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Rates may rise for Solid Waste Services customers as utility makes big plans

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:51

Anchorage’s city-owned trash utility wants to raise rates for the first time in years to shore up a looming deficit and, managers say, set in motion a revolution in how the city handles its trash and junk.

In 2019, Solid Waste Services customers may be asked to pay 5 percent more for trash pickup, the first such hike in a decade. At the same time, the utility wants to boost its drop-off fees by 6 percent at the Anchorage Regional Landfill in Eagle River and the Central Transfer Station off the Old Seward Highway in Anchorage. Those rates last rose in 2012.

Without the changes, the utility will run a deficit next year, said Mark Spafford, the general manager of Solid Waste Services. The utility serves 12,000 residential customers and 4,700 commercial dumpsters in the downtown area, but a financial loss would be backfilled by general government funds.

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The Anchorage Assembly needs to approve the proposed new rates. That vote is expected by the end of December. Higher rates would generate a combined $1.7 million in new annual revenue in 2019, according to documents submitted to the Assembly.

In addition to closing a budget gap and building up financial reserves, Spafford said, the utility needs the extra cash for bigger projects -- with the goal of massively reducing the amount of waste that goes to the landfill each year.

Solid Waste Services is preparing to buy 27 acres of undeveloped land south of the existing transfer station at 1111 E. 56th Ave. The land, currently owned by Wal-Mart, is slated become the future home of a brand-new Central Transfer Station -- one that is larger and more advanced than the existing facility.

The current transfer station was built in the 1980s, when Anchorage had about half its current population. It is in serious need of upgrades, Spafford said. The facility closed for three weeks in August to replace a tipping floor and commercial scales, but officials warned that closures would become more extended and frequent.


A loader moves trash around the tipping floor at the central transfer station Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Solid Waste Services, which operates the transfer station, closed for three weeks in August for renovations including replacing the tipping floor. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The transfer station is a crucial nexus to the more remote landfill. About 80 percent of the waste delivered to the landfill first comes to the transfer station. On just one day in 2016, a total of 640 vehicles circulated through the facility. Long lines often snake out to the surrounding public streets.

Utility staff also contend with leaky roofs, failing heating and air conditioning and limited maintenance and storage space, Spafford said.

“We’ve outgrown it, to a certain degree,” Spafford said. “And the philosophy with solid waste management has definitely changed in the last 30-40 years.”

Depending on the level of sophistication, a new and expanded transfer station would cost between $60 million and $90 million, financed with borrowed money. Spafford said the utility will start drawing up designs next year. There would likely be new buildings for administration, maintenance and storage. The utility would also repurpose some of the old buildings at the existing transfer station to expand its drop-off facilities.

Spafford especially wants to divert waste away from the landfill. He imagines special areas where people can drop off yard waste, food scraps, recyclables and even tires.

“We have to do everything we can now to take care of (the landfill) and the extend the life of it, because our options for disposal once the landfill is gone are not good,” Spafford said.

Extending the life of the landfill is central to a master plan Solid Waste Services recently completed. Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting firm, got the contract to create the plan, which is like a road map for the utility’s future.

The document particularly emphasizes a growth in recycling and composting, known as “waste diversion.”

At Solid Waste Services, Spafford led a push to get pink curbside composting bins for a small portion of customers this past summer. Next year, the utility plans to make the curbside compost program available to all its customers.

Other longer-term ideas in the master plan include an “alternative technology facility” and methods to convert food scraps and organic waste into a renewable bio-gas.

Earlier this year Spafford traveled to Florida and toured plants in West Palm Beach and Tampa that convert waste into energy. Those plants burn clean, like natural gas, he said.

The “big, hairy audacious goal” for Anchorage, Spafford said, is an incinerator that can burn waste and reduce the volume of trash in the city by 90 percent. That project would extend the life of the landfill another 200 years and also generate energy, Spafford said.

Such facilities are common in Europe, but would demand serious financial and political heft, Spafford said. It’s also a long ways down the road. But he still gets excited talking about it.

In the immediate future, Spafford is bullish about timelines. He thinks construction on a new transfer station can start by 2021.

“The site is just undersized for what we want to do,” Spafford said.

