Articles written by Larry Persily


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  • Guest Editorial: State's 'what if' lawsuit doesn't much add up

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel publisher|Jul 11, 2024

    The state of Alaska, with all the legal wisdom of a political agenda and the flowing words of a high-priced law firm, has filed a claim against the federal government. Nothing new about that — the state has filed and signed onto more lawsuits against the national government in recent years than President Joe Biden has forgotten dates or former President Donald Trump has told lies. Nothing to be proud of in any of that. The state’s latest legal endeavor came July 2 in a dubious lawsuit — with a few errors and omissions for poor measure — that as...

  • Guest Editorial: Majority rules, but that doesn't mean dictates

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel publisher|Jul 4, 2024

    A long time ago, the Sentinel called out a mayor for taking an action without city council approval (this was before Wrangell became a borough). The mayor had sent a letter to a federal agency, stating the city’s official position on an issue — but it was merely his personal opinion. There was no council discussion, no public notice. It wasn’t that controversial a position, but the point was that the mayor, no matter how well meaning, should not speak for the city without first making sure the elected council is in agreement. The mayor came...

  • Guest Editorial: Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

    Larry Persily|Jun 27, 2024

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy, his attorney general and others in the administration are spending a lot of time and state money defending Alaska against its perceived political enemies, fighting the U.S. government at every turn of the river, protecting Alaskans from the latest federal regulations and standing up for conservative values. The list includes picking fights with private banks that want to move away from oil and gas lending, egging on fights over library books, supporting the state of Texas in its fight to string razor wire along the border...

  • Market conditions continue to pressure seafood processors

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel writer|Jun 20, 2024

    Consumers think of seafood as a premium purchase, which is not a good image when household budgets are tight and shoppers are worried about inflation. "The problem is not the fish," said Jeremy Woodrow, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. "The challenge is in the global marketplace." Woodrow in February called the 2023 market for Alaska salmon "rock bottom" with low prices and weak demand, though maybe the industry was coming off that rocky bottom, he said then. Now,...

  • Wrangell Chamber moves salmon derby fishing days to June 15-30

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel writer|Jun 6, 2024

    WRANGELL — The Wrangell Chamber of Commerce has moved the dates for this month’s salmon derby to June 15-30 to allow anglers more time to try their luck after popular areas near Wrangell open to sportfishing on June 15. The chamber had initially scheduled the derby for two weekends — June 7-9 and June 14-16 — but decided at a May 28 derby committee meeting to move the days to later in the month. State Department of Fish and Game District 6, west of Etolin and Zarembo islands, and most of District 7, east and south of Wrangell, are closed to kin...

  • Columbia out of service until end of the year

    Larry Persily|May 30, 2024

    The Alaska state ferry Columbia - which has been out of service since late November for its annual overhaul and repairs but was supposed to go back to work this summer - will be laid up until the end of the year. Extensive corrosion in the 51-year-old ship's fire suppression system is the reason for the extra time in the shipyard, Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Dapcevich said Friday, May 17. During the Columbia's extended absence, the Alaska Marine Highway System has diverted the...

  • Forest Service seeks public comment on fees for new cabins

    Larry Persily|May 9, 2024

    The U.S. Forest Service plans to build six new cabins and a new campground in Southeast Alaska and wants to hear from the public on proposed fees for the facilities. One of the new cabins, the Woodpecker Cabin, will be on Mitkof Island, accessible by road and a 300 ft trail, about 30 miles away from downtown Petersburg. The site features a south-facing view of Sumner Strait. It has a fish-bearing stream nearby, and is in close proximity to a marine boat launch. It is likely to be used...

  • Guest Editorial

    Larry Persily|May 2, 2024

    The state House needed an auctioneer last week. Instead, it wasted three hours in a meaningless bidding war as the Republican-led majority told Alaskans they cared far more than anyone else about supporting education and ensuring state-funded alternatives for correspondence school students and their families. That meant they didn’t want to move too quickly to fix the constitutional problem of state money going to private and religious school programs. Let the millions continue to flow and wait for the Alaska Supreme Court to hear the appeal o...

