Rita Daniels

Reporter

Rita Daniels is an award winning reporter and radio producer who 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 reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

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Local News
6:16 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Teacher Evaluation System Remains A Source Of Contention

The teacher evaluation system that has been unpopular with with educators went into effect last year.
Credit alkruse24 via Flickr

 

Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera defended New Mexico’s new teacher evaluation system on Monday before lawmakers. She told the Legislative Education Study Committee that her department is working on fixing technical glitches in the system, but that there is no need to alter how teacher evaluations are calculated. As of now, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on how students perform on standardized tests.

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Local News
6:03 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

New Rules May Stymie Endangered Wolf Program

The approved changes to the permitting process for importing carnivorous wildlife has advocates for the Mexican gray wolf worried.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

The state Game Commission approved a controversial proposal Thursday that critics fear will harm efforts to reintroduce the Mexican grey wolf. The reintroduction program depends on bringing wolves into New Mexico from other states. 

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Local News
4:26 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Udall Wins Second Senate Term

Republican challenger Allan Weh closed the margin in the days leading up to the election but Udall managed to retain his seat.
Credit Rita Daniels

Democrat Tom Udall was re-elected to serve another 6 years as New Mexico’s senior Senator in Washington D.C. Tuesday night.

The crowd cheered emphatically when Udall took the stage as Tom Petty’s Won't Back Down blasted through the sound system.

Pointing to what he considers a recent victory, Udall highlighted expanded health care coverage and the Affordable Care Act, and described how they benefit people here.

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Local News
4:25 am
Wed November 5, 2014

King Loses Bid For Governor

Although King lost to incumbent Martinez he said he still believes there is a lot of work to do in New Mexico.
Credit Rita Daniels

Despite the loss, Democrat Gary King was upbeat Tuesday night. 

He said education and the economy are two of the biggest issues facing New Mexicans and though he has no plans to hold public office come the new year, King said both he and his running mate, Deb Haaland, are dedicated to carrying on the fight.

“She is a ground breaker, she is the highest ranking Native American woman to be running across the country," King said of his running mate. "I’m really glad that I’ve been hanging around with Deb Halland for the last while.”

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Local News
4:25 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Lujan Grisham Keeps First District House Seat

Lujan Grisham gave her victory speech Tuesday night with her mother at her side.
Credit Rita Daniels

First District Representative Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham celebrated her re-election Tuesday night for a second term in Washington.  

In her victory speech at Democratic headquarters in Albuquerque, Lujan Grisham spoke of ending hunger in New Mexico and ensuring that everyone has access to healthy organic locally grown food. She also touched on protecting the native chile seed.

 

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Local News
6:59 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Dept. Of Justice Announces Plan For Albuquerque Police Reform

Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden joined Mayor Richard Berry and members of the U.S. Department of Justice to announce a settlement they have reached on police reform.
Credit Rita Daniels

After months of negotiations with the City of Albuquerque, the U.S. Department of Justice released a binding agreement today that spells out exactly what court-enforced reform of Albuquerque’s police department will look like.

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Local News
6:33 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Voices Behind The Vote: Energy Worker Watches Minimum Wage Issue

Rodrigo Aguilera opposed Susana Martinez in 2010, but he thinks she'll be re-elected this year because of her support from the oil and gas industry.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

Rodrigo Aguilera of Carlsbad spent decades working as a lab technician, first in the potash mines and then at a natural gas plant. A registered Democrat, he prides himself on not voting the party line.

One of the issues in this year's gubernatorial campaign is how much to raise the state minimum wage. Republican Governor Susana Martinez doesn’t want as big of an increase as her democratic challenger Gary King.

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Local News
6:24 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Voices Behind The Vote: Educator Questions Her Party Affiliation

Republican Jo Ann Goodwin is an educator and questions some of the changes she has seen under the the Martinez administration.
Credit Olympia School District, State of Washington

 

Jo Ann Goodwin lives in Carrizozo where she says she follows politics year round. Even though she's a registered Republican she has not been pleased with the initiatives of Education Secretary-Designate Hannah Skandera.

Goodwin is a special education teacher and she says the student testing and new teacher evaluation system is ridiculous and has her questioning who to vote for.

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Local News
6:15 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Time Is Running Out For Early Voting

Credit KCIvey via Flickr

 

The November 4th mid-term election is on Tuesday, but if you want to cast your ballot at an early voting center, you’ve got to do that before 8p this Saturday night.

Voters who want to cast their ballots early can visit any early voting location in the county where they’re registered. Albuquerque voter Diahndra Grill pulled up the Bernalillo County Clerk’s website on her phone to find the early voting location closest to her office.

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Local News
6:42 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Voices Behind The Vote: Medical Marijuana Program Sparks Enthusiasm

Credit eggrole via Flickr

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Robert Pack is a fourth generation cotton and alfalfa farmer from Eddy County. Although a registered Democrat, Pack says he has never voted party line in his life.

Pack says he's not thrilled with either gubernatorial candidate. But he is a medical marijuana patient and is basing his vote on the fact that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said she would shut down the state's medical cannabis program when she was campaigning four years ago.

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Local News
6:15 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Voices Behind The Vote: Film Tax Credit Not A Black And White Issue

Independent filmmaker Jacob Roebuck.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

On location at a film shoot in the Lincoln National Forest, KUNM's Rita Daniels caught up with independent filmmaker Jacob Roebuck. The self-described social conservative moved to Roswell from Los Angeles four years ago and has benefited from the state's film production tax credit

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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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