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Best help for homeless: Housing first

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:05

Should Brother Francis Shelter and Bean's Café be fined like slumlords for excessive police and fire calls to their properties?

The answer is in the question. These outfits are not slumlords. They comprise the people on the front line of care for the poorest among us. They are the emergency room of food and shelter for people many of us cross the street to avoid.

Assembly members Dick Traini and Amy Demboski have proposed an ordinance that would subject the social service providers to fines for too many police, fire and EMT calls to their properties. Their proposal is a response to violence at the Third Avenue locations of Brother Francis and Bean's.

Traini said he intended the proposal as a conversation starter.

Starter? The conversation about the homeless  in Anchorage has been going on for decades. People dying of exposure here accelerated the founding of the Brother Francis Shelter in 1982. Bean's Café opened in 1979 to feed the chronically hungry and homeless, seasonal workers in need and those just temporarily down on their luck, all without discrimination.

Brother Francis and Bean's are not the only shelters and kitchens in town, but they are the most visible — and recently have endured a profile raised not by their good works but by bad behavior around them, and the resultant protest by neighbors.

Hence the Traini/Demboski proposal.

The Assembly members have a point. Emergency medical, fire and police calls cost money, and when such calls become chronic the community pays a steeper price — and other calls may go unanswered. And all of our streets, from Third Avenue to Rabbit Creek Road, should be safe.

But rather than slap fines on those who comfort the afflicted, their energy would be better spent on long-term solutions based on the "housing first" principle that other cities have adopted and that the United Way, municipality and the Anchorage Coalition on the Homeless are working on here.

The coalition has a list of the homeless — not a survey of numbers, but about 850 names, people who have given their permission to be on the list, with some information about their history, condition and needs. The idea is to get them with a case manager who can help them get into housing as soon as possible and then navigate the services that both private and public agencies provide — tailored to their needs. The goal is not to put people through programs, but swiftly connect people to services they need.

"Some people simply need bus tokens, laundry and a month's rent," Michele Brown, CEO of United Way of Anchorage, said. Others require treatment for addictions, mental illness or other services, and the chronically inebriated may be best off in housing like Karluk Manor, where a structured facility improves their lot and cuts costs and problems for the community as well.

Brown said the idea is to have case managers work with people for up to a year as needed.

The system isn't working in an ideal fashion yet, she said, and it's too early to count success, but she's optimistic, given the number of dedicated people willing to help and the realization that help needs to be specific to a person's needs.

"We need to do more than make homelessness a little less miserable on a day-to-day basis," she said. The idea, she said, is to change the landscape, and that can only happen when the community pulls together — emergency responders, law enforcers, social service agencies, church groups, individual volunteers, landlords, mentors. And the first step is to help people find a place to rest their heads that isn't a doorway, a pocket park or a shelter mat.

"We can help people turn their lives around," she said. "And it all starts with having a home." Brown suggests reflecting on what home means to those of us fortunate enough to have them, particularly during the holidays. "You can't thrive without a base like that."

We'll always need the bottom-line kindness of places like Bean's and Brother Francis;  better an Assembly resolution of thanks than a threat to their budgets.

But the long-term work that will make the greatest difference is what the city, the coalition and United Way are doing now. The goal isn't to herd the homeless; the goal is to unify the dedicated people who have the will and the means to help, and connect them with those who need to find their way home.

We'll give Mr. Traini this – he's spurred more conversation, even as his distraction of an ordinance goes nowhere.

BOTTOM LINE: Housing first and help tailored to individual needs is the investment that can pay in fewer homeless people and a healthier community.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for staying with us

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:04

One of the reasons the Anchorage Daily News has reason for gratitude this Thanksgiving is survival. This year has been a rough passage, with no guarantees that we'd stay in business. There were days in August and September when many of us wondered if the newspaper would be around for October, let alone Thanksgiving.

We're still here. We're leaner, having had to say goodbye to many good friends and colleagues as the staff was cut. But we're still here, still publishing, and we aim to continue.

So we'd like to thank all of you who subscribe, read, comment, write, advertise and in other ways support us. We'd especially like to thank those of you who have stuck with us through thick, thin and those days on the bubble. And we thank those of you who have offered kind words and encouragement to carry on. That's sustenance.

We hope you're warm and well on this day, in good company of family and friends. Keep the candles burning, and keep in touch.

Suit says Fairbanks Four man was wrongly convicted and jailed for 18 years

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 14:00

He was high school valedictorian before he became one of the Fairbanks Four convicted in the 1997 beating death of 15-year-old John Hartman.

Now Marvin Roberts is suing the city of Fairbanks and various police officers in federal court over what he calls a wrongful conviction and, for 18 years, wrongful imprisonment.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. It contends Roberts was deprived of basic rights, including the right to a fair trial by a police department in turmoil.

The city of Fairbanks hadn't yet seen the lawsuit and wasn't prepared to comment on it, said spokeswoman Teal Soden.

"A lot has happened in the last few years," she said. The current chief, Eric Jewkes, came up through the ranks before being named chief about a year ago. The department is understaffed but he is doing an excellent job, she said.

Two years ago, Roberts was already out of prison when he and the other three — George Frese, Eugene Vent and Kevin Pease — signed a settlement with the state and the city of Fairbanks over their convictions. The government didn't admit any wrongdoing in the deal, but it set the three men free and erased the murder convictions of all four.

The four, including Roberts, also agreed not to sue. Roberts' attorney, Mike Kramer, on Friday said that part of the settlement should be thrown out.

"We will ask the federal judge to invalidate the release of liability to the city because Marvin was under extreme duress," Kramer said in an email. "That type of agreement, to release innocent men from captivity only if they promise not to sue, is abhorrent to government's duty to its citizens and against public policy."

