Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

FDA allows pharmacists to substitute brand-name insulin for cheaper, ‘generic’ version

Wed, 2021-07-28 15:56

U.S. regulators took action Wednesday that will make it easier to get a cheaper, near-copy of a brand-name insulin at the drugstore.

Doctors now have to specifically prescribe what’s called a biosimilar or OK substituting it for a more expensive brand-name insulin.

Wednesday’s move by the Food and Drug Administration will allow pharmacists to automatically substitute the cheaper version, just as they do with generic pills for other kinds of drugs.

It’s the FDA’s first approval of an “interchangeable” biosimilar, a near-copy of an injected biologic medicine that’s manufactured inside living cells. It could save diabetics and health plans millions of dollars annually and encourage other drugmakers to create more biosimilar medicines. Health data firm IQVIA projects U.S. savings from increasing use of biosimilars from 2020 through 2024 will top $100 billion.

The FDA agreed that Viatris Inc.’s Semglee was interchangeable with widely used Lantus, a fast-acting insulin.

Approval of a second such interchangeable biosimilar of a long-acting insulin appears imminent from the same developers, Pittsburgh-based generic giant Viatris and its partner, India’s Biocon.

Mylan N.V., one of two companies that merged to create Viatris last December, launched Semglee in the U.S. last summer.

Red tape, lengthy patents and pushback from brand-name drugmakers have limited U.S. sales of biosimilars to far below levels in Europe.

“These products are highly similar but much more affordable,” said Sean McGowan, head of biosimilars at AmerisourceBergen, a top drug wholesaler.

Only 20 of 29 FDA-approved biosimilars — for cancer and immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis — are sold in the U.S. so far, he said.

Depending on the pharmacy, Semglee injector pens cost about $150 to $190 without insurance for a typical month’s supply, compared to $340 to $520 for the same supply of brand-name Lantus.

Anchorage Assembly approves new special assistant position

Wed, 2021-07-28 15:05

The full Anchorage Assembly listens to initial public testimony during the assembly meeting on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved creating a new position in city government, a special assistant to the Assembly. The position is designed to help with what members say is an increasing workload.

The Assembly passed the ordinance in an 8-2 vote, but with changes which included removing some language from the description of the special assistant’s powers. Those were made to assuage fears from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration that the assistant would have the ability to access his staff’s private meetings, with unrestricted access into all records and activities of the municipal government and its departments.

The administration said the ordinance as originally written would have violated the executive powers of the administration and the separation of powers.

An amendment from members John Weddleton and Felix Rivera removed language that said the assistant would have “full, free and unrestricted access” to all public records, municipal property, personnel, all activities of the government and its departments, and all policies, plans and procedures, and records pertaining to financial expenditures.

The amendment left the assistant with access to public records, without having to pay for them.

Weddleton during the meeting said he appreciates that the administration was open about their concerns with the ordinance, and that the amendment brings the position in line with the intent.

“The point that was brought up was good and this is actually more appropriate for the position,” he said.

The section removed by the amendment “caused an unfortunate amount of angst to the administration,” though the Assembly would not have been able to violate the separation of powers with the executive branch at any point, Weddleton said.

The Assembly in April set aside $150,712 to fund the position, a total which includes benefits, according to Rivera, who was chair at the time. The chair of the Assembly will hire the special assistant, whose title will be legislative liaison.

[Assembly agrees to negotiation plan on homelessness after again rejecting mass shelter proposed by Mayor Bronson]

Rivera said that he and Weddleton started a process to strengthen the Assembly branch last year.

“Politics had absolutely nothing to do with my work, because we need a strong Assembly, no matter how closely aligned the two branches of government may be,” Rivera said.

Rivera said the Assembly at one time had a budget office with full time staff member who helped with research.

“Unfortunately, this office was slashed entirely and all of its functions were moved over into the clerk’s office, and frankly the Assembly has been suffering from inadequate staffing ever since, leading to a huge imbalance in our system of governance,” Rivera said.

Still, even with the changes, some concerns over whether the position is necessary lingered. Assembly member Jamie Allard, who represents Chugiak/Eagle River, said the position is redundant.