Letter: A good result

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:49

I thank God that the people of Alaska have once again rejected Mark Begich, for many reasons, but most especially his pro-abortion stance. Thank you, Alaska.

— Jon Eric Thompson

Anchorage

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Sinema wins in Arizona as Democrats capture a longtime GOP Senate seat

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:48

Kyrsten Sinema, seen here on Nov. 1, has been declared the winner of the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake. Bloomberg photo by Caitlin O'Hara (Caitlin O'Hara/)

Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema captured a long-held Republican seat in Arizona, defeating Republican Martha McSally and narrowing the GOP’s majority in the upper chamber.

Sinema, a three-term congresswoman, overcame attacks on her more liberal record as an Arizona state legislator and committed to a bipartisan approach in a race that hinged on issues such as health care and illegal immigration. Her defeat of McSally will make her the first female senator in Arizona's history.

Nearly a week after Election Day, the Associated Press projected Sinema as the winner on Monday. She had 49.7 percent of the vote to McSally's 48 percent after mail-in and absentee ballots were counted. Of the more than 2.2 million ballots cast, Sinema won by 38,197 votes.

She will replace Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a frequent critic of President Donald Trump

On Twitter, McSally offered her congratulations and said: "I wish her success. I'm grateful to all those who supported me in this journey. I'm inspired by Arizonans' spirit and our state's best days are ahead of us."

It was unclear what will happen to the state's other Senate seat, which is held by Republican Jon Kyl. Kyl was appointed to replace the late senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and has not committed to serving past this year.

It is possible Republican Gov. Doug Ducey would appoint McSally to the seat.

Sinema, in a tweet, said: "As long as I've served Arizona, I've worked to help others see our common humanity & find common ground. That's the same approach I'll take to representing our great state in the Senate, where I'll be an independent voice for all Arizonans. Thank you, Arizona. Let's get to work."

Sinema's win was a major boost for Democrats, who entered the election cycle defending more seats than the GOP and scrambled to save 10 incumbents in states Trump won.

In the West, Democrats flipped a seat in Nevada as Rep. Jacky Rosen ousted GOP Sen. Dean Heller, and prevailed in Arizona, where Trump won in 2016.

Republicans hold a narrow majority of 51 to 47, with two other Senate races still unresolved on Monday: the close contest in Florida between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and a runoff scheduled for Nov. 27 in Mississippi pitting appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, against Mike Espy, a Democrat.

McSally, a freshman member of the House, lost the race after abandoning the moderate profile she had nurtured in her 2014 congressional race and allying herself with Trump. The former Air Force combat pilot adopted an aggressive tone, accusing Sinema of supporting treason over her 2003 remark that it was “fine” if a radio host who was asking her a question joined the Taliban.

Letter: History lessons

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:37

Research that the Office of Strategic Services/CIA declassified some years ago, available at the National Archives: “A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend,” by Walter C. Langer. From this:

“His primary rules were: Never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

More from his deputy, Hermann Goering:

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Hmm.

— Stephen Joynt

Wasilla

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Thousands more ballots to be counted Tuesday - Juneau Empire

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:36

Thousands more ballots to be counted Tuesday
Juneau Empire
The Alaska Division of Elections will count thousands of absentee and question ballots Tuesday, possibly deciding the outcome of two Fairbanks legislative races that may determine the balance of power in the Alaska Legislature. In House District 1 ...

Letter: Stay engaged

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:33

The midterm election was disappointing for many progressives. My family commiserates this disappointment with Alaskans. We should take a moment to take stock of what just happened and how we feel about that. But we also have reason for optimism. We should keep in sight the great engagement this year by so many in our communities. We must maintain this engagement — and it needn’t be restricted to the political process or comments without action on social media platforms.

Become engaged locally, in real life. Use the rest of 2018 to engage with your neighbors; a friendly “Hello” and wave will get you started. If already connected to your neighborhood, consider contributing to your community council or local parent teacher organization; or simply make sure you are out and about in your community talking with people; on the ice rink or ski trails, or at the library, bookstore or coffee shop. It is through real connections we make with people that sustain us and our community.

Resist the temptation to let the election overshadow what has been accomplished among people, through real-time engagement that will boast lasting effects outside the boundary of politics.

