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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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. 

 

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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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.

 

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. 

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.

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.  

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.

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.

  

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.

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.  

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.

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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