Our new reality: Doing more with less

July marks the beginning of fiscal year 2016; a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start for addressing Alaska’s economic future.
On June 29, I signed into law the budget bills passed by the legislature. For fiscal year 2016, we will spend $1 billion less than we spent last year. This is a 19 percent overall reduction with an average 13.5 percent cut to executive branch agencies, and cuts of more than 30 percent in the Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Office. Even with these reductions, we still have to draw $2.7 billion from savings to make up for state revenue losses caused by low oil prices.

Do it for the money, do it for the jobs

According to a recent study, Alaska is either in a recession or on the brink of one. It’s time for non-partisan solutions, not time to play Russian roulette with the economy. Alaska will lose 4,000 jobs across the economy by September.
Blocking a vote on a Medicaid Expansion bill that’s passed in Democratic and Republican states — that would create 4,000 Alaska jobs — isn’t smart politics. The public supports it across party lines. But Republican legislative leaders decided to block this bill from House and Senate floor votes during 140 days of legislative session and special sessions.

Homer folks get second chance to ‘e-cycle’ electronics

If you live in the Homer-area, pull out any old electronics you forgot to recycle back in April!
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Solid Waste Department is teaming up with Total Reclaim, with support from Cook Inletkeeper, to collect electronics this Saturday, July 11 at the Homer Transfer Station from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. This is a pilot effort, held in conjunction with their quarterly hazardous waste day.

Alaska’s resource management is failing in Cook Inlet

Alaska has the best resource management system in the world.” If you’ve been here a while, you’ve heard that statement in some form or another. But in Cook Inlet, it’s increasingly hard to believe we’re managing our resources in a sustainable fashion. In the 1970s, Kachemak Bay was thick with shrimp, and king and tanner crab, but those populations crashed and have never come back.
While oceanic regime shifts – specifically, temperature – probably played a leading role moving Kachemak Bay from a habitat more conducive for fin fish, like halibut, pollock, and cod, than shellfish, the harvest pressure just before the shrimp and crab populations crashed was significant.

Would a mountain by any other name be appropriate?

We know it’s not McKinley, but is Denali the right name for our mountain?
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan have created a bill to change Mount McKinley to Mount Denali. It has been Mount McKinley since 1896, when a miner successfully pushed for the mountain to be named after then President William McKinley of Ohio.
Renaming geographic features from their original indigenous names is an act of colonialism: it’s a topographic way of saying “we own you.”

Extreme conditions make it imperative to obey no burning, no fireworks rules

With the second year of little snowfall, the Homer area is seeing unprecedented conditions for wildfire. The recent fires along the Kenai River and in the Mat-Su are vivid demonstrations of how quickly we can be impacted by wildfire.
Due to the prevailing conditions, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Division of Forestry have suspended all open burning for much of the state — including the entire Kenai Peninsula. This suspension includes all types of fires: burn piles, campfires, cooking fires, warming fires and even signal fires, with the exception of compressed gas grills or camp stoves.

Alaska National Guard ready to move forward

On Monday, the Department of Law released retired Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins’ independent investigation of the Alaska National Guard to the public.
Like many Alaskans, I greet its release with a sense of anger and frustration in that some members of the Guard — over several years — mistreated people and misused public funds. Also like many Alaskans, I am relieved the report contains no new examples of improper behavior.
As the Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, it’s up to me, my leadership team, and all the members of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard, to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Moving forward, we will be the force Alaskans want us to be, executing critical federal missions, ready to deploy abroad to defend our nation and well-trained to respond to emergencies here at home.

Legislature wraps up after multiple sessions

Greetings from Homer after the end of the multi-session 1st year of the 29th Legislature.
The full legislature passed the budget on June 11 which was, dollar wise, identical to the House budget sent to the Senate before termination notices were sent June 1 to about 10,000 state workers. Intent language was added to the final version to say the labor union 2.5 percent COLA increase was only intended for the 2017 contract year, would not be the starting basis for future contract negotiations, and suggesting zero wage increases in the coming budgets.

Learn not to burn

You wouldn’t know it — gauging from this week’s spate of cooler (normal) Alaska air — but it was hot out there last week. Too hot.
Sure, everyone enjoys a summer of sunshine and tropical temperatures. You don’t get many opportunities to stroll barefoot on a warm sidewalk in Homer, Alaska, and locals have a tendency to sit up and take notice when even the tourists start donning short sleeves.
It’s no coincidence, however, that this warmer summer of 2015 also brought massive wildfires to almost every part of all the state. So far, the Card Street fire east of Sterling has scorched some 7,352 acres, destroying homes and cabins in its way.

Homer Prevention Project practices Positive Community Norms

“Most Homer High and Homer Flex students don’t drink in a typical month,” says a “Just the Facts” message; a positive community norms campaign run by the Homer Prevention Project. This statistic — along with “78 percent of Homer area adults drink two or fewer drinks on the nights they do consume alcohol,” have papered the town over the past year. They appear on flyers, coffee cups, information cards and in ads on the radio and in print.
Here’s why:

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