Keep the momentum strong. Encourage engagement, and if you see me out and about, you’re sure to get a smile and wave even if you don’t know me. That’s my commitment to our community.

— Meg Zaletel

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: A well-run election

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 17:29

I want to commend the state Division of Elections on how well the election was run. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. I hope everyone had a similar experience.

I saw news of the long lines people experienced in the Lower 48 and it made me really appreciative that our state has put its resources in place to avoid lines that discourage people from voting. So thank you to the state and to the election volunteers. You guys did a great job.

— Steve Scordino

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: School district is killing motivation

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:53

The Anchorage School District administration is killing the love of teaching. They are smothering the joy and passion of our profession through their top-down curriculum mandates, block subject scheduling, direct/scripted teaching requirements and forced curriculum interventions.

The district claims it is doing what’s best for students, which in itself is debatable. But when teachers have low morale, feel like they’re not being listened to and are frustrated because they are being told what to teach, when to teach it and how long to teach it, how do you think this translates into the classroom?

Parents, please ask yourselves, do you want your child to enter a classroom where your kid’s teacher loves what he/she does and is passionate and excited about working with the curriculum, or do you want your child to enter a classroom where the teacher is burned out, frustrated at not being treated as a professional and is underappreciated?

The answer seems obvious. Please contact school board members and/or ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop and share your concerns.

— Mark Miner

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 for doing your part for democracy

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:51

I write this on Election Day before the results are posted because it’s not about who won or lost, but that we have this right and responsibility to vote. I am grateful to live in a country that has democratic elections, and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

We have the right to vote because people throughout our history have fought and died for that right. We have the right because people today work to make that happen. I thank you if you did any of the following: worked at the polls, helped the League of Women Voters or other informative group, worked or volunteered for a campaign, ran for office, researched the issues or candidates, had a civil discussion with a friend or family member, wrote for the free press to inform voters, or voted early or on Election Day.

Thanks for participating in the process.

— Cheryl Lovegreen

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: Candidate statements

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:49

A statement made by one candidate running for office: “We must re-establish trust in the leadership of our elected government.” I believe this must happen or our nation will go the way the Roman Empire.

Another thing I have an issue with is people who use education as a ploy to get elected and just throw money at the problems. The problem is with children not getting educated because of parents not raising their children right and taking an interest in what they do in school.

My children and grandsons have educations and parents who cared to see they were raised with love and care.

— Dave Stokes

Sterling

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.

Limited hall passes, access to upstairs bathrooms at Dimond High Tuesday after last week’s threats

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:24

Dimond High School on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 (Mckenzie Richmond / ADN)

There will be limited hall passes and limited access to upstairs bathrooms at Anchorage's Dimond High School on Tuesday after written threats were found last week in the school, according to an email Sunday from the principal.

There will also be an "increased School Resource Officer (SRO) presence on campus," said the email from school principal Tina Johnson-Harris to Dimond High parents.

"Even given the limited hallway movement outside of classes, learning will continue for our students," Johnson-Harris said.

Students across the Anchorage School District resume classes Tuesday after having Monday off in observance of Veterans Day. It will be the first day Dimond High students return to classes since police were at the school Friday investigating the threats.

Some Dimond High parents have criticized how the district and school responded to the threats. Classes weren't canceled at Dimond High on Friday, but some parents did decide to pick up their children from school.

Catherine Esary, school district spokeswoman, declined to say Monday whether police had identified who wrote the threats, referring the question to the Anchorage Police Department. Members of APD's communications team didn't immediately return messages Monday. Offices were closed in observance of Veterans Day.

[Anchorage police investigate written threats at Dimond High while school remains in session]

There will be a parent meeting at Dimond High on Monday at 5:30 p.m., Esary said.

"This meeting is an effort to ease concerns regarding the return of school on Tuesday. Parents will have an opportunity to ask questions and hear from District representatives, the Anchorage Police Department, and me about how we will continue to work collaboratively for the safety of our students," Johnson-Harris said in Sunday's email.

"In the event you are not able to attend the meeting, please be assured that we are diligently working to ensure families and students have a solid sense of safety in returning to school."

Esary declined to say Monday afternoon why Dimond High was limiting hallway and bathroom access Tuesday. She said the school principal would likely address that at the parent meeting.

