Alaska News Nightly: October 22, 2010

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Chickaloon Villagers Opposing Coal Mining Activities
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Chickaloon villagers are fighting a state Department of Natural Resources decision to go forward on coal mining activities near the village.  As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, challengers to the coal plan say their rights have been ignored.

Enforcement of New Law Halted by Judge
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
A U.S. District Court Judge in Alaska has halted enforcement of a new law in Alaska that would prohibit bookstores and websites from distributing materials deemed harmful to minors.

Alaska Natives Focus on Controversial 8(a) Issue
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska Natives gathering in Fairbanks are discussing the thorny issue of 8(a) government contracts allowed American Indian and Alaska and Hawaiian Native businesses.  Recently, some in Congress have pointed to abuses within the program and others have called for the program’s discontinuation.  But Sarah Lukin, executive director of the Native American Contractors’ Association,  pointed to the program’s successes.  She said since the formation of the Alaska Native Corporations, household incomes of Alaska Native households have risen, as have graduation rates.

Lukin said to cut the program is absolutely wrong.  She said Natives have faced previous attempts to reform the program and now some government agencies, the Navy and the Air Force are imposing their own restrictions on 8(a) contracts

Lukin blamed a Washington Post series on 8(a)’s as misleading readers into believing the program is riddled with abuses. NACA is calling for transparency in 8(a) contract dealings, and branded current reform legislation as designed to address perceptions, not reality.

She said it would be irresponsible for Congress to undertake reform of 8(a) without letting recent changes be implemented.

Lukin called Senator McCaskill’s efforts to exclude Alaska Natives from government contracts comparable to keeping Natives on welfare

Meanwhile, Greg Razo, with Cook Inlet Region, Inc., told convention goers that CIRI, Arctic Slope Region and Doyon are working on presenting their own slate of 8(a) reforms to Congress.

Razo said CIRI, ASRC and Doyon are making efforts to change the current program to allow for more competition, accountability and enforcement.

The corporations’ plan was submitted to the Small Business Administration last month.

Health Care Issue Remains Unaddressed in Gubernatorial Race
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The debate over the federal health care law dominated discussions of policy and politics a year ago, but in this fall’s Alaska governor’s race, the topic of what the law means to the state is surprisingly absent.

Elders and Disabled Also Suffer From Domestic Violence
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.   To most of us, domestic violence represent attacks and abuse toward women and children.  But one informational campaign is focusing on two other groups–the elderly and the disabled.

Late-Juneau Man Remembered for Work on Tongass National Forest
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
A Juneau man who died in a jogging accident last week in Minneapolis is being remembered for his research on the Tongass National Forest.

46-year-old John Caouette was visiting family in the Twin Cities at the time of the accident.  A memorial service is Saturday in Juneau.

He leaves behind his wife, well-known Alaska journalist, Rebecca Braun, and two young children, Rosie and Alder.  Braun is publisher of the Alaska Budget Report.

Caouette was a research scientist for the Nature Conservancy and spent many years before that with the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau.  His research on the Tongass National Forest has been described as cutting edge by scientists in both organizations.

Alaska’s Piano Man Kicks Off Musical Tour at PAC
Michelle Theriault, APRN – Anchorage
Dan McElrath may be Alaska’s only traveling piano tuner.

This weekend, he kicks off a tour for his new CD of Alaska-inspired jazz at the Performing Arts Center, playing on a nine-foot Yamaha piano he’s been tuning for years.