KRWG

Madison Staten

Multimedia Reporter

Madison Staten is a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media.  You can hear her stories on KRWG-FM and watch on KRWG-TV's Newsmakers.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Madison spent her college years at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the institution.

 

Madison worked on a variety of shows for Arizona PBS during her time in college—including Arizona Horizon and the television magazine program Catalyst.

 

She is passionate about storytelling and public media, and believes in the the mission of public broadcasting: to educate and inform with depth and accuracy.

 

She strives to uphold the core principles of journalism, and looks forward to serving the region.

 

Madison joined KRWG in July, 2020

For 45 years, Edmund Ogaz has worked the fields of his Garfield farm. A self-proclaimed jack of all trades, he can be found planting chile, growing pecans and harvesting onions.

But a lack of water has significantly impacted how Ogaz irrigates his crops. When he first started farming, water from the local irrigation district was enough to sustain his farm. Now, Ogaz has had to rely on groundwater pumping—a practice that has become increasingly more common statewide.

“We’d start irrigating, from the irrigation district, in February, or early March,” Ogaz said. “We would already have water in the irrigation system from the river. But now, like this year, we're not going to get water until the first of June.”

Members of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee say more needs to be done to address pandemic related learning losses.  At a recent meeting, Representative Javier Martínez called on the legislature to find creative ways to reengage lost students.

“I'm concerned because I don't know that laptops or Twittering or sending the screen is going to re-engage any of those middle school to high school students,” Martínez said. “And I'm scared. If you look at the crime rate across the state, if you look at Albuquerque, those are 15–16-year-olds that are out of the system, right, completely out. I'm not sure we're going to get them back with laptops and an extended school year.”

So far, the majority of the state’s pandemic-related expenditures have gone toward instructional purchases like technology resources, but the increased investment has not been enough to keep all students engaged in the classroom.

Las Cruces Public School District

The Las Cruces Public School Board stood by their decision to implement a LCPS policy designed to promote equity in the classroom amidst critical public comment. The policy, which was adopted in April, calls for additional curriculum to be created that takes into account both the home cultures and languages of students.

During a second reading of the policy, School Board Member Maria Flores spoke about the impact it will have in the classroom.

“It's not to learn to hate anyone,” Flores said. “On the contrary, it is first and foremost, a local thing, that each class can be tailored to the students themselves. The students that are there are the ones that will dictate what they want to learn, and only to learn about themselves and others, that is what ethnic studies is about.”

A unanimously adopted ordinance will require hundreds of homes to move onto the city’s sewer system, following an update to the municipal code by the Las Cruces City Council.

The Water and Wastewater System Master Plan Update, which has been in development since 2008, includes a prioritization plan to help keep the Las Cruces water supply clean. Preventing water supply contamination from septic tanks was cited as the main reason for the code change.

But the estimated $5,000 initial cost per property, one that homeowners will be responsible for, gave some city council members pause. Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve highlighted the burden placed on homeowners, saying the cost of switching from septic to sewer was a concern among her constituents.

las-cruces.org

The Las Cruces City Council is reviewing which projects will be eligible for TIDD funding. Three funding options were presented to the council, detailing how three million dollars in TIDD revenue could be allocated.

A project to establish a business incubator facility was highlighted by many on the city council. The million-dollar investment would provide both retail and workspaces for entrepreneurs and small businesses, something Councilor Johana Bencomo says is desperately needed.

“I think it'd be a huge mistake to not invest in something like this incubator,” Bencomo said. “I think it's an outstanding idea. And as I think about our priorities as a city, and, you know, really trying to impact and reduce the wealth inequality in our city, this could be huge. This could be a huge player in that.”

White House photo by Adam Schultz/ Public Domain

The Leaders Summit on Climate is calling attention to global conservation efforts and the government regulations needed to enforce them.

India is working to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy.  Japan is setting higher emission reduction goals. The Republic of Korea is ending overseas coal financing.

And here in the United States, President Biden is pledging to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, using 2005 emission levels as the baseline. 

“The signs are unmistakable.  The science is undeniable.  But the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Biden said. “The United States isn’t waiting. We are resolving to take action, not only our federal government, but our cities and our states all across our country; small businesses, large businesses, large corporations; American workers in every field.”

The American Lung Association’s 2021 State of the Air Report has compiled air quality data from 2017 through 2019 to identify the nation’s most polluted regions.

