State and local briefs

Posted: Tuesday, February 03, 1998

Tourism survey planned

JUNEAU - Juneau's Tourism Advisory Committee wants to know what people think about tourism.

For the third time in three years, the city will do a survey of Juneau residents' attitudes on tourism. At the tourism committee's request Monday night, the Juneau Assembly approved spending up to $11,500 to conduct the survey of 500 residents. The data will be compared to a similar survey done in 1996 by the McDowell Group and a smaller poll taken last February.

Monitoring community attitudes toward tourism was one of the mandates of the committee, said chairman Bruce Gifford. While the committee holds public meetings and hearings from time to time, telephone surveys reach a better cross-section of the population, Gifford said.

``What we're trying to do is kind of identify the hot spots or the trouble spots,'' Gifford said.

Fishermen delay salmon agreement

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Approval of a tentative agreement to end a $3 million Alaska lawsuit against British Columbia fishermen who blockaded an Alaska ferry was delayed Monday by legal wrangling.

Fishermen's union president John Radosevic said the fishermen want changes in wording to ensure they won't be barred from legally protesting the lack of a salmon fishing treaty with the United States.

The fishermen have until this Friday to accept the settlement.

Alaska filed the suit after British Columbia fishing boats blocked an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry from leaving the harbor at Prince Rupert for three days last July.

Under the tentative agreement, Alaska agreed to drop the suit if fishermen cancel their counterclaim against the state and promise never to block the ferry again. The Canadian government also agreed to pump about $1.9 million into a regional tourism program and give Alaska's ferry system a $900,000 break on terminal lease payments in Prince Rupert.

Campaign finance law targets Knowles

JUNEAU - Gov. Tony Knowles would be prevented from raising campaign money during the legislative session under a bill Senate President Mike Miller plans to introduce this week.

Under a law that took effect last month, members of the Legislature and their staffs cannot raise money during the session, but Knowles, Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and their staffs can.

Miller's bill would extend the session-long ban to include all candidates, not just lawmakers.

``It's just leveling the playing field so the governor has to play under the same rules the Legislature does,'' Miller said. The North Pole Republican hopes to push the bill through by the end of the month.

Auditor says water program lost $2 million

JUNEAU - Poor money management on grants for rural sanitation projects cost the state nearly $2 million in the last few years, an auditor told a Senate committee Monday.

The Department of Environmental Conservation paid grants for the village safe water projects in bulk sums instead of multiple payments, acting Legislative Auditor Pat Davidson told the Senate Finance Committee.

The money earned about $1.4 million in the low-interest accounts of outside accountants. Had the money been kept in the state's account, it would have earned about $3.3 million, Davidson said.

DEC pays the money in lump sums to save the administrative cost of making multiple payments, said the department's Barbara Frank. The department is awaiting a formal opinion on the practice from the state Department of Law.

Snowmachine rule change proposed

JUNEAU - Dealers would be required to register snowmachines at the time they're sold under a bill approved Monday by the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill, which would strengthen the state's existing snowmachine registration law, would also eliminate the exemption for vehicles used on private lands.

The measure has widespread support from user groups and dealer organizations and is intended to make it easier to register snowmachines, said sponsor, Rep. Beverly Masek, a Willow Republican.

Money collected from registration fees could eventually be used to help pay for maps and maintenance of trails and to help promote winter tourism in Alaska, Masek said.

There are about 70,000 snowmachines in Alaska and up to 9,000 more are sold annually, said Jim Stratton, director of the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. As of 1996, only 14,652 snowmachines were registered, said Jay Dulany, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Defense rests in Ramsey trial

DILLINGHAM - The defense in the Evan Ramsey murder trial rested its case Monday without putting the defendant on the stand.

Ramsey, 17, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder stemming from a shooting rampage at Bethel High School last February in which student Josh Palacios and principal Ron Edwards were killed.

Defense attorney Wally Tetlow had announced in court at the beginning of the trial that Ramsey would testify. Tetlow resisted efforts by the prosecution to make him explain the change in strategy Monday, citing attorney-client privilege.

The decision means jurors will not be told what touched off the shootings. Ramsey's intent is the only real issue in the trial, and Tetlow has said several times in front of the jury that only the defendant knows what he was thinking at the time.

Instead of the defendant, Tetlow called Ramsey's two brothers to the stand and let them describe family life after their father, Don Ramsey, went to prison for a shooting at The Anchorage Times in 1986. Many shots were fired in that assault, but no one was killed.

The defense claims Evan Ramsey did not intend to kill student Josh Palacios, 16, or principal Ron Edwards, 50. The attack on the school was actually a suicide attempt, Tetlow said, fueled by the disintegration of his family and years of rejection and mistreatment in the state foster care system.

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