Alaska News Nightly: April 30, 2008

Don Young took to the floor of the U.S. House today in an attempt to silence critics of the controversial “Coconut Road” earmark that mysteriously became law in 2005 while Young was chairman of the Transportation committee. Young also spoke with us at length about the affair. Meanwhile, legislators are on pins and needles in Alaska, waiting to see what Governor Palin will do in response to the $3.9 billion capital projects bill dropped onto her desk today. Last year she vetoed millions of dollars in pet capital projects across the state. Plus, Anchorage listeners could once again listen to shock jocks “Woody and Wilcox” on morning radio following weeks of public outrage and discussion about remarks that were at least remarkably insensitive. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Young defends ‘Coconut Road’ earmark on House floor
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska Congressman Don Young spoke on the U.S. House floor today to defend the controversial $10 million “Coconut Road” earmark that was inserted into a transportation bill passed while he was Chairman of that committee in 2005.

Young discusses controversial earmark situation with APRN
Joel Southern, APRN – Anchorage
After the House vote, Young spoke further about the Coconut Road earmark dispute with APRN’s Joel Southern and Alaska reporter Robert Dillon. Since the controversy flared up, Young and his staff have been compiling documents to explain who requested and supported the funding earmark for a study on a Coconut Road link to I-75. He contends that it was aimed at relieving congestion on nearby roadways and providing a much-needed hurricane evacuation route.

Legislators awaiting Palin response to $3.9 billion capital projects
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Palin today got the capital projects budget from the legislature, and the sign-or-veto clock began ticking. The legislature’s Finance division shows the $3.9 billion bill passed the last day of this year’s session spends $2.1 billion from the state’s general fund –- which has no restriction on what legislators can do with it. It also spends another $1 billion in restricted funds on which legislators have placed limits. The plan is finished with another $800 million in Federal funds for designated purposes.

Fire consumes home and life in Alakanuk
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
A house fire in Alakanuk left one man dead and the home totaled.

AFN postpones subsistence regulatory meeting
Amy Flaherty, KNOM – Nome
The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) has indefinitely postponed a Subsistence Convention it had hoped to host this week. The full-delegate gathering planned to address pressures on subsistence and rural preference through confusing regulatory processes by the State and the Federal Subsistence Board. But the Subsistence Convention is now on hold until the end of this year, possibly early 2009.

UAA awarded $15 million for new science facility
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
ConocoPhillips has donated $15 million to the University of Alaska Anchorage for its new integrated science building. It was the largest corporate donation the University of Alaska system has ever received from a corporation and a record-setter for ConocoPhillips as well.

Hundreds attend Anchorage racism conversation
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Yesterday about 300 people gathered at St. Anthony’s Church for a dialogue on racism in Anchorage. The discussion ranged from community-wide responses to the much more personal.

Divisive DJs back on the air
Dixie Hutchinson, KNBA – Anchorage and The Associated Press
Two Anchorage DJ’s have returned to their popular morning show, 3 weeks after making a derogatory comment on the air about Alaska Native women. Greg Wood and Chris Wilcox, known as Woody and Wilcox, were suspended 6 days after the comment was made and following a storm of protest over the remark. Alaska Natives and others have since canceled advertising with KBFX, a Clear Channel hard rock FM station that features Wilcox and Wood.

Alaska Legal Services celebrating 25 years of community service
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska Legal Services corporation is celebrating its 25th year of pro bono (free) legal aid to low-income Alaskans. The program is part of the broader effort of legal workshops, consultation and representation offered by Alaska Legal Services. Volunteer services and community support director Erick Cordero Giorgana says he’d like to see it grow.