Voices

A tragic month along the tectonic subduction zones that surround the Pacific Rim has also been a spellbinding one for seismologists. A magnitude 6.2 quake on April 14 was followed a day later by a magnitude 7.0, together killing about 50 in the Kyushu region of Japan. Less than 24 hours later, a magnitude 7.8 in Ecuador killed more than 650. Major deep earthquakes in Myanmar and Afghanistan in April were also deadly, and a series of quakes this month struck Vanuatu, too. So many earthquakes of at least magnitude 6.5 in a week is quite uncommon, even in the volatile tectonic zone known as the Ring of Fire, which encircles the Pacific Ocean. But the dangers of this region remain widely misunderstood, and myths - the concept that animals can predict earthquakes, for instance, or that the...John Vidale
LAKE CLARK — People who meet me for the first time often ask about my Bush lifestyle and how often Anne and I make trips to town for supplies. When I tell them I fly my own Super Cub, they’re fascinated. Little do they know that these trips are nobody’s idea of a good time. Usually, a trip to town is synonymous with a lengthy list of to-dos and to-buys. When months go between supply runs, an extensive blueprint of where and how to shop is imperative. And there’s always the nagging question of what to leave in town if we have no space left in the Cub. Before departing Lake Clark, we inventory what we have on hand. Usually Anne volunteers to climb into the loft or slip under the cabin to shout through the ceiling or floor, “Three coffees, two bags raisins, one olive oil,” as I recline in my...Steve Kahn
If lawmakers need overtime, house them in UAS dorms A suggestion to our legislators: Attn: Senate President Meyers, House Speaker Chenault. Since you don’t seem to be able to accomplish your primary responsibility of passing a balanced state budget in the 90 days the voters have allowed for you to finish your task at hand, I would like to make a suggestion to help save about $10,000 per day. Instead of spending $235-plus per day per legislator in per diem pay, I say we should cancel per diem pay for any time spent in special sessions. Instead we could contract with the University of Alaska Southeast to provide room and board in their dormitories, at the rate charged students. (There is adequate housing for all 60 legislators on campus at UAS.) That way no extra legislator pay need to be...Alaska Dispatch News
The long overdue effort to reform Alaska’s criminal justice system to refocus on violent criminals, reduce recidivism, institute sensible punishment and save money as the state tries to scramble out of a river of red ink is laudable. So, why does it leave some of us so itchy? Maybe it is this: Bad people do bad things; if they are not in jail, they will do them to you. Alaska certainly has its share of bad people, but imprisoning too many of them is causing problems. The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, in a December report, said the state could save $424 million over the next decade by cutting its prison population by 21 percent. Nowadays, the state is paying more than $60,000 a year per inmate bed. The panel, aided by the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project and U...Paul Jenkins
This week several legislators from the House minority wrote an op-ed. One paragraph specifically answers the question, “What the hell are they doing still in Juneau?” I know, you probably thought it was for all the fancy lobbyists dinners and fat per diem checks, but it boils down to this: “The $775 million in cash subsidies to the oil industry is more than the combined budgets of the Alaska Court System, Department of Corrections, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and Department of Fish and Game. Combined.” Can we just think about that for a minute? I’ll wait for you to reread that little tidbit. Okay, welcome back to the column. The Republicans are in charge. They apparently don’t want to take a cent away from the oil companies and act like they'd rather take from your...Shannyn Moore
When President Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971, it was hailed as an experiment — an innovation that would create private sector opportunities for thousands of Alaska Natives living in poverty. It was also universally believed that Natives would be equal among all other shareholders. While many apologists staunchly proclaim the regional corporations are overwhelmingly successful in almost all aspects, I take exception on matters of governance and shareholder equality. To create equality among shareholders, it must be recognized the ANCSA experiment is not over. Throughout the discussion on how to make Native corporate governance fairer and more transparent, we must remember to appreciate the fact ANCSA isn’t just a Native discussion; it’s an Alaska...Edgar Blatchford
Once a year, Alaska’s journalists gather to compare notes, sharpen their skills and find the inspiration to spend another 12 months sitting through city council meetings, murder trials and late nights with nothing but a keyboard and a cup of coffee to keep them company. The Alaska Press Club conference is a mix of socializing, education and a chance to honor the extraordinary amount of entrepreneurial, creative journalism that happens in Alaska. This year, the conference focused on two things, mainly — trying to understand the state budget and getting a handle on the new social media delivery system. Neither topic is easy, to be honest, but the latter is particularly difficult for many of us, especially if you started as a journalist before there was even a computer with a connection to...Carey Restino
The Alaska State Troopers who visited Brandy Johnson at home two years ago did not have to say a word about her husband, Trooper Sgt. Scott Johnson, who had not returned from what should have been a routine trip to Tanana. "They didn't have to tell me. After seeing their faces, I knew Scott was dead," she said. As she tried to piece together her family finances in the aftermath of her husband's 2014 killing, she asked one of his fellow troopers if she and her three girls would continue to have health insurance coverage. "I was initially told I was set for life by one lieutenant," she told a legislative committee in 2015. "However, that was not the case." Her health coverage would have expired two years ago, but former Gov. Sean Parnell and Gov. Bill Walker stepped in to require that it be...Dermot Cole
Alaska’s Southcentral power utilities built at least one power plant over the past few years that we don’t need, and maybe more. But there is a solution to make the best of it and prevent similar mistakes. Electric loads in Anchorage have dropped for several years and will probably continue to drop. A flurry of power plant construction that is nearly completed was based on projections that electric use would rise. And something else contributed to the overbuilding: Everyone wants their very own power plant. Six electric utilities serve Alaska’s Railbelt from the Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks. Combined, they would add up to a small utility in the Lower 48. The system developed that way when our communities were truly rural. Repeated efforts to unify the companies have failed. Anchorage...Charles Wohlforth
Do mayor and his cronies listen to the voters? Well … Let’s talk about what the Assembly did regarding the budget this past Tuesday night. The quick, easy and nonobfuscated answer is they raised the tax bill for every property owner by just shy of 7 percent. But there are deeper, more sinister things in that tax increase. Remember just a few short weeks ago we held an election. At that time Anchorage voters by an overwhelming majority told the mayor and his eight Assembly cronies to put the tax cap the way it was before they decided to mess with it. Now, even though we have a $15 million surplus, the new “Gang of Eight” decided to tax Anchorage property owners another $5 million for good measure. Now, three newcomers to the gang, Croft, Dunbar and Weddleton, say that they heard during...Alaska Dispatch News