Rep. Lindsey Holmes speaks to reporters during a House Majority press availability, Feb. 27, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)West Anchorage Republican Lindsey Holmes will not be running for reelection to the Alaska House of Representatives.Holmes has served eight years in the Legislature, six of them as a Democrat. She switched parties after her last election, and then became the target of a recall campaign. She says that while the criticism was difficult, that’s not her primary motive for leaving office. “I never went into this planning to be somebody who was down there forever,” says Holmes. “And after eight years, I came home, and I just wanted to be home more.”Holmes says that while the decision to change parties proved difficult at points, she is happy with the work she did with the House Majority Caucus as part of its moderate wing. She does not have firm plans for the future, but she plans to help Anchorage Republican Mia Costello in the race for her district’s Senate seat and that she would like to get involved with the Vote No on 1 campaign to defeat the oil tax referendum.Holmes confirms she is retiring from politics the day after the Anchorage Superior Court handed down a decision related to her recall. Judge Gregory Miller upheld a ruling by the Division of Elections that there were not sufficient grounds for a recall against Holmes. Judge Miller also rejected the argument that the statutes governing recalls were overly burdensome.Wigi Tozzi is the West Anchorage district chair for the Democratic Party, and he argued the case for the recall campaign. He says they will not be appealing the decision now that Holmes is retiring.“The voters stood up, and for two years – essentially two years – for an entire term, made it very clear that they were unhappy and that they weren’t going to put up with that,” says Holmes. “If you want to find out if your district has a mandate, then you should run again. And she’s not running.”Matt Claman, a former Anchorage assemblyman, will be running for the West Anchorage House seat as a Democrat. There are no Republicans in the race yet.Holmes won the race as a Democrat in 2012 by ten points, with 55 percent of the vote.
Search crews recovered a body from the Kramer Avenue landslide in Sitka, at about 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday evening. The victim has not been identified.Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller reports that a team of cadaver dogs from Juneau led searchers to a sweatshirt on the west side of the slide, and subsequently to the body. Miller would not confirm the identity except to say, “It’s one of the boys.”The found victim was located in the debris of the home that was destroyed by the landslide, according to an update sent by emergency services Thursday morning.Elmer Diaz, 26, and his brother Ulises, 25, were working in one of the new homes under construction in the subdivision just off Kramer Avenue. The structure was completely obliterated by the landslide which struck Tuesday morning (8-18-15). The Diaz family has maintained a vigil at Sitka’s Grace Harbor Church since the event.Still missing are the other Diaz brother, and William Stortz, 62, Sitka’s building official, who was inspecting drainage in the subdivision when the slide occurred.
Alaska State Troopers. Photo: Monica Gokey/ Alaska Public Media file photo.Following a grand jury indictment, authorities arrested a Kipnuk man on an outstanding warrant last Saturday.Ryan Samson, 33, is facing three felony charges, including first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence.According to the online trooper dispatch, Samson tried to clean up the crime scene after committing a murder last October near Tununak.The man who died was 36-year-old Tununak resident Walter “Jason” Walter.Samson was arraigned at the Bethel courthouse Sunday morning. He is being held at the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center.
Walt Monegan is, again, the Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.Download AudioWalt Maegan, Commissioner, AK. Dept of Correction, at a governor’s press conference, January 22, 2016. Monegan will now replace Gary Folger as the Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.(File Photo by Skip Gray/360 North.)Governor Bill Walker announced the appointment in a press release Thursday morning that Monegan will replace outgoing commissioner Gary Folger, who is retiring at the end of May.Monegan was chief of the Anchorage Police Department from 2001 until 2006.He previously served as the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety under Governor Sarah Palin from 2006 through 2008, when he was ousted as a result of the “Troopergate” scandal.
Anchorage Democratic Sen. Johnny Ellis and Wasilla Republican Sen. Charlie Huggins announced they won’t seek re-election.Download AudioSen. Johnny Ellis fields a question at a Senate Minority press availability in March. (Photo by Skip Gray, Gavel Alaska)Ellis and Huggins joined two other senators — Chugiak Republican Bill Stoltze and Anchorage Republican Lesil McGuire — in deciding against running again.Ellis said he felt a sense of accomplishment from the Legislature passing the criminal justice overhaul aimed at reducing recidivism and the number of nonviolent prisoners.But he also expressed disappointment that the Legislature hadn’t passed a plan to improve the state’s fiscal outlook.“I felt … a great sense of frustration about the lack of a fiscal plan – progress on a fiscal plan this year,” Ellis said. “I think it’s a failure of this Legislature.”Democrats Tom Begich and Ed Wesley are running to succeed Ellis. Republicans Wasilla Rep. Lynn Gattis and David Wilson are running for Huggins’ Senate seat.Palmer Rep. Shelley Hughes is running against Adam Crum and Steve St. Clair for the Republican nomination to succeed Stoltze. The winner will face Democrat Samantha Laudert-Rodgers and nonpartisan candidate Tim Hale.Anchorage Rep. Craig Johnson will face Jeffrey Landfield and Natasha Von Imhof for the Republican nomination to replace McGuire. Roselynn Cacy and Forrest McDonald are competing for the Democratic nomination for the seat, while nonpartisan candidate Tom Johnson also is seeking to succeed McGuire.In addition to the three representatives who are seeking to move up to the Senate – Gattis, Hughes, and Johnson – two other Republicans aren’t running for re-election to the House. They are Mike Hawker of Anchorage and Kurt Olson of Soldotna.
