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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
April 08, 2018

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY MOODY

Dance of the Trumpeter Swans
Trumpeter Swans at Margaret Lake, located approximately 23.7 miles from Ketchikan, near Loring.
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY MOODY ©2018

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Alaska: Public Testimony to Protect the PFD in the Alaska Constitution Denied,  Judiciary Committee Hastily Adjourns By MARY KAUFFMAN - Saturday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee planned to hear three bills that would preserve the Permanent Fund Dividend and protect public safety. Instead, these bills were effectively killed by the Senate Majority. On Friday, Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and two other committee members sent a letter to Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) asking that the three bills, which had been stalled in that committee for months, be heard.

After substantive debate on SJR 1, public testimony was denied by Senator Coghill. Senator Wielechowski made a motion to move the Resolution to the next committee of referral, which was immediately objected to and the chair quickly adjourned without hearing the other two bills.

According to Senate Democrats, once that letter became part of the record, Senate Judiciary Chair Coghill (R-North Pole) was required to hold a hearing on the three bills within four days, or, barring a hearing, move the bills on to their next committee of referral. The question remains whether the rule has been met, or if SB 127 and HB 214, the bills on public safety, will now move on to their next committees. 

The three bills included Senator Bill Wielechowski's SJR 1 , which would put to a vote of the people the inclusion of the dividend in the Constitution; Senator Costello's SB 127 , which would repeal 2016's omnibus crime bill, SB 91; and HB 214 , which would rename the Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Education statute to Bree's Law after Bree Moore, the 20-year-old women tragically shot to death by her boyfriend in 2014. HB 214 has 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. 

"I am shocked the hearing was adjourned before a valid motion was considered," said Senator Wielechowski. "Thousands of Alaskans from all over the State have reached out to my office on this issue. When it became clear there was no intention to allow the public their one opportunity to testify, I was forced to make a motion to move the bill out of committee." 

Wielechowski's SJR 1, is a resolution that would allow the people of Alaska to vote whether to enshrine their permanent fund dividend into the Alaska Constitution. Wielechowski originally filed this bill in 2013 during the 20th legislature and never got a hearing in 2013 or 2014 again in 2015. It was pre-filed again in January 2017 and the bill has been in the Senate Judiciary Committee since March 8, 2017. Nearly one year. Wielechowski requested a hearing at the beginning of this session and still has not had a hearing.

Wielechowski said in previous testimony that he received numerous emails and communications from Alaskans all across the state and in his district who have requested this resolution to heard. Wielechowski said he received a petition claiming to have 3,500 Alaskan sign to it requesting this resolution be passed.

"The people of Alaska have waited for more than a year to have their voices heard on protecting the Dividend in the Constitution," said Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). "Alaskans deserve to have their voices heard. The Dividend, and the future of the Permanent Fund, is too important to be brushed aside." 

And on Friday, on the heels of record Permanent Fund earnings, the Alaska Senate Finance Committee adopted a 5.25 percent of market value (POMV) draw from the Permanent Fund for Fiscal Year 2018, which is effectively a 4.21 percent draw due to the five-year average provision.

The draw would generate $1.8 billion for the general fund, leaving the state with a $300 million deficit and a Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) balance of $4.2 billion for the current fiscal year. Quoting a news release from the Senate Finance Committee, a healthy Constitutional Budget Reserve balance is necessary to provide a cushion for cash flow purposes, so money managers can schedule transfers in the most prudent and responsible manner.

With the action by the Alaska Senate Finance Committee on Friday, the Permanent Fund Corporation would not have to sell off assets to provide for the draw because instructions have been developed for the Permanent Fund Corporation and Alaska Department of Revenue to work together on a schedule of payments from the fund to the state.

Additionally, with the passage of SB 26—a bill to protect the use of Permanent Fund earnings and ensure a dividend - districts can count on another $1.25 billion in Fiscal Year 2020.

