Monthly Archives: August 2014

Happy 50th KP you and me — Borough, college, school district celebrate golden anniversary

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner points toward the new Career and Technical Center and the residence hall at KPC while talking about how far the education institution has come in the past 50 years during a golden-anniversary celebration for KPC, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district held Thursday at the college.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner points toward the new Career and Technical Center and the residence hall at KPC while talking about how far the education institution has come in the past 50 years during a golden-anniversary celebration for KPC, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district held Thursday at the college.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It’s been said that from humble beginnings, great things will grow, and these words appropriately describe the inception of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district, as well as Kenai Peninsula College — all of which celebrated their 50th anniversary last week during a barbecue at KPC.

It can be difficult to imagine how far these entities have come and how much the entire area has grown, especially since many current residents are more recent transplants to this area. The landscape was much different in 1964, when only around 12,000 people called the peninsula home, versus the roughly 58,000 living here in 2014.

“Fifty years ago it was a very rural community with only the main highway being paved and most of the other roads gravel. There were no stoplights, because there was a lot less traffic,” said borough Mayor Mike Navarre.

It was black gold that led to much of the growth of this area, he said.

“A big reason why we were finally approved for statehood was because of the Swanson River oil discovery,” Navarre said. “That was an indication, to Congress, that Alaska would have the financial resources to afford some of the costs of government. Of course, that’s what drove the initial growth of the Kenai Peninsula during the 1960s — oil development both on and offshore.”

It took a lot of people to work the oilfields, wellheads and processing centers.

“The population grew pretty fast during the mid to late ’60s and early ’70s, driven by the jobs associated with oil development, including the Swanson River Fields, platforms in Cook Inlet, Union Chemical (Collier/Agrium) fertilizer plant, Phillips LNG plant, Tesoro and related infrastructure (docks and service companies),” Navarre said. “Of course, economic growth spurred population growth and the need for housing developments, schools, airport expansion, the hospital, etc.”

Navarre remembered that when he was in junior high, students were managed in a split shift because the student population exceeded the space available at that time. This swelling of students led to many changes in the school district.

From roughly 2,600 students in a handful of classrooms in 1964, the school district has grown to 8,932 enrolled students in 44 schools covering 25,600 square miles, a land area roughly equivalent to the size of West Virginia.

“When you review the various bits of information that are available about what things were like for our schools 50 years ago, you can quickly discern the KPBSD was a much different district than it is today,” Superintendent Steve Atwater said.

“One of the more telling differences of then and now is that the budget for January until June of 1964 was only $23,000,” he said. “Today, that amount is about what we spend in 20 minutes of a school day.”

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Filed under Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula College, Uncategorized

Plugged In: Focus on optics worth their price tag

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

­Compact-camera systems from Sony, Fujifilm and Samsung share a common weakness — the lack of a wide range of modern lenses. Micro Four-Thirds cameras, in contrast, benefit from a very broad selection of high-quality, generally affordable optics.

That wide selection of good lenses is the most significant advantage of Micro Four-Thirds cameras compared to other compact-system cameras.

I’ve personally tested nearly all of the M 4/3 lenses discussed this week, confirming my own observations with data from reputable lens test sites, including http://www.ephotozine.com, http://www.slrgear.com, http://www.lensrentals.com, http://www.photozone.de and http://www.dxomark.com. These sites are excellent resources, with data about a very wide variety of interchangeable lenses. You’ll not only identify the best lenses for your needs but also the sharpest magnifications and apertures for each lens.

With very few exceptions, zoom lenses are noticeably less sharp than single-magnification “prime” lenses. Zoom lenses with a wide magnification range, roughly more than three times the widest setting, are generally less sharp, although Tamron’s new 14- to 150-mm M 4/3 “travel zoom” shows good overall sharpness in published tests.

