MONSTER MUSHROOM

Jack Inhofe poses with a King Bolete mushroom he found in the Seventh Pasture area last week. “It is the biggest edible mushroom I have ever seen with no bugs in it,” says Inhofe. “It was 14 inches across and was 4/5 of a gallon when dried.”
In Italy the King Bolete is called a Porcini and is considered a delicacy drawing top dollar at the market. Says Inhofe, “We have 10 of the 15 most popular gourmet mushrooms here in Skagway. The orange delicious mushrooms are coming out next. I’m going to hunt for some.” The mushroom weighed 4 pounds 12 ounces before it was dried. – Andrew Cremata

Election '04: Voters speak volumes

From roads to recreation, Skagway voters draw a line in the asphalt

By ANDREW CREMATA
Voters were asked to decide between improved ferry service and a road to Juneau at this year’s election with 62 percent (347 votes) deciding in favor of better ferries. The subject has been a hot topic around town since Gov. Frank Murkowski announced plans to build the controversial road, but this is the first time Skagway voters were asked to address the issue at the polls.
The City Council candidates were decidedly split on their opinion of a road, with the incumbents strongly in favor of improved ferry service and the challengers mostly in favor of the road.
Incumbents saw this as an important issue as the designation of the Dewey Lake area as a recreation area could live or die depending on who would be sitting in the council chairs two days after the election.
Councilmember Monica Carlson expressed the same point as the other incumbents, “The community made the decision. It was a bigger majority than I expected.”
Many of the challenging candidates were not thrilled with the wording of the question on the ballot.
“Council should have had the courage to ask a direct question and not a diluted one,” said challenger David Brena, who thought the question should have asked simply if one is for the road or against it. “I don’t think it was honest. It was probably skewed to some degree.”
Candidate Mavis Henricksen agreed, “People who are actual Skagway residents would have been 50/50 on the road.”
Henricksen is referring to her own questions about alleged unqualified voters casting votes at the election, and has contested election results.
Candidate Kathy Hosford has been the voice for pro-road advocates since the plan’s inception. After the election she said, “The question should have been road or no road. Enhanced ferry service? What does that mean to you? Does that mean it costs less? Does it mean year round service? Who wouldn’t be for improved ferry service?”
Jan Wrentmore, an anti-road advocate, thinks the question, the way it was posed, had merit. She said, “It is the exact quote Juneau used for their question. Murkowski’s plan calls for the elimination of the Marine Highway north of Auke Bay. There will be no ferries alongside roads.”
Wrentmore was not surprised by the vote. She continues, “It is pretty much what I have always thought – close to 2 to 1 in favor of the Marine Highway.”
Hosford is concerned about the fallout from a vote of this nature and how it will affect future relations with the State. She said, “My biggest fear is the Council has jeopardized this community at state and federal levels. We have to compromise with our neighbors in Southeast Alaska. Juneau Access is going to happen, and it will most likely be through Skagway.”
Wrentmore believes it is “council and the mayor’s responsibility to look after our community and its land, not to blindly support the Governor’s agenda.” She relates, “I think that Murkowski is exceptionally heavy-handed. I have never seen in 30-some years an attempt to bully a community like this. DOT is using rhetoric like ‘not acting in good faith,’ and ‘not a team player.’ All this rhetoric really means is that if you’re ‘not playing ball’ you are not adopting his (the governor’s) agenda.”