As of February 28, 2018, $65.2 billion in assets are currently under management by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. In a special board meeting of the Trustees on March 15, 2018, Resolution 18-01 was adopted supporting adherence to a rules based legal framework for permanent fund transfers. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018


Fish Factor:
Salmon permit market stagnant By LAINE WELCH -  Spring is usually the busiest time of year for brokers in the buy/sell/trade business for Alaska salmon permits. But that’s not the case this year. 

Values for several salmon permits had ticked upwards after a blockbuster salmon fishery in 2017, but they have remained stagnant since last fall. 

“That sort of summarizes the salmon permit market. There is not a lot of excitement about any of them,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. 

A lackluster catch forecast for the upcoming salmon season - down 34 percent – has helped dampen enthusiasm. 

Even at the one big bright spot at Bristol Bay, where another big sockeye catch of more than 37 million fish is expected, the value of drift net permits has stalled in the $150,000 range.  

“Sometimes before the season we see the price go up and up until the fishing begins.  This year it just seems like it’s a calmer market and the price actually slipped.” Bowen said.

Also at play in the Bay – major buyers will no longer purchase salmon from “dry” boats starting this year.  

“They put the fleet on notice a few years ago that they will not take any unchilled fish,” Bowen said. “So there has been a scramble for folks to get RSW (refrigerated sea water) systems installed or get a boat with RSW. There’s no doubt people are getting out of the Bay rather than invest another $150,000 to $200,000. I think that issue has calmed the market down for drift permits.”

Dock Street Brokers, Permit Master and Bowen’s company all list 10 or more Bay drift permits for sale or lease. 

There’s not a lot of action for Southeast drift permits, which have slipped to $85,000-$90,000. Likewise, there is little interest for Cook Inlet drift permits which after several dreary salmon seasons, have  stalled at around $45,000 for the past year.

A few Prince William Sound seine permits have moved at around $170,000 this year and at Kodiak in the $30,000 range, but there’s been minimal interest in seine cards across the the state. 

 “The forecast isn’t great for seine fisheries anywhere this year and you can see that in the permit markets. There’s just not a lot of interest this year,” Bowen said.   

One permit bucking the trend is salmon at False Pass (Area M) on the Alaska Peninsula. Several good salmon years has piqued interest in that fishery and boosted drift net values to over $160,000 with listings few and far between. 

Overall, Bowen said Alaska brokerage and boat sales businesses are chugging along despite the humdrum mood.

“Boats are still selling well and permits are selling and quota is selling too. It’s just that there’s definitely some dark clouds out there. I think in general it is going to be a skinnier year for the industry.” - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018


Alaska Science:
Alaska creatures without us By NED ROZELL - In Alan Weisman’s book, “The World Without Us,” the author ponders “a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow.”

Alaska creatures without us

Songbirds like this yellow-rumped warbler would probably do better in a world without people.

People who study Alaska’s wildlife donated some thought to the subject. Alaska’s lack of people has benefited many species, including caribou, which still outnumber Alaskans, and salmon, which torpedo up our rivers with a staggering, wonderful density that was once seen all over the West Coast of North America.

Mark Wipfli has spent many hours on salmon streams throughout Alaska, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks biologist has thought many times of mankind’s impact on salmon. If people were to disappear, Wipfli envisions a slow healing of damage done to salmon habitat. In Alaska, that means the recovery from logging and mining of streamside forests that provide everything from fish food in the form of insects to the contribution of dead trees to waterways (for erosion control and creation of eddies and other features good for salmon).

Old-growth forests (with trees aged from 50 to 200 years) provide ideal conditions for salmon, just as those same trees have benefited us with stout building materials. The mining of minerals we use every day has also disrupted life for salmon.

“If we vanished … there would no longer be harvesting or overharvesting,” Wipfli said. “Mining impacts to watersheds would slowly diminish, but would probably take a lot longer. And dams would eventually crumble and tumble, allowing rivers to flow like they once did.”

The bottom line is salmon — and the marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems that support them — would be better off without us,” he said. “We continue to create barriers and stressors that collectively make it more difficult for salmon to thrive like they historically did, especially in the Lower 48.”

Along with its robust population of salmon, Alaska also is not yet experiencing a bird shortage.

