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Posts from the 'Local News' category

State Rep. Wes Keller Discusses State Issues and 2014 Campaign

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Alaska’s general election is a little more than a month away, and  KTNA has invited all of the local candidates for state legislature to speak to Upper Valley residents.  This week, State Representative Wes Keller appeared on Su-Valley Voice with host Phillip Manning to discuss his campaign to continue representing District 10.

Wes Keller says he has lived in Alaska since 1964.  His time in the legislature began in 2007 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy.  Since then, he has won three elections to retain his seat.  Now, he is running once again.  As with all the State House candidates, I spoke with Representative Keller about the issues facing the state, as well as those that will appear on the ballot on November 4th.  Keller says that, if re-elected, he would strive for:

“…a sustainable, responsible government.  I’m a conservative, so I’m always looking for areas where government is doing things that can and should be done…at the local levels or in the family…I’m generally a smaller government guy.” (more…)

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New Sullivan Campaign Ad Features Murkowski Endorsement

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

by:  Liz Ruskin, APRN

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan has a new campaign ad featuring the
person he hopes to call a colleague: Sen. Lisa Murkowski. As APRN’s Liz
Ruskin reports, this ad may rise above the noise of the busy campaign
season.

On the one hand, the 30-second spot is just a classic endorsement, with
Murkowski indoors, looking straight at the camera

“I need a partner in the senate who will work to advance Alaska’s interest,
not the Obama agenda.”

Anchorage pollster Marc Hellenthal says endorsements usually don’t move
voters, but this one is different because s Lisa Murkowski is the most
popular person in Alaska. (more…)

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Sunshine Clinic to Expand Services

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Earlier this month, KTNA reported that the Sunshine Community Health Center received nearly $200,000 in additional funds from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.  The funds were part of a nationwide grant process to allow clinics throughout the country to provide additional care after the implantation of the Affordable Care Act.

Sunshine had applied for the extra money, and has a plan on how to spend it, according to Medical Director Shelis Jorgensen.  Jorgensen says that the funds will allow the expansion of three services at SCHC facilities.  First, both the Talkeetna and Willow clinics will be open to see patients on Saturdays year-round.  Currently, the only Saturday service is at the Talkeetna clinic in the summer.  Additionally, dental hygiene services are planned to expand to the Willow clinic.  Finally, Sunshine will resume optometry services through an outside provider.

These service expansions are in addition to the recent opening of physical therapy treatment at the Talkeetna location, provided by Health Quest Therapy.

KTVA Reporter Quits On-Air, Announces She Owns Cannabis Club

Monday, September 22, 2014

by:  Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

A KTVA reporter announced that she is the president of Alaska Cannabis Club and quit her job during a live broadcast Sunday night. Reporter Charlo Green, whose real name is Charlene Egbe, has been reporting on the legalization ballot initiative since April.

KTVA’s news director posted an apology for Green’s outburst and use of an expletive on Facebook and Twitter but could not be reached for comment.

Green posted a video on YouTube explaining why she quit so publicly.

“Advocating for freedom and fairness should be everyone’s duty, I’m making
it my life work. To uphold what America stands for truly: life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness. Ideals that now need to be defended.”

A YouTube video of the TV clip has gone viral, and Green’s IndieGogo campaign to raise $5,000 for voter education on the marijuana legalization ballot initiative is more than half way toward its goal.

The Alaska Cannabis Club’s website says its role is to connect medical marijuana card holders who have pot with those who need it.

FDA Considers Backing Off New Spent Grain Regs

Monday, September 22, 2014

A new change in a proposed FDA regulation could mean good news for farmers in the Upper Valley.  The regulation in question regards controls for animal feed.  The original proposal would have made it more costly for brewers to sell or donate spent grain to farmers across the country.  A press release from Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office on Monday says that the FDA is now considering exempting brewers, and other businesses that are already licensed to produce food for humans, from the new animal feed rules.  Senator Murkowski as well as Senator Wyden from Oregon both signed a letter urging the FDA to make the changes.

Locally, that means that Denali Brewing Company could continue its program of donating spent grains to local farmers.  Denali Brewing General Manager Sassan Mossanen says that the company currently donates all of its spent grain to six local farms.  He estimates the total weight of the donated grain at over 400,000 pounds per year.  The revised regulation is open to public comment for seventy-five days, beginning on September 29th.

2014 PFD will be $1,884

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Parnell PFD

On Wednesday morning, Governor Sean Parnell announced the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend.  Around 2,000 people watched the internet stream of the announcement.  Anticipation was for a significant increase in the amount of the dividend, since this year excludes 2008 from the five-year rolling average. After a few minutes of good-natured teasing with the media gathered for the announcement, Governor Parnell said that this year’s dividend will be $1,884.

After the cheers died down, Department of Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell said that she believes the amount represents the third highest payout from the Permanent Fund, which is now valued at over $50 billion dollars.

Payment of this year’s PFD will begin on October 2nd.

Senator Begich Discusses Tight Race

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Complete Interview:

The race for one of Alaska’s Senate seats is one of the most closely watched in the country.  The Republican Party believes that it can take control of the senate by defeating Democratic incumbents in traditionally red states.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning recently spoke with the race’s incumbent, Senator Mark Begich, and has this report:

The race to be an Alaskan Senator for the next six years is tight.  Most forecasts call it a toss-up, with some giving a slight edge to Senator Mark Begich’s Republican opponent, former Alaska Attorney General and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan. (more…)

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Upper Valley Agriculture: Yaks at Sunny Hill Ranch

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yaks

There is growing emphasis in Alaska on locally produced food, including meat.  While cattle can be, and are, raised in the Upper Susitna Valley, many species of cow are not adapted to the severe cold of an Alaska winter.  There is another animal that is perfectly suited for the conditions, though, yaks.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited Sunny Hill Ranch earlier this week to see yak ranching in action.