If Roberts didn't sign the agreement, the other three would remain imprisoned, the new lawsuit says.

[With new suspects eyed, Fairbanks Four await word on freedom, fresh start]

Roberts was 19, a wildland firefighter, and just back from a moose hunt with his father when Hartman was killed in 1997, the suit said. He turned 40 last month. He is trying to rebuild a life that he says was stolen.

The lawsuit says the Fairbanks Police Department pressured a witness, Arlo Olson, to lie about what he saw the night of Hartman's death related to a separate attack. That information was used to put the Fairbanks Four together. Olson died in June in a jail suicide.

Police framed Roberts, the suit asserts, because of race. Hartman was white. Roberts and two of the other Fairbanks Four are Alaska Native; Pease is Native American.

The Fairbanks Police Department had no Alaska Native officers in 1997, and still doesn't, the suit says.

The suit says police failed to act on evidence of other killers. Another man, Bill Holmes, says his group was carousing in Fairbanks the night of Hartman's death and was responsible. Another in that group, Jason Wallace, told of the killing to others, including a man who relayed it to police in 2008, the suit said. But police didn't follow up on what they were told Wallace said, according to the suit.

Holmes' admissions to a prison guard were forwarded to Fairbanks police in 2011, but the information stayed hidden for years, the suit said.

Roberts expected the convictions to be set aside once the judge ruled on the new evidence presented at the 2015 hearing. But that could have taken months and the state might have appealed. He was told the only way the other three would get out of prison before Christmas that year was for him to sign the settlement.

"Marvin's signature on the release dismissal agreement was as coerced and involuntary as someone paying a ransom to a kidnapper," the suit said.

[Fairbanks Four released from prison under settlement with the state]

The suit describes turmoil within the Fairbanks Police Department at the time leading up to Hartman's murder. The mayor was Jim Hayes, later convicted of illegally diverting government funds from a nonprofit for his personal use and to build a Fairbanks church. The head of public safety, Mike Pulice, once told the city council that he "operated in a gray area," according to the suit.

"The Fairbanks City Council in 1996 and 1997 was trying to put out one fire after another in the FPD caused by inept management, poor leadership, financial malfeasance, nepotism, sexual misconduct, and rampant corruption," the suit said.

The city used Hartman's murder, the suit says, to divert attention from the troubles.

"The police department was under enormous pressure to make an arrest and secure a conviction, by any means available," the suit said.

Roberts is seeking unspecified compensation including punitive damages.

Alaska’s economy is still struggling, but the worst may have passed

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 13:21

At CRW Engineering Group in Anchorage, managing partner Mike Rabe said his firm has been scrambling for work.

The projects available to chase the last couple of years have been on the small side, he said, often focused more on maintenance and improvements rather than entirely new ventures.

"We've had to work harder than ever. Competition is high and there's not a lot of work out there," Rabe said.

As a result, his firm spends more money and time up front to become more knowledgeable about the projects it tries to win. There haven't been layoffs, Rabe said, but profits are down.

About two years into Alaska's recession, many businesses are still feeling the pain. Almost every industry continues to lose jobs, according to preliminary job estimates from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. But the state's over-the-year job losses have gradually slowed this year, and some economists cautiously say that the worst hit of the current downturn may have already passed.

"I think the major job cuts are behind us," said Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. "It's just that the new normal is going to be somewhere between 10,000 (and) 15,000 jobs fewer than where we were at in 2014."

[How bad is Alaska's recession? Economists call it 'moderate' so far.]

Alaska's current recession started in the last quarter of 2015, amid tumbling oil prices and a state budget deficit.

"There's a good chance it's easing up," said economist Neal Fried of the state labor department.

Based on data economists have so far this year, job losses seem to have slowed in some of the hardest-hit industries: oil and gas, construction, and professional and business services (which includes law firms, engineering firms, advertising agencies and more). The most significant decline of the downturn was in the fall of 2016, when Alaska saw a 2.6 percent job loss, according to the labor department.

Projecting jobs numbers can be tricky, and preliminary estimates from the labor department can later get revised. At the beginning of this year, the state said job losses in 2017 could be worse than last year's.

"It's really hard to say. The downfall of economists is, we just need more data. It's tricky to tell where we are right now," said Karinne Wiebold, another labor department economist. "There's reason to believe if '17 is better than '16, '18 might be better than '17. But that's all really speculative and can change."

The state lost about 6,500 jobs last year, and continues to shed them. In October, employment in the state was down about 1.3 percent (about 4,100 jobs) compared to the same month last year, according to the labor department. Oil and gas jobs were down 7.8 percent, and construction jobs were down 7.2 percent. Health care is the rare sector that has seen job growth, at 2 percent in October.

Big losses in the oil patch and state government last year have since rippled through other sectors of the economy.

"I think we are still seeing the 'multiplier' effect of that initial wave of job losses, the one that hit oil and gas hard and state government and construction," said Guettabi. "I think as expected, it spread away from those sectors, into ones that are more dependent on household spending."

[Is Alaska headed toward another 1980s-style recession?]

From his perspective at CRW, Rabe said he hasn't noticed any discernible improvement in business this year compared to last year.

Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., said that while the state isn't out of the woods yet, he hears chatter in the business community that the decline seems to be softening.

"There was a legitimate fear: 'Is this going to be the '80s again?'" he said, referring to Alaska's huge crash — also closely tied to oil prices — in 1986. "And now what we're starting to see is the realization that while painful, the recession is not quite the end-of-the-world recession that some feared it would be."

