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Jun 16 2015
Special Sessions Add Half-Million Dollars to Budget Woes
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN
Lawmakers collected nearly $200,000 in per Diem over the course of two special sessions, according to a preliminary tally by the Legislature’s accounting office. Per Diem is meant to cover food and lodging expenses, and it is federally set. It was paid at a rate of $233 per day in Juneau and $295 in Anchorage.

While any legislator could apply for the allowance those who did not live within driving distance of Anchorage were more likely to take it. Sen. Donny Olson, a Nome Democrat who serves on the finance committee, was the top collector. He filed for 44 days, amounting to an $11,439 payment.

Though the majority of Anchorage and Mat-Su legislators declined per Diem during the second special session, Anchorage Sen. Lesil McGuire collected $7,347 and Senate Rules Chair Charlie Huggins, a Wasilla Republican, received $6,329, with most of his per Diem collected while in Anchorage. 

In Kodiak's delegation, Senator Gary Stevens received $6,108, while Representative Louise Stutes collected only $2,129.

As of last week, the total cost of the two special sessions, which were called to address the budget deficit, exceeded half a million dollars. 
Jun 16 2015
Beautiful & Fishy Trashcans Coming to Kodiak
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
anacortes_-_trash_can_02.jpgAn example of the decorative trashcan shell in Anacortes. Via Wikipedia
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Trash can be beautiful – or trashcans at least.

One Kodiak resident wants to enrich the city with decorative garbage exteriors that he says can be pretty and show Kodiak’s unique history at the same time.

Bruce Schactler is a fisherman with a vision, one he says popped up in the Lower 48.

“This isn’t a new idea,” he says. “I think it’s been kicked around even here in town before. I ran into it in the town of Astoria, they got the idea from the town of Anacortes, one in Oregon, one in Washington. And what it is is a shell for the trashcan to go into, and the shell is covered in a graphic that makes it look just like a can of salmon.”

He says businesses can choose which historic can labels to decorate their trashcan shells with when they invest in one.

“We’re right now in the process of giving the businesses time to ponder whether they would like to be part of this project. Hopefully they will,” says Schactler. “We already have several that have committed to take part, and I expect that – my goal is by the end of the month that these will be ordered.”

Schactler has worked with several other people around town to hash out the project plan and has presented at city council meetings. City manager Aimée Kniaziowski says Schactler is working with support from the city and the Downtown Revitalization Committee.  

“Once we have determined how many people and how many businesses are going to participate, then the city will go ahead and place the order once the graphic design has been complete and the number of cans we would like to order has been complete,” says Kniaziowski.

Kniaziowski says she’s looking forward to having the decorative trashcans in the city.

“It’ll be fun to see some real colorful, better conditioned cans around the downtown area and hopefully that program over the time might grow so that more businesses and more areas can utilize those.”
According to Schactler, the manufacturer is located in Portland and the shells will have historic labels from canneries like the New England Fish Company and Alaska Packers. He says the shells will be around $1150 a piece and says he and the others involved hope to work with the freight company to minimize the cost of getting the product to Kodiak.

If you’d like to donate or invest in a shell yourself, you can call Schactler at (907) 738 6451 or visit the Friends of Kodiak Facebook page.
Jun 15 2015
Daily Mirror Up for Sale
Monday, 15 June 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
Employees of two daily newspapers in Alaska were informed Friday afternoon that their owners have put the for sale sign in their windows.

The Fairbanks Daily News Miner and the Kodiak Daily Mirror have been owned by Media News Group of Denver since 1992. In a letter to employees, Chief Executive William Dean Singleton, a co-founder of Media News Group with the late Richard Scudder, said both the News Miner and the Mirror are profitable and healthy, even during the recent turmoil in the media industry.

Singleton said a Bozeman, Montana, firm has been hired to find new owners, but if the “right buyer” can't be found, Media News Group will continue to own the papers. Singleton said the process could take months.

