SMOOTH SAILING – A troller cruises across Sitka Sound during a hazy sunset Friday evening. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

JKT Briefs Rotary On State, Fellows

By ARIADNE WILL
Sentinel Staff Writer

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins said the early adjournment of the Alaska Legislature – a result of the coronavirus pandemic – led to “legal gymnastics” when it came to allocating CARES Act funding.

“COVID-19 has created a certain amount of chaos in the legislative process, as it has for the rest of society,” Kreiss-Tomkins said Tuesday in a videoconference meeting with the Sitka Rotary Club

Kreiss-Tomkins was asked to join the club’s weekly Zoom call, where he gave updates on legislative business and the Outer Coast and Alaska Fellows programs.

Kreiss-Tomkins said the spring legislative session was the shortest in state history, and that the early adjournment was “motivated by COVID-19.”

The Legislature is responsible for appropriating funds. Kreiss-Tomkins said that passage of the CARES Act by Congress led to attempts by some in the Legislature to apportion the funds without reconvening for an in-person session.

“There was a lot of cash ... the federal government deposited on Alaska’s doorstep through the CARES Act,” he said.

The Legislature eventually reconvened in May in a 48-hour special session to parcel out the money, Kreiss-Tomkins said.

He fielded questions from Rotarians, including Dan Jones, who asked about broad-based revenue to augment the states’s declining oil income.

Kreiss-Tomkins said an effort to pass an income tax was made by the House during the Walker administration. The bill didn’t pass the Senate, which Kreiss-Tomkins said was more conservative at the time.

Kreiss-Tomkins said then-Gov. Walker had made it clear he would sign broad-based revenue into law, but that the Senate made that impossible.

Now, even if passed by both legislative chambers, broad-based revenue would face a veto by Gov. Dunleavy.

“As long as Dunleavy is in office, I’m not sure (broad-based) revenue is going to pass,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

Rotarian Kari Lundgren asked about the ferry system.

“Is there any hope?” she asked.

Kreiss-Tomkins replied that there is – “just not a lot of it.”

He explained that the disarray in the Alaska Marine Highway System is the result of many factors, including different systems of operation favored by different gubernatorial administrations.

“When you have a new governor coming in every six or eight years and that governor’s commissioner of transportation has a very different vision of what the ferry system should be ... it’s no way to run a system of infrastructure,” he said.

 Kreiss-Tomkins said Gov. Dunleavy has worked against legislators from coastal Alaska who have been working on ways to improve the ferry system.

“Southeast Conference raised its own funding – the City of Sitka contributed to that effort – last year to propose an overhaul and reform of the ferry system,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “The governor and (Transportation) Commissioner MacKinnon have not worked with regional stakeholders like Southeast Conference and Southwest Conference and have thrown that work out the window.”

Kreiss-Tomkins also reported on Outer Coast and Alaska Fellows programs, both of which he helped found.

The Alaska Fellows program – which launched in Sitka in 2014 – brings recent college graduates to Sitka, Anchorage, and Juneau to work with government and nonprofit organizations such as the U.S. Forest Service and Sitka Counseling.

The program is nine months long and brings about eight young people to Sitka each winter.

Kreiss-Tomkins said despite the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Fellows plan on coming to Alaska as usual this fall.

In addition to the Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage sites, the program was going to launch in Fairbanks this year, but the Fairbanks program has been postponed until 2021.

Outer Coast is an educational program aiming to become a two-year college, beginning in the fall of 2022. Kreiss-Tomkins said organizers are gearing up for their first year-round program.

Like the Fellows program, Outer Coast is planning to host an in-person program this fall.

Outer Coast recently received institutional authorization from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. Kreiss-Tomkins described this achievement as a “regulatory box” that the program needed to check in order to begin its year-round educational program. 

He said the authorization is a step needed for the program to become a college, as well.

Outer Coast is presently holding its third annual summer seminar, which is being run virtually through August 1. 

Along with the virtual summer seminar, Outer Coast is providing free online Tlingit language classes. The classes are open to all and run weeknights 7-8:30 p.m. A full schedule and registration can be found at outercoast.org/tlingit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-4-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 59

Total statewide – 3,394

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (12 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 136.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

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Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

The School Board Tuesday discussed district policy on head lice. At present, students found to have head lice are kept from school until all lice are removed. The revised policy allows students who have nits to remain in school, with information on treatment and a nit-removing comb to be sent home with them.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Legal notice: Sealed bids will be received ... for furnishing and installation of siding on the City
Garage, located on Halibut Point Road. ... City of Sitka, Alaska Fermin Gutierrez, Director of Public Works. 

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