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KNBA News - Lawsuit Challenging ICWA; Budget Cuts Hit Homer, AK

Photo by KBBI

KNBA Morning Newscast for Wednesday July 08, 2015

Goldwater institutes files lawsuit challenging ICWA

By Daysha Eaton, KYUK

The Goldwater Institute has filed a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of core provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA.

Supporters say the lawsuit is part of an effort to reform state and federal laws they say discriminate against abused, neglected and abandoned Native American children by allowing cultural heritage and race to trump the well-being of the child. They say placing a child with a Native family or tribal member is not always in the best interest of the child.

The lawsuit focuses on Native children who live off reservation in Arizona and are involved child custody, foster care and adoption proceedings.

The Goldwater Institute is an Arizona-based, conservative, public policy think tank.

ICWA is a federal law meant to keep Native children with their families and tribes. It was enacted in 1978 to counter the high removal rate of Native children from their traditional homes and cultures by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Western Alaska census area drops confederates officers name, now Kusilvak

By Associated Press 

A western Alaska census area named for confederate officer Wade Hampton is one step closer to being the Kusilvak Census Area.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday that agency publications and products referencing 2015 data will refer to that area by the new name, chosen by local leaders. That part of Alaska is home to the Kusilvak Mountains.

Homer going broke, Jail impacted

By Quinton Chandler, KBBI

The state’s dramatic loss in oil revenue means budget cuts to local municipalities across Alaska. And the City of Homer is no different. This fiscal year Homer’s jail will lose nearly half its state funding and the city is also bracing for a loss in state funds that typically help balance its operating budget. The cuts come at a time when the city’s budget is already stretched thin.

The City of Homer holds a contract with the state to house prisoners arrested by the Alaska State Troopers outside city limits. The contract is still in place but to save money the state will stop paying about $350,000 to Homer. That is nearly 45% of the contract revenue.

“I would say we’re somewhere between desperate and just getting by,” said Mark Robl.

Homer Police Chief Mark Robl has recently lost a full time jail officer leaving him with less than 24-hour coverage of the jail.

“To compensate for that we have dispatchers monitoring prisoners through [a] video surveillance link and we have police officers going into the jail and performing jail officers’ duties when they’re not here,” said Robl.

The loss in funds is just another blow and it makes the chances of hiring a new jailer bleaker. Robl has been expecting the cuts since February but he says he wasn’t aware they would run so deep until about a month ago.

Robl will probably have to pull officers off patrol or have them work overtime to fill in as jailers. KBBI reported earlier this year the Homer Police Department was already stretched thin under perhaps the highest caseload per officer in the state. In a budget request for 2015 the department reported a caseload of about 570 cases per officer.

Homer City Manager Katie Koester isn’t sure if hiring more staff will be possible anytime soon. On top of the jail cuts this year the city could lose another $320,000 in state funds called revenue sharing. Koester says the Homer City Council decided it would be unwise to rely on that money after the state warned it would eventually take it away.

“It was put into the general fund. It basically was used for balancing the budget and covering operating costs. That being said council has said, ‘don’t do that anymore.’ You have to consider it as one time funding because of the uncertain nature of it,” said Koester.

Koester says now if it’s going to save money the city has to look at cutting services. There is a town hall meeting planned for July 20th at 5pm to explain the city’s position.

Koester isn’t optimistic the city’s situation will change for the better in the near future considering the state’s fiscal environment. She says we’re all in for some tight times. Chief Robl says he’s just hoping for a new jail officer to take the strain off his department.

An inspector general's review found that high workloads and inadequate staffing had a negative impact on access to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Wasilla.

It found that eight of 40 patients assigned to the clinic who died between July 2013 and July 2014 received poor access to care.

The review recommends that the VA implement plans to ensure continuity of care for patients during situations including understaffing.