Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Police probe report of postgame fight

JUNEAU - Police are investigating a report of a fight Friday night after a basketball game near Juneau-Douglas High School.

Capt. Tom Porter said officers responding to the report found a 19-year-old Ketchikan man with abrasions to his head. He declined medical treatment and reported being hit from behind, Porter added.

The incident occurred shortly after the conclusion of Friday night's Southeast-Class 4A boys region final basketball game at the high school gym, which pitted Juneau-Douglas against Ketchikan. Ketchikan won the game in overtime, earning a trip to the state tournament and ending Juneau's season.

Porter said police had not determined Monday whether the incident was related to the game. He said officers have several Juneau people, ages 16 and 17, they had not yet contacted.

"I think we're going to get this taken care of in fairly short order," Porter said.

He also said that fights after high school competitions are rare in Juneau.

Museum expansion hinges on April vote

ANCHORAGE - A $75 million project at the Anchorage Museum of Art and History depends upon voters approving a property tax increase to help pay for operating costs at the expanded museum.

Voters will be asked April 5 to decide whether to help the museum pay for more staff, higher utilities and new programs.

"We're just asking for operating funds," said Ed Rasmuson, chairman of the Anchorage Museum Foundation.

Donations and grants would cover the $75 million costs of construction, but the expansion plan hinges on voters being willing to tax themselves to fund added operational costs.

The museum opened in 1968 and was last expanded in 1986. Now it is so squeezed for space it can display only about 10 percent of its artifacts and exhibits, according to project backers.

The late Elmer Rasmuson donated $50 million, the federal government granted $20 million and the state granted $5 million to pay for the expansion, which could start late next year. It would add 70,000 square feet of space, connected to the existing 93,000-square-foot building.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., would return more than 1,000 Alaska artifacts it has been holding in storage. The Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Center would move into the museum, as would the Imaginarium, an educational science center now located on Fifth Avenue.

Alaska Trappers hold fur auction

FAIRBANKS - Dozens of wolf, fox, beaver and wolverine pelts lined the makeshift stage of a flatbed trailer at the Alaska Trappers Association fur auction.

Bags of moose and caribou antlers were piled and spilling onto the ground.

"A lot of good stuff to carve there," said auctioneer Ace Calloway, as he began soliciting bids Sunday for the antler collection.

The Alaska Trappers fur auction is the state's largest after the Fur Rendezvous auctions in Anchorage. It is in its 29th year.

Coordinator Marty Middelstadt said the furs and antlers come mostly from individual trappers who give the association a commission to auction their wares. The event also includes items from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game collection of confiscated furs from animals killed in defense of life or property or those that die of natural causes or illegal hunting.

The association gets to keep a commission from the sales, making the auction one of its largest fund-raisers.

Wolf pelts were going for between $250-$300 and up, while small beaver pelts went for as little as $35. A group of tanned martin went for $45. Middelstadt said the prices were mediocre.

Experience Music Project hits wall

SEATTLE - Nearly five years after Experience Music Project opened with lots of flash, promising 21st century access to a treasure trove of memorabilia from the history of popular music, it has seen three rounds of layoffs and other austerity measures.

Expectations for the $100 million, 140,000-square-foot extravaganza were high, with visions of rotating, interactive exhibits - many culled from EMP's vast collections - that would not require financial support from billionaire co-founder Paul Allen and his sister, Jo Allen Patton.

Attendance in the museum's first year was 800,000 - at the low end of the 800,000 to 1 million expected. Annual attendance has settled at around 400,000 - about the same as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, EMP spokeswoman Paige Prill said.

Artistic director Bob Santelli - whose title has varied but whose $267,000 salary has remained firm - says anyone who expected more than 400,000 visitors a year was misguided.

It's not surprising that the museum's early years involved some missteps and shifts in focus. But the 2004 transformation of one wing into a science-fiction museum was unexpected and seemed off track - as does talk of an exhibition of Allen's collection of Impressionist paintings.

Some staffers are apprehensive about job security after three rounds of cuts reduced the original workforce of 515 workers to the current 250.

And EMP downsized its administrative offices last week, Prill confirmed.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in a front-page story Monday headlined "Rough Experience," compared revenue in four categories: admissions, restaurant sales, membership and contributions, from tax forms filed for 2001, EMP's first full year of operation and 2003, the most recent year for which those numbers are available. All were down, with admissions revenue $8.96 million in 2001 and $4.81 million in 2003.

Education leaders pleased with budget

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state's education leaders had few complaints Monday with Gov. Christine Gregoire's first budget proposal.

From financing early-learning programs to teacher pay raises to increasing access to higher education, the budget won praise, especially given the state's $1.6 billion shortfall.

The $11 billion Gregoire set aside for public schools would help finance voter-approved Initiative 728, which would reduce class sizes, and Initiative 732, which granted teachers cost-of-living raises.

The Legislature suspended both initiatives two years ago due to the state budget crunch. Revenue from increased cigarette taxes and a partly restored estate tax would help cover the costs.

The Washington Education Association was pleased with the proposed 1.2 percent cost-of-living raise in the 2005-2006 school year and an estimated 1.7 percent raise for the following year. The union also would like to see reimbursement of money lost during the two-year suspension.

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