“Birds from six of the seven continents come to Alaska to breed each year — that’s billions and billions of birds,” said biologist Sue Guers. “These numbers are estimates from now. Imagine what it was like before our time.”

Alaska’s many million acres of unpeopled river valleys and tundra plains would continue to attract birds if we were gone, but some species would miss us, Guers said. Ravens and gray jays that pick at our leavings in cities and towns would revert back to following wolf packs, and the pigeons that live in Fairbanks might find life impossible at 40 below without the warm exhaust of heated buildings. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018



jpg Phil Kerpen

PHIL KERPEN: FCC Should Open Up Faster, Better Wi-Fi - Last year the Department of Transportation (DOT) sensibly delayed a held-over Obama regulation that would have mandated an expensive, obsolete technology called dedicated short-range communication in all new cars and trucks sold in America.The Obama rule, according to its own cost estimate, would have imposed total costs of $108 billion and raised the price of every new car by about $300 - for a technology that has already been made obsolete by rapidly advancing developments including a shift toward commercial cellular and sensor-based approaches to vehicle safety.

Worse, DOT use of this spectrum, the 5.9 GHz band, prevents it from being reallocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).The band is adjacent to existing Wi-Fi spectrum, and opening it up would allow high-speed gigabit Wi-Fi on a large scale.With Wi-Fi demand growing rapidly, this additional spectrum is needed to keep this ubiquitous technology working smoothly and to reach higher speeds.

In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement at the FCC, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly noted in a 2016 joint statement: "We believe this slice of spectrum provides the best near-term opportunity for promoting innovation and expanding current offerings, such as Wi-Fi. That's because combining the airwaves in this band with those already available for unlicensed use nearby could mean increased capacity, reduced congestion, and higher speeds."

Unfortunately, despite widespread reports that DOT was going to not just withdraw the Obama rule but relinquish the spectrum as well, they have not yet done so.In fact, the rulemaking remains open - albeit redesignated as long-term, meaning no action within the next year - and is still listed in the agency's March 2018 significant rulemaking report. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018

jpg Danny Tyree

DANNY TYREE: Help! We Need These Apps For Spring! - "In spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of wearing out his thumbs on the keyboard." - with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Late last autumn I finally upgraded to a smartphone. Although some of my relatives still cling to older communications devices ("That pharmacy would get a lot more of my business if they skipped all this high-tech folderol and learned the virtues of tin cans and a really long string..."), I am like a hog feeding at the trough of apps.

I just wish there were more apps designed specifically to help us navigate the trials and tribulations of springtime.Attention, software developers! Here are some apps we really, really need:

1. A variation of the venerable cellphone flashlight. This one would use advanced algorithms to produce just the right wavelengths of light to counteract the glare from pale, white wintertime skin that is suddenly being exposed again. 

2. A comical graphics app that portrays Mother Nature as a stereotypical cat. ("I think I'll make it hot...I think I'll make it cold...I think I'll make it hot...I think I'll make it cold...Oh, have some hairballs the tornado dragged in...")

3. An app that notifies your local undertaker that you can now die happy because you've cut your lawn 1/16 of an inch shorter than that &^%$# at the end of the street. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018

jpg Political Cartoon: Facebook User Data Hydrant

Political Cartoon: Facebook User Data Hydrant
By RJ Matson ©2018, Portland, ME
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Letter / Opinion

But Wait, There's More! By Dan Bockhorst - I appreciate Rodney Dial’s illuminating and sobering comments published in SitNews on April 4. I also value his diligence and discipline in safeguarding taxpayers’ money.

Reflecting on Mr. Dial’s commentary brought to mind the phrase popularized by Ron Popeil, an inventor and marketing personality: "But wait, there's more!"

On April 11, the School Superintendent will submit his budget proposal for next fiscal year to the School Board. The Superintendent has matter-of-factly advised the School Board and Borough Assembly that he will seek a $3.9-million “discretionary” cash contribution from the Borough.

