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Northwest Photo King
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Fairbanks City Council OKs muscle cars for cops
By Rebecca George
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks City Council voted to support the purchase of five new police cars for Fairbanks police despite Councilman John Eberhart’s protest.

Fairbanks Police will purchase five new Dodge Chargers, fully loaded with police equipment and a hemi V-8 engine to replace older vehicles.

Councilman John Eberhart said he was bothered by the fact that the new cars come with hefty fuel costs, and he questioned buying Chrylser products in light of the recent government bailouts.

Eberhart said the purchase raises questions about Chrysler’s stability and ability to honor warranties.

“I think we’re going down the wrong track with this vehicle and with this sort of money,” he said.

Eberhart suggested the city consider smaller, cheaper V-6 engines and use the remaining money to pay for additional staff.

Eberhart voted no on the purchase but was outvoted by the other council members.

Councilman Jerry Cleworth sponsored the ordinance but said he was also concerned about the vehicles.

“I have an uneasy feeling we may be doing something wrong,” Cleworth said. “Sometime in the near future, we need to look at vehicles with more fuel efficiency. The days of cruisers as muscle cars are coming to an end, as much as I hate to see that happen.”

Cleworth noted that in Interior Alaska, police cars are often kept running during winter months to protect the equipment inside.

“We need to look at options in the future for what we buy, because we know fuel costs will go back up,” Cleworth said.

He voted in support of the purchase despite his concerns, because the vehicle purchase agreement can be renewed in one year’s time.

“It’s just food for thought in the future,” he said.

Councilman Chad Roberts added that the Public Works department manages the police fleets and stands behind the purchase.

“Public works is in full support and I think we have to act in good faith on our projects and in support of the local dealers,” Roberts said. “So long as the fleet management is in agreement with going forward with the purchase then I think we should as well.”

Acting Police Chief Brad Johnson said the cars were chosen based on research that said the Dodge performed better in northern climates and Fairbanks’ harsh winter environment.

“We go through an extensive amount of testing and research before we determine what we think should be a proper vehicle for our fleet,” Johnson said. “We want what is safest under all conditions.”

The purchases are subject for review every year.

“It may be that there are some viable options next year and in the future we can look at them in terms of fuel mileage and other factors,” he said.

In addition to new Dodge Chargers on city streets, residents can look forward to greener, cleaner lighting in neighborhoods starting this summer.

The city put $350,000 toward a grant to install new LED street lights, which will cut the city’s electric bill by roughly 50 percent.

Each light costs $109; the older lights cost as much as $354 each.

Public Works director Mike Schmetzer said he believes the lights will pay for themselves in three to four years.

“Hopefully this will give a shot in the arm to public works. We were fortunate enough to finish last year with a good surplus,” Cleworth said.

Cleworth said he thinks the city’s infrastructure has been neglected, something he thinks the city could have trouble funding in the future.

“I don’t think we’ve put adequate resources into infrastructure,” he said.

Most of the money allocated in Monday’s meeting was to match grants the city has applied for and been accepted. That money came from a surplus in the city’s fund balance, comprised essentially from a five-year average of earnings from the permanent fund.
 

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Mat-Su ferry almost finished, but port location uncertain
FUNDS AND APPROVAL ELUSIVE: Anchorage location for link with Port Mackenzie yet to be decided.
By RINDI WHITE
[email protected]

Anchorage Daily News

(Proposed ferry site in Anchorage.)


(Ferry design.)
More Alaska News at AJM STUDIOS.NET


Published: April 29th, 2009 09:43 PM
Last Modified: April 30th, 2009 02:24 PM
WASILLA -- The catamaran-style ferry being built for use between Anchorage and Port MacKenzie across Knik Arm may end up having to find other ports for a while after it is launched next year.
The ferry, a one-of-a-kind ice-breaking ship being built by the federal Office of Naval Research, is on track to be finished next winter.

Borough officials have long touted it as a way to transport commuters between Anchorage and Mat-Su, and more recently to ferry workers from Anchorage to a state prison being built nine miles from Port MacKenzie.

But the landings on both the Anchorage and Mat-Su sides have yet to be built and still need millions of dollars in funding. Meanwhile, there has been continued opposition to a potential landing spot on the Anchorage side, including a Coast Guard letter released last week saying if the borough builds on the site it prefers in Anchorage, collisions between the ferry and tugboats or private boaters could occur.

While Mat-Su works to prove the ferry landing will fit in the crowded Anchorage coastline, it appears unlikely a permit will be granted in time to build the landing next year.

As a result, Mat-Su officials said this week the ferry could end up sailing to remote Cook Inlet villages for two years before it has a place to dock in Anchorage.

Or it could be mothballed until the landings are built.

The ferry, dubbed the M/V Sustina, is an experimental ship originally designed for military use. It has a ice-breaking hulls that will allow it to operate year-round in Knik Arm. A movable deck between the hulls will lower to let military equipment drive off without a dock. But in Cook Inlet, where low tides uncover acres of sticky mud, a dock that moves with the tides is needed to haul personal vehicles.

The vessel is expected to cost $68 million. After three months of testing how it performs for military use, the borough can operate the vessel as a ferry, provided it continues to track the ship's performance for five years.

The ship is expected to carry up to 111 passengers and 20 cars. Ticket prices have not yet been set, but a report last year estimated $10 per person or $25 per car for a 15-minute trip from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage.


The Mat-Su Borough has a permit to build a ferry landing at Port MacKenzie and is working on final designs. The site sits almost directly across Knik Arm from the Port of Anchorage. Port MacKenzie Director Marc Van Dongen said the borough needs another $8 million to build the landing. If the money is found, the landing could be built next year.

Construction of an Anchorage dock is nowhere near as close. Officials from Anchorage and Mat-Su have been deadlocked over where to put a ferry landing on the Anchorage side of Knik Arm for several years.

The two communities had agreed to work together on the ferry project. Anchorage committed $150,000 to planning and design. But outgoing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich ended that agreement in December, about two weeks before he resigned to be sworn in as a U.S. senator.

"We have both recognized for some time now that the project is no longer a joint venture, and terminating this agreement is essentially a housekeeping matter to square the record with practice," Begich stated.

Anchorage mayoral candidates Eric Croft and Dan Sullivan have been vague on their positions. A Daily News candidate questionnaire in February asked them whether Anchorage should agree to cooperate with Mat-Su on a ferry landing and where to build it -- at Ship Creek, the Port of Anchorage or somewhere else.