October was the 25th consecutive month of job losses in Alaska, according to the state labor department. That's how many months of job losses Alaska saw during the 1980s recession, though the magnitude of the damage was much larger then.

At Mammoth Music, the shop on Fifth Avenue in Anchorage that sells guitars and other instruments, the downturn is just one more challenge on top of a yearslong battle against the internet.

"From my perspective, it's just further exacerbating the problem we're having with online sales, specifically Amazon," said owner Forrest Jackson. "It's kind of like a double whammy."

For every guitar his shop sells locally, he estimates Amazon is probably selling about 20 to 30, and he's planning to launch a delivery service to compete with that.

[Shop Talk: In a recession, Skinny Raven rethinks how to measure success]

Some businesses that target lower prices are faring well. At Anchorage retailer Dollar Zone, co-owner Deb Parker said sales have continued to increase. Sales are also up at the used outdoor clothing and gear store the Hoarding Marmot, said owner Dana Drummond.

"I think people are generally happier to pay less for something that is going to work just as well as something new," he said. The Hoarding Marmot is in a unique position because it's nearly 3 years old: Most of its life has been during the recession.

"We do see people from the oil and gas industry who are maybe expensive for the company and they've taken an early retirement — we see a lot of people trying to sell the insulated workwear," Drummond said.

Anchorage restaurant Roscoe's Soul Food has become so hard-pressed to get people in the door that it recently made a desperate plea on Facebook, telling followers, "We need you to survive! As we are trying very hard to stay afloat."

"It's very, very slow," said manager Roscoe Wyche III. "Now that the tourists have left, we're looking to local support."

Alaska USA Federal Credit Union has seen an uptick on collections for car loans, said senior vice president of corporate administration Dan McCue, but nothing he would call alarming.

"It's not like there's a big spike," he said. "It's not like the '80s."

Popp, at AEDC, said he's heard from retailers and big landlords that spending in general is down, though that's impossible to measure without a sales tax in Anchorage.

"Until (the Legislature) gets their act together and gives us clarity on what the picture is going forward on state government and state taxes," Popp said, "I think we are still at risk of seeing this recession continue to stretch."

In November, state lawmakers ended a special session without taking action on a tax proposal aimed at closing the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

Typically, Fried said, economists determine the end of a recession by when the job losses end or become marginal.

But, he added, "the end of a recession and recovery are two different things."

Liberalism is neither a defect nor a stranger to Alaska

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 13:14

I have to say, it's often a wonderful thing to have folks quote lines back to me that I've written in this paper. It seems most often they are quips or parables from Pop Moore, but sometime they are little turns of phrase that come back to me. It's a nice confirmation that you, dear reader, take some of this beyond your Sunday morning coffee time.

A particular line from a columnist that ran last week has been stuck in my head, but not in a good way.

"Liberalism is, after all, a genetic defect," he wrote.

I don't remember much else about the column, other than the writer has a liberal friend who he thinks is defective.

Oh, I thought of lots of snarky responses. You know, like if liberalism was a defect that could be detected in the first trimester of pregnancy, you'd be damn sure the conservatives would put it as a caveat in their list of exceptions to an abortion ban.  "Incest, Rape, Life of the Mother, and, it's a Liberal!" Oh, but you don't have to look further than Ronald Reagan's kids to know conservatism isn't passed on. (The one conservative Reagan is adopted. See, it doesn't work.) Goodness sakes! Is this genetic condition covered or will it have to be considered a pre-existing condition?

[Tough week for liberals: Gun control still dead, pope still Catholic]

It's bugging me. I'm a liberal. I assure you it isn't genetic, but may have to do with reading all those red words during Mr. Harris' Sunday school class. Just a guess.

I know I should feel like an endangered species in Alaska, but I don't. I know what principles and beliefs have worked here for years, and I know that I stand on many shoulders.

In 1922, a Tlingit Chief, Charlie Jones, was jailed for voting. His protest gave way to Alaska Natives getting the right to vote two years before Native Americans. In 1944, years before the civil rights movement in the states, Alberta Schenck, a Native woman, refused to budge from her seat in the "Whites Only" section of a movie theater in Nome. She was dragged out and jailed. Schenck was Alaska's Rosa Parks. Because of her bravery and the moving testimony of Elizabeth Peratrovich, on Feb. 16, 1945, Territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening signed an anti-discrimination law. Against the argument that the law would not eliminate discrimination, Peratrovich said, "Do your laws against larceny and even murder eliminate those crimes?"

The liberal history of Alaska is constantly buried under "new" waves of oil workers and rapture watchers. McChurches promise to Super Size your Jesus. Too many preachers haven't noticed the miracle of "curing a gay guy" wasn't mentioned in the works of Christ.

[Liberals get their own 'ALEC;' it's called 'SiX']

Alaska women aren't all waltzing around with "the bigger the hair the closer to God" up-do, lining up to live the American dream of buying flag lapel pins and sequined "I Heart America" T-shirts made by un-aborted children in China while they punctuate their purchase with a personalized credit card owned by a company in Abu Dhabi. The men drive by in the newest "Ford Compensator 350," towing a trailer loaded with ATVs; Rush Limbaugh blares when the Lee Greenwood CD gets too teary; something about "Where at least I know I'm free." Yellow ribbon magnets claim to support the troops, the same troops who are fighting to make sure the gallon of gas moving him all of 9.4 miles stays cheaper than a latte.

Our first senators were feisty liberals. Bob Bartlett wrote the original legislation for what would become the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ernest Gruening authored what became our nationwide 911 emergency telephone service. How many lives have been saved because of their leanings? Mike Gravel was our senator drumming the Washington, D.C., Democrats into voting for the trans-Alaska pipeline. Oh, my! A Liberal? Yes. It wouldn't have passed when it did if it weren't for him.