All cameras lenses have a “sweet spot,” the point at which a lens provides its best image quality. Usually, lenses are sharpest at the center, with sharpness and contrast dropping off toward the edges and corners. Better lenses have less variation between center and corner. The optimum lens aperture for M 4/3 lenses is usually in the f/4 to f/5 range.

The smaller sensors used in M 4/3 cameras require shorter focal length lenses to achieve equivalent image magnification and field of view (how much is included in the image from edge to edge). Compared to standard, 35-mm, full-frame and film cameras, an M 4/3 camera uses a smaller lens with half the focal length to achieve comparable visual effects.

To find the equivalent 35-mm magnification of an M 4/3 lens, multiply its focal length by 2. Thus, a 25-mm lens used on an M 4/3 camera produces visual effects equivalent to the traditional 50-mm standard lens on a 35-mm film or full-frame camera, while a 12-mm M 4/3 lens acts like a 24-mm ultrawide-angle optic.

We’ll start with zoom lenses, moving from ultrawide-angle through ultratelephoto models. Only Olympus and Panasonic make M 4/3 zoom lenses. Panasonic’s 7- to 14-mm, ultrawide-angle zoom is large, well regarded and very expensive. I’m not at all sure it’s worth the price, unless you really need that ultrawide 7-mm setting. Olympus recently announced a similar, M 4/3 “PRO” lens. I’d wait and compare the two. Prices will likely drop now that there’s competition.

Olympus made two ultrawide zoom lenses with a 9- to 18-mm range. The current M 4/3 M. Zuiko version is quite a bit smaller than the older version intended for Olympus’ earlier dSLR 4/3 cameras. The older version, available used, is sharper in my experience and mounts on M 4/3 cameras via Olympus’ MMF-2 fully automatic adapter. I have both and prefer the image quality of the older ED version, but the current M.Zuiko model is adequate for most needs.

If you like superwide fisheye effects, then Rokinon’s 7.5-mm, manual focus, fisheye lens has excellent optical quality for about $270. Olympus’ 9-mm body cap fisheye isn’t as good toward the edges but it costs under $100.

Among high-end, wide-angle to short-telephoto M 4/3 zooms, there are really only two choices, Panasonic’s 12- to 35-mm model and Olympus’ 12- to 40-mm zoom. Both are excellent and similarly priced.

I decided on the Olympus 12- to 40-mm model and it’s likely the best lens I’ve ever used, sharp and with good contrast at all settings. I cannot find any flaw in this lens except some very minimal lens barrel wobble when it’s fully extended to the 40-mm setting. If you only buy one high-quality lens for your M 4/3 camera, save up for this one. In fact, it’s better than many prime lenses in its zoom range. Olympus also makes a less-expensive, 12- to 50-mm zoom that’s decent but not great. At least it’s weather resistant and has a good macro mode.

Among the kit zoom lenses included with most purchases, the current 14- to 42-mm kit zooms from both Panasonic and Olympus are very good but, again, not great. Somewhat better, and definitely more compact, is the new Olympus 14- to 42-mm EZ electric zoom model. I was so impressed by the high sharpness in such a small package that I recently bought one. Similarly, Panasonic’s tiny 12- to 32-mm kit zoom for their pocketable GM1 has good optical quality for its small size and low cost.

I’m less impressed by the affordable telephoto zoom lenses for M 4/3 cameras, and I’ve tried nearly all of them. Panasonic’s consumer telephoto zooms never seemed to produce truly sharp images for me, an experience generally confirmed by published test results.

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Horse senses — Unique summer program uses riding as tool for kids’ therapy

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Lachlan McManus captures a ring during an exercise in his hippotherapy session with Nature’s Way Rehabilitation Service on July 30 in Kenai.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Lachlan McManus captures a ring during an exercise in his hippotherapy session with Nature’s Way Rehabilitation Service on July 30 in Kenai.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Lachlan McManus was having a blast. What 10-year-old on a horse wouldn’t be? Especially when there’s a sword involved, as there was during the Kenai boy’s riding session July 30 in an arena off Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kenai, with Lachlan plunging the sword forward in a fencing-style thrust, or extending it straight overhead as though he’d just freed Excalibur from its rock.

