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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Thursday - Friday
December 10-11, 2015

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Summit of Deer Mountain Sunrise
Front Page Photograph By DEREK WEISS

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Alaska: "New Sustainable Alaska Plan" Rolled Out by Governor; Democrats say fiscal plan unfairly targets working families By MARY KAUFFMAN - Governor Bill Walker (I) unveiled the New Sustainable Alaska Plan, the administration’s blueprint for the state’s economic future, and the budget for fiscal year 2017. The New Sustainable Alaska Plan retools how government powers the state economy through continued spending cuts, wealth management, new revenue and investment.

New Sustainable Alaska Plan" Rolled Out by Governor; Democrats say fiscal plan unfairly targets working families

Governor Bill Walker (I) unveiled the New Sustainable Alaska Plan
The Governor announced the plan at the Lynden hangar
in West Anchorage Wednesday.
Video photo clip

“This is a major paradigm shift in how the State of Alaska conducts business,” Governor Walker said. “That’s because we cannot continue with business as usual and live solely off of our natural resource revenues. Never before has the state faced a deficit so large that we are draining more than $9 million from savings every day. Fortunately, those who came before us had the wisdom to set aside money for a rainy day. Well, it’s raining now. But the good news is we have a very large umbrella and some other very handy tools to weather this storm. But we all have to pull together to make this work.”

The Alaska Permanent Fund Protection Act is the major underpinning of the plan. It re-plumbs the flow of funding by diverting volatile resource revenue away from the state’s annual budget and puts it directly in the Permanent Fund.

“If we do nothing, we will empty our savings in the constitutional budget reserve, then we will have to tap into the earnings reserve—which means that in five years Alaskans would no longer get dividends,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney. “This plan ensures that Alaskans will continue to receive dividend checks. More importantly, our children and grandchildren will also be able to benefit from continued dividends, as well.”

The New Sustainable Alaska Plan also calls for continued cuts and ongoing spending restraint. The Walker-Mallott administration worked with the Legislature to cut about $1 billion from state spending since taking office on Dec. 1, 2014, and eliminated 600 state jobs. Governor Walker’s fiscal year 2017 budget calls for $100 million in additional cuts from the operating budget and $425 million in cuts from oil exploration credits.

The plan will change the oil and gas tax credit system into a low-interest loan program, wherein the rates will be determined by the number of Alaskans the companies hire. To honor existing commitments for credits, the FY17 budget allocates $1.2 billion for a transition fund and loan program. The minimum tax on the oil industry will increase by $100 million. The mining, fishing and tourism industries will also be taxed for projected revenue of about $47 million.. The plan also calls for an income tax of 6 percent of federal tax liability, which is about 1.5 percent of income for the average Alaskan family, for projected revenue of about $200 million. Taxes will also be levied on alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel for projected revenue of $112 million.

“Corporate Alaska is stepping up to be part of the solution, just as everyday Alaskans are,” Governor Walker said. “A strong, vibrant Alaskan economy requires that we all share in the responsibility to build our future.”

Senate Democrats are concerned with the Governor's fiscal plan saying it unfairly targets working families.

While Senators Gardner, Wielechowski, and Olson agree with the governor’s sense of urgency, and the wisdom and necessity of charting a new and sustainable fiscal plan for the state, they are disappointed with the specifics of the plan the Governor announced Wednesday.

“Any budget is a balancing act between keeping spending in check, and maintaining needed government services. Budgets also reflect values, and the governor’s plan falls far short of the values embraced by Alaskans,” said Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “Further cuts to education especially those impacting pre-K programs that we know improve educational outcomes for kids, and cuts to the already beleaguered university system rob Alaskans of our ability to maximize the potential of future generations. Education is not a disposable value.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015

Alaska: Plan released to protect public safety and control prison spending; Recommendations would reduce recidivism, save $424 million over next decade - The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission today announced a comprehensive set of data-driven recommendations for the upcoming legislative session that will reduce recidivism, hold offenders accountable, and control the state’s prison growth. If adopted, the reforms would reduce the state’s average daily prison population by 21 percent over the next 10 years and would save the state, $424 million.

“The comprehensive policy package released by the Commission today reflects a fresh look at our corrections system,” said Governor Walker. “By keeping violent and career criminals behind bars and strengthening alternatives for nonviolent offenders, the Commission has developed a roadmap that will ensure Alaskans get the best public safety return on government spending.”

The Commission’s proposed recommendations would:

• Implement evidence-based pretrial practices;
• Focus prison beds on serious and violent offenders;
• Strengthen supervision and interventions to reduce recidivism; • Ensure oversight and accountability; and
• Advance crime victim priorities.