There are liberals — and conservatives — buried in Arlington who give me and others the right to have our opinions regardless of if you agree with them or not. That isn't lost on me, and I am grateful.

As Stephen Colbert says, "It is a well-known fact that reality has a liberal bias."

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster and regular contributor to the Daily News.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Court should side with baker; First Amendment is at stake

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:42

There is absolutely no question the U.S. Supreme Court should side with a Colorado baker who refused, because of his religious convictions, to bake a custom cake for a gay couple's wedding. The First Amendment's future hangs in the balance.

A central question in court filings is "Whether applying Colorado's public- accommodation law to compel artists to create expression that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment."

The case, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was born of a 2012 discrimination complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

The Christian baker, Jack Phillips, contends his custom cakes are art forms and he was exercising his constitutional right not to bake one celebrating, endorsing, a belief he disagrees with when he politely refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig.

Mind you, at the time, same-sex marriage was illegal in Colorado and there were dozens of nearby bakeries. Nevertheless, the couple decided to compel Phillips to comply with their demands.

[Wedding cakes can be stunning creations, but do they qualify as art?]

It should be noted Colorado three times has "declined to force pro-gay bakers to provide a Christian patron with a cake they could not in conscience create given their own convictions on sexuality and marriage," Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis point out in a New York Times opinion piece, "A baker's First Amendment rights."

Phillips' brief to the Supreme Court says because weddings and marriage have such religious significance for him, "he would consider it sacrilegious to express through his art an idea about marriage that conflicts with his religious beliefs."

Phillips, who has run his bakery since 1993, says he sells his ready-made confections to anybody. He does not discriminate against homosexuals, but draws the line at custom cakes celebrating things or events at odds with his religious beliefs. For instance, he refuses custom cakes for Halloween, or adult-themed parties, or to celebrate divorce. Ditto for vulgarities, profanity or anti-American messages, or cakes that disparage the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Baking is an artistic expression, Phillips says, and compelling him to bake for a same-sex marriage is forced speech violating free speech and religious-freedom protections.

Losing his case before the Colorado Civil Rights Division, he appealed to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and lost again.

In its order, the commission required he: "(1) design wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if he creates cakes that celebrate opposite-sex marriages, (2) re-educate his staff (which includes his family members) on (Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act) compliance, and (3) submit quarterly compliance reports for two years describing all orders that he declines and the reasons for the denial."

If that is not unconstitutional, what is? He appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost yet again. Now the case is being weighed by the nation's high court. Much hangs on its outcome.

In the past, justices have protected our right not to be compelled to espouse in any fashion something we reject. In one notable case, 1943's West Virginia v. Barnette, they barred state denial of Jehovah's Witnesses' right to attend public schools unless they saluted the flag. "Compulsory unification of opinion," the Court said then, is antithetical to the First Amendment.

Today's court must decide whether the Centennial State can deny Phillips the right to craft and sell any custom wedding cakes unless he bakes them for gay weddings, as well.

[Supreme Court seems divided in case of baker who refused to create wedding cake for gay couple]

If artists of any stripe, if any citizen, for that matter, can be compelled by government to endorse ideas they find religiously reprehensible, what good is the First Amendment? We have hard-won rights in this country. One of them is freedom of expression. We are allowed to have our own beliefs; we do not have to endorse our neighbor's. We do not even have to like his dog. We certainly should not have to bake cakes that offend our sincerely held beliefs.

A problem here is the Supreme Court. It is a lousy place to resolve a divisive ruckus over social rights. Roe v. Wade stands as an example of Supreme Court overreach on something best left to the states and time; a judicial answer to a political question — leaving the question largely unresolved.

What this court will do is unpredictable. When the dust settles, one can only hope it finds "compulsory unification of opinion" as onerous now as it did 43 years ago; that the First Amendment survives this latest onslaught; that Jack Phillips can create custom cakes as he sees fit.

If not, the tapestry that is this great nation will unravel just a little more.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Fairbanks Man Whose Murder Conviction Was Removed Sues City ... - U.S. News & World Report

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:42

Fairbanks Man Whose Murder Conviction Was Removed Sues City ...
U.S. News & World Report
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A man whose conviction was erased in the beating death of a 15-year-old boy has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Fairbanks and four police officers.

and more »Google News

House leaders ask Rep. Westlake to resign amid complaints - Juneau Empire

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:37

Juneau Empire

House leaders ask Rep. Westlake to resign amid complaints
Juneau Empire
In this Jan. 17, 2017 photo, state Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, talks with another legislator during a break in the opening session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau, Alaska. An Alaska state representative accused of inappropriate behavior by a ...

and more »

Alaska House leaders ask Rep. Westlake to resign amid complaints - Juneau Empire

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:31

Juneau Empire

Alaska House leaders ask Rep. Westlake to resign amid complaints
Juneau Empire
In this Jan. 17, 2017 photo, state Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, talks with another legislator during a break in the opening session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau, Alaska. An Alaska state representative accused of inappropriate behavior by a ...

and more »

Here’s why I joined the House majority coalition

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:14

It has always been my plan to write a letter to my constituents addressing questions some have regarding my political standing and choice to join the House Coalition. Given recent events, this seems like an opportune time.

Joining the coalition was a difficult decision, but it was one that as a person of conscience, I ultimately had to make. I am a Republican and that has not changed; however, I am first and foremost an Alaskan and a representative of my district. My ultimate responsibility is to my constituents and the people of this state.

