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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Troubled seafood plant asks governor for financial aid
ANCHORAGE - The struggling Alaska Seafood International manufacturing plant in Anchorage is asking for millions of state dollars and subsidies to stay afloat. ASI is asking for $100,000 a month to pay utility, insurance and other costs associated with the upkeep of the state-owned building the company occupies. The business also wants the state to defer the $360,000 monthly rent payments on the 202,000-square-foot building for another nine months.

Judge: sockeye case to go to jury Friday
ANCHORAGE - Jurors in the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon price fixing case will begin deliberations Friday, the judge said Wednesday. The trial is winding to a close after more than three months of testimony in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Peter A. Michalski.

Legislative reflections
I am very proud of Juneau's legislative delegates. Reps. Bruce Weyhrauch and Beth Kerttula and Sen. Kim Elton have been level-headed, effective legislators. Elton grabbed attention with his lone vote against another ANWR resolution. Some looked at it as an act of selfishness. I thought it was an act of conviction and resolution.

Facts vs. fiction
After reading his recent letter to the Empire on Assembly member conflicts of interest, it became clear to me Richard Schmitz has a conflict with the truth. For the record, Mr. Schmitz, Assemblyman Marc Wheeler is executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska.

Our downfall
In the governor's "warning" to the legislators on May 17, it was stated the budget will be short $161 million if we do not institute a sales tax. The alternative is a list of proposed cuts that add up to more than $188 million. Even my 8-year-old is better at math than that.

Conflicting interests
Let me see if I understand this correctly.Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, as board chairman of a Native corporation with mining interests, shouldn't participate in debate or decisions related to mining because he has a conflict of interest.

Alaskans deserve better
Imagine a parent who took a significant part of the family's income to buy lottery tickets in hope of someday winning a jackpot. Imagine if the parent did this while the family was struggling to pay its bills, the kids had little support for their educational needs, grandmother was barely surviving on her fixed income and the house's infrastructure was crumbling.

Go slow on mine changes
Don Smith's editorial Sunday leaves little for one's imagination. There can be absolutely no doubt about his allegiance, dedication and keen interest in the corporate mining giants of the world. He unabashedly brings it all home to our little old city of Juneau. Personally, I like that. I know exactly where he stands on the issues.

Dawn Miller named executive director of United Way Southeast
The United Way of Southeast Alaska has hired Dawn Miller to replace Marsha Riley as the agency's executive director. "Dawn's high energy, attitude, great credentials and excellent references made Dawn our pick out of a field of extremely strong candidates," said Rob Skinner, president of the United Way of Southeast Alaska board of directors.

Around Town
Around Town is a listing of local nonprofit events.

Parents concerned Dryden band could be reduced
Parents of eighth-grade band students at Floyd Dryden Middle School say a proposed cut in band classes will shut off some students from an important lifelong activity. But Principal Tom Milliron said all students who signed up for eighth-grade band can be accommodated in one large class. The elimination of one of two eighth-grade band classes is part of a reduction in staffing because of a tight budget districtwide.

District cutting back on teachers
The Juneau School District will reduce staffing by the equivalent of 4.75 full-time teachers, and plans to take other steps to balance next school year's budget, administrators said. Juneau-Douglas High School will lose the equivalent of two teachers, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School one teacher, Floyd Dryden Middle School one teacher, and Riverbend Elementary School 0.75 teachers, said Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

Exploring under Juneau: A tour of the past
"What's big and red and eats rock?" Kirk "Ziggy" Ziegenfuss asked eight visitors to Alaska last week as they stood at the entrance to the long-closed ore conveyor tunnel at the Alaska Gastineau Mill site. The group had no guesses. "A big, red rock eater!" Ziegenfuss answered, laughing at his own joke and transforming the nervous smiles of the tourists into genuine grins.

Trial starts for man accused of raping teens
The district attorney told a Juneau jury Tuesday that a man on trial for rape took advantage of a runaway girl and a girl in foster care because no one would believe they'd been raped. But the man's defense attorney said the teenagers are lying and have ruined the man's life. Michael Roberts, 34, is charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, both felonies, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. The charges stem from incidents in May 2002 involving one of the 15-year-old girls.

This Day in History
In 1902, underwater prospector W.A. Boyce was trapped in a 2,000 pound diving bell for half an hour. While being lowered, the derrick toppled over and the bell's air valve snapped. Boyce was rescued due to heroic efforts and vowed to try again.

This Day in History
In 1935, 135 Michigan and Wisconsin families, comprising 638 men, women and children, arrived in Seward. They were the second and last big group of colonists Uncle Sam was placing in the Matanuska Valley.

Police and Fire
Juneau police, fire officials and state troopers reported:

Photos: Laughs and brass
Christian Swenson performs as a dinosaur during a brown bag concert in the State Office Building on Wednesday. Swenson will perform his Human Jazz concert this evening at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

Group pushes school bonds at Native forum
Supporters of two school bond propositions up for a vote in less than two weeks pressed their case "for great schools" at the Native Issues Forum at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Wednesday. "We have a great opportunity to do this," said Sally Rue, former Juneau School Board president. "It will give us great schools at a relatively modest increased cost."