The Community Responds.
While the vote will have little effect on the ultimate decision making at the state and federal levels, the vote does affirm the City’s position on the subject and opened the door for legislation to preserve land in and around Skagway.
Indeed, the Council wasted no time at the Oct. 7 council meeting in addressing the issue of ordinance no. 04-18, calling for the Dewey Lakes to be officially called a recreation area and setting up a mangement plan.
Comments from the public in support of the recreation area designation were overwhelming, with dissenters nonexistent. “I went to high school here,” said resident Betsy Albecker. Referring to comments made by candidates saying the road would open up fishing areas out of town she said, “Lower Lake has trout fishing, and that is very recreational. It’s right here so we don’t have to drive to find a place to fish.”
City employee Michelle Calver commented, “If it (Lower Dewey lake) were gone I don’t know if I’d stay here.”
“The proximity of that wilderness is one of the primary reasons I chose Skagway to live,” said Mark Larson. “We need to protect that area from the control of Juneau.”
Resident Elaine Furbish commented, “I think ‘Recreation Area’ is an apt description of that area. The state should pay for it. Whether the designation affects the end result or not is immaterial.”
“It is environmental therapy as well as spiritual therapy,” added resident Tori Clyde.
Wendy Anderson, a member of the committee that drew up the management plan for the area, said, “We did not call it a park because we want to keep it exactly like it is, in an attempt to alleviate some people’s fears that the area could see more restrictions as a result of the new designation.”
Lifetime Skagway resident Barb Kalen stated, “It’s been a recreation area all my life, lets keep it that way.”
The most pointed comments came from resident Ken Russo who directed his words to the council, “I don’t think there is any question in anyone’s mind that it is a recreation area no matter which side of the road issue you are on. The city needs to maintain a strong bargaining position.”
Russo then pointed his finger at the council and said, “If you sit at that table your responsibility is to the 62 percent who don’t want that road.”
Councilman Dave Hunz did not see the issue the same way as Russo, and after voicing concerns over the wording of “traditional use” moved that the second reading of the ordinance be tabled with Councilman Jay Frey seconding the motion.
The council voted the motion down 4 to 2.
Hunz called into question various wordings in the document on five more separate occasions drawing grumbling from some in attendance, and sending those who drew up the ordinance scrambling to find a map of the designated recreation area.
Hunz’s concerns over the ordinance’s verbiage were addressed by Councilman Mike Catsi who stated, “This is a living document, this is what the people of Skagway want right now.”
City Manager Bob Ward also pointed out that, “If it becomes burdensome it can be changed.”
But some changes were made, most notably in Section 2, where the wording was changed from “establsihing” a Dewey Lakes Recreation Area to “preserving” the area.
Hunz remained apprehensive about the ordinance and said, “I fear we are choking ourselves off from our future.”
The ordinance finally passed 5 to 1 with Hunz voting no.
When asked about the vote Wrentmore exclaimed that she was “ecstatic.”
Henry said of the vote, “I think it puts Skagway in the strongest position to preserve and/or address the Lower Dewey Lakes area.”
While the ordinance may indeed be a stumbling block to those in Juneau trying to build the road, all involved agree that there is little Skagway residents can do to stop the road from being built.
Says Henry, “The decision on the road will be made in Washington D.C.”
A reaction from the state on the ramifications of Skagway’s decisions will appear in the next issue.

Councilmember Dan Henry holds up a copy of The Skagway News at the Chamber's Candidate Forum to address claims in an ad by opponent Bert Bounds. AC