Clearly, the most pressing issues facing Alaska are addressing the deficit and achieving a sustainable and balanced fiscal solution. Despite having ample opportunity, the former House Majority proved itself unwilling to address these issues in a meaningful way. I was upfront with my colleagues and on the campaign trail that I would join the majority that was committed to taking the hard votes to get our economy back on track.

So, I joined the new Alaska House Majority Coalition, which is a group of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are committed to changing the status quo. The common thread that brought us together was not partisanship, but was a shared belief that action is needed now to ensure that our children and our children's children can continue to live, work and play in a prosperous Alaska.

[Alaska Republicans move to block primary ballot access to lawmakers who joined House coalition]

That being said, I want to address the recent vote by the Alaska Republican Party to bar myself and two other Republicans from next year's Republican primary ballot. Essentially, a small group of political elites is attempting to usurp voters and dictate who can run in their party's primary based on whether elected officials toed the party line.

Shouldn't the voters decide who is fit to be the party representative for their district? Aren't I ultimately accountable to my voters?

I did what I felt was right for the communities I represent and the people of Alaska. I stand by that decision. If my constituents are unhappy with those actions or the job I've done, I fully expect them to vote their conscience. That is what our electoral process is based on. It is the residents of my district that I am accountable to, not a group of people in a boardroom.

This is simply an attempt to diminish the power of voters by bolstering the power of a select few. The idea that a state political party may exclude individuals from their primary who acted on behalf of their constituents instead of the will of the party runs counter to the principles of a representational democracy. Moreover, it actively discourages independent thought and bipartisanship when that is clearly something we need more of.

[Alaska GOP should let primary voters decide fate of Musk Ox reps]

Lastly, bipartisan coalitions are not a new concept in this state. Alaskans are an independent group of people and our political history is replete with examples of legislatures that set aside party-line politics for the betterment of the state. There are many examples, but two recent ones come to mind.

• In 2007, Republicans held an 11-9 majority in the Alaska Senate. Despite being elected as Republicans, the mother-in-law of the current chairman of the Alaska Republican Party and five other Republicans joined nine Democrats to form a majority coalition. I don't recall an attempt to remove those individuals from the following year's primary.

• A little over a year ago, the former Republican-led House Majority bolstered its numbers with members who were elected as Democrats. The Alaska Democratic Party did not attempt to bar those individuals from running in their primary. Furthermore, it is ironic that an organization is suddenly taking issue with a practice that it has used to its advantage in previous years.

I do not believe this action will be enforceable. As a voter, however, I have to ask myself: Why is a political party attempting to manipulate the system to control the actions of legislators while in office?

I, for one, do not want Alaska to turn down that path.

There aren't a lot of certainties in this line of work, but I can promise this: As long as I am in office, I will not prioritize the needs of a political party over the communities I represent and the people of Alaska.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, represents District 12, which includes Kodiak, Yakutat, Cordova and Seldovia.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Disgruntled Anchorage McDonald’s customer shoots the building

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 12:06

A young man pulled up to a McDonald's drive-thru in West Anchorage early Saturday in an agitated state, then shot the building, police said.

No one was hurt, said MJ Thim, Anchorage police spokesman.

Police were called at 1:12 a.m. about the agitated customer, described as an Asian man in his late teens or early 20s wearing a red hoodie and a baseball cap, Thim said.

He was driving a red four-door sedan and had a passenger when he pulled up to the McDonald's window at 800 W. Northern Lights Boulevard, Thim said.

The man argued with the McDonald's employee over payment and eventually did pay.

"He drove forward, turned around and shot at the building," Thim said. The single shot hit the restaurant, he said.

"We still don't know why he was upset," Thim said. Witnesses told police that he was disgruntled from the get-go.

Police are looking for the man and reviewing security footage.

Prominent appeals court judge accused of sexual misconduct by 6 women

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 11:46

A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski said the powerful and well-known jurist, who for many years served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually.

Heidi Bond, who clerked for Kozinski from 2006 to 2007, said the porn was not related to any case. One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where "some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed." Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman.

Bond is one of six women – all former clerks or externs in the 9th Circuit – who alleged to The Washington Post in recent weeks that Kozinski, now 67 and still serving as a judge on the court, subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. She is one of two former clerks who said Kozinski asked them to view porn in his chambers.

[7 aides at Alaska Capitol say legislator made unwanted advances and comments]

In a statement, Kozinski said: "I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers. I treat all of my employees as family and work very closely with most of them. I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done."

When Bond was clerking, Kozinski was on the precipice of becoming chief judge for the 9th Circuit – the largest federal appeals court circuit in the country, handling cases for a large swath of the western United States as well as Hawaii and Alaska. The other people who alleged that Kozinski behaved inappropriately toward them worked in the 9th Circuit both before and after her, up to 2012.

Bond said she knew that she was to come to the judge's office when her phone beeped twice. She said she tried to answer the judge's inquiries as succinctly and matter-of-factly as possible. Bond was then in her early 30s and is now 41.

If the question was about photoshopping, Bond said, she would focus on minor details of the image. If Kozinski asked whether the images aroused her, Bond said, she would respond: "No, this kind of stuff doesn't do anything for me. Is there anything else you need?" She said she recalled three instances when the judge showed her porn in his office.

"I was in a state of emotional shock, and what I really wanted to do was be as small as possible and make as few movements as possible and to say as little as possible to get out," Bond said.

Bond, who went on to clerk for the Supreme Court and now works as a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan, and another clerk, Emily Murphy, who worked for a different judge on the 9th Circuit and is now a law professor, described their experiences in on-the-record interviews. The other four women spoke on the condition that their names and some other identifying information not be published, out of fear that they might face retaliation from Kozinski or others.

