Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage
ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8452 | About Lori
The state legislature began the 29th session this afternoon. House Speaker Mike Chenault gaveled in at 1 pm. The State Senate followed an hour later. Senate President Kevin Meyer is a Republican from Anchorage. He says the caucus has several priorities this year,-the gas line, education, Arctic policy and development and federal over-reach. But he says the state budget will – of course – need the most attention.
The Alaska Legislature gavels in tomorrow afternoon for the 29th session. Lawmakers – along with all Alaskans will get a better sense of Governor Bill Walker’s agenda for the next 90 days in two speeches this week – the State of the State and the State of the budget. Walker took some time today to talk about his priorities. He says he has a few guiding principles as he crafts a budget this year.
A new film produced by the University’s Museum of the North in Fairbanks, seeks to reveal the secrets of the undersea migration life of bowhead whales. The animated film is called A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale. The film features English, Inupiaq and St Lawrence Island Yupik narration.
Roger Topp heads up digital media at the museum. He wrote and directed the film. He told APRN’s Lori Tow nsend the project started four years ago and was inspired by the linear passage of time.
The Earthquake Information Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks logged more earthquakes in 2014 than in past years, a lot more. 40,000. An increase of about 10,000 from the average of the years before it. Michael West is the state seismologist at the center. He says part of the reason they counted more last year was because of better technology.
Alaska’s new attorney general is a 39-year-old who has spent the last 10 years practicing law with Governor Bill Walker. Craig Richards grew up in Fairbanks. He’s enthusiastic about his new position. Richards says the department of law is dealing with two big challenges right now- the first is the National Guard issue.
As the Federal Coordinator’s office for an Alaska North Slope LNG pipeline prepares to close its doors, we take a look at the history of the office, the current state of proposed Alaska LNG pipelines and the outlook on the future of the project.
KSKA: Friday, 1/9 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, 1/9 at 6:00 p.m.
KAKM: Friday, 1/9 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, 1/9 at 4:30 p.m.
Quiet after the frenzy of the holidays is a welcome change for many Alaskans, but for those who live from paycheck to paycheck or are homeless, the quiet can mean less. Less public attention to donations of clothing, food and money during the coldest part of the year. In December, Lisa Aquino took the helm as executive director for Catholic Social Services, the organization that runs Brother Francis Shelter, Clare House and other assistance programs in Anchorage.
Fish and Game resources are important to nearly every Alaskan and the state’s new acting commissioner of Fish and Game says he’ll take that to heart as he makes decisions. Sam Cotten is a former Democratic state lawmaker. More recently, he’s been a commercial fishermen and a member of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
OMB’s new director Pat Pitney says she wants Alaskans to be involved in the conversation on how to trim the state budget as the price of oil falls. Pitney is a former vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She says budget cuts are necessary, but the Walker administration wants to be strategic about where they happen.
Alaska lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Bill Walker this week urging measures to rein in budget items. Incoming Senate President Kevin Meyer, a Republican from Anchorage and House Speaker Republican Mike Chenault of Nikiski signed the letter, along with the chairs of the finance committees for both chambers. The letter lays out suggestions such as a hiring freeze for all state departments, limiting agency travel and requesting department budgets for the first six months of 2015.
Mark Myers is preparing to become Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources on January 16th. He is currently Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Myers has also worked for the oil industry as a petroleum geologist and for the federal government- leading the United States Geological Survey.
And he was the director of the division of oil and gas when Frank Murkowski was Governor. Myers says he made a difficult decision to resign from that job.
Tribes in Alaska are celebrating a decision that allows them to apply for lands to be placed into trust status with the federal government.
Valerie Davidson has been one of the biggest advocates in the state for Medicaid Expansion. Now implementing that expansion is one of her top priorities as Alaska’s new Commissioner of Health and Social Services. Another focus for Davidson will be child welfare- she just served on the U.S. Attorney General’s advisory committee on Native children exposed to violence.
Davidson started in the job December first. She says when she accepted the appointment she consulted her two daughters and her mom.
A state attorney was shot and killed in Barrow last night. Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Law’s Criminal Division Rick Svobodny says Brian Sullivan was killed some time before midnight. Barrow police are leading the investigation.
Carrying signs and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot”, and “Black lives matter”, a crowd of more than 150 Alaskans marched peacefully through downtown Anchorage Saturday afternoon to draw attention to issues of racial inequality and justice, after the shooting of an unarmed black man in Missouri and the choking death of another black man in New York ended with no charges for the officers involved.
Alaska’s top military commander, Lieutenant General Russell Handy has been on the job here for more than a year. He’s overseeing ALCOM here at a time when the U.S relationship with Russia has grown frosty. In September, Russian military flights that were within 50 miles of the Alaskan and Canadian coast lines caused enough concern that F22s were sent from JBER to intercept them. Lt. General Handy says the Russian flights did not cross into the 12 mile international boundary zone and were not considered hostile.
Two recent reports highlight the tragically high rate of violence in Alaska. One from the FBI is a revision of how rape is defined in the state. The new definitions have resulted in much higher numbers in a state that already suffers from being the worst in the nation for sexual violence. The second report looks at the impact on Native children from exposure to violence in their homes and communities.
KSKA: Friday, 11/21 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, 11/22 at 6:00 p.m.
KAKM: Friday, 11/21 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, 11/22 at 4:30 p.m.
The Alaska Ocean Observing System is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary of aggregating information about ocean conditions and sharing that data with a wide range of partner organizations and other ocean users. Molly McCammon is the executive director of AOOS. A former director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill trustee council, she was asked to head up a new ocean observing organization in 2003. McCammon says Congress wanted a better system to integrate ocean research and in 2004, AOOS was launched. She says traditional research looks at what needs to be learned, but AOOS starts with who the users are and what they need to know to make decisions.
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are reporting a steep decline in the number of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea. In a study published on Monday, they show the population dropped 40 percent in the first 10 years of this century.