“To create yet another government position and salary at this time is irresponsible and raises questions to the true intent of this Assembly,” Allard said. “The functions of this proposed position are already covered by the Municipal Clerk’s Office, Assembly council, ombudsman, Assembly members and their legislative aides.”

Allard said that it “creates the perception that the Assembly does not trust the new administration” and is that it is not willing to work with them.

Allard and Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who also represents Chugiak/Eagle River, voted against creating the position.

Other members disagreed, saying the assistant will help them to better perform their duties, create better policy and better communicate with the public and the administration.

Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson, former acting mayor of Anchorage, said the new position was a step in the right direction.

The mayor’s office has “a massive amount of resources, dozens of executive appointments that serve at your pleasure and do what you direct them to do, and the Assembly -- we have nothing like that,” she said.


Key Senate Democrats and Republicans appear set to clinch a $1 trillion infrastructure deal

Wed, 2021-07-28 15:04

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., right, are seated together during a luncheon with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Senate Republicans have reached a deal with Democrats over major outstanding issues in a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and say they are ready to vote to take up the bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats and Republicans took a series of critical steps Wednesday toward adopting a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s aging infrastructure, overcoming months of political deadlock on one of President Joe Biden’s signature economic policy priorities.

The day of political breakthroughs began with news of a deal, as a bipartisan bloc of 10 negotiators reached agreement around a package to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. The announcement from some of the group’s leaders, including Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., capped off a frenetic round of talks that nearly collapsed amid behind-the-scenes battles about the spending and how to pay for it.

The agreement soon paved the way for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to take the next legislative move: He announced plans to hold a key procedural vote teeing up the infrastructure measure as soon as Wednesday, which Democrats and Republicans said that they would likely support.

“I believe we have the votes,” Schumer said at a brief news conference.

The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who for years have struggled to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents have called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked roads, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually take a key step toward delivering on those promises.

The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden’s top aides have played a critical role in helping to broker the deal. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”

Yet the progress still threatened to prove politically fragile in a debate that is only just beginning. Lawmakers must still draft their legislation, which had not been written Wednesday afternoon, and calibrate it in a way to survive the narrowly divided Senate. Democrats have plenty of spending they would still like to see added to the package, while Republicans continue to harbor significant concerns about the deficit — two of many challenges that Senate dealmakers face in keeping their coalition together in the days to come.

For now, some of the Senate’s chief negotiators expressed early optimism about their prospects.

“It’s going to help with regards to our roads and our bridges and our ports and waterways, and also helps expand digital infrastructure, broadband,” Portman said at a news conference announcing the deal earlier Wednesday, adding: “It’s very popular.”

The infrastructure deal itself marks a fuller accounting of a blueprint that Senate negotiators first outlined in June. It essentially touches the whole of the U.S. economy, calling for roughly $1 trillion in spending — over half of which is new, with the rest coming from anticipated federal investments in highways and other roadways that must be adopted every few years by Congress.

The deal includes $40 billion in spending to fix bridges, for example, and $39 billion to modernize transit — a level of investment the White House on Wednesday called the largest ever in bus and transit systems. It also sets aside about $55 billion for water infrastructure, a sum that the Biden administration said would replace every lead pipe in the United States. There’s another $65 billion to build out broadband Internet access to rural areas and help those who have access to the web afford their connections. And it calls for additional amounts to upgrade sea ports, airports and waterways in need of investment.

Some of the new investments specifically seek to combat climate change and address the consequences of a warming planet. The deal sets aside $7.5 billion to create a first-ever, national network of charging stations for electric vehicles, according to the White House, on top of billions of dollars in electric buses. And it specifies $73 billion to modernize the electric grid with an additional $21 billion to address issues including pollution, hoping that sustained federal investment can help reduce emissions.

In proffering these investments, lawmakers on Wednesday insisted their plan is paid for in full, relying on a mix of changes to prescription drug rules and previously enacted coronavirus relief programs. Some of the savings come from ferreting out fraud, including in the country’s unemployment insurance program, with some funding from unrealized taxes from cryptocurrency, the White House said.

