this legislative session, fake news has been prevalent in Alaska. We’ve heard our state budget cannot be balanced without an income tax; we must cap the PFD and restructure the Permanent Fund to create a long-term budget plan; Alaskans don’t understand enough about our fiscal situation to be able to vote on a solution; and state government has already been cut to the bone and more reductions are unreasonable. Well don’t believe it - it’s all fake news. - More...
Monday PM - March 27, 2017

letter An Open Letter to the Legislators, Councilmen and Assembly of Ketchikan By Terri Wilson - Friday morning I read the article about changing the way you tax senior citizens, and I've had enough of the idiocy of the State of Alaska, City Council and the Borough Assembly! Every one of you should resign, get REAL PEOPLE in to make wise decisions -- like housewives who have to budget! - More...
Monday PM - March 27, 2017

letter Stop Cash Payments to Oil Companies By Dan Ortiz - It’s time to roll back the high cashable credits we pay to oil companies. House Bill 111 is a bill which amends the current oil and natural gas tax structure to remove or edit pieces of the current oil tax system that do not benefit Alaskans. - More...
Monday PM - March 27, 2017

letter The American Health Care Act Is What Repeal Looks Like By Ghert Abbott - As the American Health Care Act was the best possible repeal legislation that House Republicans could create, we’d do well to consider the full significance of last week’s debacle. What would repeal have meant if it had been successful? And what does its total political failure mean for American healthcare? - More...
Monday PM - March 27, 2017

letter WHY I LOVE KETCHIKAN By Laura Plenert - On a recent Friday night when my power went out – there were strange noises – crackling, crashing etc. I sprang out of bed to check the house. Everything seemed in order. When I got up on Saturday morning, parts of my home had power, parts didn’t. I smelled a burned wire smell in my living room and noticed the porch lights on – and wouldn’t switch off. The switch was very warm. I went to the breaker box to shut off that breaker. I noticed 5 other breakers had “popped”. I called a friend who is an electrician – Wayne Walters. He advised that the first step was to get in touch with KPU to make sure the power into my home was ok. I called KPU and spoke to a very tired employee who said he would put me on the list. Afraid to turn anything on, I went outside to start shoveling. During a “shovel break” – Mark Adams – from KPU (who lives a few doors down) came to my door and said he heard I had problems. There was a bucket truck in the area – so the 2 KPU employees in that truck stopped and checked the power to my home. Everything checked out OK. In the meantime, Wayne called me back – he had an employee (Art from Channel Electric) who was nearby and would come to check on interior electric. A short time later Art showed up – he replaced the burned switch and checked out the breaker box. - More...
Monday PM - March 27, 2017

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. - 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. - 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

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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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