Category Archives: Alaska Education

Alaska News Roundup for January 12

  • The Frontiersman usually has banal questions that need to be answered in order to access their top notch reporting (totally worth a few clicks of the mouse). The questions are almost exclusively regarding commercial product knowledge or personal data points (home ownership, age, etc.), but the latest question does cause concern. Will the data used regarding how their readership plans to vote determine how their news will be written or what will be reported on? Online surveys are not totally anonymous as your personal IP address can easily be used to identify who clicked what and where they live.Frontiersman

 

  • So, in a fiscal case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, Standard and Poor’s downgraded Alaska’s credit because of the ongoing crude price slump and the upcoming bond sales and not because of Alaska’s reputation.
  • Alaskans’ PFD check will start shrinking in the upcoming years and the Dispatch warns that if the state does tap the kitty to cover immediate expenses…that check could become A LOT smaller. Like, below $1,000 just for 2016 smaller. Ouchie!

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Alaska News Roundup for December 21

  • Congress is out for the week! Get ready to see your Twitter feed explode with constituent meeting photos.
  • One of my little birds is not amused that Gov. Bill Walker has yet to issue a statements on President of the Alaska Railroad Workers Union Local’s indictment for embezzlement since the AKRR’s board is appointed and managed by the governor.gov

 

  • The Nome Common Council debated the merits of commercial cannabis and possible transportation methods of the plants all the way to Nome as the FAA has made it clear that via the air is not an (legal) option.
  • The Pentagon is “considering” stepping up their cyber fight with ISIS, to wit Anonymous responded, “Good luck with that.”
  • Congrats (?) to Fritz Krusen on his official title as interim president for AGDC. This comes after the surprise-ish removal of former Dan Fauske and several other members of the board over the course of the year. One of my little birds now jokingly refers to the AGDC board as “a carousel of names.”
  • Politico makes the case that Alaska owes a giant, “Thank you” to Andrew Lundquist for the Arctic drilling that has happened with the state.
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against the omnibus spending bill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted for it, and Rep. Don Young made his views on the bill quite clear.
  • Have no fear Alaska; BlueCrest is still wicked interested in drilling in Cook Inlet.
  • Nome’s Superior Court Judge Timothy Dooley has the dubious distinction of being added to Jezebel’s Big Time Small-Time Dicks Hall of Shame for his recent comments during the sentencing of a man that was JUST convicted of RAPING A 14-YEAR-OLD GIRL, “From what I’ve read, this was not someone who was — I hate to use the phrase ‘asking for it.’ There are girls out there who seem to be temptresses, and this does not appear to be anything like that.” The Nome Nugget reports that the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct calls for a public censure of Dooley.Judge

 

  • The Legislative Council has tabled the controversial Anchorage LIO issue…for now as Council Chair Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) explained that breaking the lease on the building wasn’t an accurate depiction by the media. APRN skillfully reveals the juicy details of this soap operaesque saga.
  • Point Hope is busy doing a happy dance, as they were the recent recipients of a $2.89 million grant for transportation improvements and construction by the US DOT.
  • The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly Newsletter is out and full of awesomeness like the fact that the construction on the landfill is going well, the controversial zoning revision of RV’s was postponed and (drum roll, please) Barry Altenhof was appointed to the City Seat of the City and Planning Committee…just in time to tackle the RV issue.
  • The Frontiersman gives an update on the controversial Mat-Su veterans’ monument
  • Former Gov. Sarah Palin surprised many with a delightful spoof of Tina Fey’s 30 Rock TV show by bringing in some well known politicos (including the current mentor of Sen. Dan Sullivan). Vanity Fair breaks down the video.

