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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
April 15, 2018

Front Page Feature Photo By MEGHAN RICHARDSON

Perseverance Trail
The Perseverance Lake Trail can be accessed across from the Ward Lake Recreation Area's parking lot.  This 2.3-mile trail runs through muskeg and forest and leads to Perseverance Lake. Pictured on the trail is Janet Spear's buddy, Apollo.
Front Page Feature Photo By MEGHAN RICHARDSON ©2018

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Fish Factor: Many fishermen believe coast wide halibut science is out of whack By LAINE WELCH -  Alaska halibut is facing strong headwinds that have dampened the value of the catch shares needed to go fishing.    

Increasing imports of Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada, reports of several million pounds of halibut holdovers in freezers, speculation of reduced catches again next year, and dock prices down by $2 or more have caused a “major readjustment” in the market for individual fishing quotas (IFQ), according to Alaska brokers.  

“That definitely dims enthusiasm for buying quota, and prices have come down quite a bit from last year,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.  “The stuff that was trading at $65-$66 per pounds last year is down between $50 and $55. 

“Normally, as soon as the halibut catch limits are set the available quota is gone instantly. That’s not the case this year,” agreed Olivia Olsen who operates Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg. 

Alaska’s total halibut catch limit for 2018 was set at 17.5 million pounds, a 10 percent drop from last year.

Both brokers said that halibut stakeholders were “blindsided” when halibut catches were slashed again after a small uptick in 2017.

“Last year folks were having good fishing and seeing better looking fish,” Bowen said. “A lot of people thought that maybe the trend of declining size at age that we’ve been struggling with for a dozen or so years had rounded the corner and maybe the stocks were rebuilding. Of course, that’s not what happened.”  

Every year biologists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) survey 1,500 stations from Oregon to the far reaches of the Bering Sea from May through September. The 2017 results showed that total survey catches were down 23 percent from 2016, and halibut weights declined by 10 percent.   

The biggest drop stems from a lack of younger fish entering the halibut fishery, explained IPHC scientist Ian Stewart, adding that the nine to 18 year old fish year classes that have been sustaining the recent halibut fishery are not being followed up by strong recruits.

“For 2018 and especially projecting out to 2019, we are moving out of a fishery that is dominated by those relatively good recruitments that started in 1999 and extended to 2005. It appears we are going to have an increasing number of relatively poor recruitments from at least 2009 and 2010,” Stewart said.

“A lot of people were caught flatfooted by the survey results that showed a significant reduction of recruitment coming into the halibut fishery,” said Bowen.

Even more ominously, this year’s catch limits were reduced by half of what fishery biologists recommended. 

“People are waiting for the other shoe to drop next year. That’s definitely another negative affecting IFQ values,” Bowen said.

Halibut quota shares in Southeast Alaska fetch the highest prices, reaching $70 a in recent years. Catches there were slashed 15 percent to just 3.5 million pounds this year, a figure that does not mesh with what fishermen are seeing on the grounds. 

“Last year they all reported that the halibut were thick in the shallows and deeper waters in Southeast and the Central Gulf also looked good. People were excited and feeling really happy. No one expected big cuts,” Olsen said. “And so far this year they are reporting awesome catches. It’s really demoralizing.” 

While fishermen are always willing to err on the side of conservation, Olsen said many are questioning the outcomes and believe that the “coast wide science is out of whack.” 

“They’ve lost confidence in the system,” Olsen said. 

She recommended that halibut scientists should use the data in fishermen’s logbooks to improve their stock assessments. And for the Southeast region, Olsen suggested that local fishermen who are familiar with the waters should be involved in the summer halibut surveys “instead of chartering a boat and crew from Canada.”

Roughly 2,000 Alaskans hold quota shares of halibut; most are located in Southeast Alaska. - More...
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018


Alaska: Education Bills Advanced By MARY KAUFFMAN-  Saturday, the Alaska House of Representatives passed legislation to increase the base student allocation (BSA) given to school districts in Alaska. Currently, the BSA is $5,930 per student. House Bill 339 increases the BSA by $100 up to $6,030.

