Rita Daniels

Reporter

Rita Daniels was raised off the grid in the Wild West by a pack of hippies and Pueblo Indians. She's pretty sure these unique circumstances have something to do with her love of the oral tradition as well as her unyielding obsession when it comes to to capturing stories about the human experience. Upon graduating from Emerson College in the Media Arts, Rita began recording and producing radio stories while roaming the planet.  In 2010 she was invited to join NPR's Snap Judgment Team as a founding producer.  Building on her previous work with The National Radio Project, Rita is now trying her hand reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

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Local News
5:05 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

NMED Open To Suggestions For Kirtland Fuel Cleanup

The public was invited out on a field trip to learn about the jet fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

The New Mexico Environment Department took about 50 members of the public on an informational tour of the Kirtland Air Force jet fuel spill this week.  The tour group spent the day learning about the parts of  Albuquerque’s aquifer that have been contaminated.

Geologists said one of the issues that makes cleanup of the site so complicated is that the water table has risen in recent years, trapping some of the liquid jet fuel beneath the top of the aquifer.

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Local News
6:09 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Regulatory Limbo For La Bajada Mine Proposal?

Credit gato-gato-gato via Flickr

A land developer who wants to strip mine La Bajada mesa for basalt rock has filed a lawsuit against Santa Fe County.

Developers of Buena Vista Estates and Rockology Limited say their project is being targeted by county commisioners who placed a year-long moratorium on approving any new projects that would involve blasting through the earth.

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Local News
5:19 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

New Agency Accepting Applications To Oversee Albuquerque Police

A new independent civilian oversight agency will be in charge of investigating complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department.

The application process is now open for people who want to serve on Albuquerque’s new Civilian Police Oversight Agency. The independent board will investigate complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department and review APD policy.

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Local News
4:25 pm
Sat October 4, 2014

Featured On All Things Considered: Where Activists See Gray, Albuquerque Police See Black And White

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque Police Department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.
Credit Rita Daniels

The Justice Department is investigating 26 police departments across the country. Among them is Albuquerque, N.M., where police have shot dozens of people in the past few years, 25 of them fatally. KUNM's Rita Daniels and NPR's Kelly McEvers report.

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Local News
1:00 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Candidates For Bernalillo County Sheriff Face Off

D- Manuel Gonzalez and R- James Scott Baird both have strong backgrounds in law enforcement.
Credit Rita Daniels

  On Thursday candidates for Bernalillo County Sheriff faced off in a public forum hosted by the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico.

The rules of the evening were laid out to the 40 or so members of the audience. No applauding, no booing. They were told it wasn't a debate and to be sure to frame questions in such a way that both candidates could answer.

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Local News
5:59 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Educators Sue Martinez Administration

Charles Bowyer is the executive director of NEA New Mexico. He says the lawsuit against Skandera is no small thing.
Credit Rita Daniels

An education labor union has filed a lawsuit in state district court against Public Education Secretary Designate Hannah Skandara.  The National Education Association of New Mexico says they are at their wits’ end over the teacher evaluation system and are asking the courts to intervene.

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Local News
5:21 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Air Force Will Miss Cleanup Deadline

Cleanup of the fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base is beginning to pick up steam.
Credit NMED, not to scale

 

On Monday a legislative committee heard updates from stakeholders about progress on the fuel spill cleanup at Kirtland Air Force Base.  

At the end of the day lawmakers said it's important to focus on the present moment and look at what's being accomplished, instead of lamenting mistakes from the past.

In the 90's the Air Force acknowledged that millions of gallons of carcinogenic aviation fuel had been leaking underground for decades, oozing into Albuquerque's aquifer.

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Local News
7:55 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

EPA Chief Visits NM, Praises Flood Control Efforts

The Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Control Flood Authority has been developing a plan to manage storm runoff by mimicking nature.
Credit Floyd Muad'Dib via Flickr

 

 

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy made her way through central and northern New Mexico Monday to check out how $2 million from a federal clean water fund is being used.  She applauded a flood control project that replaces the concrete used to line arroyos with things like boulders and native plants.