Laura Kate Bender of the American Lung Association says that three out of every eight Americans are living in counties with a failing ozone grade. That includes residents of Doña Ana County, which recorded an average of over 22 high ozone level days annually.

Despite the failing grade, Bender says the number of ozone days reported nationally has gone down since the last published report.

ALLIANCE FOR EXCELLENT EDUCATION

No additional days will be added to the 2021-2022 school calendar, following a unanimous vote by the Las Cruces Public School Board.

Options presented to the board included the addition of ten extra days to the calendar as well as an expansion of the school day by 30 minutes for elementary school students—which failed to be approved.

School Board Member Teresa Tenorio says the district needs to explore other options to help with the student learning experience, such as smaller class sizes and more support staff, rather than just adding extra time.

“Going forward, I just don't understand how 30 extra minutes a day, or ten extra days, where everything else is structured the same, would benefit my kids or any kids in our district,” Tenorio said. “Because it's not working, it hasn't worked. We need to really try something different.”

Hundreds of houses could be required to move onto the city sewer system if a proposed council ordinance is adopted.  The Las Cruces City Council reviewed the ordinance, which would modify the current municipal code to include mandatory sewer hook-ups, during a work session Monday.

Interim Assistant Utilities Director Adrienne Widmer says the switch from septic tanks was proposed in order to prevent sewage contamination.

“The plan was developed to determine the potential of contamination from leached wastewater from septic tanks into our water supply,” Widmer said. “Based on that plan, nearly 2,000 parcels with septic tank locations were identified.”

Widmer says the plan, which has been in development since 2008, investigated the distance of tanks to water supply wells, the depth of groundwater and the density of septic tanks in order to prioritize select areas.

Government employees will not be able to use qualified immunity as a legal defense in state court under the recently ratified New Mexico Civil Rights Act.

Laurie Roberts, a state policy advocate for the Innocence Project, says the act will create an easier path for those seeking to bring a claim against a government body, relying on state courts rather than the federal judicial system. 

“Instead of having to go to federal court and allege a violation of your federal constitutional rights, instead, you can go to your local district court, in front of a judge or a jury of your peers, you know, a judge elected by New Mexicans,” Roberts said. “And the local governments are not able to use qualified immunity as a defense the way that they would be if you were forced to go into federal court.”

Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

Only 5% of the particles that make up the universe are currently known to physicists—but scientists believe a new particle is on the verge of being discovered.

Recent experiments conducted in Illinois show the potential for particles that are not predicted by the Standard Model, the system used to classify known particles and forces of nature. Los Alamos Scientist William Louis says Standard Model particles make up only a small part of the universe’s composition.

“The Standard Model particles make up only about 5% of the mass-energy of the universe. 95% of the mass-energy of the universe is unknown,” Louis said. “It's either in the form of dark matter, or dark energy. And so, the fact that there's all this missing energy, makes it not surprising that there could be a zoo of new particles.”

Stores in Las Cruces may soon be switching to a paper bagging system, as part of a proposed city effort to limit single-use plastics. While an official ordinance has yet to be drafted, City Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque reviewed a proposed plan with the Las Cruces City Council during a work session.

She outlined the reasons single-use plastic bags can be harmful, saying they are often only in use for an average of 12 minutes.

“Litter and plastics buried in the landfill can persist there for hundreds of years, and we have this throwaway mentality that needs to be stopped,” LaRocque said. “On average, we use 1,500 single plastic-use plastic bags a year, and on average we use them for only 12 minutes. So, it is a very excessive use of a product that has such a long shelf life.”

Couy Griffin

In a 2-1 vote, the Otero County Commission shot down a resolution calling for a 100% county reopening Thursday. Commissioner Couy Griffin, who proposed the resolution, was the only one to vote in favor of a full reopening.

“I'm doing it, trying to bring representation and trying to hold the line, trying to keep people from feeling like they have to wear a mask or they're going to lose their job,” Griffin said. “That's not fair. That's why people have elected officials like us, to stand in that gap.”

Nora Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, told KRWG in a written statement that such a measure would have had no legal effect and existing state guidelines would remain in place. Currently Otero County is in the yellow reopening category, allowing for indoor dining at 33% capacity.

Walk into a Las Cruces Public Schools building, and it’s obvious things are a little different—partitions, shields and temperature checkpoints are just some of the measures the district is taking in the fight against COVID-19.

But the biggest change is one that can’t be seen at all.