In his head, he could be a swashbuckling pirate or a knight of the Round Table galloping off to battle, wielding his nimble blade in one hand and guiding his powerful steed with the other.

The reality, of course, was less dramatic. The sword was a blunt-edged toy, lacking the heft to make a swashing sound, much less damage anything with which it might accidentally make contact. The only buckles involved were those on the riding gear and the safety belt fashioned around Lachlan’s waist. As for the horse, full speed ahead was more of a mosey than a trot, and direction came from the helpers walking along each side, rather than the rider having the reins.

But the lack of daring and danger didn’t bother Lachlan, nor did the fact that he wasn’t really getting a riding lesson. As far as he was concerned, he had an activity to enjoy on a summer afternoon, he was playing games and getting undivided attention, and he was on a horse — ergo, he was enjoying himself, period.

To those around him, though, Lachlan’s enjoyment was just the starting point of the afternoon’s purpose. Because he was enjoying himself he was easily engaged with his helpers, willing to listen to instructions, carry out the tasks being presented as games and try to achieve each incremental increase in challenge.

To the helpers — certified therapists and volunteer assistants with Nature’s Way Rehabilitation Services, the session was therapy. To Lachlan, it was just plain fun. To both parties, the day’s success was made possible in large part because of the horse.

That’s the world of hippotherapy — a physical, occupational or speech/language treatment strategy that incorporates horses. It’s a program that’s been available to kids with disabilities on the central Kenai Peninsula for six summers now, through Nature’s Way. It’s one of only a few programs of its kind available in Alaska, and the only available on the peninsula, or anywhere outside of the Anchorage area.

Part of the appeal of using horses in therapy is kids enjoy the sessions and are motivated to pay attention and follow instructions. Add games and fun props, such as this sword, and they’re even more engaged.

Part of the appeal of using horses in therapy is kids enjoy the sessions and are motivated to pay attention and follow instructions. Add games and fun props, such as this sword, and they’re even more engaged.

“I just think it’s incredible that there’s an actual hippotherapy opportunity for kids around here, because it is so specialized. Living on the peninsula, you wouldn’t think that something like that would be available, and they’re making it available, and I think it’s phenomenal for kids that could definitely benefit from it,” said Jami Wight, of Soldotna, who has had two of her kids in the summer hippotherapy program.

The term comes from the Greek “hippos,” meaning horse, as opposed to the Latin “equus,” for horse. It’s under the larger umbrella of equine therapy, though it’s not therapeutic riding, where specific riding skills are taught, or horse therapy, where interaction with horses is used to support therapeutic outcomes.

Hippotherapy specifically utilizes the movement of horses to create adaptive responses in patients and facilitate physical, occupational and speech/language treatment goals.

Therapy for kids needs to be fun and engaging to be effective, which is why various approaches incorporate games, toys and activities. In that sense the horse is a tool, just like a ball or tricycle, only way more fun — thus, way more engaging.

“It’s an amazing tool. It’s kind of like putting a kid in a swing or on a ball or trampoline or something like that, but it’s a horse, and what kid doesn’t like horses? We haven’t really met one yet,” said Noelle Miller, a speech therapist with Nature’s Way. “The beauty of horse therapy is it’s such a holistic environment and such an exciting environment that a lot of times you just get more verbal output from kids and more interactive output from kids because it’s real. You’re doing something with people, with animals. You’re not trying to stage a situation that demands interactions and reactions, it just happens naturally.”