Croft answered "somewhere else." Sullivan said he would "review all options."

The ferry's prospects got foggier last week with the release by the Army Corps of Engineers of several letters from state, federal and municipal agencies opposing the borough's choice for a landing site on the Anchorage side.

Mat-Su officials applied last fall for a Corps of Engineers' permit to build a ferry landing near the mouth of Ship Creek, on a finger of land that includes a public boat launch. Anchorage officials want to redevelop that area some day into a tourist attraction and don't believe the ferry will fit those plans. They have asked the borough instead to build the landing at the nearby Anchorage port. But Mat-Su officials have a long list of objections to using the port, chief among them that ferry passengers would have to pass through security checkpoints, which could deter potential riders.

In evaluating the borough's request for a permit for the site near the boat launch, the Corps of Engineers took public comments on the project. Eight state, federal and municipal agencies responded with lists of concerns.

Among them, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends denying the permit because the landing could hinder boat traffic at the public boat launch and at Cook Inlet Tug & Barge Co., which operates next to where the borough wants to build the Anchorage ferry landing.

"Knik Arm's ice conditions, tides, currents and spatial limitations combine to create a hazardous environment where the addition of a facility of this size poses unacceptable risk," stated Coast Guard Capt. H.M. Hamilton in an April 16 letter.


The project needs Coast Guard approval to move forward and Van Dongen hopes to get it. He said he is working to change the landing design to address the Coast Guard's concerns and concerns raised by Cook Inlet Tug & Barge President Carl Anderson, who says part of the ferry landing is too close to his dock.

"It's going to take a couple more months to work these things out," Van Dongen said.

If the dock is built at Port MacKenzie, the borough has said they could use the ferry to make runs to Tyonek and other Cook Inlet communities until a landing is built in Anchorage, although those communities would need to build docks too.

Meanwhile, the borough is searching for funding for the landings. Construction of the Mat-Su landing is expected to cost $14 million, of which the borough has $6 million. The Anchorage ferry landing is much more costly, at $22 million, Van Dongen said. The landing, a floating concrete dock, would require a quarter-mile-long trestle to reach it, he said.

Borough Manager John Duffy said the borough has applied for federal transportation grants to build the project. But if the Knik Arm bridge project is halted, he said the borough will ask for some of the about $63 million in unspent federal money earmarked for that project.

An Anchorage transportation committee last week voted to start a series of public hearings to see if the bridge should be removed from Anchorage's long-term transportation plan. The project must stay in the plan to qualify for federal funding.
 

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Northwest Photo King
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Web posted Friday, May 29, 2009

Interior Alaska's tourism season looking bleak
By Margaret Bauman
Alaska Journal of Commerce


(S.S. Nenana in Nenana, Alaska, an interior tourist draw.)

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


National economic woes appear to be taking their toll on tourism in Alaska's Interior, with Fairbanks hotel operators offering bargain rates as low as $89 a night on Internet Web sites.

"We are cutting rates," said Jay Ramras, of Pike's Waterfront Lodge, who described the tourism season so far as "a disaster."

Pike's summer specials, advertised on the company's Web site, include $109 for double occupancy for Fridays and other specific nights, and special rates for school or sports teams.



Other hotels are offering rates as low as $89 a night, prices unheard of in the summer, when a good deal on a hotel room was often more than $200.

"It's the economy," said Ramras, an Alaska state senator whose hotel offers a number of amenities, ranging from free airport shuttles to spa facilities. "It's expensive to travel here, and the cruise ships are attracting frugal guests, less likely to buy land tours."

Still, Ramras said he is optimistic and thinks the Alaska tourism market will rebound when the economy does. Right now, "we think you are a winner in this market if you are down 20 percent," he said May 25 on the tail end of the Memorial Day weekend, which signals the start of the summer tourism season.

Dave Worrell, communications director for the Alaska Travel Industry Association in Anchorage, said people are worried about the economy.

Some 450,000 people requested tourism guides to Alaska this year, but they're not all planning to visit. According to Worrell, a survey last November of those requesting visitor guides indicated that 12 percent planned to definitely travel to Alaska, another 41 percent probably would, 26 percent probably would not visit and 18 percent definitely would not.

Another survey in January indicated 12 percent of those requesting travel guides still planned to visit Alaska, 28 percent said they probably would, 35 percent said they probably would not and 24 percent said they definitely would not.

By March, surveyors were being told only 13 percent of those requesting guides would visit, 21 percent probably would, 31 percent probably would not and 32 percent definitely would not, Worrell said.

The big selling point for people to come to Alaska is the mountains, glaciers and wildlife, and that has remained consistent, he said.

"People want to come to Alaska to experience the wilderness," he said. "Alaska is in many ways perceived as exotic, but safe, because it is in the United States."

Larger businesses are more financially able to offer discounts to entice visitors despite the economy.

"All you have to do is look at the cruise lines," he said. "You can get a cruise in Alaska waters for under $400, round-trip cruises on the Inside Passage for seven days. Normally around $700 is a good price. A base level price under $400 is unheard of."

The big concern, Worrell said, is the type of visitor who buys a $375 stateroom for their Alaska experience. They are not the kind of visitor who pays $900 for a balcony stateroom, and they probably won't take as many side trips. They will probably buy T-shirts instead of take a flightseeing experience.

"Our members are telling us that by and large this will be the worst summer they can remember," he said. "Bookings are down 30 to 60 percent and even more in some places. The farther from the water, the worse."

On the bright side, the price of gasoline is remaining reasonable, so long-haul recreational vehicle travel could be up, although it by no means will make up for declines in the other sectors, he said.

Matt Atkinson, co-owner of Northern Alaska Tour Co., in Fairbanks, said his firm is down 24 percent in bookings so far this season, but that business is relatively stable.

"What we do is not a direct function of overall visitation," he said. "We work primarily with independent travelers. For us the to-date figures are terrible compared to the last five years."

His firm attracts many independent travelers for bus tours to the Arctic Circle, mostly in the 40- to 65-year-old age range, he said.

"We tried some discounts and got a few, but it seems like to us if someone is interested, they would take a discount special, but they would also come without it," he said.

At K-2 Aviation, which offers flight seeing tours and glacier landings in Denali National Park and other areas, office manager Kristy Kingery said business has been brisk, thanks in part to extremely good weather.

"We're probably down a little bit, but it looks like we are having a solid early season," she said.

But Scott Reisland, whose family operates the Grizzly Bear Resort just south of Denali National Park, said his business is way down for the two RV parks, as well as his cabins and hotel rooms.