Bull

Yak bulls, while perhaps not as large as their bovine cousins, are still impressive.

YAKLDY

Proof that Anita Hill is the “yak lady.”

Anita Hill is the “Yak Lady.”  It says so right on her custom license plate.  She and her husband Steve Hill have operated Sunny Hill Ranch for about four years.  After I arrived, they took me to a large pen, where I could already discern dark, furry shapes moving around.

For those who have never seen a domestic yak in person, they resemble something of a cross between a bison and a cow, but considerably lighter, and with much shorter legs.  Steve Hill says a large yak bull might get up to 1500 pounds.  Compare that to a brahma bull, which can weigh upward of a ton.  As the more tame members of the herd approached the fence to greet me, the Hills explained why people raise yaks.

STEVE: “Meat and Fiber.”
ANITA: “Some People ask me about milking.  I only milk them when I have to.”

The fiber gets brushed off of the animals and washed so it can be spun into yarn.  As for the meat, Anita and Steve Hill say that the market is growing.

“There’s a good market for it, because it’s very lean.  There’s no fat on it; it’s not marbled like beef.”

Anita Hill says the meat can largely be used as a substitute for beef in recipes, although it does cook somewhat differently.  Right now, the Hills sell their meat primarily at farmers markets, but that may change in the future.  Steve says that one day they would like to:

“…get some restaurants in Talkeetna serving yak burgers…If you’re going to get them doing that, you have to have the supply to meet the demand.  You can’t say, ‘Here’s one, and I’ll have the next one six months from now.’”

Steve says that it would take a herd of about fifty animals in order to consider selling on that scale, which he estimates will take another two or three years.  That plan almost got yanked out from under the Hills with a recent, sudden change from the USDA, however.

“About two weeks ago, the USDA, all of a sudden…out of the blue, said ‘Yak’s not an amenable species.  We’re not going to inspect it any more,’ which would have taken this herd…and all of a sudden now it’s worthless.  I can’t sell it to the public.”

That’s because a USDA stamp is required for commercial sale of meat.  Fortunately for the Hills and other yak ranchers, there was help to be had.  Jim Watson is board president for the International Yak Association, or IYAK.  He spoke to me from his ranch in Montana about the potential impact of the unexpected change.

“It resulted in the almost immediate cessation of interstate commerce in yak meat and yak products, which disrupted the business models of yak ranchers throughout the country, because they had standing orders to go to grocery stores, restaurants, and distributors which were suddenly not valid any more.”

Watson says IYAK rallied its members through email and social media, and encouraged them to write to members of Congress, specifically those on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“…Apparently, that worked very well, because the USDA contacted me a few days later and provided us with the alternative we requested.”

While a final decision is still pending, Watson says it’s looking good for yak ranchers.

Back at the Sunny Hill Ranch, my yak education continues.  One of the reasons that yaks are an attractive species to raise in Alaska is their resilience to cold.  Many types of yak originate in the Himalayas, and Anita Hill says they are a major asset to the people of the area.

“In Tibet, they use them for everything.  They are the family animal.  They use them for packing; they use them for meat.  They use them like oxen.  They’re actually called ‘the grunting ox.’”

Tibet can get pretty cold, so yaks adapted over time to tough out frigid winters with their thick coats of fur.  Anita Hill says yaks as young as a week old can survive

Even baby yaks can handle the cold of an Alaskan winter.

Even baby yaks can handle the cold of an Alaskan winter.

temperatures well below zero because the herd will work to keep them warm.

That strong herd mentality also comes in handy with one of the other hazards to raising livestock in the Last Frontier.

“The yaks will attack a bear.  They’ll attack anything that comes in harm’s way…even the dogs.  Annie [the yak] was up–I had just her and two younger ones–and a coyote came and harassed them.  She bent the fence trying to get to that coyote, so they’ll attack a bear.”

Steve Hill says, between the yaks and the family’s three large dogs, he hasn’t seen a bear on the property in the four years he and Anita have lived in the Susitna Valley.

For Steve and Anita Hill, their yaks are like an extension of their family.  Every one has a name and a personality.  Twice during my tour, yaks would come to the fence and poke their heads through, hoping I would scratch them behind the ears.  While many of them are destined for a dinner plate eventually, it’s clear that they’re happy with the life they live at Sunny Hill Ranch.

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House District 10 Candidates: Roger Purcell

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

There are three candidates running for State House Seat 10 in the general election on November 4th.  One of them is Roger Purcell, who is not running with either major party, but rather undeclared.  Purcell joined K-T-N-A’s Phillip Manning on Wednesday to talk about his priorities for the state and District 10.

Roger Purcell is a registered Republican, but did not seek the party’s nomination to represent District 10.  He has run against the incumbent, Representative Wes Keller, in the past in an unsuccessful primary bid.  Purcell, who was formerly the mayor of Houston, says that he and some others who are running independently chose to do so in order to be able to dissent with members of the Republican Party when they disagree.

“We can do what’s right one-hundred percent of the time because we didn’t have to go back and respond to what they said.  I was taken aside by a legislator and told how it was going to be when we got to Juneau with the party, and I totally disagreed with what they were saying…” (more…)

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