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Despite No Scheduled Public Testimony, Wasilla Residents Pack City Hall Over ATV Ban

Despite the rain and the fact that there was no scheduled public testimony on the issue, every chair at City Hall in Wasilla was filled Monday evening. People wanted their voice heard on the proposed ATV ban.

Earlier this month, Wasilla’s planning commission passed a resolution in a four to one vote recommending the City Council ban riding off-road vehicles within city limits.

“A majority of over half the people that testified within the city limits were actually for the ordinance and that was a heavy weighing factor I think for myself,” said Jessica Dean who sits on Wasilla’s Planning Commission.

That one vote against the recommendation spoke up Monday.

“I ask the council to ask them personally do they want to be a council member in a city of ‘no’ or do we want to maintain freedoms here,” said Planning Commission member, Loren Means.

13.5 square miles is the area the ban would cover. Current ATV laws in Wasilla require riding with a helmet and going no faster than 10 miles per hour, and anybody under the age of 16 much have an adult present.

Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright said the use of off-road vehicles has become a safety hazard to pedestrians and vehicles throughout the city. He said if people want to ride ATV’s within city limits they must follow the rules.

“It’s the citizen’s responsibility before they actively engage in an activity or behavior, know what the rules in that jurisdiction are,” Rupright said.

According to the city, in the last two years Wasilla Police have responded to 248 complaints. Rupright said, though, since the thought of a ban has been making headlines, the past few weeks people have been abiding the law.

Rupright said there is a chance the code allowing ATV use within city limits could be re-written so both residents and law enforcement can better understand the laws.

A public hearing on the issue on the proposal to ban the off-road vehicle is scheduled for August 25th.

Caslon Hatch, Reporter - KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage, Alaska (907) 762 - 9241

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TSA Competition Spurs Innovation for Waiting Travelers

For some travelers, the recently enacted TSA Pre-Check at most airports has made flying easier and less stressful, but if a new contest is any indication, it is far from a walk in the park for airport employees.

The Transportation Security Administration has announced cash prizes for one or more individuals who can make airport security screenings faster and more efficient, even with the inclusion of Pre-Check travelers.

Since 2001, security measures at airports have gotten more stringent in an attempt to prevent terrorists and other dangerous flyers from doing their fellow travelers harm at 30,000 feet. Often, items considered dangerous are recovered from carry on items by TSA employees, which can cause major delays in security checkpoints while law enforcement officers handle the potential threat. Short-handed staffing, assistance for those with disabilities, and large numbers of travelers can also add to the wait time.

TSA's Pre-Check was designed to expedite the security screening process for a select group of fliers who met certain TSA safety criteria, and were invited by one or more of the 11 participating airlines. This group generally consists of frequent fliers and holders of various airlines' reward credit cards, who are now able to forgo removing jackets and shoes, may carry certain liquids and gels aboard, and do not need to unpack their laptop for screening. 

With growing numbers of approved Pre-Check passengers, many airports are having a difficult time sorting passengers at security checkpoints in a way that allows everyone to be screened quickly and efficiently, especially in large volumes.

The contest offers anyone (except TSA personnel) the opportunity to offer suggestions on how to improve their traveling experience, at least in the airport. Suggestions should include consideration for a Pre-Check access point, individuals requiring wheelchair access, flight crews, TSA employee schedules and staff numbers, high traffic times, and site specific requirements.

Individuals who provide the best models for checkpoint changes will be awarded cash for their idea, with a minimum award of $2,500, and the top prize of at least  $5,000 (more if only one or two models are selected), totaling $15,000 in cash prizes.

The deadline for contest submissions is August 15, 2014, and already over 1,100 model submissions have been received.

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United Way Challenges Community To Help ASD Students Graduate On Time

Pushing forward with its goal to raise the Anchorage School District's graduation rate to 90% by the year 2020, the United Way of Anchorage is challenging the community to step up and help out. The non profit says its because of the impact the community has on Anchorage's kids.

According to the United Way, whether or not a student succeeds in school 80% of the time, is based on circumstances outside the classroom. And in order to see that 90% graduation rate become a reality, it says those outside the classroom need to make their presence felt.