Bobby Stout, the executive director of the district’s physical plant department, says MERV 13 air filters have been installed across the district, helping to ensure clean air in schools.  Mandated by the New Mexico Public Education Department, the upgraded filters remove 75% of particles between the size of 0.3 and 1.0 micrometers.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says the Biden Administration is considering ideas from political leaders on both sides of the aisle in order to rethink the management of energy and minerals on public lands.

“There is no doubt that oil, gas and coal energy from our public lands and oceans have helped build our economy and power our nation,” Haaland said. “Fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. But too often, the extraction of resources has been rushed to meet the false urgency of political timetables, rather than with careful consideration for the impacts of current or future generations.”

Haaland noted the increase in leasing permits given out under the Trump administration, an action she says did not benefit the American people.

Dzaki Sukarno

Dzaki Sukarno is no stranger to failure. As a young Las Cruces musician, he remembers nervously preparing for local performances, scared of the public’s reaction.

“I remember standing up on stage, freaking out, forgetting lyrics and just stopping in the middle of the performance,” Sukarno said. “Going to sing at the farmers market, just the local farmers market, and being so nervous, being timid, not projecting my voice because I was like, ‘What are people going to think?’”

The 20-year-old has come a long way from those first timid performances, a contestant on this season of American Idol. Sukarno says it’s his failures that have helped him to hone his craft, giving him the courage to pursue his dream.

In an update on COVID-19 vaccination efforts to the Las Cruces City Council Monday, Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve reported that 31.8% of Doña Ana County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

It’s something she attributes in part to an increase in the weekly number of vaccines from the state, which has more than doubled since the beginning of February.

“It's been about an 82% increase,” Abeyta-Stuve said. “In terms of rankings, we have not still moved as far as I think we should. A report out last week was a ranking on how many vaccines we've distributed per population per county. We were at the bottom fourth. Now we're at the bottom eighth. So, we’ve moved up a little bit.”  

Las Cruces firefighters Ariel Caro and Matthew Castrejon aren’t only distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, they’re bringing hope to many of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

The pair is part of a team assigned to the city’s homebound vaccination program, targeting those who are not physically able to travel to a vaccination site.  

Firefighter Ariel Caro says she’s thankful for the opportunity to serve.

“They love that we are helping out, going to their house and making their life, and their loved one’s life, a little easier for them,” Caro said. “I’m glad that the fire department is a part of this program and the ones that are sponsoring the program just so that way people can see that we’re here for them.”

www.freedigitalphotos.net. Image: Arvind Balaraman

All Las Cruces Public School District students will have the opportunity to return to the classroom starting April 6, in accordance with state guidelines mandating that in-person learning resume.  

Las Cruces School Board President Ray Jaramillo outlined the state’s reopening directive, prior to the board officially voting to certify the date of reentry.

“On March 8, 2021, the PED issued an expectation that all schools be in full reentry, no later than April 5,” Jaramillo said. “April 5 is a LCPS school holiday. Moreover, the PED considers full reentry to be satisfied with either four or five days a week of in-person learning.”

Las Cruces Public Schools Attorney Elena Gallegos says the board was left with little power to determine the timeline for reopening schools.

The Las Cruces City Council is calling for equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for both the city of Las Cruces and the entirety of Doña Ana County. 

Council members unanimously passed a resolution urging the New Mexico Department of Health to provide an equal number of COVID-19 vaccines to Doña Ana County. City Policy Analyst Christopher Dunn says Doña Ana’s vaccination rate is approximately 5% less than 19 other counties in New Mexico, despite being the second-most populous county in the state.

“Currently 19 counties have vaccinated, or partially vaccinated, more than 30% of their population, and Doña Ana County has partially vaccinated 25.2% of the population,” Dunn said. “We have been able to fully vaccinate 12.6% of the population…The city of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County are here to distribute vaccines efficiently as well.”

Las Cruces City Councilors reviewed proposed ordinance revisions for the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley during Monday’s work session.

Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley Executive Director Clint Thacker outlined proposed revisions to the current animal control ordinance, which would include eliminating the pet licensing requirement, in favor of relying on microchipping. Historically, licensing has been required to ensure animals receive the rabies vaccine, something Thacker says can be regulated differently.