"Our first quarter for pre-bookings was down 72 percent from the year before," he said. "We are starting to move the needle by massive discounting."

Reisland, whose family has operated the resort for 41 years, has been expanding over the past three years because of the demand, he said.

"Every year since 1968, we built a couple more cabins or added RV sites," he said. "Every year we developed our old homestead property."

The rest of the season aside, Reisland said the Memorial Day weekend would be a good one, because he had booked a Harley Davidson Hog Association group.

Meanwhile, Reisland said he has hired a lot fewer than the usual 35 to 40 employees, including part-timers, and he and his family will be working a lot harder this summer.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at [email protected].
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Application withdrawn for ferry landing close to Ship Creek
Anchorage Daily News / adn.com

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


Published: June 3rd, 2009 08:18 PM
Last Modified: June 4th, 2009 09:22 AM
WASILLA -- The Mat-Su Borough on Wednesday withdrew its application to build a dock for the catamaran-style ferry being built in Ketchikan for borough use. The borough had asked the Army Corps of Engineers in January for permission to build a ferry landing near the mouth of Ship Creek in Anchorage. Public comments released in April included a letter from the U.S. Coast Guard that said the borough's preferred landing spot could spell collisions between the ferry and tugboats or private boaters because the landing is close to Ship Creek small-boat launch and Cook Inlet Tug and Barge Co.

Borough port director Marc Van Dongen said Wednesday that the borough plans to submit another application after it finds a ferry dock design that is agreeable to the Coast Guard, Cook Inlet Tug and Barge and the Municipality of Anchorage. Anchorage firm PND Engineers Inc. designed a new proposal that may address concerns listed by the Coast Guard and other user groups but Van Dongen said borough officials plan to wait until incoming Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is seated in July to pitch the new idea.

The ferry would primarily transport travelers between Anchorage and the Mat-Su port at Point MacKenzie, although the borough is working to develop other ferry routes such as weekend trips to Kenai and stops in Tyonek.

The ferry is expected to be complete this winter. Borough officials hope to build a dock for the ferry at Port MacKenzie next summer, if they can find funding for it. Van Dongen said pulling the permit will delay construction of an Anchorage ferry landing until 2011.
 

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Northwest Photo King
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Story last updated at 6/11/2009 - 10:01 am
Land trust works to conserve property near Point Hilda
City would own 36 acres slated for private development

By Kim Marquis | JUNEAU EMPIRE

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


(Point Hilda, Alaska.)


A land deal in the works could get a valued piece of Douglas Island out of the hands of a private property owner and into the public's.
The property at Hilda Cove was subdivided last year into 10 lots the owner said he intended to sell for individual residences accessible only by boat.
The deal being worked by Southeast Alaska Land Trust for the city would preserve 36 acres located at the halfway point on the west side of Douglas Island.
The property's value is in its two salmon spawning streams, Hilda Creek especially, and its recreational opportunities. Hilda Cove is the most sheltered anchorage on the west side of the island and is a popular spot with kayakers, hikers, hunters, trappers and fishermen, a state Department of Fish and Game biologist wrote last year when the property was subdivided.
The property falls under the West Douglas Conceptual Plan, the city's long-term development plan for the area. The plan calls for an extension of North Glacier Highway and other development on the west side of the island. The land would be managed as a natural area and a park similar to the Auke Village Recreation Area, ensuring recreational opportunities amidst other development likely to happen in future decades, city Lands Manager Heather Marlow said.
The property was part of the Tongass National Forest until 1923, when John F. McDonald homesteaded it. It is bordered by Goldbelt Corp. and U.S. Forest Service land and is near a large city-owned parcel.
An agreement the city and Goldbelt signed in 1999 leaves open the possibility of a trade that would connect the city's two parcels surrounding Hilda Creek. In exchange, the Native corporation would acquire property farther northwest along the island that it wants to develop into a port facility, among other things.
The agreement remains active but large development pieces need to fall into place before parties are likely to act on it, Marlow said, including a North Douglas crossing and extending the road around the island.
The current deal is the land trust's first of several to be paid for with $6 million that Juneau International Airport is paying in wetlands mitigation for airport projects.
Marlow said the city looks forward to future opportunities to acquire wetland and park land with the money.
• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at [email protected].
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Anchorage: One of the Best Cities for Riding Out a Recession

June 19, 2009

Anchorage Downtown Partnership

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


While vacancies at office buildings nationwide have skyrocketed as a result of the troubled economy — exceeding 15 percent in the first three months of 2009 — the supply of office space has actually tightened somewhat in Anchorage. In fact, Business Week magazine recognized Anchorage as one of the best cities in the U.S. for riding out the recession. As BW explains:
Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, has a strong economy that feeds off the state’s rich oil and natural gas supplies, U.S. military presence, and tourism.
Share of jobs in strong industries: 39.3%
Number of workers: 138,768
Metro area unemployment rate: 5.6%
Agriculture jobs: 3.21%
Professional, Scientific, and Technical jobs (legal, accounting etc.): 6.79%
Education jobs: 8.26%
Health-care jobs: 11.36%
Public Administration (Government) jobs: 9.71%
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
New Livengood gold mine could be another Fort Knox
By Rena Delbridge
Published Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fairbanks News Miner

(Livengood has a population of 29.)
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center

FAIRBANKS — An exploration company plans to spend around $8 million firming up data on a gold deposit near Livengood that it said could prove up on par with Fort Knox.

International Tower Hills president and CEO Jeff Pontius said he expects to release a revised resource estimate at the end of June and the results of an economic feasibility study at the end of July.

Early data collected this spring suggests a find on a scale with Fort Knox. Under a best-case scenario, a gold mine could be operational within six or seven years, with at least a 10-year life, Pontius said at a luncheon the company hosted on Wednesday to update the community.

“Our company is pushing forward about as fast as we possibly can,” Pontius said. Crews started drilling exploration holes in February. About 52 employees are on the ground running four rigs around the clock, working toward a 2009 estimate of 45,000 meters drilled.

At this point, Pontius said the resource quantity and quality seems similar to that found at Fort Knox, and a mine likely would incorporate milling and heap-leach techniques. Heap-leaching uses cyanide to process ore and has been protested by environmental groups.

Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said the project is promising in terms of jobs for the Interior and business for Fairbanks-based enterprises. However, he cautioned against unbridled enthusiasm until the company is more certain about the find, and until development costs can be proven economical.

“It’s close enough to Fairbanks where it has a real economic benefit, but they are still prospecting,” Coghill said.