Alaska launched the comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice in June 2015 in response to its charge from Governor Bill Walker, former Chief Justice Dana Fabe, Senate President Kevin Meyer, House Speaker Mike Chenault, and Attorney General Craig Richards, the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission engaged in a sixth-month study of Alaska’s sentencing and corrections systems, analyzing data, evaluating innovative policies and programs from other states, reviewing research on what works to reduce recidivism, and developing comprehensive and tailored recommendations. The Commission is a diverse group of high level criminal justice stakeholders including law enforcement, judges, the Department of Law, the Public Defender, the Department of Corrections, legislators, and members representing crime victims, Alaska Natives, and the Mental Health Trust Authority. - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015

Alaska: $560,000 Fine: Construction worker died after contractor failed to take basic safety precautions - The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development has issued eight citations against Hartman Construction & Equipment, Inc., and fined the company $560,000 for its willful failure to adhere to safety standards. The citations and fines are the result of an investigation conducted after the death of employee Samuel Morgan. Morgan, who was 23 years old, died at an Anchorage worksite near 91st Street west of King Street on June 16, 2015, when he was partially buried in a trench collapse and then mangled by the construction company’s equipment.

“My heart goes out to the family of Samuel Morgan. This avoidable tragedy deserves the full attention of every employer in the construction industry,” said Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas. “Every employer who has ever thought about cutting corners on safety should view this case as a severe warning that failure to provide the necessary and adequate protections for Alaska’s workers will not be tolerated.”

The investigation revealed numerous safety violations at the construction site, including the employer’s basic failure to provide a safe workplace. Other safety violations included failure to provide adequate access and egress from the trench, failure to protect employees from loose rock and soil, failure to properly locate spoil piles, failure to use a protective system in the excavation, and failure to properly bench or slope the excavation. Prior to the fatality, the employer identified a section of the trench wall that had sloughed off and marked the area with traffic cones, yet the protective trench box at the site was not assembled to allow for its use and there were no ladders at the site for safe trench access at the time of the incident. - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015

Alaska Airlines Bans Hoverboards On Airplanes

Alaska Airlines announced hoverboards are NOT allowed
as checked luggage or as carry-on.

Alaska: Alaska Airlines Bans Hoverboards On Airplanes - Hoverboards, gliders, electric skateboards - whatever name they come by, you have probably seen and heard of them. These self-balancing devices are the year’s hottest electronics as people everywhere are snapping them up and buying them as presents for their loved ones. In fact, you probably know at least one person with a hoverboard on their Christmas list. As cool as they are, there’s one big problem: they are not safe to transport on an airplane.


Hoverboard battery ratings are unreliable and have been known to catch fire, which makes them more concerning to transport on a plane. In some models, we’ve found that the batteries claimed to be under the legal limit, but upon examination, they actually exceeded what the FAA allows on a plane. - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015

Alaska: Salvation Army Red Kettle Stolen in Wasilla; Thief Escapes with Hundreds - Wednesday night one of The Salvation Army's volunteer charity red kettles was stolen by a thief in the Mat-Su Valley. The Salvation Army volunteer was finishing their shift in front of the Wasilla Walmart when an unidentified person snatched the kettle and ran. This person was chased by the bell-ringer and an anonymous gentleman from a nearby construction site. The thief ran all the way to the Valley Cinema parking lot before getting into a truck and speeding away.

It is still unsure how much was taken but it is estimated to be in the hundreds of dollars. "I don't know exactly how much was taken but I do know what was lost," said Salvation Army Capt. Jeff Josephson, "warm blankets, food for the needy, work clothes and utility assistance. People put their hard-earned money in our Red Kettles because they know we will turn it into much needed help for their neighbors who are down on their luck. We turn it into hope. This is a tragedy for many people who need our help to make it through the winter." - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015


Southeast Alaska:
Southeast Alaska leaders urging stronger international safeguards in shared watersheds - Southeast Alaska leaders yesterday delivered a letter to Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott urging them to join municipalities, Tribes, fishermen, the Alaska congressional delegation and thousands of Alaskans in asking the U.S. Department of State and the Canadian federal government to work together on stronger international safeguards for water quality, fisheries and communities in shared watersheds. The letter specifically recommends the State of Alaska seek such help before finalizing non-binding negotiations with the Province of British Columbia (B.C.).

The letter delivered yesterday was signed by nearly 100 entities across Southeast Alaska and beyond, ranging from municipalities, Tribal citizens, commercial and sport fishermen, seafood processors, and sport fishing and tourism companies. The letter urges the Alaska governor to: “…wait to transmit or sign this Statement of Cooperation until Secretary Kerry has communicated to Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs a request for action under the Boundary Waters Treaty. Of course, your help in securing that request is key to its success. An International Joint Commission reference for the transboundary region would engage the U.S. State Department, elevate the issue to the federal level in both countries, and provide opportunities to secure much needed federal resources.”

