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

Within Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Socorro, lies a special three-mile stretch of the Rio Grande. At first glance, it looks like any other section of the mid-Rio—but this portion has been readjusted through human intervention, courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Pilot River Realignment Project. 

City of Las Cruces

 

A resolution in support of zero-carbon development, which utilizes electric and solar as energy sources, is being considered by the Las Cruces City Council. Impacting only new municipal construction, City Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque says the ultimate goal is to power new buildings through the use of renewable energy.

“This resolution is about making a building potentially greenhouse gas free because it's all-electric, and electricity can ultimately be delivered through renewable energy,” LaRocque said. 

Centennial High School

Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Ralph Ramos says the district remains dedicated to LCPS employees, amid continued calls from unions and personal appeals from educators to increase staff compensation. 

“I believe that all our employees deserve high, high raises,” Ramos said. “Sustainability is my goal. I don't want to have to lay off any teachers or employees down the road, but also to be fair, you know, as we continue hopefully to bargain in mediation.” 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

 

New Mexico’s immigrant families have the full support of the Las Cruces City Council, following a unanimous vote encouraging the creation of a better pathway to United States citizenship.

 

Councilor Johana Bencomo says the resolution, which calls on Congress to develop comprehensive immigration reform, is a way to welcome essential immigrant workers into the community and spur federal action.

 

“This felt really important to me to just reiterate and vocalize that Las Cruces has been a welcoming community to immigrants and people of all backgrounds for a really long time but especially in the last few years,” Bencomo said. “We right now are in a once in a generation moment where Congress is currently discussing applying another pathway to citizenship.”

 

The watersheds of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico provide between 50-75% of the water found in the Rio Grande. But an increased severity and frequency of wildfires are threatening the area’s snowpack and the river itself. 

New Mexico State University Extension Forest and Fire Specialist Doug Cram says southern latitudes and lower elevations are often more susceptible to a reduction in snowpack after wildfires, leaving unique challenges for the state of New Mexico.

“When it's snowing all the tree canopy intercepts that snow, but if there's a severe wildland fire those trees would be removed,” Cram said. “So, you’d have snow on the ground, but then those trees aren't there to provide shade. And so, you’d have impact from solar radiation. So, you have these competing factors.”

 

Violent crime within the city of Las Cruces has risen 22% within the last year, according to a new quarterly report from the Las Cruces Police Department.  

Since 2020, robberies within the city have increased by 61%. LCPD Police Chief Miguel Dominguez says that many of the robberies have centered around personal disputes, with around a quarter being drug related. 

“Typically, you think robberies and people think of convenience stores and banks being held up,” Dominguez said. “Only four involved an establishment. Many of the rest of those are other types of robberies…45% of those who are the victim actually knew the suspect.”  

Becky Corran

Becky Corran will represent District 5 on the Las Cruces City Council, taking over for current Councilor Gill Sorg who did not seek reelection. Like Sorg, Corran says she is dedicated to discussing climate change and wants to further conversations about sustainable growth.

“My top priority will really be bringing significant conversations about the development and growth of Las Cruces to the city council and to the constituents in District 5,” Corran said. “In the context of global climate change and social inequities that exist that we really have to think about like affordable housing and living wages.”

Corran says she also wants to address the social inequities within Las Cruces that the pandemic has exasperated.

Yvonne Flores

City Councilor Yvonne Flores will remain the District 6 representative on the Las Cruces City Council, beating opponent William Beerman. Flores says her past experience on the council will enable her to be a more effective representative.

“I'll be more efficient just having the experience of knowing how to work with people,” Flores said. “Because I thought I would only run for one term… but the mayor said to me it takes a while to really learn how everything really works. He says it takes about two or three years, and he was absolutely right.”

Becki Graham

Becki Graham has won the District 3 seat in the Las Cruces City Council race, replacing current Councilor Gabe Vasquez who did not seek reelection. Graham says that after talking to constituents within her district she wants to further prioritize public safety.

