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7/1/15 Mayor Dan Sullivan packs up; New estimate shows big drop in polar bear numbers in 10-15 years

Outgoing Mayor Dan Sullivan packs

By Zachariah Hughes, APRN

Today [July 1] marks the end of Dan Sullivan's six years as mayor of Anchorage. As Sullivan packed up his office in city hall, he spoke with told KSKA reporter Zachariah Hughes about what he'll keep.

Sullivan often calls himself the "CEO of the City," and has an equally candid, business-like approach to administrative transition, saying, “There's nothing magic about it."

Incoming mayor Ethan Berkowitz has handled his transition from a different building, and while the change-over has been smooth, it isn't particularly intimate. Berkowitz ran a campaign for mayor that was in many ways a reaction against the Sullivan administration, picking up support from liberal and union constituencies that disliked many of the administration's policies. Even the inauguration celebrations bear different tones.

Berkowitz has a high school folk-rock band opening his ceremony Wednesday in a public park, followed by hip-hop and Alaska Native dancers. Sullivan's inauguration in 2009 was more button-down inside the Performing Arts Center.

"Certainly people singing National Anthem and State Flag songs, so, a bit more formal,” said Sullivan. “Second term we didn't do much of an inauguration at all, just got sworn in and that was that."

When an administration changes there is lots of just stuff that has to be sorted:  reports, old budgets, speeches. The important documents are housed with the City Manager's office, and the bulk of electronic files are archived for the public record. But then there are the artifacts falling somewhere between professional and personal: plaques, photos, even, for Sullivan, files on subjects of special interest like a sales tax.

"Ya know, you don't wanna just throw it away. But then you almost convince yourself that it exists somewhere else in the city. So when I get home I'll probably do winnowing part two and get rid of about half of what I just took home" said Sullivan.

And then there's all the paper and clutter that just doesn't make the cut.

"The X-File, it's a big recyclable blue-bin that recycles all the paper,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan has held political positions in Anchorage for a decade-and-half, starting with three terms on the Assembly. And if he has a next-step in mind--short or long-term--he isn't saying what it is.

When asked what he’s going to do for the rest of the summer, Sullivan responded, "Dunno.

"Have no plans.” He went on, “Gonna go down and visit my daughter in Oregon a little bit, but other than that--I think something outside of government, I've been an elected official for 15 years, it's time to do something different."

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz takes office today [WED].


New estimates show big drop Alaska’s polar bear populations sooner than predicted

A federal study shows that if global warming continues unabated, Alaska’s polar bear populations may be at risk of reproductive failure sooner than predicted. Studies done just a few years ago estimated greatly reduced Alaska polar bear populations by the end of the century. The new study’s lead author, U.S. Geological Service biologist Todd Atwood, said new information on polar bear responses to sea ice loss moved that date up by decades.

“We project that it’ll probably reach a greatly reduced state as early as 2025, 2030,” said Atwood. “And that projection is based largely on future patterns of sea ice availability.”

Alaska's polar bear populations live in the Northern Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Atwood says the Arctic sea ice cap that’s been in place for perhaps five million years is disappearing most rapidly from waters off Alaska.

“That area is leading the Arctic in the loss of summer sea ice habitat,” said Atwood. “We’re seeing the open water season, the period of time when there’s not ice over the continental shelf, increase at a rate of about 17 days per decade.

“When there’s no sea ice over the water, polar bears have no access to prey,” Atwood explained.

The study results will be used in a polar bear recovery plan due out this week. The polar bear is the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act due to effects of climate change.

[Story produced using APRN's Lori Townsend's interview audio]


Fireworks use illegal in Anchorage, Mat-Su Borough

The Sockeye Fire near Willow is 94% contained, and the state’s fireworks ban in southcentral Alaska has been lifted. However, fire danger remains high, and city of Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough restrictions on firework are still in place.

Fireworks are not legal within Anchorage city limits. Violations may result in fines of $300 per occurrence. The Anchorage Fire Department is asking people to report the unlawful use of fireworks to the police at 786-8900.

In the Mat-Su borough, the Sockeye fire casts a long shadow. The Mat-Su Borough has banned fireworks and borough spokeswoman Patty Sullivan says code enforcement officers will be patrolling over the weekend.


Open burning banned

A burn closure remains in effect as well. Open flames, including campfires, bonfires, and trash fires are banned. The only permitted devices are fully enclosed electric, charcoal or propane barbeque grills and fish smokers, and charcoal grills. The fire department is asking people to put out charcoal briquets in a bucket of water. 

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