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.

Ways To Connect

Donker Dink via Flickr

 

A ton of little kids and their parents will take to the steps of the Roundhouse on Friday. The 1000 Kid March is calling for lawmakers to fully fund early childhood education.

It would cost nearly $400 million a year to pay for things like childcare and preschool for all eligible low-income families in New Mexico. The state spends just a fraction of that now.

Rita Daniels

The City of Albuquerque quietly started bulldozing a six-foot wide trail through sensitive areas of the Rio Grande bosque on Tuesday.

Advocates with the Bosque Action Team (BAT) who want to preserve the area’s wildlife habitats are up in arms about the new construction, calling for protection of the delicate ecosystem in the forest along the river.

Rita Daniels

National Rife Association members joined Quakers and a slew of other people at a committee hearing at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe this weekend to comment on a bill that would have required universal background checks at gun shows in New Mexico. The bill was defeated on a party line vote, but the issue is likely to stick around.

Courtesy Albuquerque Museum

Curators at the Albuquerque Museum identified artwork that police found while boarding up a condemned meth lab. 

Titus O’Brien is the museum's Art Program Specialist. He says it was peculiar earlier this week when police brought in 72 signed prints by the late renowned Kiowa artist Al Momaday.

akahawkeyefan via flickr

Lawmakers will hear public comment this weekend on a proposal to require background checks  at gun shows. 

Shopkeepers in New Mexico are required to run background checks on anyone who tries to buy a gun - convicted felons or people deemed mentally unstable are turned away.

Rita Daniels

Albuquerque welcomed a crew of techies on Tuesday as part of a fellowship program. Over the coming year the team will focus on connecting the people of Albuquerque with services and opportunities to make money.

The Code for America fellows are cutting-edge computer designers and developers.

They’ve come to town to help Albuquerque develop an online hub where people can more easily tap into some of the city’s underused services.

dfirecop via flickr

Folks scattered throughout New Mexico will have the opportunity to cast their votes February 3rd in school board elections.

On Tuesday voters will elect school board members in 89 school districts across the state.

The non-partisan candidates must live in their district and be willing to serve a four year term without receiving payment for their work.

School boards hire superintendents, craft school policy and keep tabs on how a district's money is spent.

Rita Daniels

New Mexico’s largest utility company has a plan to use fossil fuels and nuclear power for the next 20 years. But opponents of the plan want to see the utility shift to wind and solar.

Two coal-burning stacks at the San Juan Generating Station will be shuttered in 2017 in order to reduce emissions.

PNM, which provides power to half a million people in New Mexico, wants to use a mixture of coal, nuclear and natural gas energy, plus a little bit of solar energy to make up for the loss.

Rita Daniels

Outdoor enthusiasts will be rallying at the Roundhouse Thursday, opposing legislation they say poses a threat to millions of acres of public lands in New Mexico.

A Senate memorial would ask the state to consider claiming U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land.  

Joel Gay is with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and says this would be a losing proposition for anyone who uses public land.

Sierra Club

Two groups have withdrawn their support for PNM’s energy replacement plan but the utility insists their proposal is still the best choice for New Mexico.

PNM proposed adding more coal, nuclear, and natural gas energy and less than 5 percent in solar to make up for the loss when two coal-burning units are shut down at the San Juan Generating Station.

Dystopos

Governor Susana Martinez has made education central to her agenda for this year’s legislative session.

Martinez said Tuesday in her State of the State address that she wants to increase teachers’ starting salaries by $2,000 a year and provide each teacher with a debit card pre-loaded with $100 to cover the cost of their classroom supplies.

Rita Daniels

Kirtland Air Force Base missed another deadline for cleaning up some of a decades-old jet fuel spill. The New Mexico Environment Department has granted them 45 days to comply.

Rita Daniels

New Mexico's Public Regulation Commission heard testimony for the 10th day on Friday about how the state’s largest utility wants to move forward. Two of the coal-burning units at the San Juan Generating Station are going to be shut down. Now the PRC hearings will be extended.

Rita Daniels

 

UPDATE 1/15: The U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque told KUNM Wednesday that they were planning on telling the court which candidate they had selected for the job of independent monitor.

A federal judge has to approve their choice before the information is made public. That announcement is expected early next week.

