This week Congress is going to do whatever it takes to avoid having to stay in DC any longer than necessary and that means playing nice across the aisle to get the Omnibus spending bill passed, pass a strengthened customs enforcement bill, and maybe…just maybe…pass a few political nominations.
Ready your calendars you lucky Unalaska residents you because your city council will be shortly announcing an agenda free, survey free public forum at City Hall so all parties can freely discuss their stance on allowing commercial pot (and the lovely tax stream it could become) onto the island. KUCB also reports that after a nail biting vote by the Unalaska council members, Wayne Chin was voted in as the newest Museum of the Aleutians Board of Directors after Mayor Shirley Marquardt had to cast the deciding vote.
One of my little birds just loved (like fangirl level of love) Rep. Don Young’srecent speech on the House Floor where he expounded upon the importance of the 2nd amendment.
The Homer City Council totally earns a gold star for hard work after finishing a marathon public meeting where they not only passed their $20+ million budget (potential legislative lobbyists should contact them…they are in the market), but they also decided to table the seasonal sales tax till May while making noises that the seasonal tax might become a permanent year-around tax.
Former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration has been found guilty of super sloppy accounting with the city’s Centennial celebrations budget. The Dispatch reveals that a recent audit found close to $100,000 in outstanding bills that have forced Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to ask the Anchorage Assembly to cover at least $69,000 of the bills. Assemblyman Bill Starr is requesting a forensic accountant to look into the matter.
One of my Washington little birds was not amused by Rep. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) recent FB posting on her official state FB page where she referred to people in attendance (possibly Sen. Pete Kelly (R- Fairbanks) and Chief of Staff to Sen. Dan Sullivan as well) as “homies.” “It is an insult to her elected position and to the people in attendance to use such a term. They are not hanging out at Coots on their own time and this is not her private FB page. She was attending an official event with professionals. This lack of decorum is disgusting.” Fair/unfair?
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?
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.
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?
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 Millettshared this great picture of the female House Majority members (though where is Rep. Louise Stutes in this female empowerment photo?).
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 petitioningAKDNR 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 Murkowskitweeted this fascinating Waterworldesque picture of Alaskan waterways regarding the controversial EPA water rule under debate this week on THE hill.
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.
The fiscal pinch your wallet’s been feeling is indeed real. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development conducted a study on median incomes and discovered that Alaskans are making $4,000 less than they did in 1989. It gets worse as the YWCA Alaska explained in an interview with KTUU, 60% of low wage earners are women and of Alaskan families they make up 40% of the primary providers.
The Seward City News has the breakdown of the Seward/Lowell Point voting results. The Seward City Mayoral election went to Jean Bardarson and the three Seward City Council seats went to Sue McClure (!), David Squires, and Deborah Altermatt.
Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe is retiring next summer. Justice Fabe was the first female Chief Justice and has served the state since 1996. Her wisdom and devotion to our state will be a loss to our justice system.
In the Mat-Su, the results in the borough’s mayoral race are considered to be too close to call. Right now, Vern Halter is winning by 4,269 votes with incumbent Mayor Larry DeVilbiss accruing 4,090 votes. Rosemary Vavrin has 317. The Frontiersman reports that there are still 2,000+/- absentee, questioned and special needs votes to count.
Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) showed his support for now Fairbanks North Star BoroughMayor-elect Karl Kassel in an Instagram. The Fairbanks News Miner reports that Kassel won with 57% of the votes.
Juneau saw a major upset in their political status quo last night, as Mayor Merrill Sanford was beat by challenger Greg Fisk with a 66% Ouchie. True to both men’s diplomatic reputation, they shook hands after their race was called.
Photo Credit of the Juneau Empire
Fairbanks was full of voting fervor with the slightly contentious item of a 5%commercial pot sales taxbeing approved by a whopping 84% and the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly saw all three incumbents winning their reelection bids. Congrats Lance Roberts, Kathryn Dodge, and Van Lawrence!
The Kenai Borough Assemblyraces were won by Gary Knop (District 1), Brandii Holmdahl will replace term-limited Sue McClure’s seat for District 6, and Willy Dunne for District 9.
Nikiski was not having any of the law enforcement service area idea with a wide margin of rejection (541 against to 399 for), per the Peninsula Clarion.
KNOB reports that Nome will be getting a new mayor in Richard Beneville.
Bethel is ok (sort-of) with having a liquor store (57% yea votes), but was adamantly against having a bar (61% no votes). Over in the Assembly side of life, Mayor Rick Robb won re-election, as did Leif Albertson. They are joined by political newbies Nikki Hoffman and Alison Welch.
Over in Soldotna, the grocery tax initiativepassed with flying colors and the Soldotna City Council got back incumbent Paul Whitney (331 votes to Fred Sturman’s 218), while many feel the race between Linda Murphy (265 votes) and Dan Nelson (254) are too close to call.
The Wall Street Journal explains what the commissioned independent report on the relationship between the EPA and the anti-Pebble Mine groups means to the pending court case on this issue as well as what to expect going forward.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski is not amused with the changes the US Forest Service has made to the dock project at the Anan Wildlife Observatory near Wrangell and Ketchikan. KSTK explains the changes and why this once popular project has quickly lost its allure.
In when will the hit stop coming news: The Juneau Empire reports that the state will further cut the ferry schedule down by 32% or more specifically…four docked ferries.
In light of the fiscal crisis Alaska is facing, many legislators are calling for more budgetary cuts and setting the stage for a massive showdown for the upcoming regular Session. The Dispatch has the details on what they want to cut.
Over on Capital Hill, Senate Democrats are vowing to keep Net Neutrality waivers out of the federal government-funding bill that MUST BE PASSED by December 11, per The Hill.
A sure sign that 2016 will be unlike any previous presidential race, Gallup is pulling themselves from the presidential polling game and instead will be focusing their resources on better understanding how Americans feel about issues.
Here are some pictures of voter turnout from across the state:
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.
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.