Police and Fire
Juneau police, fire officials and state troopers reported:

Robber of Valley gas station remains at large
Police have no suspects in an armed robbery early Wednesday at a Mendenhall Valley gas station. Around 1:45 a.m. a man brandishing a gun told the clerk of the Valley Tesoro, a woman, 47, to open the cash register, police said. The man grabbed an undisclosed amount of money and ran from the store. "The whole thing took less than a few minutes and there was very little conversation," said Sgt. John Boltjes, head of police investigations. "We don't know how much he took - we couldn't release that anyway - but, he actually left about $15 and the change in the drawer.

Around Town
Around Town is a listing of local nonprofit events.

Juneau Soroptimists big on books
Being read to as a young child is an important predictor of later reading success. Soroptimist members collected and donated more than 1200 high-quality children's books to early childhood programs in Juneau this spring. The books were delivered to programs by NAEYC-SEA during monthly "toy-mobile" service, and were also distributed to early-childhood educators during literacy workshops.

Photo: A song for Cecilia Kunz
Cecilia Kunz is serenaded by friends and family during a potlatch in her honor last week at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. Kunz has been a Native leader and active in the cause of Native civil rights as a member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.

Kazama, Weske to marry
Anne Kazama and Jeremy Weske of Juneau will be married in a ceremony planned for 6:30 p.m., June 6, at Douglas Island Bible Church.

Thank you
...for helping AWARE; ...for help with the food drive; ...for help with Daffodil Days; ...thanks for helping AWARE with food drive; ...thanks to Evergreen Ford

Pets of the week
Jasper is a friendly family dog, a one-year-old yellow Lab who gets along well with children, other dogs and even cats. Jo Jo is a neutered male, goofy and affectionate. His sister Mayday is a petite, spayed female, loving and ladylike.

My Turn: Explaining school negotiations to children
Parents in the Juneau School District might consider the popular Harry Potter stories as a means for understanding and sharing with their children the nature of current contract negotiations between teachers and management. In fact, through this literary vehicle parents and children might even consider proactive steps to help the negotiating parties refocus on the real goal of public education.

My Turn: Oil jobs going to outsiders
While giving the oil and gas industry tax breaks may be a good idea to stimulate more investment and thus increase revenue and jobs to the state, it does not address the decades-old and controversial issue of Alaskan hire in the industry.

My Turn: Preserve Denali Kid Care
Alaska's Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 105, legislation that if signed into law will make it more difficult for children from low-income families to qualify for Denali Kid Care. This program originally was developed to reduce the number of uninsured Alaskans, and has been quite effective at extending health coverage to poor children whose families couldn't otherwise afford insurance.

Cavs hope luck changes in LeBron lottery
CLEVELAND - Everyone wants LeBron James, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. There's only one team and city that desperately need him. And that's Cleveland, just a 40-minute drive from his Akron home.

Girls are unbeaten, untested entering tourney
Before the 2003 high school soccer season began, Juneau-Douglas girls co-coach Colin Barton thought this year's Crimson Bears might be the best team the school has produced. Barton said he still thinks it might be true, as the unbeaten, once-tied Crimson Bears head for this weekend's state tournament at Wasilla High School and Colony High School. But there's a question mark.

Spring King Salmon Derby Standings
Here are the standings in the Seventh Annual Spring King Salmon Derby, as reported at 4:48 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21. The rankings include the angler's name, weight of the fish (in 10ths of a pound), date turned in and what station the fish was turned into. Ties are broken by the earliest fish turned in. The derby closes at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

Spring King Salmon Derby Standings
Here are the standings in the Seventh Annual Spring King Salmon Derby, as reported at 11:57 a.m. on Tuesday, May 20. The rankings include the angler's name, weight of the fish (in 10ths of a pound), date turned in and what station the fish was turned into. Ties are broken by the earliest fish turned in.

State Soccer Champions
The scores of the Alaska high school state championship soccer games since the Alaska School Activities Association sanctioned an official state tournament in 2000. Before that, there had been an unofficial state invitational tournament sponsored by the Region IV teams.

Sports in Juneau
Information on upcoming sports and outdoors events in Juneau.

Midseason position shift sparks boys' scoring renaissance
It was four games into the season and Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer coach Gary Lehnhart wasn't sure about his Crimson Bears. The Juneau boys had been to the state championship game the past three years, winning the 2001 title, but Lehnhart was wondering if this year's team could live up to the tradition established by his previous squads. The Crimson Bears had graduated more than 20 seniors the past two years and, even though this year's team is again dominated by upperclassmen, Lehnhart worried the graduation losses might be taking their toll.

