Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage
ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8452 | About Lori
Governor Parnell says he has three main priorities for the legislative session that started yesterday in Juneau: education, the gas line and the unfunded Pers/Ters pension fund liability. Parnell told APRN’s Lori Townsend, the budget will be tight this year, but Alaskans have been through this before.
As lawmakers begin the 90 day session, House Speaker Mike Chenault and Senate President Charlie Huggins say there is just one must pass bill this session- the budget. But the majority party has other items on their agenda, along with a commitment to fiscal restraint. APRN’s Lori Townsend asked Speaker Chenault to outline his priorities.
With Kerttula’s resignation, the Democrats will have a new leadership team in the Legislature. Hollis French took over as Senate Minority leader from Johnny Ellis in a pre-arranged deal this session. And now Chris Tuck will become minority leader in the House. Representative Tuck says the Democrats are ready to move forward without Kerttula.
A recent editorial in the Anchorage Daily News proposes addressing chronic inebriation and the moribund area of east 4th avenue as the way forward for a more vibrant downtown. These ideas have been on the table before, but not from the person charged with championing the city as a great place to visit and do business. Andrew Halcro is a former state lawmaker and the current President of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Rather than glossing over the city’s ongoing problems, he proposes a health campus to deal head on with homeless people and chronic drunks.
Sunday marked the final day of the Dena’ina Athabascan exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. A culmination of seven years of work, the exhibit reveals the art, history, culture and science of the lives of the people whose territory Anchorage now encompasses. Aaron Leggett is one of the curators and a Dena’ina tribal member. We walked through the exhibit one last time on Sunday. Leggett says thousands of Anchorage school children, residents and tourists visited during the four month run. The exhibit starts with a contemporary fish camp scene. One of Leggett’s favorite parts of the exhibit is a slide show of the Dena’ina people.
The Alaskan commander for the state’s military, Lt. General Russell Handy is tasked with coordinating and overseeing the implementation of the Arctic Strategy plan. In part two of our interview with General Handy, he says funding has not yet been determined, partially because of uncertainty over how quickly arctic climate conditions are changing.
An effort to coax more Alaskans into getting a flu shot has prompted the State Division of Public Health to continue its fee waiver for flu vaccines. Free vaccines will be available at all state public health centers in Alaska for certain Alaskans.
There are places in Alaska where you can blow off fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but not within the city limits of Anchorage.
Last month, the Department of Defense released an eight-point Arctic Strategy. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel presented the document at the Halifax international security forum in Nova Scotia. It is a military blueprint for managing the future of international shipping, territorial sovereignty, tourism and security in a rapidly changing Arctic. In the first of a two part interview, Alaska’s top military official, Lt General Russell Handy says what stands out from the plan is how much is yet unknown.
Leaders in the state of Utah announced today they will challenge an appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involves a Utah state constitutional amendment that outlawed same sex marriage. A federal judge threw out the amendment saying it violated the U.S. constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses. The decision does not have a direct impact on Alaska’s amendment banning same sex marriage, but ACLU Alaska executive Director Joshua Decker says a Nevada case currently in the 9th circuit court of appeals will.
Alaskans who earn less than $14,350 a year will not qualify for subsidies to buy insurance on healthcare.gov. They won’t qualify for Medicaid either, as the Affordable Care Act intended. That’s because Governor Sean Parnell decided not to expand Medicaid in Alaska, even though the federal government would pay most of the cost. A new report from the Kasier Family Foundation shows 17,000 Alaskans fall into that “gap.”
Increasing reports of deformed frogs and toads in the mid 90s, prompted Congress to mandate studies to look into the problem. Amphibians are sort of the canary in the coal mine for gauging the environmental health of land and surface water. The study was released in November, and looks at amphibian abnormalities on 152 wildlife refuges across the country, including five in Alaska.
The Department of Defense released a 16 page Arctic Strategy document on Friday. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel talked about it at an event in Nova Scotia. The report states the arctic is at a “strategic inflection point,” transforming from a region of relative isolation to one of increasing access to resource extraction, fishing and tourism as sea ice recedes faster than projected.
A JBER soldier was awarded the highest military honor for an act of heroism in a non-war setting today. Sergeant 1st Class John Kerns recieved the Soldier’s Medal for pulling a man from a burning car after it crashed and before it exploded a few moments later.
A new book celebrates 25 years of collaborative research and science between the Cup’ik people of Chevak, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The title, Banding Together to learn and Preserve, 25 years of goose banding at old Chevak lays out the premise of this year book style collection of pictures and science information gathered during the decades of bird banding.
A new report on suicide in Alaska from the State Division of Public Health’s epidemiology section, found rates are higher in more northern regions. Erik Woelber is a graduate student intern with the epidemiology section. Woelber says the study breaks communities into three categories by size and road access and looks at factors that may have contributed to the suicide rate. Woelber says the rates of suicide at higher latitudes merits more research.
When I accepted a job in Anchorage more than a dozen years ago, my new boss told me the neighborhood I’d be working in was sketchy. She said signs of illicit sex and drug use, along with alcohol debris would be common in the parking lot. And that homeless people would sleep on the porch. It was all true. That was my introduction to Fairview. But last Saturday I glimpsed a very different version of the neighborhood through the stories of smiling residents who love Fairview, faults and all.