“The large-scale British Columbia mining projects within the transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk river systems threaten Southeast Alaska’s booming fishing economy, pure watersheds, and the way of life for Southeast Alaskans,” said Cynthia Wallesz, Executive Director of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters. “We are deeply concerned that Alaska bears too much risk from these mines and there are no binding financial guarantees to insure we will be compensated in a pollution event.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015

Alaska Fisheries: Proposed legislation threatens Bristol Bay salmon, culture, jobs - Alaska Tribes, commercial fishermen, business owners and sportsmen expressed their deep disappointment at a bill introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Bill threatens Alaska’s greatest salmon fishery and its tens of thousands of jobs by erasing from the federal Clean Water Act important provisions for wetlands protection.

They say H.R. 4149, introduced by Representative Tom Rice (R-SC), ignores a broad cross section of Alaska Natives, fishermen, hunters and anglers, and business owners, as well as more than one million Americans, who have asked the federal government for immediate Clean Water Act protection for Bristol Bay. The ill-conceived Bill proposes to eliminate an original section of the Clean Water Act known as Section 404(c) that enables the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate development proposals like the Pebble Mine to determine whether such project would pose “unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, or recreational areas.”

“It’s frustrating that Outside lawmakers who have never set foot in Bristol Bay are dictating the choices for our Region’s future. This Bill threatens our culture and way of life,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “H.R. 4149 directly attacks the section of the Clean Water Act that Bristol Bay Tribes asked to be applied to protect our salmon and region from the impacts of mines like Pebble.”

“Despite the fact that more than 60 percent of Alaskans are opposed to the Pebble Mine, we continue to see bad bills like this popping up. It indicates that lawmakers are listening more to foreign mining companies instead of Americans who depend on the wild sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay,” said Nelli Williams, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “Representative Rice should reconsider his sponsorship of this legislation, which has the potential inflict damage on so many Americans.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 10, 2015


Columns - Commentary

jpg Dave Kiffer

DAVE KIFFER: K-town economy just keep 'Truckin' - "Cruisin and the ships come in,
keep cruisin, like the doo dah man.
Together, dock em four in line,
just keep cruising on."

With the inaugural arrival of the Grateful Dead Cruise Line set for April 1, 2016, Ketchikan's Downtown businesses are already rushing to cache in the latest boom in Our Fair Salmon City's history. First it was mining, then salmon canning, then timber and most recently tourism. The latest K-town economic craze? Snacks!

"It's a win win situation" Chamber of Commerce director J.J. Isotope said. "State law prevents Ketchikan from actually selling marijuana products anywhere near the docks, but there is nothing to limit reefer related items, such as munchies."

Already, according to Isotope, more than a dozen stores primarily engaged in the jewelry trade have rolled over their inventories to meet the new demand.

"Doritos, man, that stuff is gold," said one of the former jewelry vendors who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak for the Chromium Cartel. "We buy the bags for under a buck and we sell them for $20 each. That's double our gem margin. And man, those folks are always hungry. We got your 'edibles' right here!" - More...
Friday AM - December 11, 2015

jpg Jeff Lund

JEFF LUND: Ready for resolutions - In the next few weeks we’ll draft lists of resolutions. We’ll prepare ourselves to stand on grassy hills with fishing rods, hunting rifles, kettle bells, mountain bikes, ab-rollers, recycling bins, organic Tofurky sausage in hand and piggy banks raised above our collective heads calling out, “Freedom” like William Wallace, ready to attack 2016 like warrior poets to win our freedom over stagnancy.

By this time next year we will be putting the finishing touch on a new existence we thought only applied to The Most Interesting Man in the World or Chuck Norris.


I read an article about what I already knew. But you know when you read something you already know, and it’s put in such a way that it makes even more sense than it already did and you really like it?

Yeah, that happened. Maybe it was because it reminded me of stuff I should deal with or that I’m on the right track. Either way, the words punched me in the temporal lobe. - More...
Friday AM - December 11, 2015

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Gun fantasy

Editorial Cartoon: Gun fantasy
By David Fitzsimmons ©2015, The Arizona Star
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

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Dec. 2015
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Basic Rules &
Freedom of Speech

Questions, please contact the editor at editor@sitnews.us or call 617-9696
Sitnews reserves the right to edit.

