State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Juneau Assembly funds session-move studies

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly on Monday decided to allocate $75,000 from the Better Capital City fund to fight a ballot initiative that would move legislative sessions from Juneau to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The Assembly approved the use of $75,000 for economic and focus-group studies. Of the total, $30,000 will go to the McDowell Group for a Southeast economic study and $45,000 will go to the Cromer Group to conduct focus-group research.

The Alaska Committee, which is heading the fight against a session move, made the request. Chairman Win Gruening said a committee has been meeting since February to research previous campaigns and conduct interviews. Additional polling is planned, he said.

"I feel good about where we are," he told the Assembly. "I know there is some anxiety out there, but in the 1994 campaign, we didn't hire anyone until mid-July."

Assembly gives Lena park the Native name Aant'iyeik

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly decided Monday to name a new park near the Lena Point bypass road "Aant'iyeik Park."

Aant'iyeik is a Tlingit word that means "spirit of the land," and was chosen in respect for a nearby Native village site, according to the Assembly's resolution.

The new name follows earlier Assembly concerns about naming parks after people. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee had suggested naming the park "Lynn Cox Auke View Park." Committee members decided later to name the ballfields inside the park after Lynn Cox, a longtime Juneau umpire and coach.

The PRAC will discuss its park-naming policy at a meeting May 7, according to the city.

Anchorage judge calls activist's political party idea a wisecrack

ANCHORAGE - A judge in Anchorage has put an end to an activist's claim that voters who register as nonpartisan should be considered members of his newly formed Non-Partisan Party.

Superior Court Judge John Reese dismissed the idea as a joke.

"It's not a good-faith lawsuit," Reese said Tuesday. "It's a wisecrack. That's all it ever was."

The suit was filed by Bob Allen, a businessman and occasional candidate for public office. Allen created the Non-Partisan Party Inc. in 1999 as a nonprofit corporation.

People who call themselves nonpartisan share a philosophy, Allen said at the time. They believe issues and candidates should be examined without regard to political affiliation.

Allen then argued to the Division of Elections that voters registered as nonpartisan should be considered part of his party. That would have given him enough members to qualify as an official state party and get an automatic line on the November ballot.

The Division of Elections rejected that argument.

Under Alaska law there are two ways to earn official party status: Run a candidate for governor and get at least 3 percent of the vote, or get 6,605 voters to write your party name on the "other" line when they register.

Allen commissioned a poll that concluded that at least 9,000 registered nonpartisans would want to be counted as Non-Partisan Party members, said his attorney, Jody Brion.

Shellfish farming bill passes House

JUNEAU - The House approved a bill Wednesday designed to boost the state's tiny shellfish farming industry.

House Bill 208 would require the Department of Natural Resources to identify 90 new sites for growing shellfish. That could more than double the size of the industry.

"This bill is a good stimulus," said Rep. Drew Scalzi, a Homer Republican. "I think it's promoting a very clean and healthy industry for the state."

About 55 shellfish farmers have state leases, according to DNR. Most are in Southeast, but a few operate in Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula and in Prince William Sound.

The measure is intended to avoid some of the conflict that now surrounds aquatic farming applications.

Would-be shellfish farmers often are frustrated because they identify potential lease sites and then are told those sites are unacceptable because of habitat concerns, conflicts with other users, or other reasons.

The bill calls for DNR to work with shellfish growers, the departments of Fish and Game and Environmental Conservation, and the general public to identify suitable sites upfront. Once identified, leases on the sites would be offered.

The state estimates it would cost about $450,000 in one-time costs spread out over two years to identify and offer leases on the new sites.

The bill passed the House unanimously. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Elderly Savoonga man spends two days in snow cave

ANCHORAGE - A man from the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island spent two days in a snow cave before being rescued Wednesday.

Walter Toolie, 74, got caught in a blizzard Monday evening and his snowmachine ran out of gas as he returned to the village from a whaling camp. He was found by rescue workers Wednesday morning huddled in a snow cave but in good health.

Two other local rescue workers, who disappeared during the two-day search, were found Wednesday, with one suffering from frostbite.

Toolie was dressed warmly and equipped with food, two thermoses of coffee, a hatchet, a tarp, a rifle and a shovel, rescue workers said.

"I feel jolly. Everything seems all right, right now," he said.

Glennallen man sentenced for harassing anglers

GLENNALLEN - A Glennallen man has been sentenced to community service and ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and to attend an ethics course as punishment for harassing people while they were fishing on the Klutina River.

Kirk W. Wilson, 47, pleaded no contest April 4 to one count of harassment and one count of hindering lawful fishing.

The charges stemmed from a July 21, 2001, incident in which Wilson harassed a fishing guide and caused one of his clients to lose a fish on the Klutina River. Trooper Bernard Chastain said troopers had received reports of Wilson's behavior throughout the summer and during the last several years.

Wilson leases a cabin on the river each summer and is extremely protective of the fishing hole in front of the cabin, Chastain said. Wilson would verbally attack those attempting to fish in the spot, cast over their lines and try to snag them.

Compiled from Empire staff and wire service reports.

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