In her 18 years working for Alyeska Pipeline, compliance and quality specialist Shelly Martin never thought she had enough time to spend in Anchorage schools.

"I resisted for a long time, because it's a commitment from September to May every week and you always think I'm always too busy," said Martin, who changed her mind four years ago when she stepped foot into Russian Jack Elementary. "Man I was hooked that first week, just walking in and seeing the smiles on their faces."

Coming once a week during the school year, Martin is part of Alyeska's partnership with the school which has lasted more than 15 years.

"Whenever I walk into the room first thing in the morning to greet them, they are all so excited to see me," said Martin.

A combination of volunteering and mentorship that is part of the United Way's mission to increase graduation by the year 2020.

In a report based on the 2013 school year, data shows only 62% of incoming kindergartners are ready for school. 85% of students are proficient in reading by the third grade. 68% are math proficient by 8th grade and 59% of 9th graders are actually on track to graduate on time. And with ASD's graduation rate currently at 76%, the United Way says more has to be done by businesses, non profits, and community leaders because schools can't do it alone.

"Oh we will let the schools take care of it, if I don't have kids in school it doesn't matter to me, well that is so far from the truth," said June Sobocinski, who is the vice president of education impact for United Way. "Because most of what is going to impact a students success ultimately is not a factor that exists within a classroom, its the factors outside the classrooms."

"You don't start a pipeline at mile 5," said Anchorage School Board member, Kameron Perez-Verdia. "We've got to start early, we've got to make sure that our kids are ready to go school and they are getting the support that they need. This is the future of Alaska, this is the future of our workforce."

It's an investment of resources, Martin and her employer Alyeska can appreciate.

"By the end of the school year I could just see the progress," Martin said.

A sowing of seeds that could help children grow into successful adults

"When you talk to them, they admire Alyeska and they are like I want to work for you and they get that we are out to help them," Martin said.

The United Way says Alyeska is one of many partnerships in the Anchorage School District. But they say we all can make a positive impact by volunteering our time to read, tutor, or just be a mentor with Anchorage's kids.

Corey Allen-Young KTUU Channel 2 Reporter 744-2642 cell

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Friends and Family of Cyclists Killed by Vehicles Seek Justice

Three cyclists killed by collisions with vehicles, but so far no criminal charges filed against anyone involved in those deadly wrecks. That's the track record since the beginning of the year, and it's causing frustration among the cycling community and friends of the victims. The victims include 65-year old Eldridge Griffth, 5-year old Ashley Xiong and most recently 51-year old Jeff Dusenbury, who was killed two Saturdays ago. "The family is already feeling frustrations, it's been 9 days," said Peter Van Tuyn, Jeff Dusenbury Family Spokesperson.  "They're in acute pain and to have this go on in what appears to be a pretty straight forward situation, in a very real sense, justice delayed for those kind of time frames is justice denied." At this point no charges have been filed in any of the incidents. Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion says it's important for the public to understand that the police must do a thorough investigation and gather as much information as possible before a decision is made. "We have to make sure that we have evidence to prove a case without a reasonable doubt," said Campion.  "We have to make sure that we're going after the right offenders and that justice is done, and not only justice for the family and the community, but also for the offender." Campion says there are a lot of components that must be evaluated before deciding whether or not to press charges, taking several things into consideration including analysis of the scene, data recovered from the vehicle, driving history and blood work are just some of the factors prosecutors look at when making the decision. "You can never know the state of mind with which someone acts or fails to act," said Campion.  "The objective of it is to decide whether or not they met that state of proof and in our mind it's either criminal negligence or manslaughter that we have to prove." While Campion understands the growing frustrations of people looking for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions, he says these types of cases often take weeks and months instead of days.

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WWF Study Shows Oil Spill Impacts for Alaska in New Ways

With leases pending in the Beaufort Sea three years from now, the World Wildlife Fund is voicing its opposition. The organization says drilling in the Arctic is too risky and computer models show just how much so.

A hypothetical oil spill in the Beaufort Sea above Canada can now be tracked on an interactive map, published by the World Wildlife Fund. Users of an interactive map can see impacts to coastlines and wildlife through time with the predicted fallout far reaching.