The financing mechanisms exclude tax increases on wealthy Americans or corporations, as well as greater enforcement of federal tax laws, a series of ideas that Biden and his Democratic allies sought but Republicans opposed. But it remains unclear if the funding provisions included instead would actually cover the full cost of the infrastructure deal, or if the package relies too much on potential budgetary gimmicks to obscure its deficit impact. Some Democrats and Republicans have maintained that infrastructure reforms cannot add to the deficit, even as its backers insist that the spending essentially pays for itself in the form of national economic gains.

The developments Wednesday keep the Senate on track to debate and potentially pass the infrastructure bill in the brief window before they depart for their planned August recess. Schumer announced the timeline earlier this summer, and in recent days, he had threatened to keep lawmakers in session late into the night and into the weekend to ensure they could sustain momentum and adopt a bill.

The infrastructure proposal represents a key piece of Democrats’ broader economic agenda, which also includes a second, roughly $3.5 trillion package that includes other categories of spending Biden supports. Democrats have said they expect the two proposals to move in tandem, as they seek to score a bipartisan victory for Biden while still leveraging their narrow but powerful majorities to tackle long-standing policy priorities — including expanding Medicare, combating climate change and spending new sums to help children and families.

The budget package is expected to follow after the Senate completes its work on infrastructure. Yet a new wrinkle emerged Wednesday, as Sen. Sinema — one of the architects of the public-works spending deal — said she would not support as much as $3.5 trillion in spending. Sinema said she would only vote to begin the process known as reconciliation, which will allow Democrats to bypass what is likely to be overwhelming GOP opposition to their plans.

Republicans reaffirmed that opposition on Wednesday, blasting Democrats for their still-forming reconciliation package. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, one of the chief architects of the infrastructure deal, compared the bipartisan deal he helped broker with the $3.5 trillion proposal Democrats plan to push.

“One I love, this bill — the other, I can’t stand,” he said.

The announcement of a deal Wednesday marked only the latest twist in tense Senate talks that at times have teetered on the precipice of collapse. Only a week ago, Republicans voted unanimously to block the Senate from even starting debate on the bill, saying they were uncomfortable with proceeding given the scope of disagreements that remained. But lawmakers kept huddling in late-night meetings and hours-long Zoom calls, leaving some negotiators impatient at first — but pleased with the proposal they outlined on Wednesday.

“This has taken a long time, longer than any of us expected,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, one of the deal’s negotiators. “I think the country is yearning to see Congress actually function.”

Alaska’s cockpit standoff and the need to land the plane

Wed, 2021-07-28 14:59

The Alaska Capitol in Juneau, photographed on January 16, 2017. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News) (Alaska Dispatch News/)

The Alaska Legislature has created a Comprehensive Fiscal Plan Working Group to produce a fiscal plan before the Legislature convenes again in a special session currently set to start Aug. 2. Unusually, this informal joint committee includes equal representation from each caucus in the House and the Senate.  Depressingly, there is a substantial chance that the Legislature will either do nothing or something very short-term this year.

Either outcome would be unacceptable. It is difficult to solve the State of Alaska’s yawning structural deficit, and it is also urgent to do so.

It’s hard to come up with a fiscal fix, largely because Alaska appears to have the nation’s most complicated fiscal politics. The fiscal policy here in the Great Land is pretty complicated by itself. The law that the Legislature adopted in 2018 to spend Permanent Fund earnings sustainably in the budget is a novel — and little-understood — concept for a state government. That legal change three years ago created a system called Percent of Market Value (POMV). Under the POMV system, Permanent Fund earnings now provide more than 60% of the State of Alaska’s revenues — making Alaska more of an endowment state than an oil state. The details of oil taxes are complex as well.

But it’s the politics of paying for what the State of Alaska does that are really complicated.

In every other state, deciding how to pay for the budget is basically like a two-sided wrestling match between people who mostly see themselves as budget beneficiaries and people who mostly view themselves as taxpayers.

In Alaska, by contrast, it’s all different. The Permanent Fund dividend, the Permanent Fund and oil taxes combine to make it much weirder on the Last Frontier. In Alaska, fiscal politics resemble a movie scene where five people are pointing guns at each other in the cockpit of an airplane—and the airplane is running out of fuel. Instead of a straightforward two-wrestler match, Alaska has a hopped-up cross of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Snakes on a Plane.”

