State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2003

Martin Luther King Jr. Day closures

JUNEAU - Closed Monday in Juneau to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day are city, state and federal offices; the post office; schools and banks; and the University of Alaska Southeast.

High court upholds Wagoner victory

ANCHORAGE - Kenai state Senator-elect Tom Wagoner can serve in the Legislature, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court backed a lower court ruling that threw out a lawsuit filed by two Kenai men, William Grimm and Merrill McGahan.

Wagoner, who defeated incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward in November, was sued for failing to mention details of several business interests on official disclosure forms.

He failed to report that he had been the officer of a condominium homeowners association in California, though he declared his condo ownership, and he failed to give the name of his rental business, though he named his rental tenants.

Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski ruled earlier that the paperwork omissions were relatively trivial.

The state Supreme Court affirmed the order and said it would hand down a formal opinion at a later date. Justice Warren Matthews did not participate in the ruling.

Wagoner, a Republican from Senate District Q, will be sworn in Tuesday.

Juveniles charged with firing blanks at students

ANCHORAGE - Three West High School students were charged with assault Thursday after someone in a sport utility vehicle fired blanks at elementary school children and another driver.

Anchorage police said students at Chinook Elementary were outside for recess shortly after 12:30 p.m. At least 11 students saw a red SUV drive by and someone inside point a gun in the direction of students playing football. Witnesses said the gun fired numerous times.

A few minutes later, a woman driving into the Dimond Mall parking lot said boys in an SUV pointed a gun and fired at her as she was stopped for a traffic light. After she entered the mall's parking lot, she said, the boys drove past her car once and fired the gun in the air.

An officer pulled the suspects over several miles away.

The 16-year-old driver of the Mazda MPV, who is suspected of firing the blanks from the gun, was charged with 14 counts of assault and taken to the McLaughlin Youth Center.

Two passengers, boys age 14 and 15, were charged with one count of assault and released to their parents.

Sampson to head Alaska AFL-CIO

FAIRBANKS - Former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Sampson has been elected the executive president of the Alaska AFL-CIO.

Sampson takes over from Mano Frey, who held the job for 18 years. Frey is taking the job of vice president and regional manager for the Laborers' International of North America.

Sampson served two terms as mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and as labor commissioner under Gov. Steve Cowper. Most recently he was chairman of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board of trustees.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time on jobs," said Sampson. "Good-paying jobs."

Sampson said he and other union leaders plan a trip to Washington, D.C., in a few weeks to start lobbying for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Sampson also plans to work toward getting an Alaska natural gas line project under way by lobbying for legislation that would guarantee a minimum price for gas producers.

In the state, he expects to oppose efforts to exempt from the state's new $7.15 minimum wage law those workers who receive tips.

Alaska jobless rate up in December

JUNEAU - Alaska's unemployment rate rose sharply in December.

The state Department of labor says unemployment rose nine-tenths of a percentage point from November to 7.6 percent. The comparable national rate was unchanged at 5.7 percent.

Juneau's unemployment rate in December was 5.4 percent, up from 4.9 percent in November. Just under 900 people in Juneau were unemployed in December, up about 80 from November.

The combined Skagway, Hoonah and Angoon rate decreased from 11.5 percent in November to 11.3 percent in December. 234 people were unemployed in December, down eight from November.

The Haines rate jumped from 12.3 percent in November to 13.9 percent In December. The number out of work rose from 151 to 172.

The Prince of Wales rate went from 8.4 percent in November to 10.9 percent in December. The number of unemployed increased from 247 to 325.

Labor Department officials say the size of the statewide increase is noteworthy, since unemployment from November to December usually increases about two-tenths or three-tenths of a percentage point.

The December rate of 7.6 percent also is up sharply from the same period last year, when the jobless rate was 6.2 percent.

Russians turned back from McKinley

ANCHORAGE - Two Russian mountain climbers are back in Anchorage after their second attempt at Mount McKinley's summit in the dead of winter.

Marat Galinov and Alexandr Smirnov headed up the Muldrow Glacier on Christmas Eve for an attempt on the north side of the mountain.

After two weeks of approaching the mountain, the climbers were hit by a storm at 9,500 feet. The storm, with winds estimated at 120 mph, ripped the climbers' tent apart and blew away two sleds full of gear, food and fuel. The storm also blew away the pair's climbing rope.

After crawling over snow bridges to retrieve gear, the climbers called Hudson Air on a satellite phone and were flown to Talkeetna.

During their 24-day trip, they told KIMO-TV, temperatures dipped as low as 40 below.

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