“What the model shows in most cases is that the potential oil spill accidents taking place in the Canadian waters of the Beaufort sea would likely flow in a westerly direction, flowing into areas of the Alaska Beaufort Sea,” said WWF’s Managing Director for Arctic Programs.

The information comes the same day the Bureau of Ocean Energy Mxanagement or BOEM announced its starting to gather information for a lease sale in Alaska's Beaufort Sea.

“We believe there's a substantial energy resource up there in the Beaufort," said Jim Kendall the Regional Director for BOEM Alaska OCS.

A decision hasn't been made yet. BOEM is asking for input from industry and anyone who has an interest offshore, including traditional uses. It says the study just released is very valuable.

“The areas are all connected," Kendall said. "The boundaries you see on a map are just boundaries on a map so we take information like that study that was just competed, that's a very important study and we're looking at it right now we also do our own modeling of where a potential spill could go."

The oil and gas industry says the fact is resources are in the arctic and any drilling will be done safely.

“They're using it as a fundraising tool to try and shut down development here in Alaska and from our standpoint we want to develop our resources here, we know how to do it right," said Kara Moriarty the President and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. "We do it safely. We can do it and we should.” 

BOEM is working on upgrading its arctic specific standards after a review of shells troubled drilling season. Those will be released later this year.

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Anchorage Psychiatrist Pleads 'Not Guilty' in Fraud Case

A grand jury handed down more than 30 charges in a case against an Anchorage psychiatrist accused of fraud, tampering with evidence, and misconduct involving a controlled substance.

The Department of Law's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit announced the additional charges Friday following the indictment of 39-year-old Dr. Shubhranjan Ghosh, founder of Ghosh Psychiatric Services.  Ghosh was arrested in April and was released after paying a $200,000 cash bail, surrendering his passport, and complying with electronic monitoring requirements handed down as a condition of release.

The investigation into Ghosh began after an employee allegedly noticed charges for the treatment of patients that did not actually occur. According to investigators, Ghosh billed Medicaid for psychiatric services rendered to patients who were not actually treated by Ghosh, and in some cases, while Ghosh was out of the state travelling. 

Ghosh pled not guilty Monday to 18 felony charges of medicaid fraud and tampering with physical evidence, and 15 misdemeanor counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance. 

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ConocoPhillips Announces Contract for New Drilling Rig

ConocoPhillips announced a contract with Doyon Drilling Monday for a new rotary drilling rig.

The new rig, to be named Doyon 142, will join two other new additions to the North Slope fleet, Nabors 7ES and Nabors 9ES, and is expected to begin drilling in February 2016. The company says it is the first of its kind in the fleet since 2000. 

While the company says they are happy to be able to add over 100 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs, the announcement is, for them, indicative of the success of Senate Bill 21, or the More Alaska Production Act.

“The addition of Rig 142 to Doyon’s fleet is a testament to ConocoPhillips’ commitment to Alaska," said Doyon President and CEO, Aaron Schutt. "The contract for the rig is long-term and is one example of how Senate Bill 21 is making a positive impact on Alaska’s economy. This opportunity is good for Doyon, its shareholders and Alaska."

ConocoPhillips currently has six development rigs on the North Slope, and an additional rig in the Beluga River Unit in Cook Inlet, according to spokesperson Natalie Lowman.

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Fairbanks Man sentenced to 57 Months for Drug Possession

A man facing charges in a federal drug and money laundering conspiracy case has been sentenced in a similar case following his conviction of drug possession charges.

Etienne Devoe, 40, was sentenced Monday to spend 57 months in prison and pay a forfeiture fine of $2,240. Chief United States District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline also included three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.

Devoe was convicted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute by a Fairbanks jury on May 1. Devoe was arrested February 1, 2012 after investigators, serving a federal search warrant for another case, discovered in his residence more than six ounces of cocaine and a sum of $2,240, which was considered drug trafficking money.

Devoe is one of nine individuals involved in a federal drug conspiracy and money laundering case, and is scheduled to appear in court again to face charges relating to that case in February 2015.