As is usually true in politics, the people with guns in the cockpit are defined by what they fear the most. Let’s go through them one by one — and put a face on each person holding a gun.

One person pointing pistols is someone who most fears additional cuts to the conventional budget. Think of a parent activist in Great Alaska Schools concerned about the education of that parent’s children, given that the State of Alaska pays close to 75% of the total costs of K-12 education in Alaska and K-12 spending is more than one-fifth of the state budget.

The second person with guns up is someone who most fears the restoration of broad-based taxes in Alaska, particularly a graduated personal income tax like our state had from 1949 to 1980. That second person might be a surgeon — I’ve met one who made $5.5 million in net income from work in our state in one year, without paying a penny of broad-based taxes to the State of Alaska.

The third person holding guns is someone most afraid of more cuts to Permanent Fund dividends from what they would be under the dividend formula created in the 1980s. That person could be lower-income and happy about how dividends help pay the bills.

The fourth person with handguns out is someone most afraid of increased taxes on the oil industry. Think of an oil company executive — or maybe an oilfield worker — here.

And the fifth person pointing guns at the others is someone most concerned about the Legislature overdrawing from the Permanent Fund earnings so that there is less money to pay for what the State of Alaska’s government does in the future. This person probably plans to live in Alaska a long time and counts on there being good roads and public safety in 2041 as well as in 2021.

So if it seems like Alaska’s fiscal politics are unusually paralyzed, all those gun-pointers in the cockpit help explain why.

The reason that the cockpit standoff wasn’t a problem before the last seven years or so is that the plane used giant wads of oil money for fuel without much need for choices among the diverse collection of passengers. For about 35 years — starting around 1980 — the State of Alaska essentially paid the bills with the big annual revenues from oil taxes and oil royalties. But that system stopped working due to the combination of declines in Alaska oil production, drops in world oil prices and a new oil tax system.  Unless oil prices shoot up — and, crucially, stay up — well above recent highs, that old world of oil money financing the State of Alaska is not coming back.

The State of Alaska has responded to the dramatic fall in oil revenues since 2014 by spending most of its savings outside the Permanent Fund as well as by cutting spending to a level below that seen in the 1970s after adjusting for population growth and inflation. (The calculations in this piece are based on Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) dollars, the most common definition of the budget in Alaska.)

I have set out in detail elsewhere my comprehensive proposal for fixing our state’s structural deficit. Briefly, I favor amending the Alaska Constitution to include the POMV system and guarantee the dividend at a sustainable level; the reinstatement of broad-based taxes focusing on higher-income Alaska residents and nonresidents (which means that I prefer the personal income tax over a statewide general sales tax); a moderate increase in taxes on the oil industry; and a continued emphasis on searching for efficiencies in the budget (while recognizing that the budget might need to go up in certain areas, such as the capital budget).

Your opinions may differ, and I am always willing to discuss potential solutions with Alaskans. Getting to an agreement on a long-term fiscal fix is tough in Alaska, mostly for the reasons laid out above. What is completely unacceptable, however, is going with no or little action over and over. Folks, let’s put down the guns, go big and get creative, and land this aircraft safely.

Cliff Groh has studied Alaska’s fiscal system over the past four decades, and his work has included service as the legislative assistant who worked by far the most to develop and get passed in 1982 the bill that created the Permanent Fund dividend. He plans to go to Juneau for the next special session on the big-picture fiscal issues.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Anchorage entrepreneur’s Baby Vend machines will expand into more states this fall

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:54

A Baby Vend machine dispensing baby supplies is located near the C1 and C2 gates at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Entrepreneur Jasmin Smith’s business idea came to her in 2016 after she ran out of diapers while shopping at the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall with her then-infant twins.

Five years later, Smith — founder and CEO of Baby Vend, a network of vending machines equipped with baby supplies in Alaska and beyond — plans to expand to include 10 states and 23 cities this fall.

Her twins stay involved too. She’s given the 6-year-olds unofficial titles of CKO, or chief kid officer.

“Sometimes (my twins) go with me to restock the machines, especially right now during the summer. Other times, my daughter and my son bring me random supplies and say, ‘Look, Mommy, this could go in your vending machine.’”