"I want to give her the opportunity to talk to her parents," Esary said.

Esary also declined to explain what an increased presence of school resource officers would look like at Dimond High on Tuesday. She said that would also likely be addressed at the evening meeting.

Johnson-Harris could not immediately be reached for comment at Dimond High Monday afternoon.

Monday was a professional development day at the district.

Four threats were found at Dimond High last week, and all were written in bathrooms, district officials said on Friday.

One read: "I'm shooting up the school, I'm not joking. I have a gun in my lock," according to an email last Monday from Johnson-Harris to parents.

About 1,520 students are enrolled at Dimond High.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

In the Valley, a farm-to-trail link increases recreational opportunities

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:23

Skiing, hiking, or biking are activities to enjoy this winter at the Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center. (Photo by by Jodie Anderson)

Straddling scenic hillsides between the boundaries of Wasilla and Palmer is a swath of fertile land that plays an important role in Alaska's agricultural past and recreational present.

Framed by leggy cottonwoods and spruce trees, the fields of the Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center are quiet now, in stark contrast to the summer's rush to mow grass hay and nurture plants that might benefit students of Alaska's agricultural products.

The farm has been a fixture for more than 100 years, albeit a little-known one to many of us not directly connected to food and farms. I've known about it, but I thought the fields were off limits so I never took the time to dig deeper, if you will, into the acres and acres of fields, forests, lakes and, now, family-accessible trails.

The Matanuska Experiment Farm and Extension Center (MEFEC) opened in 1917 as part of a formal pursuit of agricultural research in Alaska that actually began in 1898, when the federal government established research stations in Kodiak, Kenai, Rampart, Copper Center, Fairbanks and the Valley.

The Valley was already filling up with homesteaders, so interest was high to research, develop and share successful ideas related to Alaska's unique agricultural challenges. Territorial governor John Strong in 1917 accepted a federal land grant leading to the establishment of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, now the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The MEFEC facility is one of two remaining branches of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in the state (the other, on the UAF campus, is also worth visiting).

By the time 202 farm families arrived from the Midwest in 1935 as part of a federal "New Deal" project, the Matanuska Experiment Farm was already a site for crop and livestock production "best practices" for the new Alaskans to adopt on their own farms.

If the farm played a vital role toward development of agricultural and research in the Mat-Su then, it may be even more important now as food security enters our everyday vernacular and home gardening and agriculture become de rigueur.

Today, thanks to cooperative efforts among Valley trail enthusiasts and progressive farm management, there exists another way to learn more about farming in Alaska: a system linking farm roads with trails in an effort to educate, inspire and provide opportunities to get the whole family outdoors.

The farm has 11 miles of road, said MEFEC director Jodie Anderson, a driving force for making those roads part of a broader effort for outdoor recreation.

The MEFEC is the western end of the Matanuska Greenbelt system, which is the largest uninterrupted public space in the core of the Valley. The system's more than 30 miles of trails are some of the only non-mountain, non-motorized pathways in the area.

Dot Helm, a stalwart figure of the Greenbelt trails and just about every other pathway in the Matanuska Valley, led the charge for community involvement from state, local and private entities and individuals.

The farm, she said, is "a very diverse system of trails — both flat and hilly, open and forested — supporting foot, bike and horse traffic as well as moms with baby-joggers and horse carriages."

"This diversity of trail and user types is a trademark of the system of which we are proud," she said.

It's pretty easy to find the farm, located just off Trunk Road. The buildings and offices, an area Anderson calls the "core," is closed to public trail access after years of vandalism and increased liabilities that made it difficult for the facility to maintain its status as a working farm. Guided tours and special events eventually will make the site more available, Anderson said.

Just up the road from the farm's main campus sits the new trailhead and parking lot. The area is still a bit sparse aside from a kiosk map, but the tractor-width trail follows the curve of a hay field, making the direction of travel pretty obvious.

It's mostly flat, too, just right for young hikers, skiers and bikers. I couldn't help but think what a nice place this would be for a group of kids and parents to congregate for the sake of outdoor activity. Anderson is thinking along these lines too, and plans science and agriculture-themed events, guided hikes, and historical presentations on the farmland.