Incumbents beat call for change; some cry foul over record turnout

By ANDREW CREMATA
The votes are counted and the results are in. The 2004 municiapal election brought voters to the polls in force. Skagway residents cast their ballots in record numbers after an election which saw lively and spirited debate, numerous campaign signs posted in homes, businesses, automobiles and front yards, and a decidedly different view on Skagway and its future from vastly different candidates.
And while some are claiming victory, others are not as enthused or convinced of the election’s final results.
The incumbents drew the strongest numbers with two three-year seats going to Councilmembers Mike Korsmo (315 votes) and Dan Henry (291 votes). One, one-year seat was won by Councilmember Monica Carlson (247 votes).
Also, School Board incumbents Christine Ellis (359 votes) and Joanne Korsmo (401 votes) won their respective seats.
The issue of improved ferry service versus road access to Juneau also appeared on the ballot with better ferries garnishing a clear majority of 62 percent of the vote (see adjacent story).
The 2004 election saw voters turn out in impressive numbers with 62 percent of 899 registered voters taking their turn at the voting booth. Absentee ballots numbered a record 154.
Candidates took note of the high number of participants.
“I was really glad to see people get out and vote,” said Mike Korsmo. “It says a lot for the community.”
Carlson stated, “I’m happy it’s over, and I’m honored that I was elected. I am also happy with the voter turnout. I (had) a bigger majority than I expected.”
Kathy Hosford, who ran against Carlson and received 178 votes, interpreted the large turnout differently.
“The phenomenal turnout shows people are wanting change,” said Hosford. “I congratulate Monica. I only wanted to be a voice for so many people.”
David Brena, who ran for a three-year seat (253 votes), agrees with Hosford, “The high voter turnout spoke positively of the need for change. I think that as a candidate I got a strong level of support because I had a different point of view than the incumbents.”
The need for change was a hot topic with challengers. Posters that seemed to permeate every bit of available space around town focused on topics such as “positive change.” At the Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum on Sept. 29, three-year candidate Bert Bounds (183 votes) said, “I decided to run for a number of reasons. I’ve become very concerned about where we seem to be headed. All we do is spend, spend, spend. I’d like to see this change.”
Henry also addressed the voter turnout: “It is very encouraging for the community because with more participation we get more progress. The sad thing is that we have accepted spin as an accepted tactic, just like in state and federal politics.”
Lance Twitchell was “honored” to run for a one-year seat (74 votes). At the Oct. 7 City Council meeting he said, “I want to thank everyone for being able to be a part of it.”
Another one-year seat candidate, Mavis Irene Henricksen (50 votes) was not as passive. Henricksen presented a Notice of Election Contest to council chambers during the counting of the absentee ballots, claiming “potential fraud as a result of unqualified voters voting in this election.”
The issue of voter qualification was another hotly debated subject during the election and has some locals concerned over where the line is drawn between summer workers and full-time residents. State law says if a person declares an Alaska residence here with the intent to return, then that person can vote here, as long as he/she doesn’t vote elsewhere or receive benefits from another state.
Henricksen’s contest was addressed at the Oct. 7 meeting. City Manager Bob Ward addressed the council by pointing out that the contest does not fall under the outlined criteria in Skagway Municipal Code 2.32.070: a) misconduct, fraud or corruption by an election official; b) disqualification of a candidate or existence of corrupt practices as defined by state law; and c) miscount of the ballot.
Since none of the three criteria were met, the council voted down the contest unanimously
Ward said, “Everyone (voters) sign an oath. If it is fraudulent, it is not the fault of an elected official, it is the voter’s fault.”
Henricksen was not satisfied with Ward’s response. Reached in Juneau this week, she related, “I think the city manager wasn’t honest with the council. You haven’t heard the last of me.”
Hosford also is concerned about the number of absentee ballots. She says, “There were 160 absentee ballots, the most prior to this year was 55. What we need to examine is, are people voting where they have an intent to vote permanently?”
Hosford continued, “City leaders should not sponsor a picnic targeting voters who are summer people. When I questioned this they challenged my integrity. There is no validity to challenging my question of whether people have a right to vote. I support everyone’s right to vote.î
Election results would have been the same had no absentee ballots been counted, although the races would have been closer.
Far less controversial were the elections for School Board. Joanne Korsmo relates, “I am pleased with election results. I was very happy to see John Harris (178 votes) jump up. There has been apathy in the past.”
“I am looking forward to getting diversified programs and some options for kids that don’t participate in sports,” she continued. “Everyone, including the superintendent, will continue to work together. He makes my job easier because he is so good at his.”
Ellis was also “glad to be back on the board.” She said, “We will be able to keep working on things that we started. The music program is important. We need more things for the non-athletic kids to do outside of sports.”
Ellis feels it will be the job of this board to “figure out our priorities and work on our student body problems in numbers.”
After such a contentious election and the sometimes aggressive campaigning of its participants, can Skagway get back on track when it comes to working together?
Twitchell believes it is up to every one individually. He said, “Issues like voter registration are sidetracking us from the real issues. Rather then dealing with who should vote and who shouldn’t we should ask who is going to use their energy to assist this community. You don’t need to be in a voting booth to help your community and take control of your own destiny.”
Mike Korsmo was optimistic on the heated nature of the election, “I wasn’t sure how it would go, but the positives outweighed the negatives. I hope that when it settles down no one is upset. We need to get back to helping each other out as a community.”

