The Juneau Assembly is working on amending child care permit regulations in an effort to increase child care availability in Juneau.Download Audio:The Juneau Lands and Resources committee met Monday evening to push forward an amendment to the city’s land use code that would allow child care providers to care for more children. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO)On Monday evening, the city’s Land and Resources committee forwarded an amendment that would change part of the land use code, allowing at-home child care facilities to take in 12 children instead of eight.The Association for the Education of Young Children, or AEYC, provides resources and advocates quality child care in the Southeast. Coordinator Nikki Love says the organization is in full support of the amendment.“There’s enough licensed care for 1 in 4, or 1 in 5 children, under the age of 5, so the need is really high,” Love said.In the past few years waitlists have increased but remain at a steady rate, according to Love.“We’d like to see a decrease in barriers to child care facilities and businesses in town since there is such a great need for child care, and changing the zoning would help open the door to potential businesses,” she said.The amendment also provides a clear definition of child care home-facilities, requires at home providers to have sufficient parking and if state fencing requirements apply, the city may require the fence to meet neighborhood aesthetics.If passed, the amendment would not affect any child care facilities currently operating.The amendment is a part of a larger comprehensive plan to fix the child care crisis Juneau.Gold Creek Child Development Director Gretchen Boone says she’s in favor of the permitting — the more childcare, the better.Boone says the waitlist at Gold Creek has 75 children on it — the highest she’s ever seen it despite working at the facility for nearly two decades.“Having more child care out there would benefit the entire community. There are families on our waitlist who have been on our waitlist for over a year and will probably never obtain space with us,” Boone said.Lisa White, former owner of Little Bear Daycare, says she also had long waitlists.“Usually by the time I would get back to some names they had long since found a place, but sometimes it would a year or two,” White said.White cites over-regulation as the reason she closed her child care center in 2007. Nearly finished with the re-licensing process she called it quits as a child care provider in Juneau after 17 years, a profession that she cherished.While speaking about the lack of childcare in Juneau, White got emotional. She looks forward to the situation improving for Juneau’s families.“It’s just going to keep getting worse unless they do something about it. There are all these families — they need this, and they don’t need this years from now, they need it years ago,” White said.The amendment was forwarded on to the full assembly, and will be considered at a future meeting.
Legislators called on state elections officials today to delay certifying the results in a district that covers North Slope and Northwest Arctic boroughs. Those calls are based on concerns about how the recent primary election was handled in some precincts.Listen nowBut Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke said a state election review board would certify the results for District 40 today, due to the closeness of the race there.At a Senate State Affairs Committee meeting in Anchorage, Anchorage Republican Senator Lesil McGuire said the Division of Elections should correspond with the U.S. Department of Justice about federal Voting Rights Act concerns.“If this is certified and the person it is certified in favor of ultimately does not prevail in a future special election, or future audit, I think the impact on voter morale and confidence is devastating,” McGuire said.Legislators focused on three precincts. In Shungnak in District 40, voters were allowed to vote in both the Republican primary and in the primary for all other parties, in violation of state law. In Newtok in District 38, there was a discrepancy between the number of ballots counted and a separate tally that election officials wrote down. State officials say this was a data entry error, and didn’t affect the ballots. And in Chefornak in District 38, a somewhat similar discrepancy occurred.The difference between the candidates in District 38 is too large to be affected by the precincts in question. But in District 40, a recount is likely and any change could affect the outcome. Dean Westlake of Kotzebue was leading incumbent Representative Benjamin Nageak of Barrow by 21 votes, before the certification.Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke said the division’s core mandate is to ensure that every qualified voter has a meaningful opportunity to cast a ballot and have his or her vote count.In Shungnak, the election official didn’t attend election training. State law doesn’t penalize those who miss training.“We as a division, really need to do a better job educating our voters about the two-ballot system,” Bahnke said.Some residents who attended the meeting at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office say they’re concerned about the results. Luke Welles of Barrow said he wanted to vote in the open-ballot primary for Democrats and other non-Republicans, but election officials told him and other Republicans that they could only cast a questioned ballot in the open-ballot primary.“It seemed as if the Republicans were being – the focus was on not letting them vote the open ballot in this situation,” Bahnke said.Senate President Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, questioned whether it’s appropriate to certify the results.“How do you certify an election that was not legal?” Meyer asked.Alpheus Bullard, a lawyer for the legislature, said that if a challenge to the District 40 election results occurs, it’s not clear what the outcome would be.“It’s a violation of our statutes and what ballots need to be provided,” Bullard said. “I don’t know whether the necessary bias is there, or what a court would find. This is not a situation the specifics of which have been addressed by an Alaska court before.”The defeated candidate or 10 local residents can request a recount within five days of the completion of the state review. It’s not clear what day the review will be finalized.
The ruling focused on the scope of the association’s mission to promote Bristol Bay seafood. The fishermen who sued the association don’t view funding groups opposed to Pebble as part of BBRSDA’s purview. But the judge agreed with the defendants, holding that state statutes define promotion in broad terms. Boats tie up at Dillingham’s small boat harbor in late July 2018, with many waiting to be pulled from the water at high tide. (Photo by Austin Fast / KDLG) “Well, you know, I’m very disappointed in the judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit,” said Abe Williams, one of the plaintiffs in the case. BBRSDA had filed a motion to dismiss the case in April. Attorney Scott Kendall said the ruling affirmed the association’s right to take a position on Pebble. The ruling focused on the scope of BBRSDA’s mission to promote and market seafood. The fishermen suing the association define that mission narrowly, and don’t view environmental protection as part of the association’s purview. BBRSDA argued that its activities fall within the broader definition of promoting seafood. The court agreed, holding that state statutes define promotion in broad terms. It also pointed out that the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development does not define what that mission entails. “…And that their mission of promoting and protecting Bristol Bay seafood was well served by what they were doing,” he said. “And that really, completely agreed with the position of BBRSDA, which is that they and their board are free to choose the methods by which to protect their fishery.” “Their result would be, BBRSDA would have to ignore the existence of Pebble Mine, pretend like it doesn’t exist for purposes of marketing their salmon,” he said. “I personally want them marketing my salmon,” Williams said. “I think United Tribes and SalmonState and commercial fishermen alike that want to comment on the proposed Pebble Mine can certainly do so at their own expense, and not necessarily mine.” This decision comes a week after the Dunleavy administration threw its support behind the plaintiffs. Kendall said a ruling in favor of the lawsuit would have been “absurd.” Judge Yvonne Lamoureaux ruled Friday that the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association was within its authority to fund groups opposed to the proposed Pebble Mine. Williams has been a commercial fisherman for almost four decades and works for Pebble as the director of regional affairs. He still believes BBRSDA’s activities regarding Pebble are outside its mission. Last month, with the financial backing of Pebble Limited Partnership, six commercial fishermen sued the association. They challenged more than $250,000 in funds it had spent in contracts with the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and SalmonState – two groups that advocate against Pebble. Claims against those groups, which were co-defendants in the lawsuit, were dismissed as well. Williams says that if the association doesn’t change their approach, he would like the option to leave the association and put the 1 percent tax he pays toward his own business efforts. He and his fellow plaintiffs are now deciding their next move. They have 30 days to file an appeal.