The entire property is more than 900 acres, a mixture of farmland and forest, and the 11 miles of trails reflect years of use by man and machine. Each step reminded me of this, from the comforting scent of drying grasses to the plow marks along the edges of each field. It was still early in the day when I visited and no one else was ambling about save for a mother toting a toddler in a backpack, their trusty lab sniffing around and living the grand life of a temporary farm dog.

Trail system maps, as both Helm and Anderson told me, are a work in progress. The goal is the creation of online and print products to reflect more clearly the entire Matanuska Greenbelt system. Indeed, I had several directional stops and starts during my hike, but it didn't matter too much — the mountains were to the east, the Parks Highway to the west, and in true farm fashion, all roads eventually led back to where I started.

I spent a few hours among the scrabbly fields, listening to a stiff breeze rustle the leftover hay and trying to capture on my phone the vibrant contrast of Pioneer Peak's snowy top with the reddish-gold slopes in front of me.

Meandering back to the parking lot, utterly charmed by my morning, I was reminded of the line, "We reap what we sow. Choose what you nourish carefully."

Growing seeds and kids in this wild, beautiful place we call home? I'm in.
If you go

— Getting there: Travel north or south on the Parks Highway just past the Glenn/Parks junction to the Trunk Road exit. Head north and turn right at the traffic circle to Georgeson Road. Follow the road past the farm's main campus and uphill to the trailhead. Parking and access are free.

— Need to know: There are no toilet facilities, so be sure everyone makes a pit stop before heading out (I used the Mat-Su Medical Center restrooms). Pack out all trash, because garbage cans have not yet been purchased. The farm facility (buildings and office down the hill) is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the trailhead parking lot is open during daylight hours seven days a week.

— Bikes and skis are welcome on the farm's trails but users should stay on designated/groomed surfaces to protect fragile land. Dogs must be leashed.

Special events

Free presentations on most Wednesdays during the winter. Visit the farm's Facebook page for a list of events, including a holiday open house and tree-lighting on Dec. 7.

Erin Kirkland is a freelance travel writer and author of the Alaska On the Go guidebook series.

Curriculum battles muddy teacher contract fight

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:22

iStock (Getty Images/iStockphoto/)

There are many conversations happening among educators in Anchorage. One conversation is about our contract, another is about our new curriculum. I believe it’s important for us to separate the two conversations. I will not disagree with anyone that believes that we need to have a better contract. Yet, I’m exhausted from fighting for one year after year. However, the conversations about our new reading curriculum are muddying the process for a fair and equitable contract.

Our old reading curriculum was outdated and not relevant. It was hard to align our program with our district adopted Common Core State Standards. It was full of narrative pieces, and the informational pieces were difficult to find. I found myself working harder year after year to fill in the gaps that my students were missing. Anchorage School District teachers asked for, and received, a new curriculum. About 70 educators from all over Anchorage were tasked with finding that new program. As the district was rolling out the K-2 pieces, they certainly didn’t do it well. Teachers were given a half-day of implementation training and were given a huge amount of curriculum to weed through. And we complained.

ASD heard the complaints and again gave teachers a huge task: take our new curriculum (K-5) and develop a comprehensive and explicit approach to teaching it. We spent thousands of hours mapping out priority standards, developing practice sets to explicitly teach phonics and decoding, and whittling down 340 minutes of instruction in one day to a mere 90 minutes. It was an arduous process.

Unfortunately, many teachers are opposed to our English Language Arts Priority Plans. I hear complaints about lack of academic freedom, micromanagement, a belief that their students don’t need this and the infamous dog clickers. Teachers are blaming our new schedule for a lack of play or recess during the day. This is where I part ways with many educators in our district.