There are now machines in Alaska, Florida and Georgia, with more on the way for Arizona, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Washington.

When Baby Vend took off, Smith wasn’t in a place to support so much expansion, she said. Now that she has a solid manufacturer, distribution center and team, she feels confident in delivering on the hundreds of requests the business has received.

Baby Vend’s first contract was with Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in 2019. Since then, Smith has added machines across the state, including at the Anchorage Museum, the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall and the Dimond Center.


Jasmin Smith, CEO of Baby Vend, stands in front of the baby supply vending machine located along the walkway at the C gates in the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Part of the expansion this fall will bring Baby Vend machines to the Alaska State Fair and the Fairbanks Children’s Museum, and to locations as far away as Miami.

In addition to Baby Vend, Smith founded Umoja Coworking in 2020, a coworking space in Mountain View. She also runs The Business Boutique, a business development consulting firm she began in 2009.

[Open & Shut: A bike apparel boutique for women and a late-night diner open, while the Bradley House and a taco truck end their run]

The new locations will also include new machines that are cashless and can read QR codes, Smith said. The machines already on the market, which include some in-state and out-of-state locations, will be switched out too.

“The big difference is the new machine is very touch-screen centered. ... You can’t see the products, you just see high-resolution photos,” Smith said.

Smith doesn’t own all the machines being added to the market this fall. People can buy their own machine and begin a business venture of their own, she said, or they can become machine operators.

She receives questions daily from people asking how to operate or purchase their own Baby Vend machine.

“We always had a dream to let other people own our machines and buy them — and we just provide support, startup support, training support, help (to get) the products that they need,” she said.

Baby Vend is currently fundraising on WeFunder with a valuation cap of $1.88 million.


Baby supplies line shelves inside a Baby Vend machine at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Letter: Bad mask analogy

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:29

I think it’s safe to say all of us would like to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. The increased transmissibility of the delta variant makes risk reduction even more important. It’s also safe to say that most of us agree that wearing a mask reduces the risk of transmitting and to some degree catching COVID-19.

Therefore, it mystifies me that Mayor Dave Bronson’s choice for director of the Anchorage Health Department David Morgan was quoted in the Anchorage Daily News saying “If you want to wear a mask, that’s fine. If you don’t want to wear a mask, that’s fine. Some people wear a tie and suit to work, like I do, and some don’t.”

Whether or not Mr. Morgan or anyone else wears a tie and suit to work or not does not affect the health of others. Mask wearing does. The analogy is just plain wrong. The role of a health director is to protect people’s health and, like it or not, wearing a mask indoors in public buildings provides protection. How you choose to dress is completely irrelevant.

Susan Soule

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

ZZ Top’s bearded bassist, Dusty Hill, has died at age 72

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:27

FILE - Dusty Hill, of ZZ Top, performs before the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race in Concord, N.C., May 24, 2015. ZZ Top has announced that Hill, one of the Texas blues trio's bearded figures and bassist, has died at his Houston home. He was 72. In a Facebook post, bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard revealed Wednesday, July 29, 2021, that Hill had died in his sleep. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File) (Mike McCarn/)

HOUSTON — ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, one of the Texas blues rock trio’s bearded front men, died at his Houston home, the band announced Wednesday. He was 72.

In their Facebook post, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard said Hill died in his sleep. They didn’t give a cause of death, but a July 21 post on the band’s website said Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue.”

At that time, the band said its longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, would fill in on bass, slide guitar and harmonica.

Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, he, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in 1969. The band released its first album, titled “ZZ Top’s First Album,” in 1970. Three years later it scored its breakthrough hit, “La Grange,” which is an ode to the Chicken Ranch, a notorious brothel outside of a Texas town by that name.

The band went on to chart the hits “Tush” in 1975, “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’” in 1983, and “Rough Boy” and “Sleeping Bag” in 1985.


