Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage's municipal attorney and a coalition of city unions have jointly asked the Alaska Supreme Court for a quick decision on the contentious case involving the city's new labor law.

In a joint motion filed Friday, the two sides asked the Supreme Court to issue a decision in late January, which they say would give the city clerk enough time to prepare ballots for a referendum on the law as part of Anchorage's regular election in April.

The unions have already gathered enough signatures to force the city to hold a referendum on the law, but its supporters on the Anchorage Assembly have submitted a proposal to push back a vote as April, 2015...

Nathaniel Herz

The union group working to repeal the city's new labor relations law has gathered a sufficient number of signatures to place the measure before voters in a referendum, Anchorage's municipal clerk said Thursday.

The unions said last week that they had turned in more than 22,000 signatures, far more than the 7,124 needed to get the law before voters. But the signatures still had to be certified by the municipal clerk.

Deputy Clerk for Elections Amanda Moser said that her office had not verified all of the signatures, but had counted "a nice little cushion" above the 7,124...

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage city government is trying to obtain a 133-acre tract of surplus federal property next to the international airport and Kincaid Park, and is proposing that much of it be used for housing and support services for the city's homeless and people at risk of losing their homes.

The campus, which the city is calling "Raspberry Court," would include, initially, temporary and permanent housing for 96 people, a kitchen and dining room, a health center and an administrative building, with potential for additional development, the city said Wednesday in a written statement announcing the project...

Nathaniel Herz

The 7-month-old fight over city's new labor law is back on familiar territory, before the Anchorage Assembly.

Union representatives and Assembly members opposing the ordinance are blasting a proposal introduced Tuesday night that could push a public vote on the law all the way back to 2015 -- more than two years after the Assembly first voted for it in March.

The opponents say that the delay would twist the intent of the city charter, which allows for a referendum to be postponed but doesn't specify for how long. They also say that the proposal's backers are trying to get the issue on a ballot where it won't hurt allied candidates at the polls...

Nathaniel Herz

A 26-year-old man in Southwest Alaska apparently shot and killed himself Friday evening as police were trying to pull him over following reports that his wife was missing, police said.

Bristol Bay Borough Chief of Police Rodney Enevoldsen said in a written statement that Kyle Dale William Anderson "took his own life by an apparent self inflicted gunshot" after officers from his department attempted a traffic stop.

Anderson's wife, 24-year-old Reanna Anderson, was reported missing by her mother on Friday, Enevoldsen said. Both Reanna and Kyle Anderson are from King Salmon, a small town at the northeast end of the Alaska Peninsula.

Reanna Anderson's last known location was her residence in King Salmon on Tuesday, Enevoldsen said in an interview...

Nathaniel Herz

For Blaine Miller, flying out of Ted Stevens International Airport is more complicated, and expensive, than for most people.

The day before his flight, he has to remember to pick up the phone and dial one of the two Anchorage companies that dispatch taxis. He tells the dispatcher that he'll pay the normal fare to the airport -- and then he promises to toss in another $100 if the cab picks him up on time.

Miller, 47, uses an electric wheelchair. He says that offering the extra cash is the only way to guarantee one of Anchorage's few handicapped-accessible taxis will show up.

"If I don't, I've waited two hours," he said in an interview. "I know better than to wait for them."...

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini has unveiled a long-awaited, wide-ranging update to the city's taxi laws.

The revision, which was unveiled in draft form at a city Public Safety Committee meeting last week, would allow rates to go up by 50 cents a mile. It would quadruple the city's code enforcement efforts, expand background checks for aspiring drivers, and require every taxi cab to have surveillance cameras recording drivers and passengers, plus a GPS tracking system.

And it would also beef up standards for drivers and dispatchers of the city's 10 wheelchair-accessible taxis, which users have long criticized for delays...

Nathaniel Herz

The city of Anchorage is appealing to the Alaska Supreme Court a lower court decision that paved the way for local unions to organize a petition drive to repeal a controversial labor law that passed this year.

In a written statement Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler said he advised the city clerk to launch the appeal because of the potential for the case's outcome to have broad impact beyond the implementation of the labor law.

"Are we a representative democracy or a direct democracy?" Wheeler said in an interview. "We think the issues are far more important than people say they are."...

Nathaniel Herz

A fire ripped through an apartment complex in Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood on Thursday afternoon, leaving all 38 units uninhabitable and dozens of residents displaced.

The fire was at Glynwood Manor, two-story complex at 221 Meyer Street on the western edge of Mountain View. A building manager estimated the number of residents at 100 or fewer.

No injuries were reported, according to Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Al Tamagni Jr.

Investigator Brian Balega said the fire appeared to have started in an upstairs unit at the north end of the building, which occupies nearly a third of the block. He said the cause had not been determined, though there were unconfirmed reports it had started in the kitchen...

Nathaniel Herz,Zaz Hollander

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is considering an attempt to institute a city sales tax, and is planning a series of public forums to test the idea.

Voters have rejected a sales tax four times in the past, and Sullivan says he's not yet sure that he wants to propose a new one. But based on complaints he's heard about property taxes, Sullivan said he thinks the idea is worth exploring -- and he says that by engaging the public early in the process, there's a better chance of building a consensus.

"My job at this stage isn't to get public support. It's to listen to the public," Sullivan said.

Past efforts, he said, were "just thrown on to the ballot with very little discussion, very little interaction with the people who were going to vote on the tax."...

Nathaniel Herz