  • Guest Editorial: No need to amend the Alaska Constitution

    Larry Persily|Apr 25, 2024

    Less than two years ago, Alaskans voted overwhelmingly against convening a constitutional convention to amend the state’s founding document. More than 70% of voters said no thanks, it’s a bad idea. It was the sixth time in a row, going back to 1972, that voters by wide margins rejected the whimsy of shaking up the constitution as you would a game of Etch A Sketch and redrawing the fundamental laws of Alaska. While they oppose reopening the constitution to a potential wholesale rewrite, Alaskans have approved multiple specific amendments ove...

  • Guest Editorial

    Larry Persily|Apr 18, 2024

    The Permanent Fund dividend is important to a lot of Alaska households, but so is education, public safety, ports and harbors, roads and more. The state House did the right thing last week in rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment that would have elevated the PFD to a higher status than any other need in the state. Yes, Alaskans have to find a solution to the annual divisive, debilitating, political fight over the amount of the dividend. It has become worse than a distraction; it’s become an obstruction that prevents elected officials an...

  • Guest Editorial: Tax credits no substitute for state responsibility

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel publisher|Mar 28, 2024

    Tax credits have long been popular, growing more so every year. Supporters push them to provide government backing for new initiatives or ongoing programs, steering money to worthy causes — some unworthy ones, too — bypassing actual appropriations by federal, state or municipal lawmakers. With a tax credit, businesses or individuals can make donations to a program or invest in a project, such as housing, and reduce their taxes to the federal, state or municipal treasury. Tax credits divert private money that otherwise would become public mon...

  • Ferry ridership still not back to pre-pandemic numbers

    Larry Persily|Mar 28, 2024

    The state ferry system carried 181,000 passengers in 2023, still short of the pre-COVID numbers in 2019 and down substantially from almost 340,000 in 2012 and more than 420,000 in 1992. Overall vehicle traffic also is down, from more than 115,000 in 2012 to 63,000 last year. Much of the decline corresponds to a reduction in the number of vessels in operation, according to statistics presented to a state Senate budget subcommittee on March 19. The fleet provided almost 400 “operating weeks” in 2012, with each week a ship is at sea counting as an...

  • Crew shortage continues to limit operations at state ferry system

    Larry Persily|Mar 28, 2024

    The Alaska Marine Highway System’s ongoing crew shortage has eased up for entry-level steward positions but remains a significant problem in the wheelhouse and for engineers, likely keeping the Kennicott out of service again this summer. As of March 8, the state ferry system was short almost 50 crew of what it would need to put its full operational fleet to sea this summer, which means keeping the Kennicott tied to the dock, Craig Tornga, the system’s marine director, reported to a state Senate budget subcommittee on March 19. That is abo...

  • Legislature fails by one vote to override of governor's school funding veto

    Larry Persily|Mar 21, 2024

    Alaska lawmakers fell one vote short Monday in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of a comprehensive school funding bill, which included a permanent increase in the state funding formula for K-12 education. The vote in a joint session of the House and Senate was 39-20. A two-thirds majority of 40 votes of the 60 legislators was required for an override. All 20 of the votes to uphold the governor’s actions came from Republicans. A dozen Republicans voted with Democrats and independents in the failed attempt. Even if lawmakers had succeed...

  • Guest Editorial

    Larry Persily|Mar 14, 2024

    Even in winter, there are hot opportunities. And since the state’s prospects for economic well-being are in short supply these days — like being short of buyers for Alaska salmon, running short of energy for Southcentral residents and businesses, and falling woefully short of funding for public schools — the state needs to seize whatever unexpected opportunities arise. Alaskans have long prided themselves on ingenuity, making something anew from the discard piles left behind by others. In this case, there are six ice-class liquefied natur...

  • Guest Editorial: Alaska needs to control its PFD politics

    Larry Persily|Mar 7, 2024

    It was a perplexing week in the Legislature. While the Senate Finance Committee was reviewing honest numbers about real budget needs hitting up against the limit of available state revenues, the House was debating whether the exalted Permanent Fund dividend belongs in the Alaska Constitution, putting the PFD above all else in life. The Senat committee last week was doing the math, realizing the state would not have enough money for a fat dividend this year, no matter what the governor and too many legislators may pledge, promise and promote....

  • Developer wants to build housing on former Wrangell hospital property

    Larry Persily|Mar 7, 2024

    WRANGELL — A Georgia-based developer who has taken a liking to Wrangell has offered the borough $200,000 for the former hospital property, with plans to tear down the building and construct as many as 48 new housing units. Wayne Johnson’s offer on the 2-acre property is contingent on striking a deal to purchase six smaller borough-owned lots behind the hospital building, adding an additional 1.3 acres to the development site. The purchase price for the hospital property, which has been vacant since SEARHC moved into its new Wrangell Medical Cen...

