March was an eventful month for ALO. The office settled the largest case it has ever been involved with during a mediation in Seattle. Regular readers of this site will remember that ALO took over a case for the City of Kwethluk after a 23 million dollar judgment was entered against them after a default trial before a Bethel jury. The city asked ALO to appeal the verdict, and to seek recovery against parties who may have been responsible for the large verdict. The appeal was filed, and stayed, while other parties were pursued. Those parties gathered for the mediation, and a settlement was reached that resolved the judgment entered against Kwethluk and ended the case.
Mediation is a gathering where parties to a dispute meet at a location where all are expected to attend, and a mediator goes from group to group in an effort to reach a settlement. Such meetings are costly, but cheaper than continued litigation. They don't always work, and it seems that parties who are motivated to resolve their differences shouldn't need outside help to do so, but it is clear that sometimes they do. This time it worked, and a major case was ended in a way that worked out well for Kwethluk and ALO.
It was a busy month for other settlements as well. Two Bethel car accident cases settled, with ALO clients receiving modest but fair recoveries without litigation. Another settlement was obtained for a Bethel man bitten by a dog at the airport, when the dog was removed from a kennel for inspection during transport. Another victim of the same dog is still proceeding with litigation. The final settlement involved a car accident in Nome, where ALO's client was struck by a vehicle operated by an alleged drunk driver who had just stepped out of a local bar. That driver was identified as a regular member of the cast on a popular reality series based in Nome which features gold miners. He was driving an uninsured vehicle when the accident happened. There is no word whether he will pay the settlement in gold.
March is also Iditarod month, and ALO was heavily involved this year. Both Andy and Myron wrote articles for web sites. Someone back east saw Andy's articles, and put him on a national radio show called The Take Away for an interview. A story linked to those articles of one rookie's adventure on the Iditarod is found nearby on this site. Of course most readers of this page already know that the Bethel area was well represented in the Iditarod this year. Pete Kaiser and Mike Williams Jr both finished in the top ten. Their finishes were great news for the Kuskokwim 300, which has always functioned for the purpose of promoting dog racing as a healthy outdoor pursuit for young and old folks in the Kuskokwim delta. Both Pete and Mike took part in all of the races offered by the K300, and now they have emerged as serious challengers to the best mushers in the world. One brief note from the Iditarod start at Willow is worth a mention. As Pete made late adjustments before heading to the starting line, he had one last request. "Does anyone have any deodorant?" Pete was getting ready to head out on a trail across 1,000 miles of wilderness. He likely would have on the same clothes the entire trip, as would his fellow mushers. He would be in close contact with dogs that often smell like rancid fish, or worse. There would be times when he would become sweaty from exertion. Chances are good that when he reached Nome more than a week later he would need a long shower, perhaps two. That would require some powerful deodorant.
The recent K300 Camp Out race was held during the last weekend of March. This race was started many years ago to allow racers and their supporters a chance to experience a different kind of event where all could all gather at a checkpoint and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that existed in some of the earlier races when long breaks were common. This year about 35 people took part in the overnight camp, including a kid in the toddler stage, Zahn Bach. Check out Dolly's Facebook pictures for a glimpse of outdoor fun in what passes for spring in Western Alaska.
March also brought a group to Bethel to promote the Chikuminik Dam project. The Angstmans turned out to express their lack of support for the plan. Hydro power has been under discussion for years in Alaska, even though few dams are being built in American anymore and many are being removed because of the environmental damage they cause, both up and downstream. But Alaska fancies wild schemes, and this project is another example of that. Chikuminik is the most pristine lake in the Wood-Tikchik state park, where restrictions on development are strict. On that lake, no motor boats are allowed, the only such lake in the state. The proposed power line would travel 120 miles to Bethel, across a wildlife refuge. Apparently the builders think it can be done without a road, with everything being flown in. The estimated cost, under 1 billion, is seriously optimistic. They won't even suggest that power costs will go down, although that was the original plan. 10 million was appropriated by the legislature to study the plan, and lots of studies will be done. When the studies are done there will be no dam, but we will be 10 million lighter in the state treasury. No one asked the Bristol Bay folks if they want a Bethel area power plant in their back yard. The answer will be no. That's the reason the dam is planned for their area, because folks on the Bethel side of the mountains said they didn't want a dam on their side. The whole idea is a political deal worked out to gain support from bush politicians for the Susitna Dam project which will cost billions and screw up major portions of the Susitna drainage. Stay tuned on this one.
Readers have reported an interest in stuff posted here from the past. Some of the best stories are about old legal cases. When those stories are discussed, only publicly available information is used. Client confidences, and names, are not revealed. An early ALO client had some trouble with Bethel police when they got word of cocaine that was being sold out of his home. Armed with a search warrant, the officers checked every place they could think of, before finally discovering a stash of coke under the cover of his computer keyboard. During the case, the officers commented about the ingenuity involved in hiding the drugs in the computer. With the discovery of that well hidden evidence, a deal was cut and a jail sentence was served. Later while on probation from that charge, the same client called again to say he was in jail. He explained what happened. Apparently the cops came with another search warrant looking for cocaine. This time they didn't waste much time, they went straight to the computer, opened the case, and there in the exact same spot was the stash. There was no further mention of ingenuity.
Older readers of this site who came from Minnesota might want to check this story about Minnesota basketball, which is a classic. March Madness is a recent term usually associated with college basketball, but in another era, March was state tourney time in Minnesota, and high school basketball was the talk of the state. In 1960, tiny Edgerton with a population of less than 1,000 people stormed into the state tournament with an undefeated record. Back then, there was only one state tourney, and the small schools took on the big schools. The games were played to a packed house at Williams Arena, with upwards of 20,000 fans jammed in. The games were televised, in black and white, to those lucky enough to have TV. The biggest school in the state was Richfield, and in order to reach the finals, Edgerton had to meet Richfield in the semi-final round. The clip from that tourney explains why some folks from that era have a hard time embracing the modern athlete, and the modern way sports are conducted. The 1960 Minnesota state tourney will never be matched. It almost was duplicated in 1966 when Henning, another tiny school squared off against Edina, the richest school in the state in the semi-finals, losing in triple overtime. Then in 1970 Sherburn, somewhat larger than Edgerton, won the final single class tourney against South St. Paul and its been downhill ever since. Now there are a bunch of state tourneys, and a bunch of champions, but its not nearly the same.
Here is this month's mandatory moose pictures from Alaska. And a shot of a tricky corner on an Alaskan Road. And finally, a link to a news story out of Fairbanks that makes most dog mushers cringe.
Sarah Palin made the news in March with the release of the movie Game Change, which followed her trip from the Alaska State Fair to stardom as the vice presidential candidate. The pundits all weighed in on how she was depicted in the film. The scene showing her interview with Katie Couric was closely scrutinized, because Palin claimed later she was the victim of gotcha questions from Couric. In that interview she was asked her thoughts about the huge bailout bill which was then being debated in Congress. Now there's a gotcha question. Here is her verbatim answer.
Palin: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the....uh, oh, it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.