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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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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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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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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.”

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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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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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