Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Gov. Murkowski takes to airwaves in first anniversary segment

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski promised full funding for K-12 education next year and additional help for seniors hurt by his veto of the Longevity Bonus program.

During an unprecedented televised fireside chat marking one year in office, the Republican governor said Tuesday he wants his legacy to be an unrivaled quality of life for Alaskans.

"I think its too early to talk about legacy because we are going to be around in this job for a while, but I want to leave a strong economy," Murkowski said. "An economy that grows and attracts and keeps our young people."

Seated in the ballroom of the governor's residence, he and his wife, First Lady Nancy Murkowski, informally talked about a wide range of topics.

Murkowski said two of the toughest decisions he made this year were eliminating the Longevity Bonus program and appointing his daughter, Lisa, to his vacant U.S. Senate seat.

"I can honestly say there is no one that is better qualified, and I think she's proving that and proving to Alaskans that indeed that was a good choice," Murkowski said. "And we are obviously very proud of all our children."

Murkowski appointed his daughter last December over a long list of prominent Republicans, which angered many in the GOP and threatened to create a fragmented primary of jilted candidates.

But that hasn't come to pass, as one by one, previously passed over Republicans have come forward to say they are not running. So far, only former Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles has announced his intentions to run for the office.

Gov. Murkowski used portions of the half-hour segment to again call for more roads to both link rural communities and mine Alaska's resources to produce jobs for Alaskans.

Sheffield wants to privatize road to house

ANCHORAGE - Former Gov. Bill Sheffield has asked the city to make private a public road to his property, contending people are parking on the cul-de-sac in front of his house and partying, dumping trash and vandalizing property.

If the city gives its OK, Sheffield, who lives adjacent to Lyn Ary Park in the Turnagain neighborhood, might install a gate at the head of the Susitna View Court cul-de-sac. That could block one of the ways into the park and an unofficial path that runs along the edge of Marston Field to the Coastal Trail.

Sometimes, Sheffield said, he's found people sleeping in the bushes around his house.

Neighbors say the cul-de-sac was a popular spot to park to head down to the Knik Arm shore and build bonfires before Sheffield built his home there. A couple of them said the partying has decreased since Sheffield and his neighbors' homes were built.

Sheffield owns two lots and a 4,389-square-foot, six-bedroom house, all valued this year by the city tax assessor at more than $1.1 million.

UA hires former Sen. Kelly as lobbyist

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska has hired a former Senate Finance Committee chairman as its new lobbyist to the Legislature.

Former lawmaker Pete Kelly started his $75,000-a-year position as director of state relations on Nov. 1, according to university spokesman Bob Miller.

"He will be responsible for representing the university with the Legislature, the governor's office and state agencies," Miller said.

Kelly, 47, will serve as the university's main lobbyist in Juneau. He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner his experience as a legislator will be helpful. He is "old friends" with many of the people he will be lobbying, he said.

Mudslide cuts gas supply to Prince Rupert

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia - Residents of this northern British Columbia port and fishing town have been told they face another week without natural gas because of a mudslide.

About 4,000 homes and businesses in Prince Rupert and nearby Port Edward have been without gas for heating since a pipeline was severed in the slide about 35 miles east of town during a snowstorm late Thursday.

Highway officials said a 660-foot-wide wall of trees, rocks and mud rolled 1,000 feet across the valley bottom and blocked the Khyex River about two miles north of Highway 16.

"It's a massive mudslide. The Khyex River is not a small river and it's completely blocked," said Greg Weeres, vice president of operations for Pacific Northern Gas.

Since the slide, residents have turned to electric heaters, stayed with relatives, taken hotel rooms or moved into emergency quarters at Charles Hays Secondary School.

"It's been nuts," said Tyee Building Supplies manager Terry Hodam. "We actually ran out of (electric) heaters. We're air freighting in more."

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