Palin

 

  • The Peninsula Clarion bids a misty eyed “adieu” to their publisher, Vitto Kleinschmidt, as he has stepped down to begin a new chapter in his life. Kleinschmidt is credited for bringing stability and strengthening the journalist prowess of the Clarion while under his mantle. Morris Publishing Group’s vice-president of operations Deedie McKenzie will serve as the interim publisher.
  • Big game hunting just got more expensive as the Dispatch reports that the raise in fees is due to a long-time deficit of $1million+ that stemmed from rather messy accounting.
  • The PFD voter initiative just got a mondo supporter in the form of power player Doyon, Limited CEO and President Aaron Schutt, per the Fairbanks News Miner.
  • Jim Gottstein can now add a new label of “Whistleblower” to his already full roster of titles. This one is courtesy of APRN for his role in bringing the the Anchorage LIO debacle to light.
  • Legislative staffers are one step closer to easier housing during their time down in Juneau as the Juneau Empire reports that the city and borough’s accessory apartments program has officially been launched!
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Alaska News Roundup for November 23

  • North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower’s days in office are quickly getting a tick-tock sound as Barrow residents have officially started a recall petition. The Arctic Sounder reports that the group is not backing ANYONE and just wants Brower gone.
  • The Peninsula Clarion reports that the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, and Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague bribed offered the Board of Fisheries $60,000 in service savings if they kept their Upper Cook Inlet finfish meeting on the Peninsula until 2017 instead of moving to Anchorage.   City managers and mayors of the Kenai Borough, Homer, Seldovia, Soldotna, and Seward are also supportive of this financial incentive.
  • The National Journal explains the latest (and currently unpublished) Pew Research Center’s poll on the makeup of religious Americans and found something VERY interesting: white Christians are no longer the majority! In fact, as you look at the results by generation…more and more consider themselves unaffiliated. This will become increasingly interesting in future election cycles stump speeches and the shifting dynamic of religion in daily life.
  • In a move that has shocked, horrified, elated, and bemused MANY of my little birds…(drum roll please) the State Pot Board has taken a step toward allowing Amsterdam style pot cafés within the state!!! As APRN’s Zachariah Hughes explains, this would be a first for the entire country.

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Alaska News Roundup for November 11

PoppyThe Dispatch has you covered with information on Veterans Day ceremonies for the Anchorage and Mat-Su area.

  • In a move that has sent a shockwave throughout the Peninsula, Homer’s Mayor Beth Wythe has become the latest Republican to take on a GOP incumbent and force a primary. The reason for such a jaw dropping reaction for many of my little birds? Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) is a well-respected and beloved legislator in his district by both sides of the aisle and his support is considerable. Some whisperings have been that Wythe’s run is not to actually win, but to learn the ropes of campaigning for a future successful run in 2018.
  • Gov. Bill Walker is looking for a new State Agriculture Director as it has been decided that Franci Havemeister is not cut from his type of leadership cloth. One of my little birds thought DNR’s Commissioner Mark Myers was misogynistic innapropriate by referencing Havemeister as “Franci” in the state’s official press release instead of “Director Havemeister” as the governor did.

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Alaska News Roundup for November 4

  • Wired has some great background on a new bill before Congress that INCREASES (pretty non-existent) Americans’ rights to digital privacy. The bill would require state and local law enforcement to obtain a warrant BEFORE they can use stingray surveillance devices. Wonder where our Congressional Delegation will side on this issue?stingray

 

  • Ninilchik Tribal Council is going full-throttle on taking care of its community by beginning the steps toward an area-wide peninsula public-transit system complete with a transit hub to ensure access for all to medical and public amenities. The Peninsula Clarion reports that the estimated annual operating budget of $200,000 and an initial start-up cost of $1.2 million that would go toward the purchase of buses, drivers, insurance, etc.
  • Learn all about the Mat-Su Borough’s new Mayor Vern Halter in a LIVE radio interview with APRN today from 2:00-3:00pm. Call 1-888-353-5752.
  • One of my little birds shared this photo from a Politico photo essay of “When Halloween and Washington Mixed”. There was some slight confusion of why Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s nephews were so…”bulky” and thought it might be due to the “caribou diet”.   Nah, her security guards were geared up for Halloween Alaska style: complete with snow gear UNDER the costume.Murkowski Halloween