No sale price has been disclosed. 
Jun 15 2015
Council Vows Action on Agressive Downtown Vagrants
Monday, 15 June 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
Vagrancy in downtown Kodiak continues to be a concern to many, with two more residents speaking up at Thursday night's city council meeting. Both singled out the same spot in town as ground zero for the problem – the area around the Gazebo at the Spit. 
“A trip down to the gazebo or to St. Paul Harbor will show you how pervasive problem this is. Not only are there more and more inebriates, but they are becoming more and more aggressive,” said Jack Mann. “My wife and I go by the gazebo almost every day in our skiff, and the other day there was a couple having sex right at the edge of the gazebo. And it was my friends the inebriates.”
Alexus Kwachka suggested that the community might examine how it could be enabling the inebriates and the vagrants.
“You know I think we need to dive into the Brother Francis Shelter. We need to look at what the role is and how many people we're supporting and how many people are coming back,” Kwachka said. “I think helping people is fine, but what we're doing is sustaining people, and that is outrageous. I mean to the point of wanting bulldoze our downtown park? You know? It's crazy.”
Mann agreed, and read from a newspaper article supporting the enabling argument:
“This is from the Alaska Daily News: 'Alaska is one of the few states where being drunk in public is not a crime. Police contend with donated tents and food, soup kitchens and sleep off centers for cold nights, and weak laws governing public drinking. Being a homeless alcoholic can be a viable lifestyle,' and that's what we're getting to here,” Mann said. “We're creating a viable lifestyle, I feel.”
Mayor Pat Branson responded that the city is seeking solutions.
“Just to point out that the city is not a social service agency. But we have been collaborating and meeting with the homeless coalition the human service coalition and the council was discussing this issue as well Tuesday night. So it's a multi-layered problem, and there's no silver bullet for solving inebriation, especially publicly. But we're also looking at loitering laws. There are other communities that have the same problem. And if we look at what they're doing: more presence downtown; the gazebo is just an invitation for people to hang out there during the day.”
Though the mayor and other councilmen asked the public for suggestions on battling the vagrancy issue, Councilman Rich Walker was a little more direct.
“We're going to take our town back. We're going to do whatever we can, and what we have to do, to take our town back. And I would guarantee that.”
Councilman Charlie Davidson agreed that the city should, and will take action, but he cautioned that citizens should be prepared, because he said a final solution will not be cheap. 
Jun 15 2015
#BabySalmonLiveHere: Snap a Salmon Pic
Monday, 15 June 2015
baby_salmon_instragram_pic.jpgInstragram photo by Erin Harrington / erinfish with caption: "I know i should expect it by now but still excited every time I discover that #babysalmonlivehere. This time in the creek running alongside the highway in #Seward."

Kayla Desroches/KMXT
You might have noticed the minnows swimming in the rivers around Kodiak, especially as the weather warms up. One project hopes that you’ll not only notice them, but snap a picture and put it online. 

Kodiak local, Erin Harrington, is the executive director of the Salmon Project and an organizer behind the state-wide Baby Salmon Live Here campaign. She says the campaign’s goal is to help Alaskans find moments of discovery around small salmon.

“Every Alaskan kid for example can tell you where they see minnows in their neighborhoods, where they’re playing, where they’re exploring with their families, where they’re camping on the weekends,” says Harrington. “But we aren’t always making the connections between what we often call minnows and juvenile salmon, but those places where we see these little itty-bitty fish are in fact part of the larger salmon-scape in Alaska.”

She says the nonprofit launched the campaign last week under the hashtag #BabySalmonLiveHere, and she encourages Alaskans to include that tag in Instagram photos of their minnow finds.

“And in doing that they will be populating a map that we have built and that lives on our website that is, as people add to it, going to become a heat map of the presence of salmon in the Alaska landscape,” says Harrington. “But also the presence of Alaskans in the Alaska landscape and where we’re living our lives and recreating and exploring in the summertime here in this state.”

Harrington says the Baby Salmon Live Here campaign connects to a larger picture.

“The sustainable future of salmon in Alaska is really about a sustainable future of Alaskans,” says Harrington. “It’s about us being able to live the lives that we do knowing that we can support our families, knowing that we can have landscapes that can care for us and resources that can care for us as well as us caring for them.”

Harrington says the Salmon Project will release a series of challenges in the next few weeks to engage people in the campaign. 

Josh Bell is a teacher at the Kodiak Baptist Mission Sonshine Preschool and says he’ll integrate the challenges into class time activities.

“What I’m really hoping will happen is I can send this home and that the kids will get excited about these challenges and take them home to their parents so that we continue to spread the awareness and that they can interact with their family and we’ll get more and more people involved throughout the community,” says Bell.

Harrington says the Salmon Project will start releasing the challenges next week. Check out the website to find out more.

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