FILE - Dusty Hill, left, and Billy Gibbons from U.S rock band ZZ Top perform at the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, England, June 24, 2016. ZZ Top has announced that Hill, one of the Texas blues trio's bearded figures and bassist, has died at his Houston home. He was 72. In a Facebook post, bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard revealed Wednesday, July 29, 2021, that Hill had died in his sleep. (Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP, File) (Jonathan Short/)

The band’s 1976 “Worldwide Texas Tour,” with its iconic Texas-shaped stage festooned with cactuses, snakes and longhorn cattle, was one of the decade’s most successful rock tours.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Said Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards in introducing the band to the Hall: “These cats are steeped in the blues, so am I. These cats know their blues and they know how to dress it up. When I first saw them, I thought, ‘I hope these guys are not on the run, because that disguise is not going to work.’”

That look — with all three members wearing dark sunglasses and the two frontmen sporting long, wispy beards — became so iconic as to be the subject of a New Yorker cartoon and a joke on “The Simpsons.”

Letter: Campaign violations

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:26

In the article detailing Mayor Dave Bronson’s campaign finance violations in the recent election, we are reminded that there are many ways to commit actual election fraud.

Tom Johnston

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Canada border policy

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:24

Everyone is excited about the pending opening of the Canadian border. Bad news, the trip is one way: You can go to Canada, but the American border is closed. So, you can go from the U.S. to Canada, but can’t come back.

— Gary Dailey

Kenai

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Motorcycle noise

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:21

First off, I would like to thank the ADN for having this platform. It’s great to be able to submit topics for others to ponder.

With beautiful summer weather comes motorcycles. Now let me preface this by saying I have owned two. I am not anti-motorcycle by any means.

I used to love the feeling of riding around with the wind and sun on my face. The pure freedom was awesome.

My issue is with the super loud exhausts. It is, by definition, noise pollution. When I was a child, I would place playing cards on my bicycle forks to make my pedal bike sound loud. Now, I grew out of that when I turned 12!

I wonder how those who have these obnoxiously loud exhausts would feel if I came by their home as they slept and fired it up. Of maybe they just got their child to bed and the noise from an unnecessarily loud exhaust woke their child. The proverbial list goes on and on.

I have emailed the chief of the Anchorage Police Department, begging officers to ticket the offenders who have exhausts that far surpass decibel limitations. This applies to not only motorcycles, but motor vehicles with exhausts that are way past the legal dB limit.

I am requesting those who feel the same way to reach out to APD in a professional manner to request that those offenders be ticketed.

To reiterate, I am not anti-motorcycle. I am anti-noise pollution.

— Christopher McIntosh

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Byers Lake maintenance

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:18

I have always enjoyed Mr. Bill Sherwonit’s opinions. I met Mr. Sherwonit many years ago, early in his career, at McNeil River Bear Sanctuary. It was obvious then he had a good feel for Alaska’s wilderness.

Byers Lake has been a favorite since the 1970s. I often walked around the lake then, and did so again two years ago. Yes, the trail and bridge need work. As it was, the state parks department was very busy removing the dead trees from the campground, which was closed, as a safety precaution. That was a lot of trees and a horrendous amount of work.

As it was, about 15 years ago, a friend and I decided to see what the K’esugi Ridge looked like and hike the trail up there. At that time there was a rickety bridge over the inlet river. It was a steep hike, but oh my, beautiful tundra country with many kettle lakes. The next time, the bridge was out and we had to walk around the lake, which made it most difficult for me at that time, in my 70s. I frequently get up there, and another bridge was put in, but that too proved short-lived, so I was delighted to find that solid metal bridge a couple years ago. And the trail up the mountain has been rebuilt, so us older folks can get up there too, with wonderful switchbacks. I suspect that is the area Sherwonit found well-built; it is very popular because of the waterfalls that many campers like to see.

Because Byers Lake campground was closed, I did stay at the beautiful new campground called K’esugi Ken. It was well-built, lots of trails and even one up to Curry Ridge that an old lady like me could hike up not once, but twice. While there I asked the ranger about that new bridge at Byers Lake, how they got it up there; he said they waited for the lake to freeze and then had a vehicle drive it up. I hope they do the same with that awful south bridge too. I am surprised it is still standing.

I am not ready to take the parks department to task for neglect, I do believe they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. That was a huge amount of dead trees to remove, and I am sure it was a several-year process.

I’m loving the summer, hope you all do too.