“I'm interested in continuing to look at innovative ways that we can help folks feel safer,” Graham said. “Not just from a law enforcement perspective, but also things as wide-ranging as public health, city infrastructure. So, lots of concerns about safety, and I would be excited to get involved in that.”

November marks the beginning of Native American Heritage Month, and the Las Cruces City Council is taking steps to honor local indigenous peoples. In a unanimous vote, the council approved a resolution of land acknowledgment in support of indigenous peoples.

City Policy Analyst Sergio Ruiz says the resolution seeks to acknowledge the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the local tribal communities.

“The city of Las Cruces resides on land that will forever belong to the Manso people and the Piro-Manso-Tiwa community,” Ruiz said. “The city of Las Cruces has been cared for by this tribal peoples who are the original historical and perpetual stewards of this land. Because they are the forebears of this lands, the current Piro-Manso-Tiwa tribe are the forebears of Las Cruces.”

The state of New Mexico is no stranger to drought. Over the last 20 years, the state has experienced only a few gaps without some form of abnormally dry conditions–with the longest drought in recent history lasting 329 weeks between 2001-2007. 

And the impact of drought remains just as significant today. This year the state recorded its most intensive drought period on record in January. State Climatologist David DuBois says that drought conditions are likely to continue through the end of the year.

Doña Ana County Commissioners have published cannabis zoning recommendations from the county’s planning and zoning commission, allowing for a 30-day public comment period prior to a final vote.

While adult-use cannabis is legal on the state level, Doña Ana County still has the authority to set time, place and manner restrictions. This includes establishing the need for special use permits in select areas, such as T3 and T4 zones.

County Community Development Planner Albert Casillas says the commission is recommending that certain restrictions in T2 rural zones be eliminated—including the need for special use permits for select growers.

Vito DiBari

An original public art project is being commissioned for the new Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley facility, which is set to open its doors in the fall of 2022.

Out of 139 submissions, the City Art Board recommended artist Vito DiBari’s concept art for city approval. The Las Cruces City Council voted unanimously to authorize the estimated $68,000 project, which is being supported through GO Bond funding.

In an artist statement read by City Art Program Coordinator Ceci Vasconcellos, DiBari highlighted how the steel sculpture will incorporate laser cut patterns and feature animals cared for by the ASCMV.

All is calm at American Dam, where the Rio Grande is divided between the United States and Mexico.

Since 1938, the dam has been operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission in El Paso, to help equitably distribute water between the two nations.  

But beneath the water’s surface lies a complex set of international policy and scientific analysis. IBWC Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner addressed the work being done on both sides of the border during the Two Nations One Water 2021 Conference.   

 

“Transboundary work is hard,” Giner said. “The science piece and the technical piece seems to always work well and has a nice blueprint as to how you move forward. In the case of actual transboundary work, where I've noticed that there's been challenges is in the legal framework.”  

 

The city of Las Cruces is taking steps to join the national Certified Local Government Program, enabling the city to expand on current historic preservation efforts. City Historic Preservation Specialist Troy Ainsworth says the city’s certification will have to get both state and federal approval.

“What a CLG is, is a municipal political entity that engages in historic preservation efforts, and its program has been certified by the state and by the Department of the Interior,” Ainsworth said. “That dates back to 1966, with the introduction of the National Historic Preservation Act itself, which expanded federal involvement in nationwide preservation activity.”

NIDA


 

Proposed changes to the Doña Ana County Unified Development Code are under review by the DAC Planning and Zoning Commission, which is currently evaluating proposed regulations on cannabis. 

The change is prompted by the passage of The Cannabis Regulation Act on the state level, legalizing adult-use cannabis and granting local jurisdictions the ability to set time, place and manner restrictions. 

 

 

The Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved an American Rescue Plan Act grant application totaling over $64 million. 

Of that $64 million, 20% will be allocated to address learning loss—a New Mexico Public Education Department requirement.

