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4/8/15 - Ethan Berkowitz, Amy Demboski top vote-getters in Anchorage mayor's race

Runoff election to be scheduled

With 99% of the ballots counted in yesterday’s municipal election, Ethan Berkowitz has a wide lead in the Anchorage mayor’s race. He took 37% of the vote. Amy Demboski came in second with 24 percent,  Andrew Halcro in third with 22%, and Dan Coffey in fourth with 15% of the votes. Forty-five percent of the ballots cast is needed to win, so a runoff election between Berkowitz and Dembosky will be scheduled. 

New School board members are Kathleen Plunkett, Tam Agosti-Gisler, and Elisa Snelling.

Voters said yes to all but one of the bond proposals. They voted 53 to 

  47 percent for 59 million dollars in school repairs and improvements, and approved 17 million for road and drainage projects. 

Voters said no--  56 to 43 percent -- to 5.3 million dollars for the Chester Creek Sports Complex, Loussac Library, and renovations to the Anchorage Golf course building. Nearly 50-thousand -- almost a quarter of Anchorage’s 200-thousand registered voters -- cast ballots.


Liquor license applications stir up opposition, support in Bethel 

By Ben Matheson, KYUK

The clock is ticking on a sixty day period for the city of Bethel to consider protesting a package store license before the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The Bethel Native Corporation’s Bethel Spirits LLC application was official filed Monday morning. The Alaska Commercial Company also plans to file for another package store.  If the licenses advance, they would be the first liquor stores in Bethel in decades.

With a  deadline of 90 days to act on BNC’s proposal, the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board attended a community meeting in Bethel to bring people up to speed on the process. Director Cynthia Franklin, explained that the board by law must honor a government’s protest of a license, unless it meets specific criteria.

 “Is this protest is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable” When people ask me what that means, it means, is the city council picking on this application,” said Franklin. “That’s what it means in everyday language. Everyone would know it if they saw it.”

The city hasn’t taken any action. Bethel is unique in that it’s wet but with no liquor stores or bars. Voters in 2009 did away with local options laws limiting imports and prohibiting sales. The next year citizens in an advisory vote rejected local sales. That 2010 vote weighed heavy with Deborah Sampson, one of dozens in the more than four hour meeting who testified against the idea of a liquor store.

“We overwhelmingly said we don’t want alcohol here,” said Sampson.” We don’t want it sold, we don’t want a distribution point, and I don’t think that status should change until we have another vote.”

And citizens could again go to the polls if the council. Mayor Rick Robb, who has spoken publicly in favor of local sales, says he will bring a proposal before council to have an advisory vote.

People from the villages around the lower Kuskokwim spoke up, mostly to oppose the store. The regional significance of Bethel as a hub was a theme throughout the night. Dan Winkelman,  President and CEO of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, cited research about the the effects of easier access to alcohol.

 “It is not whether prohibition works or doesn’t work as a some have said,” commented Winkelman. “But rather as these studies have concluded, the issue is more precisely that as alcohol availability  increases, so do alcohol related injuries and death.”

A handful of the nearly 50 speakers made the case for local sales. BNC President and CEO Ana Hoffman said the choice is not about whether to have liquor sales, but whether to have regulated sales or continue to support an underground bootlegging economy.

 “It is time for the community to mature and no longer be crippled by paternalistic mentalities,” said Hoffman.” We manage our lives in the most challenging of environments. We can handle a liquor store in Bethel and the area villages can handle it too. Let’s give ourselves a little credit. We are capable, sophisticated, adapting people.”

The vast amounts of liquor being shipped in helped shape the perspective of Alan Evon from Kwethluk as worked at an air carrier.

“I used to offload 10,000  pounds of booze a day for Bethel and bootleggers,” said Evon. “We should stop the orders coming in, stop that artery of alcohol coming in and just sell it at the liquor store.”

What Evon describes would require a change in the local option status, and the idea that came up several times in the meeting.  ABC Director Franklin says Bethel’s legal situation makes it difficult to regulate.

“As long as you’re in the wet status, you have no rules, so what I keep trying to let people know.. when people stand up and say ‘we cant’ let the alcohol come here,  you’re fooling yourself! The alcohol is here. You’re wet.  Wet, wet, wet,” said Franklin. “You’ve got a lot of alcohol here and you have no rules that are enforceable.”  

Franklin added that with Bethel’s current adjusted population of just under 6,000 people, the law would allow for two package stores, two bars, and  four restaurants, plus a few specialty licenses.

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