 

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Local News
5:36 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Watchdog Says Nuclear Storage Boom Unlikely

An energy alliance in southeastern New Mexico has high hopes for importing spent nuclear fuel rods from other states in order to profit from storing the radioactive waste.
Credit Kenoir vis flickr

 

Supporters of a plan to profit from nuclear waste storage in southern New Mexico said this week that they hope to start collecting spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants soon.  However, a recent decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t eliminate all of the hurdles that the group would have to clear before there’s a chance of that actually happening.

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Local News
6:59 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Electric Use Down, Rates May Climb

With customers using less power, PNM wants to increase their rates.
Credit this lucid moment via flickr

 

New Mexico's largest electric utility wants another rate increase.  Public Service Company of New Mexico's earning are down as customers conserve more.

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Local News
5:08 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

HSD To Hold Hearing On Work Requirements For Food Stamps

Credit Caden Crawford via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The state Human Services Department will hear public testimony Friday on proposed changes to SNAP, the state’s food assistance program.  

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Local News
1:00 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Shifting Gears On Bike Safety

Experts say both cyclists and drivers have to work on paying attention to one another in order to reduce the number of collisions.
Credit vonderauvisuals via flickr

Every year in New Mexico there are hundreds of accidents involving people riding bicycles, some of them fatal. But efforts are underway to make the roads safer in Albuquerque by helping cyclists and drivers become more aware of one another.

Eight years ago on the corner of Comanche and Pennsylvania in northeast Albuquerque, avid cyclist Paula Higgins was riding her bike when she was struck by a car in the middle of the intersection. The collision proved fatal for Higgins who died a few hours later. Jennifer Buntz was her one of her long time cycling buddies.

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Local News
8:41 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Medical Cannabis Board Rejects Rule Changes

Credit eggroll via flickr

 

The board that oversees New Mexico's medical marijuana program this week unanimously rejected rule changes proposed by the state Department of Health. 

Dr. William Johnson chairs the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board which is made up of doctors.  He says many of the changes proposed by the Department of Health would hurt patient access to medical marijuana. 

 

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Local News
6:59 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Albuquerque City Council Dissolves Police Oversight Commission

Demonstrators at Albuquerque's City Council meeting on April 7, 2014.
Credit Natalia Jacquez

 

UPDATE 11:30p - The Albuquerque City Council voted overwhelmingly Monday night to dissolve the Police Oversight Commission while the police oversight process is overhauled.

The Albuquerque Journal reports eight councilors voted to halt the operations of the commission. The U.S. Department of Justice found the POC was ineffective and contributed to a pattern of unreasonable use of force by APD officers. 

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Local News
6:38 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Han's Family Vows To Appeal Case To 10th Circuit

In 2010 the suspicious death of civil-rights attorney Mary Han was said to be a suicide by officers on the scene.
Credit Courtesy of Han Family

Family members of civil rights lawyer Mary Han are appealing a judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit against Albuquerque officials for mishandling evidence at the scene of Han’s death. Her death in 2010, said by police to be a suicide, raised suspicions of foul play.

 

Colin Baugh is a spokesperson for the family and says ultimately they want to get to the truth of what happened on the day of her death.

 

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Local News
3:54 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Flash Flood Warning In Effect Monday Night

Credit NWS

A flash flood warning is in effect Monday across central and western New Mexico. Recent rains have already saturated the ground creating prime conditions for flooding.

The air around Albuquerque has been unusually thick with humidity since Friday night when an epic 100-year storm dumped more then 2 inches of rain in less than an hour.

Portions of downtown were completely flooded out because the downpour overwhelmed some of the city's pumping stations. 