— Milli Martin

Homer

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Vaccine policy

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:12

I was in fourth grade at Denali Elementary School in Fairbanks in 1954-1955 and we (the students) got mandatory Salk vaccine shots for polio. There was some polio going round in Fairbanks the previous year, I believe; my younger sister Patty confirmed this. A parent could opt out, I think with a letter, but otherwise, school officials took us out and lined us up in a line going through the nurse’s office. I was scared of shots! That is why I vividly remember the process.

Another thought on vaccine mandates: There never was a choice in the military! When you were inducted, you had no choice; you would get a full battery of different shots. When did this policy change (for both schools and the military)?

— Mike Scanlan

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Set an example, APOC

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:06

As a candidate for mayor, Dave Bronson clearly had the money to hire someone who could do Alaska Public Offices Commission reports correctly. So either he doesn’t know how to hire people with the right experience — so far, this seems like it could be a pattern — or he willfully misled the public. If a substantial penalty doesn’t stand, this type of deception will become the norm: Just add the fines for hiding your spending and filing reports way after the deadline as line-item expenses for winning an election.

— Emily Becker

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Oil isn’t the future

Wed, 2021-07-28 12:02

Folks, it is time to admit: Alaska is no longer an oil state. Need proof? When oil prices crashed last decade and oil revenues quit funding state government, the oil industry told state leaders that the oil tax passed by Gov. Sarah Palin — ACES — was too high. They promised that if we would only cut taxes, they would produce more oil and create more jobs, thus creating more revenue for Alaska. They said that tax credits on new oil would incentivize new production and create more jobs and revenue. The Legislature complied by passing SB 21 which cut taxes by more than $1 billion per year and created huge tax credits on new oil production. How has that worked out?

Revenue for Alaska and jobs for Alaskans has fallen off a cliff, while oil production has continued to decline. In 2014, employment in oil and gas peaked at an average of 14,800 jobs. By June 2019, it was down to 11,000 jobs, June 2020, 7,100 jobs, and June of this year, 6,200 jobs. That is fewer than half the jobs that existed when the promise to increase employment was made. Meanwhile, oil tax credits that we literally can’t afford — we owe the industry billions — cancel any taxes that we do collect. If it were not for the royalties that we collect, we would be paying to have our oil extracted. We can’t even fund a decent budget. Another promise broken.

While the Earth is feeling the sting of climate change and the demand for fossil fuels declines worldwide, Alaska’s elected leaders continue to hope oil prices will rebound and that more oil will soon fill the pipeline. Dream on. They can’t even fund a decent Permanent Fund dividend. With this kind of leadership, is it any wonder that our adult kids leave Alaska to make their future elsewhere?

While oil will continue to play a significant role in Alaska’s economy, it is time to admit that it is not our future. Leaders who prostrate themselves to Big Oil are yesterday’s news. Voters need to ask candidates what will fund our future. If they answer “oil,” then find a new candidate. Our kids know that oil isn’t Alaska’s future. If you don’t want to fly Outside to visit your children, then vote for a future beyond petroleum. By the way, oil will never be produced from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Get over it.

— John Farleigh

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Thanks, Dr. Fauci

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:56

I want to give a shoutout to Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control for keeping us up-to-date on the pandemic. Thank you, Dr. Fauci!

— Spruce Lynch

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Nurse negotiations

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:52

As this paper has been made aware through previous letters to the editor, Providence Alaska Medical Center nurses are in continued negotiations with administration. This has been going on for roughly four months, and has progressed minimally. This week, the union is meeting with administrators with the assistance of a mediator due to a lack of flexibility to meet requests from the union representation of the PAMC nurses to improve patient safety by improving the ability to retain experienced nurses.

Most Alaskans are aware that Providence is the only medical facility in the state that manages to provide many complex medical treatments and procedures. The ability of Providence to retain experienced nurses over the past few years is practically nonexistent due to the staff feeling like their efforts to provide the best patient care means less than the increasingly importance of profits at this “nonprofit” organization. Staff has already had the ability to donate paid time off revoked, along with continued proposals of forced PTO cash-outs at a measly percentage. This has caused undue duress for nurses who have been out due to prolonged illness or injury, and nurses who had intended to retire in the near future. This is just one instance of how Providence has demonstrated that the bottom line is about the dollar and not about supporting the needs of their staff and the patients.