“Nearly every school district in Alaska is struggling to do more with less. Without help, students will lose more teachers and lose more opportunity,” said House Bill 339 sponsor Rep. Les Gara  (D-Anchorage). “We have heard from teachers with growing class sizes, students who deserve the right to achieve, and parents considering leaving Alaska due to real concerns about Alaska’s commitment to public education. [Saturday’s] vote shows that education is indeed a top priority.”

In recent years, the loss of anticipated funding increases and continued flat funding has forced school districts to eliminate well over 700 teachers and support staff. The Anchorage School District has cut nearly 400 jobs, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has cut 231 jobs, and the Juneau School District has cut 92 jobs. Without a boost in school support, school officials project major teacher cuts next year.

“Every day I hear from Alaskans concerned about the future. They see teachers leaving for better paying and more stable opportunities elsewhere. They see schools with fewer classes but more students in those classes. And, frankly, they see many of their elected representatives in Juneau unwilling to make the necessary decisions to ensure the next generation of Alaskans have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. I am proud to say that today a majority of the members of the Alaska House stood up for kids, parents, and teachers with their vote in favor of House Bill 339,” said Rep. Harriet Drummond  (D-Anchorage), HB 339 co-sponsor and Chair of the House Education Committee.

Several statewide organizations and school districts from across Alaska have come out in support of a $100 increase to thebase student allocation (BSA). 

House Bill 339  passed the Alaska House of Representatives Saturday by a vote of 22-18. After a reconsideration vote, the bill will be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

Governor Bill Walker in a prepared statement regarding the passage of House Bill 339 said, “Parents and teachers deserve certainty that Alaska schools will be funded consistently every year. I thank the House of Representatives for taking an important step in that direction by passing H.B. 339. I also thank Representatives Les Gara and Harriet Drummond for leading the way by filing this important legislation."

Walker said, "H.B. 339 modestly increases the base student allocation by $100 per year. This 1.6 percent increase amounts to $25 million per year and counters reductions of $70 million to school formula funding since the school year that started in 2014." 

"I support this legislation and hope to see it on my desk before session ends," said Walker. "We must not deprive our children of the resources they need to succeed. This is something the House and Senate – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – can all rally around. Both bodies have taken actions to increase education funding and to provide budget certainty to educators. Given this broad support, it is my hope that we can finalize H.B. 339 in addition to a mechanism to forward fund education as necessary components of any final legislative package.”

Also on Saturday, in the midst of declining test scores [The Nation's Report Card] and school enrollment, rising healthcare costs, and struggles with teacher retention and morale, the Alaska Senate advanced a series of bills to reverse the downward trend of educational outcomes in Alaska.

“The Senate recognizes the difficulties facing Alaska’s schools,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River). “This suite of bills will provide Alaska’s educators with funding certainty, open the door to a broader range of educational opportunities for students, and give districts additional tools they need to be successful.”   

As a centerpiece of Saturday’s initiatives, HB 287 delivers up to two years of full funding for schools, in addition to a one-time $30 million boost, which the Senate Majority Coalition says amounts to a $117 increase to the base student allocation (BSA) in Fiscal Year 2020. The FY 2020 early education funding and one-time grant portions of the bill are contingent on the passage of SB 26, a bill to protect the use of Permanent Fund earnings and ensure a dividend. Full funding for education in FY 2019, however, is not contingent on the passage of other legislation. - More...
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018


363 Ketchikan Donors Pledge Over $25,000 to 15 Local Non-profits By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) filing season has ended and nonprofits in Ketchikan have been pledged over $25,000 according to information SitNews requested and received from The Alaska Community Foundation. Additionally, non-profits based in Anchorage and Juneau that also serve Ketchikan have been pledged over $73,000.