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Public Health New Mexico
7:57 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

New Kirtland Fuel Clean Up Team Warms Some Skeptics

Tensions were initially high at Tuesday's Kirtland Air Force Citizen Advisory Board meeting, but that dissipated as discussion about cleaning up toxins from the jet fuel spill deepened.
Credit Rita Daniels

Kirtland Air Force Base held their quarterly Citizen Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday to talk about cleaning up the fuel spill threatening Albuquerque's drinking water supply. People learned they may see more action in the coming months than they have over the past 15 years.

The evening kicked off with a brief power point presentation as one of Kirtland’s project managers went over various clean up efforts.  Then the public was allowed to ask questions.

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Local News
5:27 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Medical Pot Program Rule Changes Softened

DOH officials say they are still reading through the 900 public comments they have already received.
Credit eggrole via Flickr

The state Department of Health will not be moving forward with two proposed rule changes to New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.  The program’s advocates say it looks like the Governor Susana Martinez's administration is finally starting to see things from the patient’s point of view.  

At an interim legislative committee hearing on Thursday a spokesman from the Department of Health surprised virtually everyone in the room when he announced they had decided to back off some proposed changes, including reducing the number of plants a patient could grow for themselves.  

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Local News
6:02 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Better Biking In 'Burque

The City of Albuquerque has developed a master plan that would link disjointed trails and bike lanes.
Credit Rita Daniels

New Mexico's largest city has a plan to make cycling safer. It includes everything from expanding existing bike lanes to eliminating some of the hazards that cause flat tires.

For years, cyclists in Albuquerque have been navigating a disjointed system of trails and roads where bike lanes suddenly disappear in areas of heavy traffic and trails peter out into nothing.  But now the city has come up with a proposal that would fill in those gaps.

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Local News
1:19 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Recent Rain Didn't Relieve Drought, Or Even Come Close

Credit National Drought Mitigation Center

    

We’ve gotten some rain recently in New Mexico, but that doesn’t mean the drought is letting up. Climatologists say it’s going to take more than just a sprinkle or two.

Extreme drought conditions are actually spreading in parts of New Mexico, despite the arrival of monsoon storms. A new map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions worsening, especially in San Juan and Rio Arriba counties.

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Local News
3:49 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Taos Teacher Rebuffs Bonus

Taos High School teacher Francis Hahn turned down thousands of dollars from the state saying everyone from custodians to cooks to middle school teachers are responsible for a student's success.

  

A Taos High School Advanced Placement English teacher has turned down a $5,000 bonus from the state education department, criticizing Governor Susana Martinez’s education initiatives.

When Francis Hahn received a letter from the Public Education Department informing him that his application for a stipend for teaching AP students had been approved, he was confused. The literature and composition teacher had never heard of the bonus, so he made some calls and found out the reward was based on his students’ AP test scores from a couple of years ago.

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Local News
7:11 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

New Plan For ABQBioPark Mimics Rivers Of The World

Under the proposed master plan, animals at the zoo would be grouped with other species that share the same environment in the wild.
Credit ABQ Biopark

 

The state's largest biopark held its third and final feedback session this week on a new master plan that would dramatically change the zoo's catwalk. The area made up of caged caves with bobcats in one stall, clumped right next to tigers, would no longer exist.  

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Local News
6:01 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Deadline Extended For Kirtland Cleanup Plan

Albuquerque's drinking water wells are being threatened by millions of gallons of jet fuel from Kirtland Airforce base that leaked for decades.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

Kirtland Air Force Base’s deadline to submit a plan to remove toxic chemicals from Albuquerque's groundwater has been extended by 30 days. The base is required to show the state that clean up of a decades old fuel leak is underway by the end of the year.

The Air Force was under a June 30th deadline to submit a plan to the state environment department that describes how they would remove a plume of ethylene dibromide - or EDB – from groundwater that feeds city drinking water wells.

