CLOSURE – Amanda Baggen sets a candle on the Indian River foot bridge Tuesday night in memory of her sister Jessica, who was killed 24 years ago at age 17 while walking home through the nearby woods. Dozens of Sitkans turned out to leave candles and flowers on the bridge Tuesday night after Alaska State Troopers and Sitka Police announced earlier in the day they had solved the 1996 murder case using DNA evidence. The suspect, Steve Branch, 66, a former Sitka resident, killed himself at his home in Austin, Arkansas, shortly after being contacted there by officers Aug. 3. Baggen said she thinks this is the last year she will be lighting candles at the bridge, something she, her friends and family have been doing every year for the past 24 years. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

AN OPINION: Assembly Should Hold Off Action on Voters’ Rights

By Thad Poulson

Editor, Daily Sitka Sentinel

The members of the City and Borough Assembly have earned our thanks for the thoughtful and orderly way they have been dealing with the challenging fiscal issues that are affecting all Sitkans.

I believe it is not out of line to ask them to take the same kind of careful look at an ordinance on Tuesday night’s meeting agenda that might appear to be merely a housekeeping matter. It’s far more than that.

If approved, Ordinance 2018-18 would repeal seven existing sections of the city code requiring voter approval for the sale or lease of city land or tidelands over a certain value, and similar restrictions on the demolition of city buildings.

Passage of this ordinance, in our opinion, would be a mistake. In any event it deserves more detailed consideration by the Assembly than is possible when it is an item in the midst of a crowded meeting agenda.

Over the many decades that the special land sale and lease provisions have been in force, they have never caused any complication or delay in the routine process of selling or leasing tracts of city lands and tidelands. It is not true that passage of Ordinance 2018-18 will “free up” any more city property for sale than is now available.

It is also not true that the special provisions that are up for repeal are invalid under the state constitution. The city’s outside counsel claims they are unconstitutional, but he is hardly an impartial source, having battled the citizens group Sitkans for Responsible Government all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the Sitka law, but it did reject every other claim by the city in its attempt to defend its rejection of a Sitkans for Responsible Government initiative petition application.

If the Assembly wants to pursue its investigation of whether its land sale and leasing policies are constitutional, it needs to get the opinion of a knowledgeable, impartial outside authority.

One thing that the current controversy has brought to light is the desirability of updating the land sale valuations requiring a public vote: a 2018 dollar is worth quite a bit less than the dollar of 1992.


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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-11-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:25 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 45

Total statewide – 3,821

Total (cumulative) deaths – 26

Active cases in Sitka – 21 (15 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 16 (12 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 161.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




August 2000

Photo caption: Park Ranger Harvey Brandt and Russian Bishop’s House volunteer gardener Donna Grota present a program featuring the house’s garden. The current garden is an historical representation of the first one planted at the house, in 1844. ... Master gardener Kitty LaBounty also took part in the program.

August 1970

Sitka Yesterday, August 1950: Arriving yesterday by plane from Bend, Ore., Fred Baughn will manage the Moose Bowling Alley here. ... To celebrate the 11th birthday of Marina Panamarkoff, a party was given at the home of Mrs. Jack Schaefer. After gifts were presented, Mrs. T. J. Cole took all the guests to the matinee at the show.