 

  • The State Pot Board might be on track to satisfy all the policy requirements of the 2014 ballot initiative cum law but the Juneau Empire reports that one rather important aspect is still unsolved: where can visitors/tourists legally consume the now legal cannabis?
  • TransCanada is probably doing a happy dance about the AK Senate’s vote to buyout the company’s stake in the LNG pipeline from the Peninsula Clarion’s take on the event.
  • Fairbanks Mayor Karl Kassel gave an administration defining speech to borough employees last Tuesday where he stressed substance over flattery. The end goal according to the Fairbanks News Miner? “I want to end the Super Bowl of local governments.” Then maybe a trip to Disneyland?
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  • Health insurance rates will continue to go up for 2016 as to will subsidies, but the Dispatch explains what the state is doing to help those found in the unenviable situation of earning too much to receive subsidies and have to purchase their healthcare through the Marketplace Exchange.
  • The AP has a pretty expansive list of how states evaluate their teachers using testing results. Alaska is part of a large contingency that uses test scores as a key factor in teacher evaluations.
  • Rep. Charisse Millett shared this great picture of the female House Majority members (though where is Rep. Louise Stutes in this female empowerment photo?).House Majority Ladies

 

  • Take heart Democratic Party because Politico charts a path to winning back the House…if Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson wins the prime spot on the ticket.
  • The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly was all like a Human Beinz song at their last public meeting where they decided to take a stand against homeowners buying or selling from being forced to connect to the South Tongass Service Area’s public water system and approved all of Mayor David Landis’ Assembly appointments without a fight.
  • Anti-Pebble groups are petitioning AKDNR to investigate Pebble Mine backers to ensure they have the met current reclamation requirements with deadlines so the state isn’t left paying for any cleanup that isn’t done after mining is complete, per the Dispatch.
  • The City of Juneau is but a few short, sweet months away from handing out 12 individual $6,000 grants to homeowners to build an accessory or MIL apartment to help boost Juneau’s housing market. For those interested, the Juneau Empire has the requirements for the grant money and why this is a widely considered a good use of limited fiscal resources.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski tweeted this fascinating Waterworldesque picture of Alaskan waterways regarding the controversial EPA water rule under debate this week on THE hill.

Waterways

 

  • The House Oversight Committee gave REALLY bad marks to federal agencies on their compliance with properly managing and securing their IT systems. The Department of Energy, Education, and NASA all received “F.” The State Department got a “D” and Homeland Security got a “C.” The best marks of a “B” went to the Department of Corrections and General Services Administration, per The Hill.
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Alaska News Roundup for October 16

  • OH YEAH! The AFN is happening right now in Anchorage and yesterday’s opening ceremony saw lots of amazing moments, but one of my little birds was really, really excited about AFN President Julie Kitka’s (!) speech because her little girl “now wants to be president too instead of Elsa.”TShirt

 

  • Kenai’s Prop 1, the ability for candidates to run for designated seats, officially failed by SIX votes and the faces on the Kenai City Council will remain the same, per the Peninsula Clarion.
  • The Ketchikan City Council held a hearing where the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and the Ketchikan Professional Firefighters Association and to award a contract with Cal Worthington Ford Lincoln for a Ford F-450 XL truck.

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Alaska News Roundup for October 8

  • Today’s THE day in state legislative meets healthcare at the State Reform Health Policy Conference in Anchorage!! Everyone is going to be there. From one of the Big Three ( Valerie Davis of HSS (!)); to the battling of opinions on the state’s healthcare direction with Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole), Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) explaining their vision at the 1:45pm panel; and Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) sharing their vision. The biggest surprise of pre-event excitement from many of my little birds is regarding the 9:30am panel with Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) to discuss reforming Medicaid. Lots of fans, he has.Seaton

 