He said the state will have to give thought to potential multiple-use problems with increased access and traffic through Livengood, and any heap-leach facility will have to be carefully considered in light of fish-bearing rivers through the area.

“It’s always about that balance,” he said, noting he likes the public updates International Tower Hills is providing.

“This is transparency I appreciate,” Coghill said.

Once the reserves can be stated with more certainty and the project deemed economical, International Tower Hills can begin permitting processes, Pontius said. The exploration company doesn’t develop mines, but would look for an established operator to buy into the project.

Groups of financial analysts from global investment firms have been traveling to Livengood in recent weeks to survey the find, speak with geologists and shore up International Tower Hills’ claims. Pontius said the find has generated a lot of interest, possibly because new, large gold resources are few and far between.

“There are not a lot of these big deposits out there,” he said.

A real boost could be development of a proposed in-state natural gas pipeline from the North Slope. A gold mine would require about 20 megawatts of electricity.

“It could be a very important economic driver,” he said. “We’re very supportive of this in-state gas line.”

So far, International Tower Hills has invested $28 million in the find. About $20 million of that was spent in Alaska.

Pontius promised a focus on responsible development and on the cultural values of people living in the Interior. He also said his company is in Alaska to stay, with “lots of guys crawling around in the Bush looking for the next Livengood.”

Contact staff writer Rena Delbridge at 459-7518.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
5.4 earthquake shakes Anchorage, Mat-Su
By MEGAN HOLLAND and S.J. KOMARNITSKY
Anchorage Daily News / adn.com
Published: June 22nd, 2009 11:37 AM
Last Modified: June 22nd, 2009 12:34 PM


(Law Enforcement and rescue units are prepared for calls and damage. Inspections beginning within the hour.)

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center



A 5.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Southcentral Alaska at 11:28 a.m. today, according to the Alaska Earthquake Information Center. The epicenter was 33 miles southwest of Talkeetna.


The quake was followed by several aftershocks, including one at 11:57 a.m. with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

"The most reported was some objects moved around a shelf in Wasilla," said Paul Whitmore, director of the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

A dispatcher at the Alaska State Troopers post in Talkeetna said they'd received no reports of damage

Ola Williams, who runs the Alaska Dream Espresso stand in Willow at the corner of the Parks Highway and Willow-Fishhook Road, was about as near the epicenter of the quake as it gets. She was in the middle of making an iced americano when the earthquake hit.

"I was right up front, starting to make a drink for a customer. There was a big noise (like a freight train). They said, 'Well, what's that?' I told him we're have an earthquake. Then it really started shaking," she said.

Williams said she had no idea how long the earthquake went on. Her syrup bottles did a little tap dance on the shelf and a box of ice cream cones tumbled off the top of the refrigerator, but that was the extent of the damage.


The reported magnitude of the earthquake has altered slightly since it was first felt, which is standard, Whitmore said.

"Within that first half hour, they do tend to jump around because there are different agencies reporting on different data sets," he said.

Southcentral Alaska usually gets one or two earthquakes this size a year, he said.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Strong earthquake jolts urban centers of Alaska
Story last updated at 6/22/2009 - 11:21 am

The Juneau Empire

AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


(The epicenter was reportedly 33 miles southwest of Talkeetna, Alaska, as seen above.)

By RACHEL D’ORO

ANCHORAGE - A strong earthquake has jolted urban areas of Alaska, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways.
The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7 struck near the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. Monday. The epicenter was 58 miles (93 kilometers) from the state’s largest city, Anchorage, where the rumbled continued for several moments.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reported the magnitude at a slightly weaker 5.3 and said no tsunami will be generated.
There are no immediate reports of damage or injury, but the shaking was felt over a wide swatch of southcentral Alaska.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Alaska Earthquake Update
Rachel D'Oro/ AP / The Fairbanks News Miner
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


Updated Monday, June 22, 2009 at 12:38 p.m.



ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A strong earthquake jolted urban areas of Alaska on Monday, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways.

The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck near the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. The epicenter was 58 miles from the state's largest city, Anchorage, where the rumbled continued for several moments.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reported the magnitude at a slightly weaker 5.3 and said no tsunami will be generated. The USGS had reported a preliminary magnitude of 5.7.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injury, but the shaking was felt over a wide swatch of Southcentral Alaska.

Aftershocks were shaking the area, with one about a half-hour later measuring 4.2.
 

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Less asphalt: Getting rid of excess parking saves cash and land

Anchorage's city planners say their research and national "best practices" show the city zoning code requires more parking than we really need. Planners visited apartment houses and condos at night and offices during the day, when the lots should be full, to count the vehicles and the empty spaces. They found much extra space.

At the upscale Park Plaza II at 16th Avenue and A Street, which features efficiencies, one- and two-bedroom apartments, the number of parked vehicles was only 0.9 per unit. But the owners were required to build almost twice that much: 1.7 spaces per unit. Shrinking the parking requirement there from 163 to 90 spaces would have cut costs by $3 million.

Lakeridge Commons off Jewel Lake Road is a complex of 54 units joined by a massive parking lot. There are 137 spaces where 102 would do, city planners say. The unnecessary parking cost an additional $245,000 and required an extra 14,000 square feet of space, according to city estimates.

Likewise with a sampling of office buildings -- the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. office (the green, semi-circular building at 40th Avenue and A Street) and the nearby Alaska USA building among them. City code required significantly more parking spaces than vehicles actually use.

With those findings in hand, city planners are proposing to reduce city parking requirements. One-bedroom apartments, for example, would need only one space instead of the 1.7 spaces now required. Certain retailers, such as furniture and home-appliance stores, could build 1.7 spaces per thousand square feet of floor space, instead of 3.3 spaces.

The Anchorage Assembly is due to consider the proposal later this summer.The city should reduce required parking as much as possible, and make the rules flexible enough to respond to circumstances such as if there's on-street parking available.

Reduced parking has many benefits, but here are four:

• It's cheaper for the developer. A parking space costs $5,000 to $8,000 to build, and that's outside. A space in a parking structure runs $25,000 to $40,000, says city planner Tom Davis. Parking makes up from 10 percent to 30 percent of the cost of housing, he says.

Some of the savings from reduced parking can go toward better design, which is badly needed in Anchorage.

• The less parking we have, the better it is for the environment. Areas that remain green allow water to seep naturally into the soil. Asphalt creates runoff and drainage problems.

• Paved parking lots increase the distance that people on foot or bicycles have to go to get to their destination. Look at Midtown from an airplane, and you'll see fields of empty asphalt separating the buildings.