COMPLETE ELECTION RESULTS AT: City of Skagway website - click on notices bar to locate election pdf.

Referendum filed for government change
On Friday Oct. 8, the day after the city election was certified, unsuccessful council candidate Bert Bounds filed a referendum petiton at City Hall to change Skagway’s government from its present council-manager form to a strong mayor form.
If approved by voters, this would eliminate the City Manager position. Bounds had been circulating the petition since applying for it on July 8, and needed at least 85 signatures of registered voters by an Oct. 20 deadline.
City Clerk Marj Harris has 10 days to certify the referendum or notify Bounds that it is insufficient. If the document were insufficient there would be an additional 11 days to supplement it with additional signatures.
Once the referendum is certified, a special election would take place no sooner than 45 days after certification and no later than 75 days, but it has to go before a Department of Justice review before she can set the date, Harris said.
Bounds, one of 21 initial sponsors of the referendum, was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment. – AC

UPDATE: City Council in special session on Oct. 18 set the election date for Dec. 14. Details in Oct. 29 Skagway News.

$70,000 settlement reached with tour co.

By JEFF BRADY
The City of Skagway and Skaguay Tour Co. have a reached a settlement in a court case over an off premises canvassing ordinance that City Council passed last year.
Council held a four-hour special meeting Tuesday night to compose a settlement offer in executive session. STC, owned by Terry Robertson, came back with a counter offer Wednesday morning, and an emergency special meeting was called for 11 a.m. After Council met for another 40-minutes in executive session, City Manager Bob Ward emerged with an announcement.
“We have accepted their offer,” Ward said. “We gave a tentative settlement.”
A couple hours later, settlement details were available, which noted that STC would be sent a check for $70,000 in the next 10 days, and all pending claims by both parties would be dropped. The case was scheduled for trial next April. Robertson was asking for $100,000 in damages for business lost at one of his selling locations that was shut down by the ordinance, which limited off premises canvassing to areas of 200 sq. ft. apprved by the city manager.
Attorneys for the city and STC were in Skagway preparing for depositions on pretext issues originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, should a settlement not be reached. The depositions were cancelled.
Individual council members had been subpoenaed, as well as former member John Mielke. They had been requested to provide personal financial records to address alleged conflict of interest charges by the plaintiff, but that request was stayed by a judge last week pending a review by the Alaska Supreme Court. The city ended up paying the attorney fees of the individual members and Mielke, which came to about $3,052.
Robertson referred all questions to his attorney, Robert Spizfaden, but he had left town by the News’ afternoon deadline.
Ward said just one of the 11 original claims made by STC and Southeast Tours is unresolved. The city has appealed last summer’s summary judgment ruling that its ordinance was overbroad (limiting more than commercial speech), and is awaiting a ruling on the appeal from the State Supreme Court.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

ON THE MOVE - The old United Transportation Union building was moved recently from Second Ave. to Fourth behind the Pack Train. Dave Brena, who now owns the building, is making room for a new retail space next to his Skagway Mining Co. He said he has no immediate plans for the old building, which originally was a customs house on railroad property and most recently housed Sgt. Preston’s Trading Post. H&H made the move happen. Photo courtesy of H&H - Josh Magee

OTHER ONLINE NEWS THIS ISSUE:

• RAILROAD NEWS: Passenger record broken; Yard accident damages 11 parlor cars

• SPORTS ROUNDUP: McCluskey fifth at X-C Regionals, competes with Candi K. at State; Volleyball and Wrestling Season Previews

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