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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 18, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By MOLLY MURDOCK

Lower Silvis Lake
Front Page Feature Photo By MOLLY MURDOCK

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Alaska Electoral College To Cast Votes for President and Vice-President By MARY KAUFFMAN - On Monday, December 19, members of the United States Electoral College will cast their vote which ultimately elects the President and Vice-President of the United States. Each state gets a number of electors equal to its United States Congressional representation therefore Alaska has three electors.

Alaska Electoral College To Cast Votes for President and Vice-President

Alaska’s electors will cast a vote for Donald J. Trump for President and Michael R. Pence for Vice President of the United States on December 19, 2016.
Photos courtesy

In Alaska, political parties select their electors and submit the names to the Division of Elections. The electors represent the political party of the Presidential candidate who won the popular vote in Alaska, which for 2016, is the Alaska Republican Party. Alaska’s electors are former Governor Sean Parnell, Jacqueline Tupou of Juneau and Carolyn Leman of Anchorage. Under state law, each elector must “pledge” that as an elector, the person will cast his or her electoral vote for the candidate of the party. For 2016, Alaska’s electors will cast a vote for Donald J. Trump for President and Michael R. Pence for Vice President of the United States.

In Alaska, Trump won over Clinton 53 to 38 percent. However, in a last ditch effort lawsuit was filed by Janice Park, a Hillary Clinton voter in Anchorage, against Alaska's electors claiming that because Clinton won 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump nationwide, the Alaska electors would be dening her her Fifth Amendment right of equal protection if the electors do not cast their vote for Clinton.

However, a federal judge in Alaska has thrown out the lawsuit brought by Park seeking to prevent the state’s three electoral college voters from casting votes for President-elect Donald Trump.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess said the electoral college is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. Burgess said in a written order that Janice Park’s remedy rested not with the courts but with the constitutional amendment process. - More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016

Alaska: Governor Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Budget: $4.2 Billion Operating Budget; $115 Million Capital Budget By MARY KAUFFMAN - Thursday, Governor Bill Walker’s fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018) budget was released which the administration says reduces state spending while supporting vital services and protecting the permanent fund dividend. The proposed $4.2 billion unrestricted general fund (UGF) operating budget is 23 percent lower than when Governor Walker took office two years ago. To lead by example, Governor Walker will be taking a one-third pay cut in his salary.

Once again, the Governor proposes to use some of the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for essential state services and Walker’s fiscal package also includes a proposed increase to the motor fuel tax. The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget highlights previous reductions in state spending, a reintroduction of previous legislation to use the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve account to help fund state government, and a statewide motor fuels tax. The remaining $890 million gap is left to be addressed by the Alaska legislature during the upcoming legislative session.

“We have reduced state spending by more than $1.7 billion, and will continue to seek efficiencies and contain costs,” Governor Walker said. “We have closed dozens of state facilities across Alaska, impacting services Alaskans have grown accustomed to receiving. But Alaskans are increasingly looking for budget stability to protect Alaska’s economy. We can’t cut our way to prosperity. Since 2013, we have cut state spending by 44 percent. To fund services Alaskans rely on, it’s critical to discuss new revenue. We look forward to working with the legislature to pass a sustainable fiscal plan during the upcoming session.” - More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016

Alaska pays out $1.3 billion in oil tax credits & receives only $89 million in production taxes; Giessel says this is growing the pie for Alaskans By MARY KAUFFMAN - Last week's release of the governor's budget and Fall Revenue Sourcebook generated a good deal of noise related to oil and gas tax credits.

According to Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) glaringly absent from the budget proposal was any mention of reforming the state’s flawed system of oil tax credits under which Alaska receives less from the industry than we owe. According to the recently released Alaska Revenue Sources Book, next year Alaska will receive $89.7 million in oil production taxes but will owe the industry $1.374 billion in oil tax credits said Wielechowski.

