Redistricting board near deadline
JUNEAU - The Alaska Redistricting Board hopes to choose a final redistricting plan by the close of business Monday so staff has time to prepare required documents by the June 17 deadline.
The board met briefly this morning in Juneau but did not alter its tentative decision to tie Cordova into Southeast's House District 5, which has fewer people than required for an election district. The panel recessed for the day after meeting for less than an hour because three of five board members were awaiting flights to Juneau.
The board adopted a guideline agenda to address more than a dozen issues still on the table, including whether to pair parts of Anchorage with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough or with Valdez, and whether to split Kenai and Soldotna or put the neighboring towns together. The board also must decide which House districts to pair for Senate districts.
The board also may revisit its decision to tie Cordova to House District 5, a Native-influence district stretching from Prince of Wales Island to Yakutat. Cordova wants to stay in the same House district as Valdez, and Cordova's mayor has threatened a lawsuit challenging the board's proposal.
Board member Bert Sharp defended the Southeast plan today, saying Cordova and Valdez don't have as much in common as in years past. Valdez has grown economically dependent on oil transport while Cordova is more focused on commercial fishing, Sharp said. Also, it's more important to beef up the population in House District 5 than to keep Valdez and Cordova together, he said.
"Cordova is a problem, but the other problem is bigger. You have to have enough people to flush out the districts," Sharp said.
The board is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. Thursday in Juneau.
Man changes plea in shootings
FAIRBANKS - A Koyukuk man pleaded no contest to two counts of murder Tuesday in Fairbanks Superior Court. Norman Lolnitz, 19, faces up to 60 years in prison after reaching the plea agreement.
Lolnitz was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths Jan. 20 of Fabian Pilot, 36, and his 2-month-old son, Stephan James Pilot. On Tuesday, Lolnitz pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree murder for the death of Fabian Pilot and one count of second-degree murder for killing the infant.
As part of the agreement, his time to serve will not exceed 60 years, though suspended time and probation may be added by Judge Richard Savell.
The shooting took place in the Pilots' Koyukuk home during early morning hours.
According to court documents, Lolnitz was drunk and had been thrown out of the house earlier in the evening. He returned with a .223-caliber rifle, shouting obscenities and firing two rounds at the victims, documents said. Two women, including one who was the girlfriend of Fabian Pilot and the baby's mother, were also in the one-room cabin at the time of the shooting.
Stephan Pilot was in his father's arms when both were shot. The infant died shortly after the shooting. Fabian Pilot was flown to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he died about seven hours after he was shot.