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Local News
5:11 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Favorable Weather May Slow Wildfire

Management efforts of the Diego Fire burning in the Santa Fe National Forest near Abiquiu reservoir have been upgraded after the fire grew exponentially on Sunday afternoon.
Credit Rita Daniels

UPDATE 7/2 11:30a: The Associated Press reports a wildfire burning in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains continues to expand but officials say expected favorable weather may help.

Officials said Wednesday morning says the lightning-sparked Diego Fire has burned more than five square miles, an increase of about 400 acres since Tuesday.

However, the fire remained zero percent contained.

Still, some residents say they felt isolated and uninformed about the fire's dangers. And ranchers who have livestock roaming in the fire area are worried about their cattle.

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Local News
5:38 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Advocates: Renewable Energy Saves Water

PNM has plans to increase solar energy production but critics say a new proposal is not enough.
Credit Sierra Club and 350 New Mexico

A group of environmentalists unveiled a plan today that would call for the state’s largest electric utility to increase their renewable energy portfolio.  This alternative to PNM’s plan would also drastically reduce water usage in a time of severe drought.

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Local News
5:41 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Albuquerque Water Utility Board Demands Clean Up Of Fuel Leak

The Ridgecrest Well Number 5 is the most productive well in Bernalillo County. It is in the path of the expanding plume of contamination from the Kirtland fuel spill.
Credit Rita Daniels

On Monday members of Bernalillo County's water utility gathered around what they call the purest and most productive water well in the entire county. They demanded that the U.S. Air Force implement a more aggressive approach to dealing with the underground jet fuel leak that threatens Albuquerque's water supply.

 

In 1999 Air Force officials discovered millions of gallons of jet fuel had been leaking, probably for decades, at Kirtland Air Force Base. It's believed that toxins in the fuel are making their way towards the city's drinking water.

 

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Public Health New Mexico
5:53 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Public Speaks Up Regarding Medical Cannabis Regulations

Constructive criticism around the proposed rule changes regulating New Mexico's medical cannabis program will be heard on Monday.
Credit eggrole via Flickr

  On Monday the Department of Health will hear comments from the public on proposed rule changes to the state's medical marijuana program.

Last month the agency published a hefty rewrite to the regulations that have been in place since 2010.

Former PRC commissioner Jason Marks, who is an attorney in Albuquerque representing a majority of New Mexico's licensed non-profit producers, says the changes being proposed are onerous. 

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Local News
4:17 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Swarming Locusts Confound Meteorologists

The high reflectivity returns showing up on the National Weather Service radar in Albuquerque are mutated grasshoppers.
Credit National Weather Service

6/11/14 Editor's note: We are conducting follow-up research that may change the facts presented in this story.  Look for a related story soon.

About a week ago, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque noticed a spike of reflectivity on their radar equipment. The machine sends out pulses of electromagnetic energy, which bounce off whatever happens to be in the atmosphere. Usually, that's rain or hail.  

But the skies were pretty clear, and as the breeze blew east and then west, the pattern of reflectivity changed—literally with the winds.

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Public Health New Mexico
8:49 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Advocacy Group Hosts Teach-In On Kirtland Fuel Spill

Water Utility Authority board member Rey Garduño says if the Ridgecrest wells get contaminated, some of the city's purest water won't be usable.
Credit Rita Daniels

  About 75 people gathered last night in Albuquerque's southeast heights for a teach-in about the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel leak. 

A panel of elected officials, scientists and environmental activists went over what is and what is not being done to clean up the plume of millions of gallons of contamination creeping towards the city's drinking water supply wells at a rate that has many people alarmed. 

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Local News
6:00 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Tracking Oil And Gas Spills In New Mexico

The new interactive map put out by the Center for Western Priorities shows oil and gas spills in New Mexico.
Credit Center for Western Priorities

The oil and gas industry is booming in New Mexico. Journalist Laura Paskus sat down with KUNM's Rita Daniels to talk about a new interactive map that shows where oil and gas spills have happened. The map, which helps us visualize the impacts the energy explosion is having on the land, was created by the Center for Western Priorities.

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