“We are slated to pay out over $1.3 billion in oil tax credits while receiving only $89 million in production taxes. In fact we are projected to pay out more money in oil tax credits than we get in oil production taxes not just this year, but every year through at least the year 2026, and that’s as far out as they project,” said Senator Wielechowski who sits on the Resources Committee. “This is simply not sustainable, and any responsible fiscal plan for the state must acknowledge that this needs to be fixed.”

“The obvious lack of any mention of subsidies to the oil industry by the administration is the elephant in the room,” said caucus leader Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “This is a huge amount of money, without any accountability or information to allow us to make informed decisions. We appreciate the Governor’s sentiments, and agree that the time to act is now, but it’s impossible to get behind any fiscal plan when it doesn’t even include step one.”

The Alaska Constitution mandates developing resources for the maximum benefit of the people. For more than 30 years, Alaska got about 30% of the gross value of our oil wealth. With our current tax structure Alaska is receiving only 8% of our oil wealth.

“If we were receiving our historical average from our oil resources, there is no question that it fills a huge chunk of the hole in our budget,” said Senator Wielechowski. “I think Alaskans would rather readjust our system to what worked in the past than give up vital services, and have money taken out of their pockets to fund government.”

Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) was prompted to clear the air.

"Alaska's oil industry generates more than 70 percent of our total state income, even in this low price environment," Sen. Giessel said. "In talking about our oil tax system, we must keep our eye on the prize – more production. Oil production delivers tax revenue, good jobs and local business opportunities. We have to have production in order to have something to tax and, in order to have production, we need continued investment by the oil industry. And that means we must be competitive."

Sen. Giessel pointed to news out of North Dakota, where oil production is quickly ramping up as prices climb.

"We're in direct competition with states with much lower costs," she said. "They don't have to fly in equipment and personnel in North Dakota. Our tax system compensates, in part, for the higher costs of doing business by providing companies a way to recover their losses through a credit the companies can apply against their profits in good years. It's standard tax policy."

Oil tax credits are part of Alaska's system, but a declining part. After some legislators fought hard to add a whole menu of credits supporting smaller companies and explorers during the mid-2000s, the new tax law, SB 21, phased out North Slope credits. Only the carry-forward loss credit remains on the North Slope. Two offsets embedded within the tax math are called credits in statute, but are parts of the tax calculation that reduce income subject to tax. They are not reimbursable, and are not related to credits that let a taxpayer lower his calculated tax bill. - More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016


Alaska: Governor Selects No-Build Alternative for Juneau Road Access By MARY KAUFFMAN - With the release of his budget Thursday, Governor Walker announced his decision to select the “no build” alternative for the Juneau Access Road project planned to improve transportation between Juneau and the northern Lynn Canal communities of Haines and Skagway.

Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott announced Thursday the selection to not build the proposed 50-mile road extension from Juneau to a yet to be built ferry terminal; however, this does not preclude other transportation improvements in the northern Lynn Canal corridor.

Governor Walker acknowledged that many will be disappointed with this decision.

“I am a builder by background and understand the importance of construction projects, but I am very concerned with our current multi-billion dollar fiscal crisis and must prioritize the need for fiscal resolution,” Governor Walker said. “I’m grateful to the many great Alaskans who shared their knowledge and perspectives with me about this issue. I listened and learned from all of you. I flew the route and spoke with lots of folks equally divided on this project. I made this difficult decision after reviewing all litigation and all federal regulatory decisions on this project to date. Above all, I was reminded that Southeast Alaska communities are deeply interconnected, with or without roads, and I pledge to do what I can to support and strengthen those critical economic and social ties.”

Governor Walker will take steps to ensure that the $38 million in remaining state funds for the project will be available for other transportation and capital projects in the area. Governor Walker committed to working with Juneau and the surrounding regional communities to determine the best use of those dollars. Federal construction dollars have not been appropriated for the project.

"I participated in many of the dozens of Juneau Access meetings initiated by Governor Walker,” said Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, a long-time Southeast resident. “The review was exhaustive and thorough. Alaska's need for fiscal certainty loomed large throughout and in that light the correct decision was made."