The priority plans our teachers created were developed with research-based studies. In the 1990s, the National Reading Panel convened. The panel scoured thousands of research studies and highlighted the importance of foundational skills among all readers. The NRP found that phonics and phonemic awareness instruction are key to reading. Without foundational skills, many readers will fail to read by a young age. Reading performance is the key predictor of success. It also found that children that learned to read well early on also benefited from phonics and phonemic awareness, because it provided support with spelling. The priority plans incorporate what the NRP has told us for years: All students benefit from explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Why, then, did we purchase a curriculum that didn’t already do this? There is no single curriculum that will do that. Educators are still divided on how to teach reading. There are still educators who believe whole-language is the way to go, and others believe in systematic phonics. When students learn to become teachers at the university level, we are not taught how to teach reading. Instead, that task falls to the districts that hire them. Our district has taken on that task. Teachers don’t like it. I hear about it every day: “Don’t tell me how to teach!” If only it were that simple. ASD recognizes where we are failing our children and has spent time and money to alleviate the burden it has placed on us. New curriculum is never easy to weed through, and any school district would be remiss in not doing that for us.

I am exhausted, and our new year has only begun. I don’t want to hear from a middle school teacher about dog clickers and scripted programming in elementary schools. I would never publicly give an opinion about the middle school model, because I don’t teach middle school and I don’t understand it enough. When teachers start spreading rumors and hearsay and we represent it as the truth, we break down as professionals. We start losing credibility. I am asking all elementary teachers to separate our contract and the new curriculum and ask themselves, “What’s best for my students?” and move forward from there.

Margaret (Maggie) Jones is a teacher and instructional coach at Fairview Elementary School.

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.

Mayor proposes alcohol tax for Anchorage homelessness and substance abuse treatment services

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 16:19

iStock / Getty Images (ipopba/)

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz wants to ask voters to enact a 5 percent retail sales tax on alcohol that he says could pay for homelessness and substance abuse services at a time of declining state support.

A local alcohol tax would generate a pool of money to pay for a range of public health and safety programs, including the clearing of illegal camps, housing, a substance abuse treatment center and an expanded Anchorage Safety Patrol, according to a memo to the Anchorage Assembly.

“The reality is, alcohol is an incredibly profitable business in this town,” Berkowitz said in a recent interview. “It’s a cost-causer that is not paying the cost.”

The Berkowitz administration is introducing the tax proposal to the Assembly next week. It needs eight Assembly votes to make the April 2019 ballot. A simple majority of voters would be needed to pass it, according to the text of the measure.

Three Assembly members -- Traini, Eric Croft and Felix Rivera -- have signed on to co-sponsor the tax proposal.

An alcohol tax has been proposed seven other times in Anchorage since 1984. Traini spearheaded three of those efforts, in 1994, 2015 and 2017. Citizens pushed for ballot initiatives in 2004 and 2007.

Not one has landed on the ballot. In 2017, the alcohol industry launched an advertising campaign against the measure before the Assembly even took a vote. Industry leaders have argued that an alcohol tax would unfairly burden retailers and responsible drinkers for complex social problems associated with alcohol and other drugs.

At the state level, an alcohol tax did nothing to curb drinking, and state spending on substance abuse rehabilitation and prevention actually dropped, a 2013 Anchorage Daily News analysis found.

Berkowitz thinks a local tax will be different.

Unlike the state, the city can dedicate revenue, he said. He said the tax would raise between $11 million and $15 million, replacing state revenue that has diminished in recent years.

“There is a massive gap in the behavioral health system in this state, and this is a dramatic example of where the state has retreated,” Berkowitz said.

The tax would amount to $0.40 for a six-pack of beer, $0.50 for a $10 mixed drink and $1.75 for a $35 bottle of wine and $2.50 for a $50 bottle of liquor, the measure says. The Assembly could create exemptions.

According to Berkowitz’s memo, other uses for the tax money could include:

• Storage for personal property seized from illegal camps during clean-ups.

• The city’s “Mobile Intervention Team,” a team of social workers and a firefighter who triage homeless campers.

• Cold-weather housing and shelter.

• Construction of a potential “Alaska Center for Treatment,” or as a match for private investment.

In the past year, a group of neighbors who live near downtown Anchorage has become increasingly vocal at meetings demanding more be done about illegal camps, including more shelter beds and aggressive year-round cleanups. Some have said pointedly that they would be willing to pay a tax.

Berkowitz also suggested he would have stronger backing from the business community.

In the memo submitted to the Assembly, Berkowitz pointed to other communities, including Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), Juneau and Fairbanks, that have approved sales taxes on alcohol. Anchorage already taxes marijuana, Berkowitz said.

