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

Scott via flickr

A bill passed in the House Thursday night that would ease renewable energy requirements for Public Service Company of New Mexico, El Paso Electric and Southwestern Public Service.

The bill passed by a slim margin, one vote to be exact.

Rita Daniels

A judge heard arguments Thursday on whether District Attorney Kari Brandenburg should be thrown off a high profile police shooting case. Earlier this year her office charged two former Albuquerque police officers with open counts of murder in the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd.

Amigos Bravos

Should Los Alamos National Labs and Los Alamos County be held to the Clean Water Act standards for stormwater runoff that ends up in the Rio Grande? That’s the question the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing. A public comment period on the matter will begin soon.

eggrole via Flickr

People caught with less than an ounce of marijuana would be issued a citation much like a speeding ticket under a proposal that is heading to the Senate floor for a vote.

Rita Daniels

Three groups called for homeless people and people with mental illnesses to be represented in the process to reform the Albuquerque Police Department. Last week the groups filed a motion in federal court.

The ACLU joined forces with Disability Rights New Mexico and the Native American Voters Alliance to intervene in the settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Albuquerque.

Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Susana Martinez pledged her support on Friday for a 500-mile-long hiking trail along the Rio Grande intended to showcase New Mexico’s beauty.

The Rio Grande Trail would start at the Colorado border and follow the meandering river as it cascades through New Mexico before hugging Texas.

David Powell - Hawks Aloft

 A lawsuit filed against the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife challenges a planned levee system along 43 miles of the Rio Grande. Environmentalists are concerned that the project would eliminate critical habitat for some endangered species.

Rita Daniels

More than a thousand students walked out of their classrooms across New Mexico on Monday in protest of a new standardized test. Many of the students said the test robs them of valuable learning time and will ultimately hurt their schools.

Media Literacy Project

Local advocates of net neutrality are celebrating a victory. The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to change the way Internet service providers (ISPs) are regulated.

Neza Leal works with the Media Literacy Project in Albuquerque. He says the FCC’s vote to reclassify Internet service providers as public utilities is appropriate considering how Internet infrastructure works.

Ted of DGAR via comp fight

Legislation to drop the 20 percent renewable requirement for public electric utilities is making its way through committees at the Roundhouse. Current law requires that 20 percent of a public utility’s energy come from wind, solar or geothermal by the end of 2020.

The state’s largest utility, PNM, declined to comment on the House bill, saying only that they believe this is a decision for lawmakers.

Rita Daniels

High-stakes testing at schools across New Mexico begins next week. So far about 500 parents in Albuquerque have opted out of the tests on behalf of their children.

Fifth-grader Anna Gilboard goes to Bandelier Elementary School in Albuquerque. She opted out. The eleven-year old said she’d rather learn than take tests for hours on end.

“I get super stressed about these tests so I don’t do really well on them,” Gilboard said. “I feel like I’m failing my teacher when I do that.”

Fifty percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student test scores.

New Mexico Department of Agriculture

Legislation that would allow universities in New Mexico to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes passed through committee Monday night. The bill could reach the Senate floor for a vote later this week.

The federal government made the distinction between hemp and marijuana official last year. Hemp contains virtually none of the mind-altering compound THC and is a highly versatile material.

GoodNCrazy via flickr

The Senate Public Affairs Committee rejected legislation this week to hold back third-graders who do not perform well on a standardized reading test. The bill to end so-called social promotion failed on a party line vote.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, a Democrat from Albuquerque who opposed the bill, said thousands of third-graders would have been held back every year, regardless of their progress in subjects other than reading.

Rita Daniels

City Councilors in Albuquerque voted Wednesday to halt construction of a trail in the Rio Grande bosque. Many nature advocates say their trust was damaged when the city started cutting a six-foot wide path through the forest along the banks of the river without giving public notice.

City Council Halts Bosque Development

Feb 18, 2015
Sierra Club

UPDATE 6a: Albuquerque city councilors voted to suspend construction to widen a trail in the bosque Wednesday.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mayor Richard Berry could veto the measure.

Last week, the city began cutting a six-foot wide path to replace a narrower foot path as part of a development plan for the forest along the Rio Grande.

Opponents say the city ignored public input and are calling for more time to come to consensus on a bosque plan. 

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.”

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