Roy Dennis, left, and Wayne Price tell the story of a boy eaten by sockeye salmon carved into a Tlingit hat. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KHNS)Chilkoot Indian Association members would like to see more Native art made by Native people for sale and on display in Haines.Listen nowAnd they’d like to see less Native-style art made by people who aren’t tribal members.Five speakers at last week’s forum “Our Art is Our Voice” said they knew they were starting a tough conversation.Their goal? Less “Native” art made by non-Native people sold and displayed in town.“Counterfeit art, prominently displayed in Haines, does not and cannot reflect our culture,” Master Carver Wayne Price said. “The volume of artificial native art seen by visitors falsely represents our native traditions. We are making a stand today to defend our heritage from an invasion of counterfeit replacement.”Representatives from the Chilkoot clan talked about how and why they’d like to see Native art approached differently in Haines, before opening the floor for community discussion.Tribal member Ted Hart read a letter from Tlingit scholar X’unei Lance Twitchell, who lives in Juneau.“There is no word for art in Tlingit,” Twitchell wrote. “Everything that was made was adorned with crests that were given to clans from the natural world and the spirit world.”Because Tlingit designs convey meaning about Tlingit history and culture, he argued it’s inappropriate for non-indigenous artists to be drafting those messages.“Non-indigenous peoples are encouraged to learn our languages, to understand how we live our lives, to share our culture with us, to learn about our art to the point that they are involved in the creation of monumental art like totem poles, wall screens, houses and canoes,” Twitchell wrote. “They should not, however, be the lead artists on such projects.”Young Tlingit artist James Hart put it more simply.“Don’t put up monuments that I can’t talk to,” Hart said.Questions about Native art and authenticity aren’t new in Haines: art is big business here.A 2015 study surveying 60 local artists estimated the town’s arts economy generates $2.1 million in spending each year.More than 18 formline-style public art pieces are displayed in town, made by Native carvers, non-Native carvers and teams of both.No one at the forum would identify specific pieces they’d like to see removed, saying they didn’t want to target individuals.Chilkoot Indian Association tribal administrator Harriet Brouillette did remind the audience of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which makes it illegal to explicitly market art as “Native” or “Tlingit” if it wasn’t made by a tribal member.But the law only penalizes people who lie about a piece’s origins.It’s not illegal to use Northwest Coast-style designs without attribution, which frustrates tribal members, who respect Tlingit traditions in which clans own their designs.Questions from the audience illustrated that frustration and showed there was gray area, for both Native and non-Native participants, about what was acceptable.“I’m a furniture maker by training. I really appreciate the designs, particularly the rattles. And let’s just say, for example, I were to make one of those for myself, and someone were to ask me to make one for them I’m just making them for private individuals, I state that I am not native in any way shape or form,” audience member Chris Kelly said. “What would your opinion be?”Ray Dennis, who described himself as the last member of the Chilkat Valley’s Lukaax.adi clan, said only claiming the rattles were made by a Native artist would bother him.Brouillette had a different opinion.“These are clan owned designs. They do not belong to you,” Brouillette said.When asked about art made by non-Natives trained by master carvers, forum leaders didn’t give specific responses but said those were questions that needed to be figured out.Brouillette mentioned the example of a Tsimshian apprentice training with a Tlingit master.“That’s happening now,” Brouillette said. “It’s kind of a head-scratcher to me. How do you address that?”Why is the subject of authentic art in Haines coming up now? Brouillette pointed to a cultural shift in the way Native art is perceived, even within Native communities.“There is a renaissance happening with our younger artists,” Brouillette said. “And that’s helping our master artists gain a stronger voice. Our master artists, a couple of decades ago, wouldn’t have had an apprentice, because it wasn’t cool or OK to be Native.”Though speakers mentioned drafting a policy or writing guidelines in the future, they didn’t float any concrete method to stop non-Native artists from working commercially in Haines.This was just the beginning of a long conversation with the community, Price said.