The forfeiture fine was ordered to pay for outstanding child support bills for some of his eight children born from six separate mothers, which the judge noted was "part of a dysfunctional cycle", along with a history of domestic violence.

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Police: Lock, Remove, Conceal to Protect Your Vehicle from Thieves

Following a recent rise in vehicle break-ins in a local park, Anchorage police are warning visitors and residents alike to remember some key safety practices for their parked cars.

APD spokesperson Dani Myren said the warning was issued after a crime analyst with the department noticed a significant increase in the number of reported theft cases that occurred in the Earthquake Park parking lot in the last 30 days. While specific numbers were not available, Myren said the increase was substantial enough to bring it to the attention of the public.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the issue,” Myren said. “People should remember the Lock-Remove-Conceal practice in keeping their vehicle as safe as possible, hardening the target, making their vehicle a less desirable target to potential thieves.”

In more than half the reported incidents, vehicle windows were smashed to allow access into the vehicle, making vulnerable valuable items like cameras, purses, and wallets.

“One vehicle had credit cards stolen, which were found later in a dumpster,” Myren said. “What may seem like a valuable target can turn out not to be, and those items tend to get ditched by the thief.”

According to Myren, the Lock-Remove-Conceal practice is simple and easy, and can help protect vehicle owners from having to pay to repair vehicle damages and replace stolen items, as well as preventing personal information from being misused.

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Second Steller Sea Lion Pup Born at Alaska SeaLife Center

A Steller sea lion couple at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward welcomed their second pup in two years earlier this month, with staff saying both the mother and newborn male are doing well. In a Monday statement, staff at the center say the pup was born July 20 to a 14-year-old mother, Eden, and a 21-year-old male named Woody. The pair have previously produced offspring, with a female pup born last year. “Eden is a very attentive mother and the pup has been successfully nursing,” officials wrote. “The pup’s first weight came in at 37.7 pounds (17.1 kg).” The previous pup, Ellie, was born in June 2013. At the time, the center described the birth as the first successful breeding of two sea lions in captivity since the mid-1980s. “At thirteen months old, Ellie now weighs 166 pounds (75.5 kg) and has learned to eat fish and follow basic commands from her trainers,” officials wrote. According to Dr. Lori Polasek, a University of Alaska Fairbanks research assistant professor and a scientist at the center, biologists have been learning important details from Eden and Woody about sea lion pregnancy and pup care. While the pup won’t be named or placed on public display for a few months, there are already plans at the center for a possible name. “Like all of our Stellers, he will be named after a Steller sea lion rookery or haul out area,” officials wrote in an email to Channel 2. Channel 2’s Reba Lean contributed information to this story.

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Bethel Council Interviews 7 for City Manager's Job

Members of the Bethel City Council this week are interviewing candidates for the position of city manager. KYUK reports there are seven people in the running for the job, which became open when the council fired former manager Lee Foley in May because of improperly awarded contracts, special agreements and violations of nepotism rules. Interviews will be held Monday and Tuesday.

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Territorial Court Records Will Remain in Alaska

Not all of Alaska's research materials and government records will move to Seattle when the National Archives and Records Administration closes its Anchorage branch. A deal has been reached to let the territorial court records be housed at the Alaska State Archive in Juneau, instead. The Juneau Empire reports the documents will arrive in the capital on Aug. 4, Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, making the journey on the AlCan Highway and then the last stretch on the ferry from Haines. They will be housed in the state archives' new office building. The research room at the Anchorage facility closed last month. The building will permanently close in September.

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Arctic Thunder Wraps Up High-Profile 2014 JBER Show