A representative of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association -- a fierce opponent of recent alcohol tax measures in Anchorage -- did not immediately return a request for comment.

Berkowitz has proposed other tax measures since he took office in 2015. He’s had mixed success.

In early 2017, Berkowitz suggested a special election where voters could decide on a new sales tax to offset property taxes and pay for policing on the Seward Highway. That proposal died in the Assembly.

Later that year, the administration successfully pushed a 10-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel to offset property taxes. The gas tax took effect in late February.

Thank you, Alaskans. Let’s move forward together.

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 15:56

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich greets a voter in Anchorage, Alaska, in the early morning hours of election day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen) (Michael Dinneen/)

Thank you Alaska. Debra Call and I are honored by every vote we earned and are humbled by all the Alaskans we had the opportunity to talk to. While the outcome was not as we hoped, we are so grateful for the incredible effort put forth by our team of supporters – from donations to phone calls to events and so much more. We know we asked for a lot during the past several months, and it was both humbling and inspiring to see so many supporters step up to the plate because they believed in a positive vision and a better future.

As we said from the beginning, this campaign was never about us or any other candidate. Our campaign was truly about capturing the hopes and dreams of the Alaskans that we met as we traveled the state and lifting up the voices of all Alaskans.

Everywhere we went, we heard directly from Alaskans who were excited to be a part of moving Alaska forward. While folks would often share concerns, they also shared new ideas about securing the best education system in the country or make our communities safer. We had great discussions about expanding and diversifying our economy, and protecting our Alaska values – like a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. And everywhere we went, Alaskans wanted to know how we could permanently protect the Permanent Fund dividend as part of a long-term fiscal plan without mortgaging away the security of future generations.

As this election season ends, we cannot lose sight of what we can accomplish when we work together. There is important work left to be done, and it will take all of us to make the change. For example, this election only had about 41 percent voter turnout, and some of the big districts and rural Alaska were even less. The stakes are too high for more than half of voters to disengage from the process. We must do a better job of finding, engaging and supporting voters all across the state. That is the only way we can fight for our issues and protect our shared values.

We know many of you remain concerned about the challenges facing our state. Please remember, we will never be able to solve our problems if we remain divided. We must come together just as we have done so many times throughout our state’s history. Working together to solve tough problems is what Alaskans do because it is who we are. As long as we continue that tradition, we know our best days will always be a head of us.

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.

Military contract information session draws strong interest in Interior Alaska

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 15:53

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft lands on the flight line Oct. 12, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base. (Eric M. Fisher / U.S. Air Force)

FAIRBANKS — Construction at military facilities in Interior Alaska is attracting strong interest from contractors.

The Procurement Technical Assistance Program in Fairbanks announced a presentation, scheduled for Wednesday, on how to do business with the military, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Organizers expected about 30 people to sign up, said contract specialist Pierre Thompson. Instead, they quickly filled reservations last week for the planned venue with responses from 135 people.

"This blew up in my face," Thompson said. "I put it out on Monday, and it was pretty much filled on Tuesday."

[The first F-35 jet is being tested at Eielson Air Force Base. The Fairbanks area is preparing for a population jump.]

Likewise, by the weekend, there were only a few seats in Anchorage for a live-stream version of the presentation at the office of Associated General Contractors of Alaska.

The meeting will feature Army and Air Force military contractor officials.

"It's going to be all-encompassing, so if you are an electrician, or if you cater, or if you do anything that would be involved with doing a lot of construction, then these contracts will be something that you will be interested in," said Jacqueline Summers, a program specialist in Anchorage for the Procurement Technical Assistant Program.

The meeting is planned as the Defense Department continues $500 million in construction projects at Eielson Air Force Base south of Fairbanks in preparation for the arrival of F-35 fighter jets in 2020.

Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks has an upcoming environmental remediation project. Fort Greely at Delta Junction is installing additional missile defense interceptors, and Clear Air Force Station is installing a new long-range radar system.

The meeting will include staff from the 354th Contracting Squadron at Eielson and the 715th Contracting Team at Fort Wainwright.

"Usually those contracting officers are really hard to get a face-to-face meeting with, so the fact that they're coming out and actively recruiting is kind of a sign that there's a lot going on," Summers said.