• Parking lots are by and large not pleasing to the eye. To meet the parking requirements, some multi-family housing comes with nothing but asphalt -- not even a patch of lawn or a bush by the door.

In downtown Anchorage, businesses are not required to build their own parking because vehicles can park on the street or in numerous garages.

But elsewhere in the city, parking rules "are based on a 1980s notion that one size fits all, whether you are on a transit route, near downtown or way out in South Anchorage," Davis says.It's time to change that. The planning department has demonstrated we need a lot less asphalt than the city code now requires.

BOTTOM LINE: City code doesn't have to require so much parking.
 

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Our view: Step closer to rail ride
Got the little engine that could; still need the buses that would


It wasn't long ago that bold talk of a pilot project commuter rail link between the Mat-Su and Anchorage had people thinking about a no-stress ride from Wasilla to downtown Anchorage. Well, the Alaska Railroad has the engine, a self-propelled car called the Chugach Explorer that holds 112 passengers.

With 11,000 commuters making the trip from the Valley to Anchorage every day, they wouldn't have trouble filling the car.

Trouble is that we need more than the car and the rails. In order to qualify for available federal funds for the three-year project, bus routes have to be in place. On the Anchorage end, that would mean a shuttle system to swiftly move commuters from the railroad terminal into downtown and perhaps Midtown. People Mover isn't ready for that yet.

And a regional transit authority that Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough agreed to in 2008 remains only an agreement. There's no authority and no money to put one together.But to paraphrase the Beatles, we've got a railcar and that's a start.

The railroad may take up a different commuter run this winter with a Wasilla-to-Girdwood route to haul skiers from Mat-Su and Anchorage to Alyeska and cross-country trails.

That won't do much to ease rush hour crunches on the Glenn Highway, but a ski shuttle might give transportation officials a better idea of timing, demand and what it would take to start the pilot project.

Some planners have cooled to urban-exurban rail systems, arguing that they encourage sprawl. Well, 11,000 commuters tells us we've already got Anchorage-to-the-Valley sprawl. A rail connection could ease traffic, slow road wear and clear the air. We're not there yet, but a ski train might help show us the way.

BOTTOM LINE: Rail commute pilot project shouldn't go the way of the caboose; let's keep working toward it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
POSTED: Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2009

Quake jolts Anchorage, Alaska, but damage minimal
By RACHEL D'ORO - Associated Press Writer - The Bellingham Herald


ANCHORAGE, ALASKA A strong earthquake jolted Alaska's most populous region Monday, sending residents and office workers diving under desks and huddling in doorways but causing almost no damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 5.4 magnitude temblor struck about 24 miles from the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. The rumbling lasted several moments in Anchorage, 58 miles from the epicenter, and was felt as far south as Kenai and north to Fairbanks, a span of 300 miles.
"Things were swinging pretty good and shaking, like pictures on the wall, bottles rattling - and my blood pressure went up at least 20 points," said Pam Rannals, a bartender in Talkeetna, about 30 miles from the epicenter. "We had bears in the parking lot last night and now the earthquake. Those are the talk of the town."

No damage other than fallen dishes has been reported anywhere, and Rannals said even the liquor bottles at her workplace stayed put.
Gov. Sarah Palin noted the earthquake on her Twitter account. "All shook up ... thankful there are no reports of injury or damage," she wrote.
The quake was 26 miles deep, a reason for both the minimal damage and the vast area over which it was felt, according to Janet Herr, an employee fielding many of the calls residents were making to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
Anchorage has about 285,000 residents, most of the vast state's population.
Still, Monday's widely felt earthquake was enough to force a nervous pause among residents. At the Anchorage office of the National Wildlife Federation, even the office dog, Oliver, trembled and wagged his tail slowly.
Office manager Heather McGee watched as her cup of tea shook near her keyboard. "I'm unscathed, but my tea spilled," she said.
The tsunami center reported the magnitude at a slightly weaker 5.3 and said no tsunami was generated. Aftershocks shook the area, with one around noon measuring 4.0.
The earthquake was 170 miles west of the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline and operations were not affected, said Katie Pesznecker, a spokeswoman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. The pipeline, which carries about 715,000 barrels of crude daily, is designed to withstand magnitudes as high as 8.5, she said.
Two unrelated quakes measuring 5.6 and 5.4 struck later in Alaska's remote western Aleutian Islands more than 1,000 miles to the southwest. There were no reports they caused any damage, said Natasha Ruppert, a seismologist at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center.
Alaska is seismically active and has frequent earthquakes, although most are too small or too remote to be felt. The last one that measured stronger was a 5.8 in southern Alaska on Jan. 24.
Monday's earthquakes had nothing to do with Mount Redoubt, Alaska's most active volcano with a series of explosions earlier this year. Dave Schneider, a geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said the volcano's seismic instruments more than 100 miles from the epicenter picked up the Willow temblor, which he enjoyed from his Anchorage office.
"I thought it was kind of fun, but I'm like that," he said.
Alaska is the site of the biggest earthquake recorded in North America - a magnitude-9.2 quake on Good Friday 1964 that struck 75 miles east of Anchorage on Prince William Sound. The quake and the ensuing tsunami killed 115 people in Alaska and 16 people in California.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Borough plans study of upkeep costs for ferry
COMMUTE: $25,000 analysis will help determine routes, ticket prices for Mat-Su-Anchorage trips.
By RINDI WHITE
[email protected]

The Anchorage Daily News
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


Published: June 24th, 2009 12:11 AM
Last Modified: June 24th, 2009 12:12 AM

WASILLA -- The Mat-Su Borough plans to spend $25,000 to study how much it will cost to run a passenger ferry between Anchorage and Mat-Su, and other potential ports of call.

Lew Madden, a contractor who is representing the borough while the ferry is being built in Ketchikan, said the so-called life-cycle cost analysis will hone in on actual costs for regular ferry inspections, maintenance, repairs, painting and other items.

The borough, in turn, will use those figures to calculate how often the ferry should run, which routes it should travel and how much to charge passengers, Madden said.

The ferry is being looked at as a way to move Valley commuters to Anchorage. With construction started on a new state prison, the Goose Creek Correctional Center near Point MacKenzie, borough officials are also pitching the ferry as a way for prison guards to commute to work from Anchorage and to move inmates to court dates and doctor appointments in the city.

Borough officials are also looking at other potential users, including Anchorage residents who want to jump-start their fishing or snowmachining weekend in the Valley by using the ferry.