Kozinski, who served as the chief judge on the 9th Circuit from 2007 to 2014, remains a prominent judge, well known in the legal community for his colorful written opinions. His clerks often win prestigious clerkships at the Supreme Court.

[Lobbyists ask for votes. Some lawmakers want much more.]

Murphy, who clerked for Judge Richard Paez, said Kozinski approached her when she was talking with a group of other clerks at a reception at a San Francisco hotel in September 2012. The group had been discussing training regimens, and Murphy said she commented that the gym in the 9th Circuit courthouse was nice because other people were seldom there.

Kozinski, according to Murphy and two others present at the time who spoke to The Post, said that if that were the case, she should work out naked. Those in the group tried to change the subject, Murphy and the others present said, but Kozinski kept steering the conversation toward the idea of Murphy exercising without clothes.

"It wasn't just clear that he was imagining me naked, he was trying to invite other people – my professional colleagues – to do so as well," Murphy said. "That was what was humiliating about it."

Murphy, who was 30 at the time of the incident and is now 36, provided The Post with a 2012 email showing that she told a mentor about what had happened at the time. Two of Murphy's friends who were present at the time of the encounter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also confirmed her account. Bond, similarly, provided emails showing that she told a friend what had happened at least as of 2008.

The friend, fellow romance novelist Eve Ortega, provided the same emails. She confirmed that Bond had told her years ago that Kozinski made inappropriate sexual comments and showed her porn.

Kozinski has previously been embroiled in controversies relating to sexually explicit material.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Kozinski had maintained an email list that he used to distribute crude jokes, some of them sexually themed, and that he had a publicly accessible website that contained pornographic images.

A judicial investigation ultimately found that Kozinski did not intend to allow the public to see the material, and that instead the judge and his son were careless in protecting a private server from being accessible on the Internet.

Anthony Scirica, then the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, wrote at the time that Kozinski's "conduct exhibiting poor judgment with respect to this material created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the institution of the federal judiciary."

According to Scirica's report, Kozinski said that he used the server to keep a variety of items he received by email, including TV commercials, video clips, cartoons, games and song parodies.

Of the sexually explicit files, Kozinski testified: "Some I thought were odd or funny or bizarre, but mostly I don't have a very good reason for holding onto them. I certainly did not send them to anyone else or ask anyone to send me similar files," according to Scirica's report.

Kozinski also testified that he "does not visit and has no interest in pornographic websites," according to Scirica's report. He separately apologized for any embarrassment he had caused in maintaining the email list and said he had stopped sending the jokes.

Bond said the images Kozinski showed her seemed to come from his private server, because he pulled them from a site containing the term "kozinski.com."

[How Congress plays by different rules on sexual harassment and misconduct]

The other Kozinski clerk who said the judge showed her porn declined to provide specifics out of fear that Kozinski would be able to identify her. Bond said Kozinski also showed her a chart he claimed he and his friends from college had made to list the women with whom they had had sexual relations.

Bond said either Kozinski or his administrative assistant reached out to her around the time of the news reporting on his private server, asking if she would be willing to defend his character. She wrote Ortega about the inquiry in 2008, according to emails the women shared with The Post, and Ortega responded that it "sounds like a very bad idea to me."

"I know he brought you into his office to show you porn, I know he made sexual innuendos to you. I know this because you told me so in DC, and you even used the words sexual harassment," Ortega wrote. "You said you would warn off other women thinking of clerking for him. And if there's a woman out there he harassed worse than you, do you really want to be pitted against her? Because that's what it would be. I'm worried that this is what he's asking you to do – to be the female, intelligent face of his defense and make whoever it is accusing him look like a stupid slut, and then he hopefully never has to actually address those allegations."

Kozinski was born in Romania to Holocaust survivors in 1950, and the family fled the communist state when he was a boy. Decades ago, long before he was a federal judge, he appeared on the television show "The Dating Game," planting a kiss on a surprised young woman who selected him for a date. He is married and has three sons.

Kozinski was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He is an atypical federal appeals court judge – authoring irreverent opinions and not shying, as many of his colleagues do, from media appearances.

He styled one opinion in 2012 not as a traditional concurrence or dissent, but instead as "disagreeing with everyone." He famously wrote during a trademark dispute between the toy company Mattel and the record company that produced the 1997 song "Barbie Girl," "The parties are advised to chill."

In more recent years, Kozinski wrote that using lethal injections to impose the death penalty was "a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful – like something any one of us might experience in our final moments," and he told the Los Angeles Times, "I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go."

The Post reached out to dozens of Kozinski's former clerks and externs for this story. Many of those who returned messages said they experienced no harassment of any kind, and their experience – which entailed grueling work into the wee hours of the morning every day – was a rewarding one. They noted Kozinski's wry sense of humor.

Those who talked to The Post about negative experiences said that they felt his behavior went beyond bad jokes or that they felt personally targeted.

A former Kozinski extern said the judge once made a comment about her hair and looked her body up and down "in a less-than-professional way." That extern said Kozinski also once talked with her about a female judge stripping.

"I didn't want to be alone with him," the former extern said.

A different former extern said she, similarly, had at least two conversations "that had sexual overtones directed at me," and she told friends about them at the time. One of the friends, also a former extern, confirmed that the woman had told her about the remarks – though both declined to detail them for fear of being identified.

One former 9th Circuit clerk said she was at a dinner in Seattle, seated next to Kozinski, when he "kind of picked the tablecloth up so that he could see the bottom half of me, my legs." She said Kozinski remarked, "I wanted to see if you were wearing pants because it's cold out." The former clerk said that she was wearing pants at the time. The incident, she said, occurred in either late 2011 or early 2012.

