State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, June 25, 2002

AFL-CIO endorses Fran Ulmer for governor

JUNEAU - The battle of the union endorsements continued in the governor's race Monday, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer winning support of the state's largest labor organization, the AFL-CIO.

"Fran Ulmer is the best candidate for Alaska's working families," said Mano Frey, executive president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. "She has a long record of working on issues that benefit working families and she'll make sure Alaska's economic development benefits Alaska families."

The state chapter has 60,000 members in 62 unions, including the Alaska State Employees Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, both of which already had endorsed Ulmer.

The AFL-CIO's support of Ulmer was based in part on her support for an increase in the minimum wage.

Ulmer has lost a couple of union endorsements to Republican Frank Murkowski, a U.S. senator for 22 years.

The Teamsters and the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association have backed Murkowski. MEBA had never endorsed a Republican candidate for governor before.

Murkowski said he wasn't surprised that the AFL-CIO didn't endorse him, as the organization "is strongly weighted toward unions who have traditionally endorsed Democratic politicians." But a couple of local unions within AFL-CIO have endorsed Murkowski.

'Passionate Longevity' author speaks tonight

JUNEAU - Canadian author Elaine Dembe, an authority on aging, stress management and motivation, will present a lecture titled "Passionate Longevity" at 7 tonight at the Egan Room in Centennial Hall.

Dembe's presentation was inspired by a project on "stand-out seniors," people in their 70s, 80s and 90s who are running marathons, pursuing careers and keeping up active lives. Dembe points to 10 key characteristics she believes are the secrets to living a full, long life. These are detailed in her book "Passionate Longevity - the Ten Secrets for Growing Younger."

Dembe has been a chiropractor for 23 years, and has hosted radio and television programs on health and is a regular speaker at fitness conferences. She is an avid runner and the author of "Use The Good Dishes: Finding Joy in Everyday Life."

Dembe's presentation is sponsored by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, The Juneau Racquet Club, The Alaska Club and The University of Alaska Southeast. The cost is $5.

Anchorage teens charged with $500,000-plus in damage

ANCHORAGE - Two teen-agers were charged with first-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest in connection with vandalism at the Anchorage School District maintenance yard.

The two teens, ages 13 and 14, caused more than $500,000 in damage, police said.

Police were first called to the site Friday night when a worker noticed two boys were operating lawn mowers. When the worker approached, the two fled, according to police.

Authorities discovered broken windows in street sweepers, road graders, a tractor and a dump truck.

Another worker at the yard Sunday night noticed two boys again vandalizing the facility and called police.

The boys fled, but officers managed to track down one of the boys in a wooded area. The suspect identified the other boy, who was arrested at his home.

Police said the two boys admitted they also were responsible for the Friday night vandalism.

The vandalism done on Sunday included damage to a heating unit, a snow blower attachment, and two tractors. The boys also are suspected of driving the heavy equipment into four buildings at the maintenance yard and damaging the buildings.

State files $3.6 million lawsuit over 2001 wildfire

FAIRBANKS - The state has filed a $3.6 million civil lawsuit against Golden Valley Electric Association and the man who piloted the helicopter that the state says started an 84,000-acre wildfire last year.

Pilot Larry Larrivee's company, Naknek-based Pollux Aviation, also is named in the lawsuit. Larrivee was ferrying workers to a right-of-way clearing site for construction of the northern intertie power line when the fire started on June 20, 2001.

The lawsuit alleges that Larrivee landed his helicopter in tall, dry grass during an extreme fire danger alert. The helicopter's exhaust system ignited the grass, the lawsuit said.

A passenger leaving the helicopter saw the blaze and told Larrivee to take off, which he did. The wind from the helicopter rotors further fueled the fire and quickly caused it to grow despite the efforts of those on the ground to extinguish the flames.

Larrivee said he reported the fire to authorities. The lawsuit alleges that Larrivee and his passengers did not make a reasonable effort to control the fire.

The lawsuit also says Golden Valley and Larrivee did not exercise proper care to avoid fire during an extreme fire danger and should have had firefighting equipment on hand.

The state right-of-way permit required Golden Valley, its contractors, subcontractors and their workers to make every effort to prevent, control and suppress fires and to repay damages.

The state is seeking double damages, said Kevin Saxby, assistant attorney general.

"We're only asking them for suppression costs," Saxby said. "Not the trees they burned up."

The cost of suppressing the blaze is about $2.9 million, Saxby said. The federal government will reimburse about $1 million to the state. The state is seeking twice the remaining amount, which is allowable under state law.

Golden Valley president Steve Haagenson said Monday he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. "If they want to play this out in court, we'll talk to counsel and we'll respond from there."

Larrivee declined comment when reached by phone Monday.

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