Borough manager John Duffy has touted the possibility someone could construct a "toy-storage" building on the Point MacKenzie side where Anchorage residents could park their snowmachines or fishing boats and hook up to them after they drive off the ferry.

Using the ferry for trips to the Kenai and to the Native village of Tyonek have also been discussed.

The borough has signed an agreement with the Tyonek Native Corporation to work with village leaders to develop a regular stop to the community, although doing so would require building a landing for the ferry.

There are no answers yet for the big questions -- what will it cost to ride the ferry and how much are people willing to pay? At a borough Assembly meeting last year, Madden threw out estimates for one-way fares -- $10 for the 15-minute trip to Anchorage, $25 for a car, $250 for a truck or bus and $500 for a tractor-trailer.

Madden said those numbers are guesses based in part on what ferry operators elsewhere charge.

The figures could change, depending on what the life-cycle cost study shows and how much money the borough can get in federal public transportation subsidies, he said.

"We are considering looking at committing ourselves for oil spill remediation (and other accessory uses) to minimize the cost and maybe make a profit," Madden said.

Another big remaining question is when the borough will be able to use the ferry.

The ferry, a 198-foot long, $68 million ice-breaking twin-hulled ship designed for use by the military, is being built at Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan.

It's scheduled to be delivered to the borough as early as next summer.

But the borough has yet to find a landing site for the ferry in Anchorage and still needs funding to build a landing on the Mat-Su side.

This month, Mat-Su Port Director Marc Van Dongen pulled the borough's application to build a landing near the mouth of Ship Creek in Anchorage after the U.S. Coast Guard objected to the dock's location.

Van Dongen said the borough hopes to submit another application after it finds a ferry dock design that the Coast Guard, Cook Inlet Tug and Barge, and the Municipality of Anchorage can agree on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Rural Alaska schools face closure
Story last updated at 6/26/2009 - 7:44 am
The Juneau Empire
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center

(In rural Alaska, schools are very important for education, and also serve as community centers for food, sport, and game.)

FAIRBANKS – The superintendents of two interior Alaska school districts say six rural schools are in danger of closing next year because of low enrollment.
The schools under scrutiny are in Central, Stevens Village, Takotna (tuh-KOTT’-nah), Beaver, Anvik and Shageluk.
Districts see major state funding cuts when enrollment falls below 10 students at a school.
Joe Banghart of the Iditarod School district says Shageluk, Takotna and Anvik project 12 to 14 students but could drop below that.
Yukon Flats district superintendent Woody Woodford says schools at Stevens Village, Beaver and Central have been on the borderline. Their student count will not be known until the last week in September.
Both superintendents say long-range planning is difficult when districts are worried about enrollment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Story last updated at 6/30/2009 - 9:53 am
More land in public's hands
By Michael Penn / The Juneau Empire
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center

(Douglas, Alaska.)

JUNEAU- A valuable piece of private property on Douglas Island considered for development is one step closer to becoming a city park.
The Juneau Assembly approved a resolution at its regular meeting Monday night that accepts the donation of nearly 36 acres of land in the Hilda Creek area from the Southeast Alaska Land Trust.
SEAL Trust has a purchase-sale agreement on the table with the landowner and intends to buy the property using part of the $6 million that Juneau International Airport is paying in wetlands mitigation for airport projects. Executive Director Diane Mayer said the trust has offered appraised value for the property, adding that the figure is between the nonprofit and the buyer.
SEAL Trust will donate the property to the city if the sale is completed. Mayer said she hopes it will be set in stone by the end of July.
"We'll let the public know when the transaction is complete and people can start enjoying that area," city Lands Manager Heather Marlow said.
The land, located at the halfway point on the west side of Douglas Island, was part of the Tongass National Forest until John F. McDonald homesteaded it in 1923. The land has two salmon spawning streams on it and nearby Hilda Cove is known as a popular recreation spot for kayakers, fisherman and hikers. Last year the property was subdivided into 10 lots that the owner intended to sell for individual residences, accessible only by boats.
The Hilda Creek area is an important piece of property in the community, Mayer said.
"You look at Douglas Island, and Hilda Creek and Peterson Creek are the two richest drainages on the island," she said. "Given that this has this uniquely positioned private ownership in the heart of the flood plains of Hilda Creek, it makes it a pretty good candidate for conservation."
SEAL Trust is also hoping an ordinance approved Monday night that amends the Land Use Code will allow it to use more of the airport's wetland mitigation funds to add acreage to the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.
Due to isostatic rebound, where the land is slowly rising due to glacial retreat, the seaward property boundaries on land near the refuge has been moving. The landowners are able to go to court to claim land that has essentially risen from the sea to ensure their right of access to water.
SEAL Trust and property owners had approached the city and asked to have some of the accreted lands turned into stand-alone lots for conservation purposes, but the Land Use Code required that individual lots have at least 30 feet of frontage on roads maintained by a government agency. The Assembly approved an ordinance that amends the Land Use Code to allow "conservation lots" around the Mendenhall wetlands refuge that don't require a road.
"We found that there was a bunch of regulation standing in the way that wasn't needed," Marlow said. "So in pretty quick order we were able to craft a solution that allows for the activities and transaction to go forward."
SEAL Trust has been working with three separate landowners with accreted land adjacent to the refuge that Mayer said are interested in selling to the nonprofit, which she says would then ideally be transferred to the state. This is important because it could help maintain a fixed boundary around the refuge and add possibly 60 acres to it, Mayer said.
The first transaction for a parcel of land could take place by mid-August, she said.
The Assembly also approved the first reading of an ordinance that would approve $21.1 million in grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Juneau Airport runway safety area capital improvement project. It is the third grant from the FAA for the $48 million renovation of the airport underway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Scientists lower Redoubt threat level as volcano quiets
By DAN JOLING
Anchorage Daily News
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center

(Mount Redoubt.)

Published: June 30th, 2009 11:59 AM
Last Modified: June 30th, 2009 02:01 PM
ANCHORAGE- The Alaska Volcano Observatory has lowered the alert level for Mount Redoubt, the Cook Inlet volcano that disrupted air traffic and sent mud flows toward an oil terminal earlier this year.

Seismic, satellite and gas observations over the past few weeks indicate that growth of a lava dome at has significantly slowed and may have stopped.

The observatory says it's possible that eruptive activity has ended. The alert level has been lowered to "yellow."

However, scientists say the large mass of fresh lava may be unstable and could fail with little or no warning, leading to significant ash production and possible mud flows in the Drift River Valley, where an oil terminal was threatened.