"It made me uncomfortable, and it didn't seem appropriate," said the former clerk, who worked for a different judge.

All of the women The Post interviewed said they did not file formal complaints at the time. Bond said Kozinski had so vigorously stressed the idea of judicial confidentiality – that what is discussed in chambers cannot be revealed to the outside – that she questioned even years later whether she could share what had happened with a therapist, even though she had already talked with Ortega about what had happened.

Bond said Kozinski worked his clerks so hard that "there was no thought that I could see him as anything other than in complete control," and she feared that not leaving with a good recommendation from him might jeopardize her career.

"I did think about walking away and concluded I just didn't know what I would do if I did," Bond said.

The other former Kozinski clerk who said the judge asked her to watch porn in his chambers said she both feared what the judge might do and knew that a complaint was unlikely to strip him of his influence.

"I was afraid," the former clerk said. "I mean, who would I tell? Who do you even tell? Who do you go to?"

Murphy said she discussed what had happened with the judge for whom she was clerking, and he was supportive of her filing a complaint. But because the complaint would first go to Kozinski himself, then be referred elsewhere, Murphy said she chose not to proceed. The judge, Paez, declined to comment for this story through a representative.

As a judge, Kozinski has addressed the topic of sexual harassment in important ways. In 1991, he joined an opinion that decided such cases should be judged from the perspective of the victims, using what was then called the "reasonable woman" standard. The opinion, written by then-Judge Robert R. Beezer, noted pointedly, "Conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women."

Beezer died in 2012. Kozinski himself wrote about sexual harassment in 1992, commenting on how legal remedies could come with unforeseen consequences.

He wrote that men "must be aware of the boundaries of propriety and lean to stay well within them," while women "must be vigilant of their rights, but also have some forgiveness for human foibles: misplaced humor, misunderstanding, or just plain stupidity."

He acknowledged, though, that the problem of harassment was a real one.

"But who knew, who understood, that it was quite so pervasive," Kozinski wrote. "Apparently most women did, while most men did not. It was the best-kept secret of modern times."

– – –

The Washington Post's Julie Tate contributed to this report.

AK Juneau Alaska Zone Forecast - Argus Press

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 11:32

AK Juneau Alaska Zone Forecast
Argus Press
AK Juneau Alaska Zone Forecast. Story · Comments. ShareShare; Print: Create a hardcopy of this page; Font Size: Default font size: Larger font size. Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2017 3:11 pm | Updated: 3:18 pm, Sat Dec 9, 2017. AK Juneau Alaska Zone ...

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How skiers and snowmachiners are helping scientists improve snow models

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 10:57

Snow falling silently on Alaska's mountains will in a few months transform into a medium for migrating salmon, and so much more.

"That snowflake that falls on the mountain now is water that flows in streams and rivers late in summer," said Gabe Wolken, a glaciologist who works both for the state and the University of Alaska.

Wolken and his colleagues recently added a snow-depth button to a smartphone app that allows anyone to add information about favorite winter landscapes and help scientists in the process.

The free app, Mountain Hub, now allows skiers, snowmachiners, mountaineers and others to enter a snow-depth measurement that helps researchers calibrate models of snowmelt and ground truth measurements from aircraft and satellites.

[APU skiers help researcher conduct glacier melt study]

In Alaska, figuring how much snowfall will turn into river is a guessing game backed by a few real measurements fed into computer models. In other places, snow scientists can drive all over the place to sample, but Alaska has fewer miles of road than Vermont.

Wolken came up with the idea for help from "citizen scientists" a few years ago while flying a snow-measuring mission near Valdez. To check the accuracy of a series of photos taken from a plane to get snow elevations and compare them to the height of the bare ground, Wolken invited people from the Alaska Avalanche Information Center up to Thompson Pass, one of the snowiest places in Alaska and a favorite of backcountry skiers.

A group of snowmachiners and skiers took off in different directions that April day. They probed snow-depth measurements and added waypoints with GPS units. They met at the end of the day and gave their field books and handheld GPS receivers to Wolken.

"We ended up getting so many more measurements than we could with just a science team," he said.

When he saw a NASA call for proposals on projects to help make snowmelt models more accurate, Wolken got with scientists from UAF, the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, the University of Washington and Oregon State University. They proposed to enhance the Mountain Hub app with a tab for snow-depth measurements. NASA funded their proposal for a prototype, and outdoors people have responded.

"There's lots of measurements popping up right now," Wolken said.

He has seen snow-depth readings from the White Mountains outside Fairbanks, Sitka and favorite climbing spots in the Alaska Range. Snow travelers have sent in more than 400 measurements from Thompson Pass.

People have measured snow using avalanche probes, often carried in the backcountry, but can use something as simple as a yardstick in areas like the Interior that receive less snow.

The app registers location and the typed-in snow depth even if the reporter has no cell signal. As soon as the smartphone senses a cell or wifi signal, the information is transferred to a site used by researchers. Though developed for Alaska, the app takes readings from anywhere in the world.

"We're trying to get people to do this anywhere, any time there's snow on the ground," Wolken said. "In Alaska, there are so many areas without weather or snow observations. And if we can get a better idea of baseline conditions now, we'll have a better idea of climate change effects."

As more reports come in on the Mountain Hub app, scientists will pay attention to where the reports come from.

"We want to let the data guide us to where we tune the next models," Wolken said.

For more information, see communitysnowobs.org.

Billionaire David Rubenstein and his wife, Alice Rogoff, divorce

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 10:49

WASHINGTON – After months of rumors, the marriage of billionaire philanthropists David Rubenstein and Alice Rogoff has officially ended.

