Alaska News Nightly: October 26, 2010

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Miller’s Personnel Records Released
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller’s personnel records have been made public as of 4:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Miller said Tuesday morning that he would not appeal a judge’s ruling regarding the release of   his confidential personnel files from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Miller spoke with Steve Heimel on APRN’s Talk of Alaska.

Miller said it is unfortunate that somebody’s medical or other information can be released simply because he is running for office.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said he had remained mum on the content of the records due to a confidentiality agreement with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Several media organizations sued the Fairbanks North Star Borough under the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to Miller’s personnel file.  Miller had worked part time for the Borough and was disciplined by his employer for having used borough computers for political purposes, violating the borough’s ethics policy. Miller has fought the release of the records since mid-summer, but recently admitted that he had been put on a three-day leave and docked pay for his gaff.

The personnel records are now online on the Anchorage Daily News website

On memo from Borough attorney Rene Broker, dated March 26, 2008, notifies Miller of an investigation and possible disciplinary action for being, “dishonest about your conduct and about the reasons for your conduct.”  Broker refers to Miller’s use of borough computers.  Broker then tells Miller she realizes that he is under stress, which could be the reason for his lapse in judgment.

Other records contain internal Borough emails regarding Broker’s worry about email correspondence regarding TAPS litigation. Others mention Miller’s health. Reached by phone a few minutes ago, Broker said she “felt sad” about the release of the records.

“Joe worked here for seven years,” Broker said. “We were friends. It’s sad.”

State’s National Petroleum Reserve Less Than Anticipated
Associated Press
Federal scientists say the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska contains less than one-tenth of the volume of oil than was previously estimated.

The U.S. Geological Survey says new data puts the new estimate at 896 million barrels of oil, compared to the agency’s 2002 mean estimate of 10.6 billion barrels.

The USGS also has cut its estimates of natural gas in the sprawling reserve, from a mean of 61 trillion cubic feet to 53 trillion cubic feet.

The agency’s 2002 estimates ranged from 5.9 billion to 13.2 billion barrels for oil and 39 trillion to 83 trillion cubic feet for natural gas.

The USGS says its new numbers are based on factors including seismic surveys and drilling of more than 30 exploration wells.

U.S. Senate and House Candidates Debate in Fairbanks
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Candidates for U.S. Senate and House exchanged views yesterday in Fairbanks at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored forum.  Longtime Republican Congressman Don Young said his long record of brining money to Alaska speaks for itself.

Young’s Democratic challenger, Harry Crawford responded by portraying the 77-year-old Young, who recently weathered a corruption investigation, as a politician who’s had his day and is past his prime.

In one exchange Crawford challenged Young on the Congressman’s support of a bill that would have eliminated the income, death and gift taxes, in favor of a national sales tax.

On the Senate side, Democrat Scott McAdams, and Republicans Joe Miller, and Lisa Murkowski offered views on the economy, federal regulation and resource development.  Murkowski said she’s built up valuable seniority on several fronts over the last eight years.

Murkowski said Alaska will have the least seniority in the country if either of her rivals win.  Joe Miller accused Murkowski of being part of over spending that’s landed the country in financial dire straits; an era he said is coming to an end.

Scott McAdams agreed with Miller that the national debt and unfunded liabilities like social security need to be addressed, but added that regular Americans shouldn’t suffer to fix the situation.

McAdams said he favors eliminating tax breaks for those who make more than $500,000 a year.  The former Sitka Mayor and school board president, portrayed himself as an everyman Alaskan, while Miller said he’s been misrepresented by the media, and re-affirmed his support of state’s rights and opposition to government bail outs and national health care reform. The incumbent Murkowski picked up the endorsement of over 30 Fairbanks leaders yesterday.  The group that includes, former mayors and the current school board president held a press conference to voice their support for Murkowski prior to the candidate forum.

North Slope Schools See Growth This Year
Jake Neher, KBRW – Barrow
The North Slope Borough School district is projecting a rise in student enrollment for the first time since 1999. District officials count 69 more students than they counted the same time last year. That’s a 4 percent rise across the board.

Older Americans Not Only Ones Affected By Social Security
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Social Security, that venerable institution, turns 75-years-old this year. It provides retirement income for more than 70,000 Alaskans, but it is not simply a lifeline for older Americans.  As KSKA’s Lockyer tells us, Social Security supports an increasing number of children.

DEC, Sea Level Seafoods Reach Settlement Over Wastewater Violations
Tony Gorman, KSTK – Wrangell
Sea Level Seafoods and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation have reached a settlement over wastewater permit violations.  The Wrangell-based company will pay more than $92,000 in fines for discharging wastewater and waste into marine waters without a state or federal permit. Sea Level Seafoods discovered it was operating without a valid permit during an internal audit two years ago.

Sea Level immediately notified the DEC and the EPA of the violation and has applied for a new permit.

Sea Level voluntarily agreed to the settlement. Sea Level general manager Verne Phillips was unavailable for comment.

AFN Rejects Proposed ANILCA Overhaul
Diana Haecker, KTNA – Talkeetna
When Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last year announced a sweeping overhaul of Alaska subsistence management, he said the current dual state and federal management system was broken. Salazar then promised to bring it in line with the mandate of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act – granting preference to rural Alaskans.

The problem lies in an unresolved conflict between the state constitution and the federal mandate. ANILCA promised a rural preference for the taking of fish and game for the federal lands in Alaska. But Alaska’s constitution guarantees that fish and wildlife be reserved for the common use of all Alaskans regardless of race or geography.  The recent federal review was less sweeping than Alaskan Natives hoped for and it was wholeheartedly rejected by Alaska Federation of Natives delegates last week.

Proposed changes by the Interior Department include the addition of two Alaska Native subsistence users to the federal subsistence board and giving more clout to the regional advisory councils. The secretary’s authority didn’t go so far as to redefine a priority for either “Native only” or “rural resident plus urban Native”. The review also did not expand public lands defined under ANILCA to allow federal subsistence management on native owned lands,which are private and currently managed by the state of Alaska.

Julie Kitka said that the AFN leadership is hopeful that the newly appointed federal chair Tim Towarak will make a difference in educating federal bureaucrats and that talks will continue.

AFN delegates passed a resolution last Saturday that called for Congress to convene full oversight hearings on the drafting of new federal legislation to protect all Alaska Natives and other rural Alaskans in continuing their pursuit of food and nourishment for their families.

New Social Network Aims for Alaska Natives
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
There’s a new Facebook-like website for Alaska Natives. was created by Iditarod musher and Native rights and sobriety activist Mike Williams.  Williams of Akiak says Native people need a new tool to stay in touch.

The website feature individual pages for each village where messages can be posted.  Williams   says it mixes elements of Facebook and Craiglist, and  is open to anyone.  Williams says Alaska Natives living in urban areas often feel isolated from their culture, and that the immediate communication allowed by the internet, can play a role in sustaining and reviving it.

Williams, a mental health counselor, says a rash of suicides in southwest Alaska villages in recent months has heightened the need to connect.  He’s organized local healing circles, and has mixed feelings about technology’s effects on Native people, but says it can be a positive tool.

(Part 2 of 2) Law Enforcement and the Courts Dealing With Anchorage Gang Problem
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Yesterday in his two part series on street youth gangs, KSKAs Len Anderson focused on the structure and membership of Anchorage gangs.   Today, KSKA’s Len Anderson turns to law enforcement and the courts.