Hits, cuts, dirt & dust
In more ways than one, the dirt fields of Southeast Alaska have left their mark on the seniors of this year's Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team. From the undulating outfield at Moller Field in Sitka, to the pernicious pebbles of Norman Walker Field in Ketchikan, to the dust devils at Juneau's own Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, playing baseball in Southeast forces players to develop rock-solid fundamentals and quick thinking. It also forces the development of cuts, scrapes and bruises.

Sports in Juneau
Information on upcoming sports and outdoors events in Juneau.

Sealaska announces $40.5 million in earnings
Sealaska's successful investments in the Alaska Native Wireless initiative and the Valley View Casino in California were major contributors to the Native regional corporation's $40.5 million in net earnings in 2002. "An agreement reached between AT&T Wireless and Council Tree Alaska Native Wireless, and the San Pasqual's Casino refinancing of their operations, led to early maturing of the investments and a significant positive return to Sealaska," corporation President and CEO Chris McNeil Jr. said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. McNeil was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for further comment.

Senate approves RCA extension bill
With only a few hours to go, lawmakers were running out of time Wednesday to pass a bill extending the Regulatory Commission of Alaska in another showdown over the "phone wars." Without an extension, the RCA that regulates 300 utilities in Alaska - from the trans Alaska oil pipeline to local garbage haulers - will be dismantled over the coming year, said RCA chairman Dave Harbour.

Correspondence school granted one-year reprieve
The Senate has given the state's only certified correspondence school just one more year of operation before being closed. The bill was approved Tuesday on reconsideration after a 12-8 vote for the measure on Monday. It calls for eliminating funds for Alyeska Central School's summer school program but letting the regular correspondence program continue for another year.

Phase-out of Longevity Bonus axed
The state House on Tuesday voted down a plan to phase out the senior citizens' longevity bonus program. But the issue could come up for another vote today, the final day of this year's part of the two-year legislative session. Only 13 of the 38 representatives present for the vote favored going along with a five-year phase-out of the program that sends monthly checks to eligible older Alaskans.

Democrats say Smithsonian censored ANWR photo exhibit
WASHINGTON - Democratic senators accused the Smithsonian Institution on Tuesday of self-censorship because it moved a photo exhibit of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a basement hallway between a loading dock and a freight elevator.

Senate OKs public interest liability law
Public interest groups and citizens pressing for change could be forced to pay the state's legal costs if they lose cases, under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate. House Bill 145 was approved 12-8 along party lines, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats opposed.

Murkowski, Legislature enjoy smooth session
Many questions about the future of the state were unanswered Wednesday night, as lawmakers headed into the House and Senate chambers for the final hours of this year's legislative session. Battles over the public works budget, the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend program and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska were still in flux at 11 p.m. A big question on lawmakers' minds Wednesday evening was how Gov. Frank Murkowski would use his veto pen to cut state spending in this year's budget.

Budget bill has money for fast ferries, roads
A public works projects bill that passed out of the House Finance Committee on Tuesday includes two appropriations of $5 million to study road, ferry and bridge projects in Juneau and restores $63 million to build two high-speed ferries for Southeast. The fate of the public works budget, also known as the capital budget, is uncertain due to Gov. Frank Murkowski's promise to cut up to $47.8 million from the bill through line-item vetoes. Murkowski's plan to cut the budget is in response to the Legislature's unwillingness to institute a 3 percent statewide sales tax.

Legislative roundup
Bills voted on this week:

State Briefs
Teachers willing to strike; Predator control bill passes House; Driver's license bill passes House; Senate looks at crab quota plan; Fire claims boat, possible arson; Earthquakes jolt Alaska

Gov. curbs coastal districts' power
Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a controversial bill Wednesday that restricts the authority of Alaska's 34 local coastal districts. The bill revamping the Alaska Coastal Management Program would not allow the districts to regulate environmental impacts covered by state and federal standards.

RCA battle heats up, spills into Senate committee
The long-running battle between the state's two major telephone companies spilled over into a Senate committee on Tuesday. The outcome of the most recent flap - just one day before the Legislature was to adjourn - could throw the state's regulatory agency into a winding-down period.

Photo: Nearing the end
Reps. Mike Chenault, a Nikiski Republican, left, and Bud Fate, a Fairbanks Republican, talk during a break Tuesday in a House session at the Capitol.

State Briefs
U.S. Navy warship to visit Juneau; Kayaker snares 90-pound halibut; Climber brought down from McKinley; Ketchikan borough may boost sales tax; Crewman arrested in assault on shipmate; Quake near Yakutat; Bethel priest accused of sexual misconduct

School funding bill passes on final day of legislative session
Lawmakers approved a change in the formula for funding schools Wednesday, imposed a tax on car rentals, boosted business license fees and removed a requirement that the minimum wage go up with inflation. They also gave final approval to a resolution asking the federal government to fix parts of the USA Patriot Act that may infringe on civil liberties.

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