  • Could the Permanent Fund Board garner a “Pope-like” figure or more likely a “PF Czar”? That is the latest question wafting out of every Alaskan’s favorite state entity, though the hunt for a regular Executive Director is the main focus for the state with my little birds liking candidates Alexander Slivka and Angela Rodell the most out of the short list.
  • Congratulations Felix Wong and Stephen Bradford on their individual wins for a seat at the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly dais!
  • Kodiak Island Borough now officially can claim Kyle Crow, Mel Stephens and Dennis Symmons as part of their Assembly team.
  • Heads up Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) and Rep. Kurt Olson (R-Soldotna): the Kenai Peninsula Borough School districts has their official legislative marching orders for you and it’s all focused on protecting their access to funding. But that doesn’t mean individual input isn’t still being requested. There are lots of locations to be a part of the Oct. 15 budget development meeting.
  • Neither Mat-Su Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss nor his challenger Vern Halter is conceding the race until the vote count is finalized, per the Frontiersman.
  • Anchorage is in talks with Conoco Phillips to buy back some of their leases in the upper Cook Inlet for ML&P to control, though as APRN explains…”any purchase will have to first be approved by the [Anchorage] assembly.”

    Cook Inlet

    Photo Credit of APRN

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski is beginning to see the light at the end of her hard-fought battle to lift the 40+ oil export ban with The Hill reporting that the White House has been making noises that point to a possible signature!
  • Palmer is one town that won’t be selling commercial pot as the town voted 318 to 266 to ban this particular economic sector from opening shop and paying taxes, per the Dispatch.
  • The Western Director and Senior Attorney for NRDC wrote an op-ed for Huffington Post where he made his case for why the recent independent study that found that the relationship between the EPA and anti-Pebble groups was improper, was nothing more than a PR Stunt from a “cash-starved” Pebble Partnership.
  • Mayor-elect Karl Kassel is not wasting time in beginning his transition to full-on mayor. The Fairbanks News Miner reports that he is already taking applications for positions within his administration and has a basic idea of the changes he wants to make.
  • Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) is not one to let injury slow him down and that was evident last night at the latest UAA College Democrats meeting where he gave a “barn-burning” speech against the current oil tax structure.20151007-Rep-Gara-at-UAA-College-Democrats-Meeting-1

 

  • Sen. Dan Sullivan is backing a new bill regarding illegal immigrants and Politico explains the legislation’s aim and who else is getting on the bandwagon.
  • Quinnipiac has just released their latest poll that shows of the 2016 swing state US Senate races, only Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) vs. Ted Strickland (D) is a toss-up, though Democratic challengers in Florida are gaining traction.
  • Rep. Don Young tweeted his support on H.R. 538 that would give Alaska Natives the ability to utilize their lands without “heavy hand of federal government”.Rep. Young

 

  • Doyon, Limited is expanding their O&G exploration within the Nenana basin with plans to drill their 3rd exploratory well in the summer of 2016, per the Fairbanks News Miner.
  • APRN explains the state’s DNR decision on Alaskans’ rights over natural resource use and why PacRim Chuitna Coal is not amused.
  • While the numbers are still being finalized, it appears that yesterday may have shattered voting records for the past ten years in Fairbanks!
  • The Frontiersman has an excellent piece about Mat-Su Assembly candidate (and future powerhouse) Maria Serrano and her tenacious spirit that took her from simply a name on a ballot to a formidable challenger despite her 19 years.
  • In happy fun time news: the Juneau Empire reports that while the original partnership between the Vincent de Paul Society and GMD Development went belly-up with their plans to bring affordable housing to the capital city, there is still forward movement to ensure the project grows into fruition.
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News Roundup for October 2