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Arctic Thunder air show wrapped up Sunday afternoon. During the two-day event. base officials say more than 220,000 people came to the open house. Whether they came to see aerobatic performers -- ranging from the classic majesty of World War II-era planes like the P-51D Mustang, or the precision and power of pilots flying F-16 Falcon fighter jets with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds -- there wasn't much for fans to be disappointed about during this year’s show. As a kid, there isn't anything much cooler than this. Jeremy Gardona and his 5-year-old son, Aiden, would have to agree. “For him it's better than going to Disney World right now,” Gardona said. For Gardona it’s Arctic Thunder, not Mickey Mouse, that has given him the chance to share something special with his boy this weekend. “Daddy, watch the F-16s!” Aiden said. “To be able to bring my son and get within a couple hundred feet of them is a great experience,” Gardona said. It’s an experience that has inspired young Aiden -- one that already has him dreaming big, thanks to a C-17 Globemaster III transport making tight turns over JBER’s tarmac. “I want to be a pilot, to fly on a C-17,” Aiden said. While the size of the planes drew oohs, it was the maneuvers they performed which drew ahhs. “Why is he upside down?” Aiden asked. Normally that would be a fair question -- but at Arctic Thunder, it’s a common occurrence. “Wow, the other one is upside down,” Aiden said. In the end, the show both wowed the crowd and inspired the youth. “Go to school, and maybe you could be a pilot like these guys,” Gardona said. The only real hiccup during the air show occurred during Sunday morning’s F-22 Raptor demonstration, which was cut short after the pilot noticed what JBER officials described as a "check engine" light in the cockpit. While they say the warning wasn't serious, the pilot burned off fuel and landed safely rather than tempting fate. Arctic Thunder is expected to return to Anchorage in 2016.

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Denali Planning for Temporary Ban on Pet Goats

Plans are in the works to temporarily ban certain pets from Denali National Park and Preserve after a local resident was cited for hiking on park trails with his pet goat this summer. Park Superintendent Don Striker said domestic goats pose a significant disease risk to Denali's Dall sheep population. He says he is planning to implement a temporary closure barring access to pet goats, and to bring the issue up at an official hearing, likely next year. He tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner temporary closures can last anywhere from 30 days to a couple of years. Corey Furrow, the Anderson resident cited for hiking with his pet goat, said he understands the park's need to protect Dall sheep. But he said his animal was on a leash.

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Yukon River King Salmon Returns See Improvement

Alaska fisheries managers say it appears they have achieved their goal of getting a sufficient number of Yukon River king salmon to their Canadian spawning grounds. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the number of king salmon counted as of this week by a sonar located near the village of Eagle near the border stood at 49,231. That surpasses the minimum goal of 42,500 kings called for in the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada. This marks the first time in three years that the goal has been reached. The decline in king salmon has led to fishing restrictions for subsistence fishermen who live along the river and depend on the salmon for food.

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Suspect Set to Change Plea in Anchorage Teen's 2013 Beating

One of the men charged with attacking and nearly killing an 18-year-old at an Anchorage home last year is expected to change his plea Monday. Michael Liufau, along with three other men -- Tye Manning, Trevvor Trobough and Iosia Fiso -- is charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and hindering prosecution in the beating of James Clinton. An anonymous tip Sept., 16 led police to an abandoned house at 807 Barrow St. that has since been demolished, where they found Clinton barely alive. Court documents say the group hit Clinton and stomped on his head until the teen was in a coma. Liufau is expected to face a judge Monday afternoon.

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Subsistence Alaska Village Fights Mining Road

After another year of abysmal king salmon runs, with rain-swollen rivers making it near-impossible to catch chum or silvers and with decades of declining moose and caribou populations, the residents of Allakaket are bristling at the prospect of a 200-mile industrial road running through their hunting and fishing grounds. The Fairbanks News-Miner reports the village is opposing a multi-million mining road that would have 15 major river crossings, including over the Alatna River, where Allakaket residents fish. The propose road would spanfrom the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska. The road is being championed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and the Ambler Mining District by Canada-based NovaCopper, which is eyeing what it estimates to be hundreds of millions of tons of copper, zinc and lead in the area.

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Bald Eagle Set Free After Rescue From Fire

After working hard to help a bald eagle to recover from burns, volunteers at Bird TLC learned the biggest reward can be letting go.

Sparkie came to the Bird TLC earlier this year with burnt feathers after the young eagle's feathers were singed when it tried to catch rodents fleeing the fire. Even after months in recover, Bird TLC volunteer, Dave Dorsey said this is still a wild animal.

"He knows what he needs to do," Dorsey said. "He just needs a chance to get out and do it."

On Saturday, Dorsey and another volunteer entered Sparkie's cage with blankets to capture the bird one last time.