“Now people are starting to question, ‘What do I get out of my license?’ The answer really is maybe another form of ID, is what we get out of it, because the actual rabies [shot] is still required by law,” Thacker said. “So, what we're stating is you can take and remove the license part out of it, have the microchip, the animal control officers will still be able to enforce not having a rabies [shot].”

The Las Cruces City Council reviewed proposed changes to the current election process during a work session Monday.

Las Cruces City Clerk Christine Rivera recommended that the city implement updates to key election procedures, including a transition to an electronic system for prospective candidates and a focus on ranked choice voting education.

Councilor Johana Bencomo says that transitioning to an electronic system will help to increase election transparency as the documents can be made easily available to the public online.

  

In January, Doña Ana County introduced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for some employees. The county says it’s a critical safety measure, but some critics argue the directive infringes on the rights of employees.

Just recently, litigation was filed by one Doña Ana detention officer claiming the county did not have the authority to mandate vaccination.

Approximately 390 essential Doña Ana County employees have been directed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the county. The mandate affects public safety personnel, including law enforcement officers and full-time paid firefighters.

The Las Cruces City Council voted to support state legislation aimed at increasing housing protections during Monday’s council meeting.

New Mexico House Bill 111 seeks to expand protections for those facing housing discrimination or eviction. A resolution to support the legislation was adopted by the council, with Councilor Johana Bencomo emphasizing that the city must take a central role in the fight against housing discrimination.

The Las Cruces Public School District mourned the loss of beloved Superintendent Karen Trujillo Friday, hosting a press conference to remember her impact on the lives of educators, students and the entire Las Cruces community.

For over two decades, Trujillo served the state of New Mexico as an educator, administrator and public servant.  As Superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools, she helped to navigate the district through the COVID pandemic, working to ensure educational opportunities for all.

School Board President Ray Jaramillo spoke about Trujillo’s dedication to the district.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham / Office of the New Mexico Governor

  

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham held a COVID-19 update Thursday, highlighting vaccine distribution efforts and addressing the state's reopening strategy.  

Four counties in New Mexico now fall into the most restrictive category of the state’s reopening guidelines. This includes Doña Ana County, which fell from the yellow category back to red, putting an end to indoor dining. Lujan Grisham addressed the red counties during the COVID-19 update.

“I think there's a sense that, wow, we've got four counties in red, and I know that it's disappointing when you see that map, but they are moving,” Lujan Grisham said. “We are absolutely moving now, much quicker than we have been, and that is important. I mean, we're all on that sort of precipice.”

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima-City of Las Cruces photo

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima gave the State of the City address Wednesday, highlighting how Las Cruces has worked to overcome pandemic related challenges.

“The state of our city is strong. In the face of adversity, we've come together powerfully as a community, with renewed purpose and eagerness for the future,” Miyagishima said.

The mayor called attention to various pandemic efforts during his State of the City address, including the authorization of city funds for pandemic related assistance.  This month alone, the city approved $977,000 of additional funding, helping to provide resources for programs like food initiatives and emergency shelter operations.

During a work session Monday, the Las Cruces City Council assessed project priorities for the upcoming year.

Las Cruces Public Works and Budget presented approximately 45 million dollars worth of potential projects to the council. While the exact amount of allocated funds for fiscal priorities could not be given, Mayor Ken Miyagishima made it clear that the projects will need to be narrowed down in a future March work session.

“I would venture to say that we have more than just a few million dollars to spend...I mean it's just that simple. We don’t run that much money, I mean to cover a fraction of this stuff,” Miyagishima said. “I mean these are really some pie in the sky numbers here, and that's some big stuff…I just have to tell council just be prepared because this list is going to be a fraction.”

The Las Cruces City Council reviewed the state of the city’s economic health during Monday’s work session. Las Cruces reported a 7.7% unemployment rate in December of 2020, up approximately 3% from the previous year.

City Economic Development Director Griselda Martinez says the rise in unemployment can be directly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a direct correlation between the public health orders and the level of unemployment that you see in the 2020 data,” Martinez said. “For the first time, we had lower numbers in unemployment than we did from the Great Recession. So, we were at the verge of growing beyond 2008 numbers, and then the public health orders came about and that took us back to really high numbers of unemployment.”

The Las Cruces City Council debated whether to oppose a bill in the New Mexico State Legislature, aimed at providing further law enforcement regulation, during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

In a 4-3 vote, the council struck down a resolution to oppose New Mexico Senate Bill 227. City Attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown outlined how the bill calls for increased law enforcement regulation.

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