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High court says Price is right — Citizen wins on grocery tax initiative

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling in favor of a citizen who wanted to let voters decide a grocery tax matter.
The court reversed lower court decisions in James Price v. Kenai Peninsula Borough and Johni Blankenship, clerk.
Price, of the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, had challenged the borough in a 2010 lawsuit after Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship turned down his 2009 referendum. The citizen initiative presented the required number of signatures. It sought voter opinion to repeal a borough law that allowed cities like Homer and Seldovia to levy grocery sales tax even during a voter-decided tax holiday October to June.
“It’s my hope that this ends the practice of denying lawfully submitted initiatives,” Price said. “I’m hoping this will stop the practice the borough is using. They use the clerk process to stop the initiative process.”
Next spring, Price plans to take back up his referendum of 2009, when he gathered signatures and requested a public vote on a borough law that made it possible for individual cities to apply the tax. In April, he’s hoping to turn it into the borough clerk’s office for the matter to be placed on the October 2015 ballot.
At issue was whether or not Price’s referendum was legal. Clerk Blankenship ruled it was not, based on the advice of the borough attorney. Alaska District and Superior courts also concluded the proposed referendum lacked general, boroughwide applicability.

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Far(nham) out there — Pianist brings original take to classic repertoire

Photos courtesy of Jason Farnham. Playing a toy piano is one of several tricks up Jason Farnham’s sleeve in his quirky concert tour. He performs at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna at 7 p.m. Friday.

Photos courtesy of Jason Farnham. Playing a toy piano is one of several tricks up Jason Farnham’s sleeve in his quirky concert tour. He performs at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna at 7 p.m. Friday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s not that Beethoven didn’t know what he was doing. He had his thing. It worked for him.

It’s just that Jason Farnham’s thing is not Beethoven’s thing. He can play classical music. It’s nice and all. Audiences are familiar with it. But there’s no originality when playing the classical standards. And Farnham has too much originality for it to not come out somewhere, whether in writing his own music, or at least putting a spin on existing compositions — like “Fur Crying Out Loud Elise, Let’s Dance!”

“It’s definitely more fun for me. I’d rather stand and play ‘Fur Elise’ with techno drumbeats in the background, rather than playing it straight. I learned those songs when I was younger but I don’t feel comfortable playing a concert of just pure classical music, because that makes me actually nervous. It’s note for note. The audience is expecting you to play these certain notes, and it’s a lot of pressure, so that’s why I like to mix them up a little bit because then you can be free to do some of your own thing,” he said.

Farnham, of California, started playing piano under a private tutor when he was young.

Farnham playing-piano-upside-down“I was classically trained, I learned how to read music and play classical music and sight read and all of that. Then when I got to high school I joined a jazz band and I had no idea how to do anything because that music is chord charts. It’s completely different,” he said.

So he began studying that style and continued playing through college, where he got a minor in music and majored in audio production.

After that he started writing his own instrumental piano compositions, and in 2008 started performing piano concerts. At first he modeled the concerts along the lines of Jim Brickman and George Winston. Again, they had their thing. It seemed to work for them.

“I would think, ‘Wow, they were getting gigs,’” Farnham said.

But again, it wasn’t quite Farnham’s thing.

“I realized it was too similar and I wanted to change it up a little bit,” he said.

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Common Ground: Oh captain, too many captains

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Landing this 80-pound halibut was physical exercise, as well as an exercise in following directions.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Landing this 80-pound halibut was physical exercise, as well as an exercise in following directions.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