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Rita Daniels

 

 

Activists gathered on the steps of Albuquerque police headquarters Wednesday after police fatally shot a man Tuesday night. They’re demanding transparency in the investigation of this latest officer involved shooting.

The streets in Albuquerque were slushy when about two dozen activists showed up with picket signs. One was painted blood red with the words “This revolution will not be privatized.”

Rita Daniels

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg charged two Albuquerque police officers on Monday with murder in the death of homeless camper James Boyd.

Brandenburg said this is the first officer-involved shooting case in her tenure as DA where she believes there is probable cause for indictments.

Rita Daniels

 

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly addressed New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission Monday on the first day of two weeks of hearings on PNM's energy replacement plan.

Shelly told commissioners he supports PNM’s plan for replacing energy that will be lost when two coal-fired stacks at the San Juan Generating Station are shut down. He said the plan would ensure good jobs for tribal members. 

Courtesy San Juan's Citizen Alliance

 

The Public Regulation Commission is about to kick off hearings on how PNM, New Mexico’s largest energy utility, is going to replace the energy that will be lost when half of the coal-burning stacks at the San Juan Generating Station get shut down in 2017.  

The utility is proposing increasing their shares of coal in the remaining stacks at the San Juan Generating Station, and to add a heavy helping of nuclear energy imported from Arizona, a lot of natural gas and a wee little smidgen of solar. Four percent to be exact.

Rita Daniels

The National Audubon Society was recently awarded Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Award for its comprehensive report linking climate change to a drastic reduction in future bird populations. Biologists and birders in New Mexico are already seeing major changes.

Rita Daniels

 On Monday the New Mexico Supreme Court made two rulings that affect how proposed amendments to regulate wastewater from the dairy industry will proceed.

Rita Daniels

 

A coalition of people who’ve had family members killed by the Albuquerque Police Department delivered a petition on Wednesday to New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney calling for 13 police officers to be indicted. 

Activists said they were disheartened but hope their efforts are not in vain.

energy.gov

The Department of Energy wasn’t surprised when they were hit with tens of millions of dollars in fines by the state environment department for mishandling of nuclear waste.

A spokesperson for the federal agency said they self-disclosed that both Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were in violation of their hazardous waste permits.

Back in February a container of nuclear waste from LANL that was being stored at WIPP ruptured and at least 20 workers were exposed to radiation.

WALH Master Plan

The Bernalillo County Planning Commission has voted to move a plan for a massive development up the chain of command for consideration. 

Rita Daniels

On Wednesday the Bernalillo County Planning Commission voted to recommend a development plan for almost 40,000 new homes and commercial spaces on Albuquerque’s West Mesa. The vote occurred despite some 75 people who spoke out in opposition citing concerns over the economic and environmental impacts.

Contra Santolina

 

The Bernalillo County Planning Commission is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to approve a massive development on Albuquerque’s West Mesa.

The proposed Santolina development would spread out across 21 square miles of sand dunes just off Interstate-40, about 5 miles west of the Rio Grande.

Rita Daniels

 

An Albuquerque officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old woman and did not record the encounter has been fired.

Today Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden released a statement that Officer Jeremy Dear was terminated after an internal investigation. 

He says the probe found that Dear violated department policies and wasn't truthful.

As KUNM's Rita Daniels reports, Attorney Thomas Grover told reporters the firing was unjust because the departments camera policy is erratic. Grover represents Dear.

Adam Kludt

The City of Albuquerque released an environmental monitoring report for a section of the bosque they hope to develop between Central Avenue and Montaño, but advocates are focused on protecting the wildness in the area. 

The public has until November 30, 2014, to comment on the report that was supposed establish baseline data about the environmental health of the bosque that runs through the heart of Albuquerque and is important habitat for animals.

Rita Daniels

Immigrant rights advocates gathered in downtown Albuquerque today to express support for President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

UNM student Karina Burciaga told a crowd of about one hundred that the President’s action will affect her personally.

“This victory gives us the energy and the hope to continue to organize," she said, "until all of our families are free from the fear of deportation, the tension and family separation.”

Rita Daniels

A group of university students who have been petitioning for immigration reform gathered to watch President Obama’s televised address as he announced an executive action that will protect nearly 5 million people from being deported. 

The group, mostly made up of students who call themselves the UNM Dream Team, listened intently as President Obama touted that most immigrants are a net plus to the nation's economy and society.

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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