Throughout the pandemic nurses were on the front line, and in Alaska it was nowhere more so than at PAMC. These staff members put not only their own health and lives at risk, but also of their families and loved ones. Administrators have posted signs around stating “heroes work here” and offered letters of praise to staff, but when it’s time for action, they are insulting and hindering nurses from being able to do their job to their abilities. They make nurses feel guilt or fear when they are not able to get their breaks or when they speak out against unsafe practices. We need the public’s support in demanding that Providence meet demands that improve retention of experienced nurses, and therefore the improved care and treatment of you or your loved one when next you need these nurses.

— Britney Robinson, RN

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Mask misunderstanding

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:49

Feeling conflicted about how you, a vaccinated person, are perceived when you wear a mask in public? I was, until I added a stick-on badge to my shirt that says: “Vaccinated but concerned.”

— Jon Sharpe

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Has Flattop been forgotten?

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:47

I hike Flattop Mountain 30-40 times per year. We are old friends. I remember being excited when the trail was improved and the stairs were built. Sadly, the stairs have eroded so badly the past few years that portions are now an obstacle rather than a way up. The middle stairs are actually dangerous. Some sections are just railroad ties suspended in the air on their spindley rebar anchors. They are broken ankles waiting to happen. The stairs themselves are perfect examples of what works and doesn’t work. The lower section has risers bolted on each side of the steps, and they are still viable. Those sections with cross-members along each side have mostly remained usable. Only the sections where the steps are not interlocked are completely failing.

In the past 10 years, I have never seen a park employee along the trail, nor have I seen trail upkeep taking place. Only once have I met an employee in the parking lot. I asked him why the trail was allowed to fall into such disrepair. He laughed and said they had a real predicament. He said the trail was so busy they couldn’t find time to work on it. Sheesh. I pointed out that Lake Otis Parkway and Tudor Road could never have been upgraded if that logic were true. I can think of about six methods to work around trail traffic.

I am just astonished that the busiest hiking trail in Alaska gets so little attention. If the state park service needs money, all they have to do is start collecting it. I have never seen a ticket on a windshield in the parking lot, yet few people buy the parking pass. You can walk by entire rows of parked cars without seeing a single pay stub on their dash. Those parking lots should be bringing in thousands of dollars a day. It is common for them to be overflowing with cars.

When you search the internet for things to do in Anchorage, the number one suggestion is to climb Flattop. I meet people from all over the world up there. Yes, the view is wonderful, but the journey up could be wonderful, too. We could have a showpiece of a trail, something that visitors rave about. How ‘bout we do that with the busiest trail in Alaska, rather than nothing?

— Hank Brinker

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Support me, and Pebble too

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:45

This is Huhnkie Lee again, running for U.S. Senate in 2022 as an independent Alaskan.

So. I’m pro-Pebble. I understand why you may disapprove. But please, allow me to prove to ya that Pebble is good.

You may have heard and read that Pebble will kill salmon. I say that is a lie. I don’t think a single salmon would die from Pebble. What if I tell ya, Pebble won’t kill salmon, but Pebble will save people instead?

You may have seen the ugly picture of a decommissioned open-pit mining site that anti-Pebble people posted online.

My advice? Don’t look at it. Don’t even think about it. All you need to think about is the revenue windfall that Pebble will bring you, Alaskans.

So what will we do with all that money? We’ll lower taxes. We shall shall educate and train the criminals, the homeless, the drug addicts, so they learn how to study, how to work, and how to pursue happiness legally.

Ladies and gentlemen, we shall save Alaskan lives.

— Huhnkie Lee

Wasilla

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: COVID-19 variants

Wed, 2021-07-28 11:29

It took about a year and a half for the COVID-19 virus to mutate into a much stronger version, spreading six times as much than the original. It is now known as the delta variant, and it isn’t about to stop at that. Delta is scary enough that even some anti-vaccine politicians and newscasters are now telling people to get the vaccine.

In another two years, possibly sooner, the delta variant will mutate into another version, potentially even stronger. Maybe then folks will realize who was spreading the fake news. This latest version won’t go away when it gets warmer, either.

— David Ulmer

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Pages