My favorite ocean captains resemble football coaches. They are full of the inspiring mangled quotes and near heart-attack enthusiasm that make fishing about catching. They can get away with saying things that can’t be said in the office because, “80 percent of the people that die in the water don’t make it back.”
It’s the authority of skill that makes everything these captains do and say a part of the salt. It’s never been reassuring to me that a charter boat captain has a degree in seafaring or psychology. What reassures me in any leader, and a captain is surely a leader, is that when they say, “Get ready,” I get ready. I don’t always know exactly what they mean, but I’m sure instructions will follow.
We were fishing for halibut and noticed a ball of bait fish attracting gulls a hundred yards off. “Better get down a salmon rod,” the captain said. There were three captains on this boat — the technical captain and boat’s owner, a river guide, which is a kind of captain depending on his grit, and the captain of a charter boat who was fishing his day off. It was the charter boat captain who suggested we get the salmon rod. Because it was a good idea and because he couldn’t stop captaining a boat despite whose boat it was, he seemed to be the captain of the captains. In my mind he was the captain.
I didn’t pay much attention as the downrigger was set up toward the back of the deck and line let down. We had been catching halibut, but it had been a slow morning. When the salmon rod went down, I went for it. I don’t remember the sequence of where my halibut rod ended up or if I handed it off. All that happened next was a fight with a fish that was nothing like yarding one up from the bottom on 80-pound test. It wasn’t a king salmon, either. Nobody had to guess and everyone knew. It was a halibut.
“He’s over here.” The river guide pointed to where the fish broke the surface 20 yards behind the boat. The halibut had run on me three times. I held the rod, just waiting for room to reel. “He’s 40 or 50,” the river guide had said when it started. “What’s your guesstimate?” At the surface, the guess changed to 50 to 60 pounds. I held the rod upright as the halibut swayed on the surface. It had been 20 minutes and my arm shook against the rod. “Don’t run,” I thought. When he let up I reeled. “Just don’t run.”

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Power to the people — Incorporation of borough posed big questions

Photo courtesy of the Kenai Historical Society. This photo of the Borough Administration Building was most likely taken sometime in early spring in the mid- to late 1970s.

Photo courtesy of the Kenai Historical Society. This photo of the Borough Administration Building was most likely taken sometime in early spring in the mid- to late 1970s.

Editor’s note: The Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Kenai Peninsula College celebrate their 50th anniversaries this year. Following is a look at the incorporation of the borough.

By Brent Johnson

For the Redoubt Reporter

It was rough for boroughs to form. Framers of the Alaska Constitution picked boroughs to be better than the counties that in 1956 provided local government services in 47 states. As Vic Fischer and Tom Morehouse put it in their 1971 book, “Borough Government in Alaska,” “Alaska would thus avoid the proliferation of overlapping special districts, municipalities and counties that have made urban areas nearly ungovernable in most of the rest of the country.” Fischer, 90, of Anchorage, knows something about it since he was one of the 55 delegates who crafted the constitution, one of only three still living. Morehouse was a University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research professor from 1968-94.

The constitution was ratified with statehood in 1959, but two years later there were still no boroughs in Alaska. Fischer and Morehouse explained it this way: “There was, in the first place, widespread local opposition to the creation of boroughs during the initial years after statehood. They would bring new and unwanted governmental controls and taxes to rural areas lying outside of any local jurisdiction, areas that were already receiving basic educational, road maintenance, and police protection services directly from the state.

“The boroughs, moreover, would overlap existing cities, and were therefore viewed as threats to city autonomy and as competitors for funds, functions, and territory. There was a similar problem with the existing school districts, where school boards and school administrative organizations resisted borough controls over their local public education programs.”

Statehood was popular. In a 1958 special election, statehood passed 40,462 to 8,010 (83 percent). Out of a population of about 225,000, around 48,500 voted (21.5 percent). Apparently, the desire to determine their own destiny propelled Alaskans into statehood, but fear of government and taxes left boroughs out of the equation. In some ways it was a strange irony. People seemed to have regarded statehood as gaining freedom from the federal government, and at the same time regarded boroughs as an entity to which they would lose freedoms.

For that matter, state government needed to take several steps before the formation of boroughs was even possible. The first Legislature set up a Local Boundary Commission, as prescribed by Section 12, Article 10 of the constitution. It was the Boundary Commission that had authority to approve or reject the boundaries of any borough formation petitions.

The 1961 Legislature tried to help citizens form boroughs by passing the Borough Act of 1961. It permitted the establishment of borough governments by local option. To bring a proposed borough to a ballot, organizers had to agree on boundaries, “class” (as in First Class, Second Class, etc., which describes the extent of municipal powers) and decide where the seat of government would be.

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