letter Revenue options: Thanks for participating By Dan Ortiz - To me, government by the people and for the people is more than just a theoretical concept. I believe this famous phrase from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address must be put into practice for government to work. That’s why I’ve been going door to door, mailing out surveys and holding meetings in the communities I represent. At our town meeting on December 1st, I shared my revenue survey results and asked attendees to fill out a questionnaire on Governor Walker’s proposed endowment fund model. - More...
Friday AM - December 11, 2015

letter Open Letter: ADF&G Commissioner Cotten By Rick Steiner - You may have seen the Fall update released last week by NPS on the Denali wolf population, which showed a slight increase in numbers, but a continued decrease in viewing success. This year, only 5% of the park visitors were able to see wolves, thus some 500,000 paying visitors were deprived this opportunity. - More...
Friday AM - December 11, 2015

letter REDDI report followup By Shawn Kimberley - Almost immediately after posting my letter, I was contacted by the Captain of the Alaska State Troopers. The gentleman I spoke with was the commander of the entire southeast region. After a fairly long conversation, I would honestly say that I believe that he is a good man and a good leader. After our conversation I feel like he is here to help improve all aspects of our community. We discussed the situation thoroughly. What came out of that conversation was a complete surprise to me. Not only was the outcome something positive, But it restored my faith in the Alaska State troopers organization. He did not try to make excuses, He did not try to dance around the subject. Instead he owned up the actions, or in my opinion the lack of action. And was very polite and thankful to me for my part in trying to help correct a dangerous situation. - More...
Friday AM - December 11, 2015

letter Open Letter to Councilman Bob Sivertsen: Future hopeful House Representative By Amanda Mitchell - According to a quote by KRBD, you said: “You wonder why somebody would run when we have such a budget issue with the State of Alaska. I think that might be an opportunity for us to restructure and do some good things. But it’s going to take a lot of work, and I believe my experience and ability to work with people and gain consensus will help our district and our communities.” - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2015

letter No timely response to REDDI report By Shawn Kimberley - On the evening of December 7th 2015, A friend of mine and I were leaving A&P market heading north. It wasn't long at all before I realized that traffic was moving very slow, yes slower than normal even for Ketchikan. There were probably 12-15 cars in front of us and before long there was 20 plus cars behind us all forced to drive 25-30 miles per hour. By the time that we hit the Ward Cove area, the line of cars behind us was so long that you couldn't even see the end of it. As we passed the old pulp mill area, many of the cars in front of us had pulled off leaving me a view of the actual cause of the hold up. We saw an obvious drunk driver leading the pack. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2015

letter Local Vessel Horizon Pearl Harbor Oil Supply Ship By Bob Young - Vessel Horizon, moored in Ward Cove, is ex-navy vessel YO-43. Constructed and operating as a small oil supply vessel in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. Probably one of the very last surviving Navy ships from that day in Pearl Harbor. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2015

letter Radical Islamic Terrorism By Donald Moskowitz - The greatest threat to world peace is radical Islamic terrorism. Radical Islamic terrorists killed 14 Americans in San Bernardino, CA; 130 people in Paris; five military personnel in Chatanooga, TN and 13 soldiers in Fort Hood, TX; a soldier in Canada; beheaded journalists and aid workers in the Middle East; killed non-Muslims in Copenhagen, Paris and Tunisia; attacked the Jewish Museum in Brussels, a mall in Kenya, Iraqi Christians, Syrian Christians, 40 churches in Egypt, our embassy in Benghazi, and the Boston Marathon. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2015

letter Ketchikan City Council Vote on Pot By Charlie Freeman - I'm having a problem understanding why, in the name of God, this was even brought up. #1. The State hasn't dealt with it and the State trumps local law. #2. Federal law trumps State, and even though the Feds at this present moment say they are not going to make an issue of it, Federal law still stands. #3. And more to the point, it's a loser as an issue. You cannot win. You either ignore the public vote in favor of you're own opinion, or you must be some kind of pot head. Can't win, either way. - More...
Saturday AM - December 05, 2015

letter What is a Budget Lapsing Organization? By Ken Bylund - Budget Lapsing Accounting is code for “Use it or Lose it” of huge amounts of money being wasted in State and Federal government agencies. Government agencies ‘waste it rather than lose it’ because federal rules require them to return unspent funds at the end of each budget year. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter Refugees By John Suter - On the issue of refugees, the problem is not here, it is over there. If the government wants to help out on this issue, then the government can help out over there where the problem is. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter Horrific shooting By Jim Minnery - The horrific shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs recently has brought out a litany of unnecessary and predictable media accusations regarding senseless murder and peaceful pro-life activism. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter GOVERNOR URGED TO NOT MIX POLITICS WITH SAFETY By Rep. Shelley Hughes - As Alaskans, we are accustomed to harsh weather and less-than-ideal road conditions that often grace our commutes throughout the state this time of year, but we are also accustomed to an adequate response by our state road maintenance crews. Lately the weather has been winning the battle of man versus the elements. Every year we hear complaints about slow response time or lack of attention to specific roadways, but I find myself asking, why this year more than others? - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

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