Alaska News Nightly: December 27, 2010

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Miller Will Continue Fight Against Division of Elections
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Joe Miller will continue his fight against the state division of elections in federal court.  In an email released late Sunday night,  Miller said he won’t oppose certification of the U.S. Senate race, but will file a motion in federal court Monday  “to stay the post certification election contest timeline until after the federal case has concluded.”

Miller’s attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline to extend the post-certification deadline for seeking a recount or election contest until Beistline rules on the merits of his case and “all appeals have been exhausted.”

Miller’s federal suit was filed last month, but required a final determination by the Alaska state court to proceed further.  A federal judge ordered a stay on the election certification until state courts decided on Miller’s complaint.  A State Superior Court dismissed Miller’s charges against the state division of elections, and the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the Superior Court’s decision.

Miller’s said in a press release, “After careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust, I have decided that the federal case must go forward. The integrity of the election is vital and ultimately the rule of law must be our standard.”

Miller stated that he is withdrawing his opposition to the certification of the Alaska U.S. Senate election. Pending a federal judge’s removal of a stay against state certification of the election, that would allow Lisa Murkowski to be seated when Congress convenes in January.

In court filings, Miller’s legal team pointed out several issues that  they say  need further review.  They include whether the U.S. Constitution’s Election Clause and  Equal Protection Clause were violated.  Miller is also pressing his contention that felons cast votes in the November election.

The state has until Wednesday to respond to Miller’s charges.

Health Providers Seek Answer for Low Vaccination Rates of Alaska Children
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
More than one-third of Alaska children do not have all the vaccines they need to fully protect them against preventable diseases.

Public health providers want to know why.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska ranks 46th out of the 50 states for completing infant to early childhood immunization for everything from diphtheria to measles, mumps and whooping cough.

The CDC regularly conducts random telephone surveys of households with young children and the children’s health care providers.  The state public health division is following up with a statewide survey of parents to determine why their children haven’t been completely immunized.

Marcy Custer is the Maternal Child Health Consultant for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Custer says this is the first survey the state has done to find out just what parents know about vaccines – and if they’re worried about vaccine safety, don’t believe in vaccines, or having trouble getting their children to a clinic.

While the survey is anonymous, respondents are asked where they live, so public health can target solutions to individual communities.

Custer says anyone with children under six-years-old should take the SHOTS survey. The survey is also available at local public health clinics in rural communities. It can be found online at and at local public health clinics in rural communities.

Veterans Museum Looking for Permanent Housing
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Alaska Veterans Museum is in the process of seeking permanent housing.  Retired Air Force Colonel Suellen Wright Novak, current president of the Alaska Veterans Museum, says the idea is catching on, but slowly.

Large Gap Present Between Alaska Native, Non-Native Home Ownership
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
Alaska is second only to Oklahoma in the use of a U.S. Housing and Urban Development program designed to increase home ownership among Alaska Native and American Indian people. Studies show a significant gap between Alaska Native and non-Native rates of home ownership.

APD Auxiliary Alumni Association Honors Group of Citizen Academy Graduates
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The next officer academy for the Anchorage Police Department won’t take place until autumn of 2011 – at the earliest – but this month APD’s Auxiliary Alumni Association honored another batch of citizen academy graduates.

Mat-Su Assembly Releases Borough’s Project Wish List
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Assembly members for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough met with state lawmakers last week to highlight priority projects for the Borough for the coming year.  The extension of a rail link from Port MacKenzie to the main line is uppermost on the Valley’s wish list.  The state is willing to put up $20 million for the project, but Mat Su officials want an additional $35 million to start the first phase of the project.   Borough estimates indicate another $107 million will be needed to finish the rail link by 2014.

Next on the list, a ferry terminal at Port MacKenzie for the new ice breaking ferry M/V Susitna.  The estimated cost of the terminal is set at $12 million.  Other projects desired by Valley include transportation upgrades for local traffic arteries, among them an access road for the South Denali Visitors Center.  The Borough also wants state funding for a Hatcher Pass ski trails project.

Most Black Cod Fishermen Allowed 5 Percent Catch Increase
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Most Alaska black cod fishermen will see a higher allocation next year.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recently approved staff recommendations to increase the allowable catch by 5 percent statewide. Black cod, also called sablefish, are mostly sold to Asia, though domestic markets are increasing.

Southeast numbers will jump 14 percent and quotas in the west Yakutat area will go up 24 percent. Other increases are 5 percent in the central Gulf and 2 percent in the Bering Sea. The Western Gulf will drop 2 percent, and the Aleutians 8 percent.

Diana Stram is plan coordinator for the fishery management council in Anchorage.

The recommendations are then reviewed and acted on by the council.

The increase allows a 16,000 ton, or 35-million-pound, harvest in Alaska waters.

About 835 people have permits to harvest Alaska sablefish. Around half of them are in Southeast

Numbers are expected to drop in 2012.

State Looking to Reconsider Decision Over Parental Notification Law
Associated Press
The state of Alaska is seeking reconsideration of a lawsuit decision over a new state law requiring that parents be notified before a girl younger than 18 can get an abortion.

A judge rejected a request by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to block the law approved by voters in August.

However, Superior Court Judge John Suddock removed provisions calling for a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to five years for violators of the law. He also struck a section allowing physicians to be liable for damages.

The state filed a motion to reconsider. Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement he would “continue to work to ensure that Alaska’s families are represented and that the law truly reflects the will of the people.”

New Vitamin D Research Sheds Light on the Nutrient
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Many Alaskans facing these darkest days of winter turn to Vitamin D for help with depression and a myriad of other health issues. A recent international report sheds some light on the pros and cons of a nutrient often used by those lacking exposure to light. CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld takes a look at what we should know about the new research.

Homer Residents Celebrate Solstice With Moonlight Snowshoe Walk
Aaron Selbig, KBBI, Homer
Homer residents looking for a social – yet peaceful – way to get outdoors and enjoy the winter solstice found what they were looking for at the Wynn Nature Center outside of town. KBBI’s Aaron Selbig tagged along for a moonlight snowshoe walk  during last week’s full moon  and filed this report.