There were 363 donors in Ketchikan pledging a total of $25,200.00 to local non-profits. The most donors contributed to the Ketchikan Humane Society with 61 donors contributing $3,800.00. KRBD Public Radio received the largest donation amount of $4,150.00 contributed by 47 donors.

The Pick.Click.Give program is run by The Alaska Community Foundation in partnership with the Rasmuson Foundation, The Foraker Group, United Way of Anchorage, and the State of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division.

The local non-profits and their pledge amounts are as follows: - More...
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018

Alaska: Public Records Restriction for Past Marijuana Convictions Passes Alaska House - Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) to protect Alaskans’ ability to go to work despite past convictions for marijuana possession.

House Bill 316 restricts public access to records related to simple marijuana possession in the wake of voter approval of legalization in Alaska in November of 2014. The bill also calls for the Alaska CourtView system to be wiped clean of all marijuana convictions classified as a VIA misdemeanor. The citizens’ initiative allowed the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana but failed to address how to deal with those previously convicted of marijuana possession.

“This bill is not a get out of jail card; it’s a reasonable approach to allow Alaskans to get jobs currently unavailable to them because they did something that Alaskans have voted repeatedly they believe should be entirely legal,” said Rep. Drummond.

Drummond said, “This bill does not benefit drug dealers. Rather, it helps mothers and fathers clear their names from past mistakes, allows many of our friends and neighbors to apply for jobs they didn’t think they could ever get, and strengthens communities by providing new opportunities for those who continue to be held back by something that is no longer against the rules.” [Alaska rules.]

House Bill 316 passed the House by a vote of 30-10, it now heads to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

And on Friday, the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation to ease an overly burdensome regulation that requires annual fingerprinting of those seeking to renew their marijuana establishment registration. House Bill 319 changes the fingerprinting requirement to once every six years.  - More....
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018




JOHN L. MICEK: Congress Not Up to the Task of Taking On Facebook - As I watched Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg go head-to-head with members of Congress, I couldn't help but have the same reaction I have when I get a pointless chain email from an elderly relative.

The inclination to smile, shake your head indulgently, and hit the "delete" key was impossibly strong.

Because after watching lawmakers fumble their way through the questions they posed to Zuckerberg, who'd swapped his customary hoodie for what appeared to be his dad's suit, it's not clear the majority of them possess the baseline understanding of what Facebook does to responsibly regulate it.

Let's face it, Facebook was wildly irresponsible with its handling of the personal information of tens of millions of its customers. It allowed its platform to be infiltrated by operatives working on behalf of a geopolitical rival who used it to meddle in the 2016 elections. Until it was caught, the massive social media company seemed entirely indifferent to changing its ways.

But the questioning from members of Congress, most of whom are old enough to be the 33-year-old Zuckerberg's grandparents, was excruciating to watch.

Take Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who asked Zuckerberg how Facebook, which is free, made its money.

"Senator, we run ads," Zuckerberg said patiently. - More...
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018


RICK JENSEN: Crackdown on Facebook Would Be Good... For Facebook - From the moment Mark Zuckerberg began to read his opening statement, you knew he wasn't going to change Facebook.

Clueless politicians made it clear they didn't understand Facebook, so members of Congress were unable to drill down into details of Facebook's business model and just how much of your personal information is owned by thousands of companies.

Perplexed members of Congress suggesting Facebook change its business model to "fee-based" don't understand the advertising business and how many hundreds of millions of dollars and users they would lose.

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was most articulate when he told Zuckerberg his company's user agreement "sucks" and if he doesn't change it, Congress will.

Which would be good news for Facebook.

If Congress creates new laws that make it hard to compete in this industry, it will certainly make it harder and more expensive for competition to enter the arena, as Facebook already has the lawyers and billions of dollars to compete.

Does this mean Congress should do nothing?

Of course not. - More...
Sunday PM - April 15, 2018

jpg Political Cartoon: IRS Tax Burden

Political Cartoon: IRS Tax Burden
By Rick McKee ©2018, The Augusta Chronicle, GA
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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