However, because the Superintendent neglected to put his proposal in context, taxpayers and local officials may not appreciate the nature of his quest. The $3.9 million discretionary contribution which the Superintendent plans to seek, amounts to a whopping 12.59% increase over this year. But wait, there’s more! - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

RE: Ketchikan is one of the highest taxed areas in Alaska By Jerri Taylor-Elkins - Mr. Dial, I am writing in response to your opinion piece posted to Sitnews on April 4, 2018. First let me say that I appreciate your service to our community and the time you took in both writing and encouraging feedback from your constituents. I would like to clarify a few things in regards to your statements about homelessness and the types and number of shelters in Ketchikan.

We have in Ketchikan, WISH (Women in Safe Homes) who s primary focus is taking in women and children in crisis due to domestic violence and sexual assault. They will accept women and children facing homelessness on a short term basis, however their primary mission is NOT homelessness. At present there is no facility in Ketchikan equipped to shelter homeless youth or children.

So in fact there are only two non-profit shelters in Ketchikan whose focus is the homeless citizens. Park Avenue Temporary Home (PATH) is a night time (5pm 9am), 31 bed short stay shelter that does not allow its clients to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol prior to entry. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

What happens when Ideology triumphs over Reason By Michael Spence - Both of my parents experienced the horrors of World War II firsthand. Like most American men in the early 1940's, my father joined the US Army. As a combat engineer, he saw some of the worst fighting from the beaches of Normandy to the liberation of France and Germany in 1944 and '45.. He lost his younger brother in the war effort. My Mother, who was German, lived through the the misery of bombardments from the Allied forces. Her home city was leveled to rubble. Somehow she and my grandmother survived, but many of their friends and family did not, and their lives were never the same again.

I often wondered how it came to pass that the German people, an advanced culture whose nation achieved great economic and educational success, could have succumbed to a such catastrophic end as witnessed in the 1930's and 1940's. The vast majority of Germans were hardworking, peace loving people. The culture that brought to the world the printing press and some of the the greatest advances in art, science and medicine of the 20th century, was somehow brought to a state that practiced mass warfare and genocide on a scale never before seen in human history. - More...
Sunday PM - April 08, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Ketchikan is one of the highest taxed areas in Alaska By RODNEY DIAL - I have been on the Borough Assembly for a year and half now and thought I would pass on my observations/opinions of local government and the concerns I have moving forward. First, let me state that these are my own personal comments and I am not claiming to represent anyone… except the taxpayers.

As most of you may remember, the last two budget cycles have been challenging for the Borough. Last year the deficit was nearly a million dollars. Creative efforts on behalf of the Assembly and Borough Staff allowed that deficit to be closed without a sales or property tax increase.

The budget deficit for this year was initially projected at approximately ½ million, however that recently changed, primarily due to a significant increase in property assessments and an increase in sales tax revenue. Those of you who recently received your assessments probably noticed that your prior year assessment amount was listed on the form for comparison to your new assessment. - More...
Wednesday AM - April 04, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Getting More Resources Against Trafficking our Kids By Senator Dan Sullivan - Most Americans and Alaskans think that human trafficking is a problem that happens in other, far-away places. And many are shocked to realize that it's happening right here, in America and in our state, and that the problem is actually increasing, dramatically.

A disturbing study last year found that one in four girls, and one in five boys, who were receiving services from Covenant House Alaska, reported being victims of sex trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a whopping 846 percent increase from 2010 to 2015 of children who were being trafficked — an increase that the organization attributes to the internet. - More...
Sunday AM - April 01, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Should there be a new professional responsibility to help victims of unknown emerging technological crimes? By Liberty-Anne Johnson - Living in the interior of Alaska - prior to Ketchikan - in the 1980s, I learned that it was required by state law to stop and help those who found themselves in a ditch along the ALCAN highway. Law enforcement and emergency couldn’t always arrive first or immediately given the vast highway paired with a low ratio of Alaska State Troopers and the distance required to travel. Provision of first response or aid expected to be administered by those who stopped was above normal skills thought required in those circumstances in other states and those married on the border specially trained for life-threatening incidents. - More...
Sunday AM - April 01, 2018

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