Shana Loshbaugh

Borough plans tax code review

Alaska’s economy and demographics are changing. Declining revenues have serious long-term implications for local government.

Underlying causes — the oil industry decline and the graying population — are more pronounced for the Kenai Peninsula than for the state as a whole. While the city of Homer is pursuing its “Closing the Gap” project to solicit citizens’ ideas on economizing, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, too, is launching a comprehensive review of its tax code.

Personal odyssey ends in Homer

A year ago, Junie Rose regained consciousness to find her head in the lap of a stranger, her motorcycle smashed, traffic stopped around her and an ambulance arriving. She began to cry. Not, she said, for the pain, but out of the frustration that she could not continue on her quest to ride across the continent from Key West to Homer.

On the anniversary of that crash, July 16, she arrived triumphant at the end of the Homer Spit after 11 days and nights on the road, mostly alone. On the third try, she had reached her goal.

Homer confronts financial limits

The city of Homer convened a town-hall meeting Monday evening. Part of agenda was to discuss the city budget. But the focus was on a bigger issue: What services does the city need to provide and how will it pay for them over the long term?

The crux of the matter is that the public, based on past votes, wants services but does not want to pay for them.

Native veterans speak through documentary

War, racism, personal traumas and societal changes are all hard to talk about. Voices from Alaska’s rural Native villages are seldom heard in mainstream media. “Hunting in Wartime,” a new documentary film coming to Homer, breaks that silence.

In it, a group of Tlingit men from Hoonah who fought in the Vietnam War talk candidly about their experiences during and after combat and how those experiences shaped their lives and community. What emerges is a multilayered and nuanced story about struggle, survival and healing.

Aphids plague spruce stands

Bad bugs attacking the forest have become a recurring nightmare for Alaska. The latest alarm comes from Halibut Cove, where tiny invaders created an icky spring surprise.

How much of a threat they really pose to the trees and even their exact identities remain to be seen.

It’s hot in Homer

Sunday’s solstice officially marked the end of spring and beginning of summer. But for practical purposes, summer arrived early on the southern Kenai Peninsula, continuing the trend of record warm temperature anomalies.

Average Homer temperatures ran about 5 degrees Fahrenheit above long-term normal for the months of March through May, and June has been unusually warm, too.

The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that Alaska will experience abnormally high temperatures at least through the summer.

Writing faculty inspires aspiring authors during annual conference

An exuberant mood ruled the 14th Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, held June 12-16 in Homer. The public readings crackled with enthusiasm. The radiant weather didn’t hurt, either.

This year 127 attendees shared the power of the written and spoken word, and the inspiring camaraderie of those who write such words.

World comes to Seldovia to sing

Next weekend is the summer solstice. The appropriate audio accompaniment to all that daylight is the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival, slated for June 18-21 in the Kenai Peninsula’s smallest city.

The festival is a chance for residents, visitors and musicians of diverse genres to glory in music, good company, midsummer mirth and one of the world’s most scenic small towns. Now in its 14th year, the festival is the gala event of the year for the Seldovia Arts Council.

Saving lives by saving time

New “telemedicine” technology going onto area ambulances transmits patients’ vital signs from the ambulance to the hospital’s computer server, using the same technology and infrastructure as mobile phone signals. If the ambulance goes through an area that lacks cell-phone coverage, the device stores the information until the vehicle gets within signal range.

 

Warm winter effects mixed

Warm thaws are common during coastal winters, but the season was unusual not only for record warmth but also for its persistence and being the second very warm winter in a row. 

The extreme temperatures could influence fire risk, erosion and wildlife. Rainfall this spring will be a big factor in determining what happens next.

In hindsight, the weather already has influenced the natural ecology and the human economy.

Numbers tell weird winter weather story: It’s really warm

Friday was the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. That calendar convention never reflects Alaska realities, but it provides a convenient excuse to indulge in the time-honored tradition of complaining about the weather. 

For the second year in a row, Homer residents despair of getting anything like winters of yore.

The National Weather Service reported that 2014 was the warmest on record both for Homer and for the state as whole. And now the new year is off to a toasty start, too.

Variety of groups join forces to preserve the Anchor River

At first glance, the Anchor River seems remote and wild. After all, Anchor Point is small, even by Alaska standards, and the river’s headwater streams fan out into wetlands and the hilly hinterlands of the south peninsula.

But the river’s valued fish runs are struggling, and for years observers have expressed concern about the watershed’s health. Efforts to address those concerns are getting results thanks to hard work by an array of groups partnering to protect the river’s resources. 

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