Wrangell publisher denies killing housing development with his ‘Good Journalism’ pen

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A hoped-for and sorely needed real estate deal in Wrangell, which could have brought dozens of housing units to the Southeast community, was killed by the buyer after he said that the Wrangell Sentinel had soured the deal by writing an unfair headline.

Publisher Larry Persily, in a story appearing in public broadcasting’s KSTK, said his headline and story was accurate that Wayne Johnson was buying an old building from the city for just $200,000, when the appraised value was $800,000.

The offending headline in the Wrangell Sentinel read “Hospital property developer now wants borough lots for free.” It pertained to an ongoing negotiation between the borough and Johnson for the Wrangell Medical Center, an aging building that Johnson planned to raze and create housing in its place. Johnson was trying to buy adjacent lots to the building to make his project viable.

The borough offered Johnson the six lots for free if he demolished the asbestos-filled medical center by June 30, 2026, the news story at KTSK said. “But Johnson said that doesn’t mean it’s for free – he estimated the work at roughly one million dollars. Johnson said the Sentinel’s headline was inaccurate which caused him to pull out of his investment.”

“I’m just in a situation where, you know, just my reputation and my intents are very positive towards the city of Wrangell,” Johnson told the reporter. “I felt like the headline, unfortunately, and even portions of the story, misrepresented what the city and I had agreed to.” 

Persily, who was the former editor of the Juneau Empire and former owner of the Wrangell Sentinel, repurchased the paper in 2020, using his “Good Journalism LLC” making him a liberal publisher in Trump country, as Wrangell is a politically conservative town.

Read about the dispute over whether Persily killed local housing and economic development in Wrangell at this KSTK link.

35 COMMENTS

  1. I imagine the battle cry for Persily was that a rich person was getting land far below market value and additional properties for free. A million dollars to clean up said property to make it viable? Well, leave that small detail out as it doesn’t make for a good story.

    • I genuinely don’t see his issue. But the Empire under him was pointless, so I guess he just does as he does.

      • “…….I genuinely don’t see his issue………”
        Me, neither. The homeless can squat in a dilapidated former hospital building just fine. Why risk all that investment in nice housing, especially in a town where the news publisher is going to hate you? Johnson is a wise man. He took his investment to a more favorable environment.

  2. Move the capital to anchorage a First grader can see this all, I cannot wait to see what GOD does with oath breakers? IMAGINE we will all be there together all can see how we did with our free will earth age test. Oath breaking GOD mockers we the people watch now oath breaking GOD mockers will watch soon all. Shame shame shame so help you GOD oath breakers soon.

    • Imagine what you could do with serious mental health treatment.

      BTW: the location of the Capital has nothing to do with business in Wrangell. At least read the story first.

  3. So the city of Wrangell gets to hang on to a giant asbestos mill for their succeeding generations to deal with- and more housing issues.. thank you left wing publisher!!

    • Wrangell went the unification route in 2008. Unified municipalities are legally considered boroughs, not cities. It seems you prefer to see it otherwise because of the way the news media portrays it as part of their style?

      • “………Unified municipalities are legally considered boroughs, not cities………”
        Looks like a review is in order:
        ‘https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/dcra/LocalGovernmentResourceDesk/MunicipalGovernment/MunicipalGovernmentStructureinAlaska.aspx?TSPD_101_R0=0890181cafab20008e62c3a3fda12fdbe711da3379ca06ebe3f464757464525144b0072a8badfcc3089cf816241430002759ebdbf754b9974b22c2b7c5c2bee183ad3b1cf1732da19c44f9b4b5f5ce3d5489e91a31083af4737889adefaaf374#:~:text=The%20state%20constitution%20requires%20that,is%20called%20the%20unorganized%20borough.

        • Here’s what I found at the link you provided. Were you trying to refute my point?
          ____________

          Classes of Local Government in Alaska

          Boroughs:

          Unified Home Rule Municipality
          Home Rule Borough (non-unified)
          First Class Borough
          Second Class Borough

          Cities

          Home Rule City
          First Class City
          Second Class City

          (Note: Unified municipalities are treated as boroughs in statute and regulation.)