The state is working closely with federal highway officials and does not anticipate having to repay any federal funds spent to date on the project. The studies and work done to date will be available for future use.

According to Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau), Governor Walker originally paused the project in January of 2015 but allowed the completion of the Record of Decision, a federal decision document, in order to assure reimbursement for the work done to date.

"I think the Governor has made the right decision given our current fiscal situation, especially because the increased operational costs would have been added to the Department of Transportation’s budget if one of the build options had been selected,” said Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau). “My experience as an engineer has taught me to look closely at promises and pitfalls of any situation and, in balance, the Juneau Access project raised more red flags than green for me.”

The cost of constructing the Juneau Access Road has been estimated at $574 million, with an additional $5 million in annual operating and maintenance costs. In announcing the decision to not build the road, Governor Walker cited the ongoing fiscal crisis in Alaska and the need to send available funding to the highest-priority projects.

“By stopping this project the state can reallocate $38.6 million to the region’s other pressing transportation infrastructure needs,” said Rep. Kito. “I support the Governor’s effort to consult with stakeholders in the region to determine the best use of that money.”

Senator Dennis Egan (D) reacted angrily Thursday to Governor Walker’s decision to stop progress on the Juneau Access project. “I’ve supported this project since statehood. I’m very disappointed my three largest communities will lose the benefit from improved transportation, commerce and tourism,” Egan said. The project, to build 50 miles of highway from Juneau toward Skagway and the continental road system, came to a halt with Walker’s announcement that he selected the ‘no build’ alternative said Egan. - More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016


Ketchikan: Two Ketchikan Men Convicted of Drug Trafficking - Thursday, a Ketchikan jury found 54 year old William Riggs and 59 year old Charles Woolsey guilty of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance – i.e., possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens presided over the three day trial.

The convictions stem from a June 13, 2016 incident where Ketchikan Police Department Officers found nearly seven ounces of methamphetamine in a garage controlled by both Riggs and Woolsey. Testimony at trial demonstrated that the street-level value of the methamphetamine exceeded $90,000. Evidence at trial showed that the defendants’ intended to distribute the methamphetamine in the Ketchikan area. - More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016

Fish Factor: Sea Share: $1 donation = 8 seafood servings for hungry Americans By LAINE WELCH - Giving to the less fortunate is the true meaning of the Christmas season, and giving Alaska seafood has never been easier.

A single dollar donated to Sea Share translates to eight seafood dinners for hungry Americans from the nation’s food bank network.

For 22 years, fish taken as bycatch in Alaska fisheries has been donated to hunger relief programs via Sea Share instead of being thrown overboard as required by law. During that time, the Seattle-based nonprofit has built a growing nationwide network of fishermen, processors, freight, storage, packaging companies and financial donors to get the fish to the needy. More than 120 Alaska boats are part of the program - including every boat in the Bering Sea pollock fishery and more than half of the Gulf trawl fleet.

“People can participate in many ways–by supplying seafood or services, or by helping to fund those programs. Our partnerships are pretty unique. We take raw fish and turn it into finished meals. There is no other entity doing that in the U.S.,” said, Jim Harmon, director of what is now one of the largest protein donors in the nation – 220 million seafood servings and counting.

Today, bycatch makes up only about 20 percent of the seafood donations; the rest is donated by seafood companies which so far this year totals nearly two million pounds of halibut, salmon, pollock, canned fish and more. Over 1.7 million pounds have gone to 28 states in the Lower 48 and nearly 200,000 pounds have gone to hungry Alaskans.