The couple, who married in 1983, was granted a divorce in Montgomery County, Maryland, on Friday morning. All financial and other terms were settled privately and will remain confidential, according to Rubenstein's lawyer, Sandy Ein, and Rogoff's lawyer, Linda Ravdin.

"Alice and David Rubenstein have decided to formalize a divorce following a lengthy separation," Ein said in a statement on behalf of the couple. "The parties continue in support of one another and their respective endeavors. They are and continue to be devoted parents and their love and respect for their family is most important to each of them. They wish each other nothing but the best."

Ein said the two would have no further comment.

According to the court filing, the couple separated in 2005. Publicly, the two lived largely separate lives but appeared together periodically on behalf of their philanthropic projects, such as the Kennedy Center and other institutions, and formal events, such as a state dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. The Rubensteins never discussed their marriage in public. The most Rogoff ever revealed was saying "It's complicated" in 2014.

Rubenstein, 68, is co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, chairman of the Kennedy Center and head of the board of the Smithsonian Institution. He is one of the most visible philanthropists in Washington, giving millions to the Kennedy Center, the National Archives and a number of universities. He has signed the Giving Pledge and says that he plans to donate the bulk of his fortune – estimated at $2.8 billion – to charitable causes.

Rogoff, 66, most recently published Alaska Dispatch News in Alaska, where she has lived for several years. (The organization was sold in September and renamed Anchorage Daily News.)

After living apart for years, rumors of a divorce intensified this summer after Rogoff referred to a "marital settlement agreement" in court documents for her newspaper's bankruptcy proceedings. It turned out that the agreement had been in place for several years, and it is not clear why the couple decided to formalize their divorce at this time.

The couple has three grown children.

Fish Processors Struggle to Find Enough Workers - U.S. News & World Report

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 07:28

U.S. News & World Report

Fish Processors Struggle to Find Enough Workers
U.S. News & World Report
Daegi Shin, who's been the administration manager at International Seafoods of Alaska for the past three years, told a similar story. According to Shin, ISA is facing an aging workforce and the processor was short of staff by 10 percent over the most ...

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Rescued disabled puppies travel from rural Alaska to Juneau - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 06:50

Rescued disabled puppies travel from rural Alaska to Juneau
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
"Every litter or every animal that we get, we honestly have no idea how they're going to be, health-wise, until they show up," she added in a phone call. In this case, a family on Prince of Wales Island was moving into an abandoned home when they found ...

Rescued disabled puppies travel from rural Alaska to Juneau - Seattle Times

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 06:50

Seattle Times

Rescued disabled puppies travel from rural Alaska to Juneau
Seattle Times
Unlike Gastineau Humane Society, which receives support from the City and Borough of Juneau, SOFA operates entirely on donations. It hosts frequent fundraisers, accepts donations in kind (Harris Air frequently flies animals for free), and often ...

Rescued Disabled Puppies Travel From Rural Alaska to Juneau - U.S. News & World Report

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 06:50

U.S. News & World Report

Rescued Disabled Puppies Travel From Rural Alaska to Juneau
U.S. News & World Report
In this Nov. 30, 2017, photo, rescued puppies gather for attention at an animal foster home in Juneau, Alaska. The puppies were rescued by the Southeast Alaska Organization for Animals. (Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire via AP) The Associated Press. By ...

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UAF swarms past UAA 7-2 in Governor’s Cup hockey game

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 00:12

A small contingent of UAF jersey-clad, flag-waving fans behind the Nanooks bench had the most to cheer about at Friday night's Governor's Cup hockey game at Sullivan Arena.

The game was controlled by UAF from Colton Leiter's first goal 45 seconds into the game to the final buzzer in the Nanooks' 7-2 win over UAA in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivalry showdown.

The win gave UAF a 3-0 lead in Governor's Cup games with three games to go and it pushed the Seawolves' winless streak to seven games.

Even when trailing 4-0 midway through the second period, UAA actually led in shots on goal 14-13. The difference is UAF (6-11-2, 4-8-1 WCHA) got quality shots and some easy looks and UAA (1-10-4, 1-5-3) couldn't finish its attacks.

"They capitalized on all their chances that they had, especially early, (and) we didn't capitalize on any of ours," UAA coach Matt Thomas said. "We didn't play as bad as the scoreboard showed. Unfortunately, the scoreboard showed how much better they were at finishing."

Six players finished with two points for the Nanooks, who led 2-0 after the first period, 5-0 through the second and 6-0 before UAA got on the scoreboard on defenseman Mason Anderson's first career goal midway through the third period.

A pair of sophomore forwards, Tyler Cline and Leiter, paced the Nanooks with two goals apiece.

"We know what's at stake playing against Anchorage, so we just brought a lot of energy and we capitalized when we needed to," Leiter said. "It felt good to finally get one quick there off the start."

To start the third period, UAA benched starting goalie Olivier Mantha for Brody Claeys to get Claeys some more experience, Thomas said. But UAA's woes continued with an easy backdoor goal by Leiter 20 seconds into the period.

Claeys tallied eight saves in 20 minutes and Mantha recorded 14 saves in 40 minutes for UAA. UAF goalie Anton Martinsson snagged 22 saves.

Anderson's goal quelled UAF's shutout bid and an unassisted goal by UAA winger Jonah Renouf helped UAA avoid tying its worst loss to the Nanooks.

The two in-state rivals will meet for the fourth time Saturday night at Sullivan Arena.

"Tomorrow is a whole different day and I know our team will have the right attitude coming into it because just the way you're made up," Thomas said. "It will reveal a lot about our character."