  4. One might recall Persily was the Obama guy who told us the large diameter gas line to the Lower 48 would be the bee’s knees. This was long after all of the smart people knew that shale gas was a game changer and that there was no way a gas pipeline to the Lower 48 was economically viable. Still, Persily was happy to collect money from taxpayers as he promoted abject nonsense.

    • “………all of the smart people knew that shale gas was a game changer and that there was no way a gas pipeline to the Lower 48 was economically viable……..”
      The gas, either from Alaska’s north slope or Yukons MacKenzie region, was needed for production of oil sands in Alberta, not the Lower 48. Gas would need to be piped into northern Alberta from either north or south. Moreover, the produced crude oil would need to be transported to refineries (“Keystone Pipeline”) to create fuels. The entire endeavor to produce energy, like every other such endeavor, was killed politically, not economically.
      The reasons for economic manipulation of energy is the secret sauce……….that really isn’t a secret……..

  5. Anyone know what happened to the portrait of logger “Leo LeFarr” walking out of the woods, a painting once at the Stikine Bar?

  6. So, let’s see here.

    A businessman wants to build new homes in a housing challenged community. Said community has very limited means of fiscal opportunity (jobs, industry, tax revenue, so on)

    Said businessman will also take on the removal of several adjacent asbestos filled buildings.

    The community of Wrangell stood to gain new homes and tax income from said homes, get rid of a white elephant building they are in the hook for, and have a temporary infusion of money into the community.

    And the liberal publisher muckrakes it.
    To what end? Because he can?

    Yes, in the short term the deal benefits the businessman more than Wrangell. But in the long term Wrangell comes out ahead.

    Having seen the Empire under Persily, he and Good Journalism are hard to put in the same sentence.

  7. It likely was the million dollar asbestos cleanup cost that gave the buyer second thoughts and a good excuse to use the published article as the reason. On the other hand, I’d rather believe poor journalism was the real cause.

  8. Weak sauce! Did the poor little snowflake get hurt by the headline?
    Everybody with money wants to be a big daddy developer until its time to spend like a big daddy developer.

    • “…….Did the poor little snowflake get hurt by the headline?…….”
      No. He read the tea leaves, and wisely took his money to more favorable locales, far from Mr. Persily.

    • Chuck Clarke, Larry helped me out of a bind once when he was Deputy Commish at Revenue. I am grateful for that.

      • So, because he helped YOU once,, long ago, just doing the jib he was paid for. He should get a pass for screwing over his community?sticking them with a huge cleanup bill.. Instead of a deal that doesn’t rip off the taxpayers

  9. I don’t believe Mr. Persily lives in Wrangell, but Anchorage. Might be a bad deal for Wrangell.

    Persily is often the “expert-on-everything” that the ADN and Channel 2 likes to call upon. He likes to cite his service at all three government levels: federal, State and local. He was even a legislative aide. I have done all of those things but am nowhere near as famous.

    Persily graduated from college in 1972 and by 1976 was buying his first newspaper. Not sure where the money came from for that endeavor. I am curious how he was able to bypass the festivities in Southeast Asia, that involved many of his age group.

  10. The bottom line is that the City of Wrangell will still have a huge liability on its hands trying to remove or mitigate an asbestos riddled old building all because of someone stirring the pot! This is why Alaska can’t have nice things.

  11. These rotten news media misinformation magnets are about to be held accountable for their wonderful deeds. They are responsible for at least 1/2 the misery they stoke in this country every day. The general public is getting wise to them.

  12. Since Persily won’t publish any of my spectacular guest editorials, he can kiss my big Polish *SS. I’m an important man!

  13. Donations are way down and good whiskey is a premium price. I’d consider taking over as editor of the Wrangell Sentinel for three or four months. That ought to get me through one more winter.

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