  • The vibrant Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidates for District 1 did not disappoint one of my little birds. Apparently Robin Davis was the most polished of the group by being able to quote previous experiences and numbers on budgetary items. While David Wartinbee’s fish knowledge was “impressive” and Gary Knopp was “on fire”. The candidate that didn’t get positive reviews?   That would be Assemblyman Kelly Wolf for not even showing up. Naughty!
  • The Cordova Times reports that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office was awash in 8,000 postcards from United Tribes of Bristol Bay members encouraging her to support their efforts against Pebble Mine or any other similar mine that could affect the Bristol Bay watershed.
  • Guess who can be found in Japan Times? That would be Alaska’s own Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks)!! The article goes on to explain that while attending a conference as part of a US delegation in Kyoto, he has continued to work toward strengthening the relationships between Alaska and future Japanese LNG buyers.Kawasaki

 

  • For Kenai Peninsula Borough voters, Proposition 4 is a $4.4 million bit of consideration. What’s at stake? The ability for Central Emergency Services to replace outdated or past its usefulness tools like a ladder truck and other vital emergency equipment. The Peninsula Clarion explains both sides of this ballot issue.
  • Tempers and a tempestuous history between Mat-Su Borough Assembly candidates Randall Kowalke and Doyle Holmes made for continued fireworks as the Dispatch furthers the Frontiersman’s original story.

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Alaska News Roundup for September 25

  • We are officially going into Special Session 3.0! This surprised the Alaska House Majority, made the Senate Minority giddy as it’s being held in Juneau, and created concern within the Senate Majority. As for the House Minority…crickets.

 

  • The “Big Three” LNG Project producers have reached an agreement with the State of Alaska on property taxes. They will be paying the state $16.5 billion (yes, with a “B”) with $15.7 billion going toward PILT payments in lieu of technical taxes. The Peninsula Clarion has the details.
  • The state’s review of the LNG deal structure has found “serious challenges” to ensure maximum benefit to Alaskans. The 11-page report is well-written and worth a read, but so to is the amazing job by the Dispatch’s Alex DeMarban in explaining the information in laymen’s details.lng

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Alaska News Roundup for September 21

  • This week on The Hill, it will be all about the Pope Francis love fest. The Senate will be taking up a ban on 20+ week abortion bill and the defunding of Planned Parenthood (which is expected to fail).
  • Hold the presses; Governor Bill Walker and First Lady Donna Walker met with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy while making inroads with potential Japanese LNG buyers!!

    Kennedy & Walkers

    Photo Credit of Gov. Bill Walker’s FB

  • Taxes is not a “four-letter word” in Seward. That was the takeaway of the Seward City News after attending the 20+ public discussion about Alaska’s fiscial situation and potential remedies including bills proposed by Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer), Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), and Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage). One of my little birds noticed Sue McClure’s absence from “her kind of meeting.”
  • In potentially clap-worthy news: Southeast’s <3 for their ferries is legendary. Their Canadian neighbors feel the same. So much love for this mode of transportation has created an opportunity for Canadian based West Coast Launch to potentially begin once-a-week ferry runs in the winter and twice-a-week in the summer from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Ketchikan beginning in the summer of 2016.

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Alaska News Roundup for September 16

  • Today is THE DAY for oral arguments between the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the state over the constitutionality of municipalities being forced to pay toward their local public schools’ costs.
  • Hilcorp wants to lay pipe. Ok, more like they have asked DNR for permits to drill exploratory wells near Ninilchik, but my interpretation of the Fairbanks News Miner story is way funnier.
  • In good news/bad news: The good news is that the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the state’s justice system last Tuesday (yay!). The bad news is that the Pew Charitable Trust’s presentation during the hearing pointed to incarceration lengths as the reason for the state’s prison population explosion and not due to an increase in individual inmates, per APRN.