The young bald eagle is still brown. It's three or four years old. The white feathers bald eagles are known for don't grow in until later in life.

"He's feisty!" the volunteer helping Dorsey said as the two men hold the bird in a blanket.

Sparkie's next step to freedom was being put in a traveling crate. It takes quick, careful coordination to lock him in the crate before shutting the lid. Dorsey loaded his pickup in the parking lot in front of Bird TLC for the drive to Soldotna.

In Soldotna, a crowd gathered to watch the bird released back in to the wild.

"We like to return the birds to that area {Soldotna} to replenish what was brought out of there," Dorsey said.

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No Injuries in Seward Highway Head-On Collision

No injuries were reported in a head-on Seward Highway collision that totaled both vehicles involved, with Alaska State Troopers saying traffic backed up on the highway for hours Sunday evening was not caused by the crash. In a Sunday AST dispatch, troopers say they arrived at Mile 105.8 of the highway, as measured from Seward, just before 4:10 p.m. “Investigation revealed John Schuelke, age 48 of Anchorage, was driving a 2013 Ford pickup north,” troopers wrote. “Schuelke crossed the centerline and struck a 2012 Chevrolet van that was driving south on the Seward Highway and was driven by Charles Jacob, age 67 of Utah.” Neither Schuelke nor Jacob accepted offers of medical evaluations at the scene.

AST spokesperson Megan Peters says there were a total of 10 people in the vehicles, with three in Schuelke's truck and seven in Jacob's van. Schuelke was subsequently cited for a moving violation.

"Schuelke was (adjusting) his radio when he crossed the centerline," Peters wrote in an email. According to Peters, the highway was closed only sporadically for a few minutes at a time. She says the backup was due to "too many cars on the road," with vehicles seen stopped northbound at the Alyeska Highway turnoff toward Girdwood Sunday delayed by a glut of people returning to Anchorage rather than the crash. "It wasn't a severe wreck," Peters said. "It sounds like (traffic) was backed up farther away from the wreck." Troopers say everyone involved in the crash was wearing seat belts, and that alcohol was not a factor.

Channel 2's Shannon Riddle and Mike Ross contributed information to this story.

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'Regulate Marijuana' Campaign Sends Official Complaint to Opponents

Though the election is months away, political campaigns are already heating up.

Recently the marijuana legalization debate took a turn when last week the "regulate Marijuana Campaign" started the process of filing an official complaint against the "Vote no on 2 Campaign. The complaint stems from a seemingly benign personal description.

Kristina Woolston often describes herself as a "volunteer spokesperson" for the 'Vote No on 2' campaign - that's the fight against the legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska. Opponents who are working to legalize marijuana say if Woolston is a volunteer, that's a violation of rules set by APOC the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

In a letter to the APOC, the Regulate Marijuana campaign's treasurer, Chris Rempert accused Northwest Strategies of "violation and (possibly willful) deception of public trust. It claims that because Woolston is part owner of Northwest Strategies, she's either not properly accounting for her volunteer hours, or giving the campaign an unfair discount.

In an interview, Rempert said Friday, "If Kristina truly is a volunteer, then she is the most expensive volunteer in history."

In a written response to the accusation, 'Vote No on 2' said, "Kristina misspoke on one occasion and will clarify with APOC." The statement goes on to say that Woolston did *not conceal her ownership in northwest strategies - and claims compliance with all APOC rules.

In a phone conversation with Channel 2 News, an APOC spokesperson says the regulatory body can't comment on this specific case before it has reviewed all the details.

APOC rules are less stringent in some cases for a ballot initiative campaign as opposed to a political candidate's campaign. While the two groups may have differing interpretations of APOC law, both agree the APOC complaint moves the conversation away from marijuana.

'Vote No on 2''s statement said, "This is a distraction to divert attention from the severe damage this initiative will do to Alaska." Rempert argues calling it a distraction furthers the other sides agenda,

"By saying everything we do is a distraction," Rempert said. "Is to distract the Alaskan voters from the truth of this ballot measure."

The debate highlights the extreme tension between the two camps - both looking to voters for clarity in November - on a divisive issue that affects the state.



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