Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Neighbor puts out small fire in Juneau

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JUNEAU - Capital City Fire and Rescue responded to a small fire Monday at a trailer court in Auke Bay. No one was injured, and firefighters found that a neighbor had extinguished the blaze.

A large plastic bag and its contents caught fire and was burning against the outside of a mobile home at Sprucewood Trailer Court. The fire was not set, the agency said in a press release.

The neighbor used a fire extinguisher provided earlier this winter by firefighters during a door-to-door public education campaign.

Group urges public campaign financing

ANCHORAGE - A public interest advocacy group and several lawmakers have a plan for public financing of campaigns as a way to keep special interest money out of politics.

Steve Cleary of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and other sponsors filed the proposed citizen's initiative last week with Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. If approved, initiative backers would have to collect 23,800 signatures statewide to put the proposal on the 2008 ballot.

A similar proposal also is contained in House and Senate bills that were introduced with bipartisan backing in the last week of the legislative session.

The ballot initiative would not be necessary if lawmakers approve a measure that is substantially similar next session.

The concept is to give candidates the option of using public money to finance their campaigns if they agree to forego fundraising from private sources.

The initiative proposes financing campaigns with a 3-cent tax per barrel of oil produced in Alaska.

Palin freezes energy advertising contract

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sarah Palin has frozen the contract of a firm originally hired with a no-bid contract to push for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum drilling.

Palin at first supported continuing and expanding the contract awarded to Pac/West Communications, based in Oregon. But last week, after questions were raised about how the company had spent $1.3 million in state funds, Palin reconsidered.

Palin's concern was not with the campaign itself but with the hurried $3 million contract, which "was not part of an open and transparent process," said spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton.

The governor plans to "re-evaluate the needs of those dollars and, if appropriate, start a new award process" with competitive bids, Stapleton said.

Pac/West, a company with conservative Republican ties, conducted Alaska political campaigns opposing efforts to ban bear baiting and to impose new taxes on cruise ships.

Research center loses power after fire

FAIRBANKS - An electrical fire caused a power outage at the International Arctic Research Center.

There were no injuries, and quick-thinking employees were able to save sensitive research projects.

Except for cutting off almost all power, damage was minimal in the late Monday incident at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

"It was a short in the main distribution panel," David Miller, director of maintenance with UAF's Facility Services, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "There wasn't flame, per se, but there was electrical arcing."

The building houses IARC research labs, administrative offices and the local National Weather Service forecasting center.

Air Force prepares to turn over buildings

FAIRBANKS - The community of Galena will take over two Air Force buildings Friday as the military withdraws from its Yukon River base.

The decision to close Air Force facilities at Galena was made in 2005.

The 611th Air Support Group at Elmendorf Air Force Base is the primary operating agency at the Galena Airport.

The military will transfer its Two Seasons Dining Facility and The Ptarmigan Inn dormitory.

Rep. Kohring's trial delayed until the fall

ANCHORAGE - The bribery trial for an Alaska lawmaker has been pushed back to the fall to allow defense attorneys time to sort through evidence, including thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings.

Defense lawyers received approval to delay Rep. Vic Kohring's trial from July to late October, the Anchorage Daily News reported on its Web site Tuesday. Federal prosecutors did not fight the motion.

Not all of the evidence specifically mentions Kohring, but defense lawyer John Henry Browne said he and his staff need more time to review nine computer discs filled with documents and recordings and two hard drives filled with information.

The indictments of Kohring, R-Wasilla, and two former House members on federal bribery and extortion charges are related to last year's dealings over a natural gas pipeline and a new taxing plan for the oil industry operating in the state.



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