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KNBA News - Downtown streets to close for President's visit; Nome meeting focuses on research

By Liz Ruskin, APRN

Next week, downtown Anchorage will be crawling with dignitaries, in town for an international conference hosted by the State Department. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz today announced which streets will close for security. He says residents should be flexible when visiting downtown for the first half of the week. But, as APRN’s Liz Ruskin reports, he says it won’t be that bad.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell are coming to Anchorage, as are a boatload of Nordic diplomats. The foreign ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland are all on the agenda for Monday’s conference. Oh, yeah, and the president of the United States is coming.

The street closures are focused on two buildings: The Denaina Center, and the Hotel Captain Cook. Streets bordering them will close to traffic. Some parking spots will be off limits and some stretches closed even to pedestrians. Looking beyond the inconvenience, Mayor Berkowitz says the event allows Anchorage residents to show the world they can be great hosts.

“For a bit of time, downtown Anchorage is going to be a little more of (a walking city than we’re used to) … but businesses are going to remain open, the disruption is going to be minimal and our opportunities to show off our city are going to be rather profound,” said Berkowitz.

The closures begin Monday morning at 6. They’ll remain up around the Captain Cook until noon Wednesday, presumably because that’s where the president is staying while he visits Seward, Dillingham and Kotzebue. The White House has provided few details about his itinerary. The opacity is a typical feature of high-level security.

But Police Chief Mark Mew says officers aren’t going clear the parks or turn downtown into an airport-style security zone.

“There will be places where we’re going to tell you you can’t walk … but we’re not setting up some sort of screening stations for pedestrians,” said Mew.”

Conference organizers, though, have warned reporters to expect security checkpoints at entrances to the Dena’ina Center. Chief Mew says he can’t provide an estimate of how much the increased police presence will cost, citing security reasons. He says the city’s request for federal reimbursement hasn’t been granted.

Municipal traffic engineer Stephanie Mormilo says she knows people will want to come downtown and participate in the presidential excitement, and she says they should.

“I hope everybody is patient and respectful …But traffic patterns are going to be different than normal,” said Mormil. “So pay attention to signage, pay attention to barricades.”

For closure maps and schedules; see


Local insights important to Bering Strait region, Arctic research

Science was in the spotlight when the U.S. Arctic Research Commission wrapped up its two-day meeting in Nome. The agency — which advises the White House and Congress on Arctic issues — gathered Wednesday at Nome’s Mini Convention Center to hear from researchers working at the regional and federal levels.

Presenters covered a range of topics — from subsistence and food security in the Bering Strait region, to fire forecasts, and walrus tagging. Commissioners heard about research on the nutritional value of reindeer meat, and the importance of using local knowledge to guide polar bear management strategies.

Fran Ulmer is chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and says gaining local insight is key to successful Arctic policy.

“In Alaska particularly — where subsistence is such an important part of life — to understand how changing ecosystems, species, populations, [and] migrations connect with choices that are being made on the ground by managers, but also [by] subsistence hunters, fishers, and gatherers, is a really important way of making sure the federal government is spending its money wisely when it comes to research.”*

The Commission wrapped up its meeting with presentations on renewable energy and port development.


Anchorage educator appointed to national council

President Obama has appointed the head of Title VII Indian Ed in Anchorage to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. Doreen Brown has been with the program since 2004. Earlier, she taught at Kincaid, Baxter, and Kuspuk elementary schools.