“With the help of the Coast Guard and some other imaginative measures we’ve reached 36 different communities in Alaska,” Harmon said. “That’s expensive, so we’re having an end of year fund raiser to try to generate more income. A lot of nonprofits, including ours, historically get about 40 percent of their income in the last six weeks of the year.”- More...
Sunday AM - December 18, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Opioid deaths

Editorial Cartoon: Opioid deaths
By John Cole ©2016, The Scranton Times-Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Shrinking Budgets and the Drug Epidemic Create the Perfect Storm… Not SB 91 By Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth - Change is hard but it can also provide opportunities. Last spring, an opportunity presented itself when our legislature and Governor Walker enacted Senate Bill 91, broadly reforming our criminal justice system. Before this happened, the legislature asked the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission to study our system and recommend changes. The Commission did this and came up with recommendations based on evidence of what worked in other states. This became the foundation for SB 91. The Commission – including Department of Public Safety Commissioner Monegan, Department of Corrections Commissioner Williams, and me as head of the Department of Law, all agree that SB 91 is the right path for our State. But it will improve public safety in the long run only if the State sees the reform efforts through. Tweaks will be needed to the new law, and the Commission will monitor implementation and recommend changes where needed. - More...
Sunday AM - December 11, 2016

letter Autopsy of Clinton's Loss By Donald Moskowitz - I am perturbed that Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff are blaming FBI Director James Comey for Clinton’s election defeat. Director Comey sent out a letter to Congress 11 days prior to the election reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Two days prior to the election he stated there was nothing incriminating in the emails, and he was closing out the investigation. They claim he adversely impacted her momentum a week before the election, which is probably true. However, Director Comey should not be scapegoated for Clinton’s loss, because there are many reasons she lost the election. - More...
Sunday AM - December 11, 2016

letter RE: Making an Enrollment List and Checking It Twice By Laura Plenert - Just checking - this kind of 'information' should also be provided to be able to vote in an elections, right???? - More...
Sunday AM - December 11, 2016

letter Making an Enrollment List and Checking It Twice By Susan Johnson - Applications usually require supporting information and documents. Job applications, school applications, car insurance applications, scholarship applications, loan applications, and of course health insurance applications, require you to have certain information available to complete the process. While no one likes completing applications, it tends to go much more smoothly if you’re prepared. - More...
Thursday AM - December 08, 2016

letter How to Put Building Permits on a Fast Track By U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan - President-elect Donald Trump has made investing in U.S. infrastructure a priority. This country urgently needs to build and repair roads, bridges, airports, pipelines and rail lines. But a huge roadblock is the federal permitting system. Even with a more business-friendly administration, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan won’t accomplish much unless Congress reforms the way public-works projects are approved. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter Giving Thanks By Nina Kemppel - As we approach the season for giving thanks and the time when we reflect on how grateful we are for the blessings in our daily lives, I want to acknowledge all of the individuals, community members, organizations, and visionaries whose generosity and service has made Alaska a place we are proud to call home. Despite the challenges our state has undergone this year, I find that we at The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF) are in a fortunate vantage point to see how Alaskans have come together to weather the storm and have supported their communities now more than ever. At ACF, we witness your generosity every single day. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter KCCB in the Plaza Mall By Judith Green - QUESTION: What is a great way to utilize the open space in the Plaza Mall during the month of December? YES, filled with Chrismas music from the Ketchikan Community Concert Band. Many of us were thrilled to hear the sounds of music coming from that space Saturday. The KCCB gave us heart warming sounds as we went about visiting the local artisans and their creative, hand made items. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter Public Lands By Joe Ashcraft - It is interesting that the letter from Fielder is in a Ketchikan on line forum, soliciting for state control of federally administered lands in a different state. Maybe it had to do with corporations in Alaska wanting to trade for lands with uncut timber; lands now belonging to others. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter KCC's Historic Christmas program By Judith Green - Ketchikan Community Chorus has put together a program that is fun, interesting, informative, and professional. There is the musical director and conductor and the chorus, of course: all local people who gather together to practice together because (?) they enjoy music. Once again we are not disappointed in the wonderful program they present for the community to enjoy. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter RE: President Elect must Divest By Laura Plenert - Just wondering - does this include Presidents that come into office with literally nothing and walk away millionaires??? - More
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

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Ketchikan Area Arts & Humanities Council - The 31st Annual Wearable ARt Show - Ketchikan, Alaska

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Kay's Gift Shop - Ketchikan, Alaska

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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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