The volcano is 106 miles southwest of Anchorage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Dan Sullivan takes over mayor's office today

New mayor plans to save funds right away by restricting travel.
By DON HUNTER / Anchorage Daily News
[email protected]
Published: June 30th, 2009
Last Modified: July 1st, 2009
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


(Dan Sullivan is the new mayor of Alaska's largest city.)

ANCHORAGE- The seventh mayor elected since the 1975 unification of Anchorage's old city and borough governments takes the oath of office today. He inherits a city with an iffy economy, flattening property values, shrunken budget reserves and employees working under a series of new controversial union contracts he had no hand in negotiating.

Sullivan promises a more austere municipal government and said he aims to buck a trend of the last several years and bring a smaller city budget to the table this fall. He will try to do that surrounded by many old hands, people who have worked in city and state government for years, including at least one top executive who worked for his father.

He takes office two weeks after his 58th birthday, and 27 years after his father, George Sullivan, left office as the new municipality's first mayor.

"It's very exciting, not only for me but for the family," Sullivan said. "That's important for our family, to have that continuity of public service."

In interviews and press conferences since his election May 5, Sullivan has said he and his executive team will scrape deep into the bureaucracy looking for "efficiencies" and ways to cut spending while paying higher rates for wages and benefits.

"Exactly how we're going to do it, we don't know yet," Sullivan said Saturday.

Is government going to get smaller?

"You hate to say definitely," he said. "But I'm not sure how you can bring in a smaller budget, with the contracts increasing, without probably looking at the size of the workforce. So probably yes, we're looking at a smaller workforce in city government.

"It's not an easy thing to do, but city government is not a job center," he said. "It's a service center."

Sullivan's executives will be paid less than the people they are replacing. The mayor's salary is fixed by a city commission; Sullivan said he'll donate part of it to charities.

"We're going to lead from the top on that," he said. "We're doing it from the get-go right at the top."

City employees from the top down will do less traveling and more teleconferencing.

"Under the Begich administration, travel went from $800,000 a year to almost a million and a half a year," Sullivan said. "We can cut travel tomorrow and save a million bucks. People don't need to be traveling off to conferences, whether it's the mayor or anybody else. There's nothing essential out there for the next year or two that can't be found online or in the periodicals."

Sullivan told voters his administration will concentrate less on building big new public facilities and more on maintaining and repairing the ones the city has. One exception, he said, might be replacing the city's aging Health and Human Services building at Eighth Avenue and L Street.

"That building is not only beyond its useful life, but it's a pretty prime chunk of property," Sullivan said. "If we could relocate (the health department) onto a public parcel somewhere and get that onto the private tax rolls, we'd kind of kill two birds with one stone there."

Like all of the mayors who preceded him, Sullivan said he wants to see Anchorage become "one of the great northern cities."

Getting there requires four things, he said.

The first is sound city financing, "so the public trusts how you're spending their money. They'll support your bonds when they trust you."

A safer community is also high on his list. Overall crime rates have declined in recent years, but several categories of violent crimes and assaults have gone up, he said. And he wants to take "a zero tolerance policy" to street crimes, panhandlers and public inebriates.

"There's folks who think there's no harm, no foul with the public inebriates, but there is," he said, adding that he'd like to see courts enforce laws against being drunk in public.

"Being a public inebriate has got to have some sort of ... penalty associated with it," he said.

Third, he said, the city needs to look good. That means maintaining the parks, trails and public facilities already in place.

"If you're looking shabby, you'll never be a great city," he said. "You've got to build things and take care of them, and have that as an ongoing process."

Then there's energy, the fourth and maybe the biggest pillar for his vision of Anchorage's future.

"We have got to have an energy plan for Southcentral," Sullivan said. "There's a lot of options out there with hydro and (natural) gas, we've got more coal than the rest of the United States combined.

"We're so rich that we can't make a decision, and we've got to make a decision."
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Palin resignation shocks Alaska, nation
By SEAN COCKERHAM and ERIKA BOLSTAD
Anchorage Daily News
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


(Highest ranked governor of all time in Alaska, Sarah Palin (R) surprised the state and nation by resigning within the month.)

Published: July 3rd, 2009 11:38 AM
Last Modified: July 3rd, 2009 05:05 PM
Gov. Sarah Palin stunned Alaska and the nation today by abruptly announcing her resignation from office. Palin will be governor only until July 26, when Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will take over.

WASILLA- Palin made the announcement at a hastily called press conference held at her Wasilla home as the holiday weekend began.

Palin said she first decided not to run for re-election next fall when her term is up, then figured in that case she'd just quit now. Palin said she didn't want to be a "lame duck," a political phrase for an officeholder approaching the end of their term and losing clout to get their political agenda through.

"Many just accept that lame duck status and they hit the road, they draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that. I promised efficiencies and effectiveness," she said.

But Palin could have waited until next year to announce her plan not to run for re-election. Her explanation makes no sense, said state Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, a leading critic of her.

"That isn't a reason. Seated governors just don't resign in the last year of their term no matter how successful or for that matter unsuccessful they've been. Right now there are a lot more questions than answers. And until the governor chooses to reveal more of her motive here, it's just one of those questions we will never know the answer to," Hawker said.

Palin said the decision came after polling her children about whether they wanted her to "make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office." She said the response was four yes's and one "Hell yeah!"

"The 'hell yeah' sealed it -- and someday I'll talk about the details of that. ... I think much of it had to do with the kids seeing their baby brother Trig mocked by some pretty mean-spirited adults recently," Palin said.

An Alaska blogger recently photo shopped the head of a pro-Palin talk radio host on to a picture of Trig Palin being held by the governor, causing Palin and her allies to declare outrage.

Palin said people changed after John McCain picked her last year as the Republican nominee for vice president. She brought up all the ethics complaints against her, saying they get dismissed but end up costing the state and herself in legal bills.

"It's pretty insane -- my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now. I know I promised no more 'politics as usual,' but this isn't what anyone had in mind for Alaska," the governor said.

As for her future, Palin said: "I look forward to helping others -- to fight for our state and our country, and campaign for those who believe in smaller government, free enterprise, strong national security, support for our troops and energy independence."

EVERYONE SURPRISED

During her press conference, Palin ran off a list of accomplishments during her two-and-a-half years as governor, from pushing forward on a North Slope natural gas pipeline to rewriting oil taxes to revising state ethics laws.