Staff from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Associated General Contractors of America will also be at the meeting.

The program hopes to hold additional meetings about military contacting next spring, Thompson said.

No quick resolution expected in shelter’s lawsuit over Anchorage’s LGBT non-discrimination law

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 14:03

Lawyers for a faith-based Anchorage women’s shelter are not expecting a quick resolution to their lawsuit against the city over a requirement that it accept transgender women.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a scheduling report in federal court Friday, noting tentative trial dates in April 2020.

The conservative Christian law firm earlier this month sought an injunction to stop the city from applying its law barring discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity to the Hope Center shelter.

[Discrimination complaint against downtown Anchorage women’s shelter opens up political front]

The federal lawsuit also names the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, which became involved after a transgender woman complained she was denied entry at the shelter.

An attorney for the city has said the commission's investigation has not been concluded, largely because of the shelter's noncooperation.

Alliance attorney Ryan Tucker did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Alaska editorials - Washington Times

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-11-12 13:51

Alaska editorials
Washington Times
The Legislature overrode his third veto, in 2000, but Gov. Knowles refused to recognize the override, saying it required a three-quarters vote of the joint Legislature because the lands transfer was akin to an appropriations bill, which under the ...

and more »

Alaska editorials - Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-11-12 13:48

Alaska editorials
Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)
The Legislature overrode his third veto, in 2000, but Gov. Knowles refused to recognize the override, saying it required a three-quarters vote of the joint Legislature because the lands transfer was akin to an appropriations bill, which under the ...

and more »

Chief operating officer leaves bodies in his wake

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-11-12 13:37

Q: One of my key managers just threatened to quit unless I allow him to report directly to me rather than to “Sam,” our chief operating officer. I know Sam can be hard to take and I generally try to be a buffer between him and several managers, including this man. I don’t want to cave to an ultimatum but I also don’t want to lose another member of our leadership team; two managers quit soon after we promoted Sam to COO. At the same time, I can’t afford to lose Sam, which is what might happen if tell him he no longer supervises this man. Sam already resents that I tell him he has to be nicer. He would see my moving this man out from under him as a lack of support for him, which is a regular complaint of his.

Not only would modifying the organization chart be an ego blow for Sam, it wouldn’t be right or fair. This manager’s department logically reports to the COO and Sam earned his title with hard work. This manager does a fine job, but he’s one of those 40-hour-a-week guys who doesn’t go above and beyond. In contrast, Sam gives his job whatever it takes to succeed. He’s tremendously productive and has streamlined operations and increased our profitability.

How do I keep both Sam and this manager on board?

A: You need to find out what’s going on and fix it. Did the two managers leave because they didn’t want to work under Sam, or because they thought they deserved the promotion he received and felt passed over? When they saw Sam move forward in his career, did it trigger each of them to seek out better work opportunities, or does Sam have serious flaws as a manager?

Even though you admit Sam is hard to take, do you see the full reality? Or does your appreciation for the results Sam achieves partially blind you to how badly he treats those he supervises? Find out. Thoroughly interview the manager who threatens to quit, as well as the other managers who report to Sam.

Next, evaluate the role you play in this situation. Are you so easygoing that you play “good cop,” forcing Sam to play “bad cop”? For example, do the managers under Sam resent that he works hard and expects the same from them, while they know that those who report to you face no repercussions for working only the minimum 40 hours a week? Do you undermine Sam, or does he play the “back me no matter how I act or you’re not supporting me” card because it keeps you from calling him on his problem behavior?

You now intervene between Sam and others. That’s not enough. He needs to change how he relates so you don’t have to buffer his interactions with his direct reports. Sam needs to learn how to get things done without leaving bodies in his wake, and he may not know how. Telling a hard-charging manager to be “nicer” without telling him how puts a bandage on a wound that deserves real medicine in the form of specific guidance.

What does Sam do or not do to drive away those who report to him? Does he ask that projects be completed by unrealistic timelines? Does he need to listen more and talk less when interacting with managers under him who hold views other than his? If you feel you can’t yourself get candid answers by interviewing the managers under Sam, bring in a neutral third party who can interview Sam, the manager threatening to quit and Sam’s other direct reports, and make specific recommendations.

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