Students at an Arctic field school in Utqiaġvik learn how to use an ice corer, June 2nd, 2018. The program is a collaboration between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Calgary and the University of Tromsø in Norway. (Ravenna Koenig/ Alaska’s Energy Desk)Earlier this month, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) participated in an international field school in Utqiaġvik.Listen nowThe school gave early-career researchers a broad view of the Arctic coastal system and how it’s changing, along with some different methods for studying it.It’s the second year of a collaboration between UAF, the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Tromsø in Norway.Brian Moorman from the University of Calgary is one of the instructors. He studies permafrost and glacier hydrology. But the professors teaching the field school come from a range of backgrounds.“We have people that are atmospheric scientists, and we have people that are remote sensors that use satellites to view the world,” Moorman said. “And there’s people that get right down and dirty in the mud and sea ice.”Those instructors taught students how to collect physical data in the Arctic, as well as how to use satellite and drone tools.Cornelius Quigley is a student from the University of Tromsø and works primarily with satellites. He said that being out in the field with a diverse group of scientists was a departure from his usual work.“In my area of research, you really do only speak to people who do what you do,” Quigley said. “But now at field school I’m working with people who are geologists, or people who have never seen satellite data, but still, they would have a different perspective on the entire thing.”The first year of the field school was held on an icebreaker off the coast of Norway. Next year, it will be held in the Yukon Territory in Canada.
Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation sign at headquarters in March 2016. House majority members want to enshrine Permanent Fund dividends in the state constitution. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)Alaska’s Permanent Fund Corporation has a new mandate to increase the amount of the Permanent Fund that is invested in the state.Listen nowThe fund’s Board of Trustees adopted the new policy Thursday during a meeting in Anchorage.It sets a goal of increasing the amount of the Permanent Fund assets invested in-state to at least 5 percent in five years.Permanent Fund CEO Angela Rodell told the board what that would look like in dollars.“…By 2023, at least $2.4 billion of the fund — if the fund stays flat — would be invested in state,” Rodell said.To qualify as an in-state investment, it would be handled by an investment manager who isn’t employed by the Permanent Fund Corporation. That manager would either need to have an office in Alaska and an Alaska-based employee managing its assets. Or, it could also be direct investment into a project in the state.In addition to the new policy, the board also directed the Permanent Fund Corporation to put $200 million into a program that would use Alaska-based investment managers.
The Katmai National Park and Preserve wants to build a new viewing platform on the Research Bay Overlook Trail.Proposed project site in Katmai National Park & Preserve. (Image credit National Park Service)During the summer, a Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes bus tour runs daily. It offers visitors views of the valley formed by the Novarupta volcanic eruption in 1912, the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century. Along the way, visitors can disembark to enjoy scenic views near the road.One key stop along the way overlooks the valley, Naknek Lake and islands in Research Bay.“Over the last 10 or 20 years, the visitors have just been developing what we call a ‘social trail,’” explained Brian Smith, the park’s environmental protection specialist. “There is no improvement to the area. So they just get off the bus, and they walk into the forest a little ways into a clearing. And repeatedly, over time, that has kind of compacted the soils down and created a social trail out to the viewing spot. And the social trail kind of terminates at a really steep drop off.”Katmai has identified several problems with the current set up. Because no formal trail exists, the overlook is not accessible to people with limited mobility. The “social trails” also speed erosion in the area and pose a risk to visitors.“We haven’t had any injuries out there,” said Smith. “But there is a risk [of] injuries because of the tree roots and the rutting of the trail and unimproved nature of the surface. And what we’re looking at—this project is kind of like a mitigating factor to hopefully prevent those kind of injuries, slips, trips and falls, from hopefully happening in the future.”The park proposes to build a 150-foot long trail to a 12 by 20-foot viewing platform. The public comment period for the project’s Draft Environmental Assessment is open until Feb. 18.If the project is approved, Katmai plans to begin construction in August and anticipates the project will take about 20 days. It plans to contract with the Student Conservation Association, a nonprofit that aims to connect youth with public lands, for the installation of the trail and platform.Comments on the project can be submitted online, by mail or in person at Katmai’s visitor center in King Salmon.
A city committee tasked with investigating the shortage of affordable child care in Juneau has concluded its work.The Juneau Assembly Childcare Committee formed in November. Mayor Beth Weldon tasked it answering two key questions: Should child care be a part of municipal activities, and if so, should early education be a part of that?After speaking with various stakeholders, the committee answered “yes” to both questions and submitted its final report with recommendations to the mayor last week.In the short term, the report advises the city to identify existing public facilities that could be used for child care and to set up a loan fund to assist related businesses and programs.Childcare workers interact with infants at Gold Creek Child Development Center in Juneau in May, 2018. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)In the long term, the committee recommends funding a subsidized child care model like that proposed by Best Starts, a local initiative that almost ended up on the municipal ballot last October, but failed to receive enough Assembly votes.The committee was made up of several Assembly members and public representatives from the education and child care sectors.At a special Assembly meeting Wednesday night, Mayor Weldon congratulated the committee on its work.