Parnell, who will take over as governor on July 26, said he found out Wednesday night when Palin called him and his wife, Sandy, into her office. "I was very surprised at first. But then as she began to articulate her reasons I began to understand better," he said.

Parnell said it will be hard for people to grasp why Palin is doing this unless they've been in her position and dealt with the kinds of things she's had to deal with. He said she "wants to be able to expand her work on behalf of us all and I could tell she felt frustrated where she was and unable to do that."

After Parnell is sworn in as governor, Craig Campbell, head of the state Department of Military Affairs and National Guard, will become lieutenant governor.

Anchorage Rep. Hawker noted that Palin's decision to quit "gives her unfettered ability to pursue her economic interests, whether it be a book deal or speeches, that type of thing, without being cluttered by state ethics law."

Even the member of Palin's Cabinet who is possibly closest to her, Department of Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt, said he didn't see this coming.

"All of Sarah's decisions have been very easy for me to support, and I will support this one. But this one took me aback a little bit," said Schmidt, who went to high school with Palin.

Palin's closest ally in the state Legislature, Senate Minority Leader Gene Therriault, was also taken by surprise.

"Not sure what the governor intends to do at this point. I suspect she's keeping her options open," Therriault said.

Republican Party of Alaska Chairman Randy Ruedrich reacted with "complete surprise" to Palin's decision to step down.

But he said it could free Palin up to spread her message. "For the governor to make any statement in person in the Lower 48 is at least a six-hour plane trip to the central U.S."

"She can become a much more functional spokesman for Alaska working from a more southerly location," Ruedrich said.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, said Palin gave no indication of a resignation when he met with her for 45 minutes just two days ago.

State House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, said it "was almost a relief" to have Palin out of office.

"But on another, deeper level, it is disturbing that she is leaving her post. On the eve of the 4th of July, in Alaska's 50th year of statehood, to have the governor stand down is a terrible statement about commitment to public service and our state," she said.

National prospects

Many national Republicans were uncomplimentary of Palin's resignation -- and not impressed. It does nothing to shake what GOP pollster Whit Ayers called "the 'lightweight' monkey on her back."

"If you're a serous politician and you're seriously interested in higher office, the best thing you can do is as good a job as possible in the current office," Ayers said. "I suppose it frees her from the responsibility of a full-time job. It does nothing to enhance the image she has that she's not material for the president of the United States."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered a potential rival for Palin if she decides to run for president in 2012, put out a carefully worded statement.

"I wish Sarah Palin and her family well, and I know that she will continue to be a strong voice in the Republican Party," he said.

Those close to Palin's former running mate, Sen. John McCain, were less circumspect. One of McCain's closest friends and confidants, John Weaver, told the Washington Post that he was "not smart enough to see the strategy in this."

"We've seen a lot of nutty behavior from governors and Republican leaders in the last three months, but this one is at the top of that," Weaver told the Post.

It does free her to run for president "without playing the balancing act of keeping Alaskan voters happy," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. Although Palin has what he described as a "core following," Bonjean also said that the "constant drama" that surrounds her and her family, has become tiresome to many Republicans.

"To win over mainstream Republicans and independents, Palin will need to start talking about important ideas and solutions instead of creating or reacting to tabloid issues," he said.

Shedding the bad

Palin's staunchest supporters in the anti-abortion movement, however, said they felt Palin's entrance on the public stage had been a positive one, and said they hope her next step will have an "equal and profound impact."

"Sarah Palin has always been an intensely independent woman -- always true to her faith, her family and call to public service," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, who co-founded the Team Sarah social networking Web site popular with Palin supporters.

Larry Persily, a former aide to Palin in her Washington, D.C., office, said he thinks she is shedding all that is bad about her job as governor -- from the ethics complaints to her bruising fights with the Legislature -- "and she can just be a national star in front of adoring crowds."

"It's like the kid who leaves college early for the NBA draft and says, this is when I am at my height in the market and I'm going for it," said Persily, a former Anchorage Daily News opinion editor who is now an aide to Rep. Hawker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Gov. Palin to resign this month
Story last updated at 7/3/2009 - 12:00 pm
By RACHEL D’ORO / The Juneau Empire
AJM STUDIOS.NET Northwest Development News Center


(Alaska governor, Sarah Palin (R).)

WASILLA — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a surprise announcement Friday that she is resigning from office at the end of the month without explaining why she plans to step down, raising speculation that she would focus on a run for the White House in the 2012 race.
The former Republican vice presidential candidate hastily called a news conference Friday morning at her home in suburban Wasilla, giving such short notice that only a few reporters actually made it to the announcement. State troopers blocked late-arriving media outside her home, and her spokesman, Dave Murrow, finally emerged to confirm that Palin will step down July 26. He refused to give details about the governor’s future plans.
“Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional Lame Duck status in this particular climate would just be another dose of politics as usual, something I campaigned against and will always oppose,” Palin said in a statement released by her office.
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will be inaugurated at the governor’s picnic in Fairbanks at the end of the month, Murrow said.
Palin was first elected in 2006 on a populist platform. But her popularity has waned as she waged in partisan politics following her return from the presidential campaign. Her term would have ended in 2010.
Palin said she planned to make a “positive change outside government,” without elaborating. She also expressed frustration with her current role as governor.
“I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so I can hold the title of governor,” Palin said.
Later, on Twitter, she promised supporters more details: “We’ll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election … this is in Alaska’s best interest, my family’s happy … it is good. Stay tuned”
Palin’s decision even took Parnell by surprise. He said he was told on Wednesday evening, and was not aware that any presidential ambitions were behind the move.
Palin emerged from relative obscurity nearly a year ago when she was tapped as then Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate.
She was a controversial figure from the start, with comedian Tina Fey famously imitating her elaborate hairstyle and folksy “You betcha!” on “Saturday Night Live.”
Most recently, she led a public spat with “Late Show” host David Letterman over a joke he made about one of her daughters being “knocked up” by New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez during the governor’s recent visit to New York. Palin’s 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, is an unwed, teenage mother.
Letterman later apologized for the joke.
Palin’s family and the ridicule they endure being in the public eye was part of her decision. She complained that her 14-month-old son, Trig, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, had been “mocked and ridiculed by some mean-spirited adults recently.” She didn’t elaborate.
Palin campaigned on ethics reform in the 2006 election, defeating incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and a former two-term Democratic governor, Tony Knowles, in the general election.
She enjoyed an extended honeymoon with lawmakers and voters alike. Her popularity was in the 80 percentile range, even though that fell after the bruising, partisan presidential campaign.
 
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