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Alaska News Roundup for September 9

  • Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), Rep. Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake), and Rep. Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks) think there are simply too many Alaskans in prison and have started proposing changes to the state justice system in order to see at least a 25% decrease in incarcerations.
  • Here they come to save the day! The State of Alaska has agreed to wire part of Cook Inlet Energy LLC’s tax credit payment to the tune of $6.4 million early so the energy producer doesn’t go into bankruptcy, per the Peninsula Clarion.
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  • FINALLY!! The state ferry system has something to celebrate (happy dance time). APRN reports that the LeConte ferry not only saved six men after their skiff overturned in the choppy waters off Rocky Island, but this bit of derring-do didn’t even alter the ferry’s expected arrival time too much. 
  • Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) wants the governor to investigate the curious situation where when “oil prices go up the price for gas also goes up but when oil prices fall we don’t see that same decrease in gas prices.”
  • Have no fear Rep. Kawasaki because the Dispatch reveals that Alaska’s oil and gas system is already on the governor’s mind with plans to reduce the state’s gas tax credit program following Sen. Cathy Giessel’s (R-Anchorage) special legislative hearing on the very issue.

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Alaska News Roundup for September 4

  • The latest Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly report is out by the ever-endearing Sue McClure!! In a nutshell, $3 million was approved to fund the Central Peninsula Hospital project to include the ability to treat cancer and the area’s aging population. Their annual meeting will be in Homer on September 15.
  • Rep. Don Young was suspiciously absent during Pres. Obama’s tour and APRN found out where he was “hiding”. Hint, he was at his traditional August bolthole in Fort Yukon enjoying the joys of an August break with his enchanting newly wed.
  • The US Labor Department has released the unemployment rate for August 2015 with good news! The jobless rate fell to 5.1% and we are now consistently making pre-Great Recession rates.

    August Unemployment

    Graphic Credit of US Bureau of Labor & Statistics

  • The Mat-Su Borough Assembly did in fact cobble together enough votes to veto (at 5/2) Mayor Larry DeVilbiss’s veto on a 55% excise tax on vapes, e-cigarettes and their corresponding products. As the Frontiersman explains, they will remain in the same tax category as traditional tobacco products.

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Alaska News Roundup for September 2

  • ConocoPhillips has announced that they are going to cut around 10% of their Alaska workforce. While this number is sure to send shivers down many a spine, it is important to remember that roughly 25% employees for the major O&G players in Alaska live full-time Outside and commute to the slope. Some subcontractors use 100% Outside workers for in-state work. The exact number of AUCTUAL Alaska ConocoPhillips employees that will be receiving a pink slip is still unknown.
  • The Fairbanks News Miner has an editorial urging folks to register to vote before the muni election cut-off date later this week. Register to vote by going HERE.
  • The Dispatch gives a beautiful, no–poetic, re-telling of Pres. Obama’s trip/hike to the Kenai Fjords National Park. Truly worth a read just for the details and enriched writing.
  • Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) and one-time staffer, turned girlfriend, now with the Interior Gas Utility Mindy O’Neall parted ways after almost three years. Sounds like yet another casualty of the long special session. What will he do now as the Legislature’s most eligible bachelor?

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Alaska News Roundup for August 31

  • WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT!!!

 

  • Sunday might have been a day of rest for many, but not for Alaska’s political wonks! The Peninsula Clarion was on hand to capture giddy preparations going into effect for Anchorage’s big day (today) for when the president makes his grand appearance. Former Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) and former Juneau Mayor Fran Ulmer were interviewed.
  • The Fairbanks News Miner has the skinny on Gov. Bill Walker flying on Air Force One with the president to Alaska. THE BIG QUESTION is whether the governor might snag a box of presidential M&M’s for one humble political blogger (hint, hint).

    m&M

    Yummy & Spiffy @ the same time!

  • Seward had not one, but TWO presidential helicopters tackling the finicky winds of Resurrection Bay and testing approaches in preparation of Pres. Obama arriving in Seward Tuesday.
  • One of my little birds made a rather blue joke about seeing lots of legislators packing meat over the weekend in the valley. Turns out that the truth was rather banal. 20+ state legislators and a few commissioners toured one of the state’s biggest slaughterhouses, Mt. McKinley (maybe time to rethink the name) Meat and Sausage, in an attempt to wrangle state funding going into FY17. There were more than a few visitors that looked rather queasy during the tour.

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