  • Make all schools better, not just some

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel publisher|Feb 29, 2024

    The governor’s growing obsession with charter schools is frightening for the future of public education in Alaska. He talks as if charter schools are by far the best answer to the state’s low student test scores. He has told Alaskans he would not support an increase in state funding for public schools unless the Legislature also backs his proposal to bypass local school boards when parents want to start up a new charter school. At the same time, he resists providing adequate support for public school districts that have not seen any real inc...

  • Wrangell loses three cruise ship stops to Klawock

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel writer|Feb 29, 2024

    Wrangell has lost three cruise ship stopovers this summer to Klawock, where a partnership of three Native corporations is developing a tourist destination with facilities, shore excursions and other activities for passengers. The 746-passenger Seven Seas Explorer has crossed Wrangell off its schedule for a May visit, with the 670-passenger Regatta canceling a stop in June and one in September but retaining a Wrangell stop earlier in September, according to the schedule posted by the Wrangell Convention and Visitor Bureau earlier this month. The...

  • State, tribe and borough wait on federal disaster funding

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel writer|Feb 29, 2024

    WRANGELL — The borough is waiting on a federal disaster declaration to cover the expense of power line repairs and other immediate and near-term costs from the Nov. 20 landslide at 11.2-Mile Zimovia Highway. The Wrangell Cooperative Association is seeking federal funding for the longer-term expense of cleaning up the tidelands of debris and toxic material. Under federal law, only the governor can request a federal disaster declaration, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency reviews before sending it to the president for signature. The s...

  • Assembly decides mandatory boat insurance ordinance needs more work

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel writer|Feb 29, 2024

    Assembly members agreed that a port commission proposal to require boat owners to carry marine insurance — or pay a monthly fee in addition to their stall rental — needs a lot more work. The port commission has been discussing since 2022 the financial risk to the borough when an uninsured vessel catches fire or sinks in the harbor, requiring cleanup and removal. The commission last month voted unanimously to recommend assembly approval of an ordinance requiring boat owners show proof of insurance or pay an additional monthly fee so that the...

  • Guest Editorial

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel Publisher|Feb 22, 2024

    Risky business not the state’s business The advice for Las Vegas gamblers is don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. It’s generally the same advice for investors: Don’t take more risk than you can afford, even when the riskier bets look like they could pay off the same as 21 at the blackjack table. The six members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board of trustees are not gamblers but they are getting a little too aggressive in accepting risk as they chase after higher investment returns. Most every investment is a gamble — company s...

  • Wrangell officials concerned about ongoing population decline

    Larry Persily, Wrangel Sentinel Writer|Feb 22, 2024

    Wrangell borough officials are concerned that Wrangell continues to lose population, while those who stay in town grow older and leave the workforce. As a whole, the state has lost more residents than it has gained in new arrivals every year since 2013, with only the birth rate keeping Alaska from showing a population decline. However, unlike the statewide totals, Wrangell recorded more deaths than births between 2017 and 2022, adding to the community’s overall population decline. The state’s latest estimate for Wrangell’s population, as of las...

  • Seafood industry expects 'another bad year' of weak markets

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel Writer|Feb 15, 2024

    “I’ve never seen market conditions as bad as they are now,” Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told a conference of Southeast business, community and municipal government leaders last week. “Last year we said we reached rock bottom,” Jeremy Woodrow, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said of low prices, weak markets and reluctant consumers. But then he added, “we’ve scraped off more levels,” reaching deeper to the bottom. All of the participants in the fisheries panel discussio...

  • State ferry system in 3rd year of crew shortages

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel Writer|Feb 15, 2024

    Crew shortages continue to plague the Alaska Marine Highway, the ferry system’s director told a gathering of Southeast officials last week. “Our biggest shortage is in the engineering department,” where the 54 ship engineers on the payroll as of Jan. 26 were far short of the 81 needed for full staffing, Craig Tornga told a gathering of community, business and government leaders at the Southeast Conference on Feb. 7 in Juneau. “We’re short in the wheelhouse,” he added, down eight from a full contingent of 79 in the master, chief mate, secon...

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