 

LCPS Executive Director of Federal Programs Carla Ragan says the other 80% will be directed toward district needs like instructional resources and PPE. 

“The funding for this will be used to help schools to return safely to in-person instruction,” Ragan said. “Maximize in-person instructional time, sustain the safe operation of schools and address the academic, social, emotional and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on New Mexico students.” 

The Las Cruces City Council is supporting an expansion of the Casa de Peregrinos food program, authorizing $3.75 million to help with warehouse restoration efforts.

Money for the project will come directly out of the city’s Telshor Fund, which accumulated approximately $11.2 million in interest during fiscal year 2021. In addition, $3.9 million in legislative grant funding will also help cover the estimated $7 million project cost.

City Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Natalie Green says the project will add additional freezer and refrigerator space as well as storage for dry goods. Beyond that, plans include the installation of a demonstration kitchen as well as new programming efforts.

The Las Cruces Utilities Board is considering a natural gas rate increase after unanimously accepting a recommendation from the Utility Customer Advisory Group for review. Rate and Economic Analysis Manager Domonique Rodriguez reviewed how the increase will impact natural gas customers.

“The UCAG is recommending to the utilities board an alternative phased-in approach over all customer classes where year one would increase by 20%,” Rodriguez said. “This would mitigate the cost-of-service increase while businesses recover, where year two and year three would have a 40% implementation.”

Many members of the public voiced concern over the proposed increase—of the public responses received by the Utility Customer Advisory Group, 21 requested no increase while 10 requested a full phased-in option.


 

 The city of Las Cruces is making progress on current General Obligation Bond projects, with over 40% of total construction completed. 

While the city originally projected progress to already be more than 46% complete, Public Works Director David Sedillo anticipates that the gap will close within the next quarter. According to Sedillo, one project near completion is a replacement facility for Fire Station No. 3, located on N. Valley Drive. 

Arvind Balaraman / www.freedigitalphotos.net

After-school activity buses could soon be coming to Las Cruces Public Schools, giving students who rely on bus transportation the opportunity to participate in after-school programs.

The LCPS Board of Education voted unanimously to make the activity bus program a 2022 legislative funding priority, requesting that the New Mexico School Boards Association support the legislation to secure funding. Spearheading the request is District 2 Board Member Pamela Cort, who says she is working to provide equitable opportunities for all LCPS students.

NMSU

Five electric buses will be joining the RoadRUNNER Transit fleet following a 6-0 vote by the Las Cruces City Council. The 35-foot vehicles, expected to be delivered in November of 2022, will replace five 2004 diesel buses currently in operation.

The council elected to award a contract to BYD Coach and Bus, one of four contract proposals for electric buses received by the city. City Purchasing Program Senior Buyer José Cardona says the agreement will last through December 30, 2026.

“The contract will be for a five-year term,” Cardona said. “The total contract amount is not to exceed $4,145,774, including gross receipts taxes. And we will be funded with FTA funds, at 81%. The contract is for the purchase of five battery-electric buses with an option to purchase seven additional battery-electric buses during the term of the contract.”

Over 1.5 million acres make up the El Paso-Las Cruces Watershed, extending from the Caballo Reservoir all the way through the Mexican border. Channeling both rainfall and snowpack, the watershed plays a pivotal role in distributing water throughout southern New Mexico.

But as climate change brings worsening drought conditions, New Mexico’s water managers are finding it harder to maintain the health of the watershed.

Gary Esslinger, the manager of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, stresses that continuing to improve stormwater recapturing efforts will help to recharge the aquifer and provide water for irrigation.

PR Newswire

The city of Las Cruces is working to develop sustainable building policies that will incentivize electric use.

City Sustainability Specialist Jenny Hernandez says that adapting design standards to promote both solar and electric vehicle use will help to generate a net-zero impact.

“We need to make sure that the infrastructure is there, so it has the capacity to provide the energy needs that it's going to require,” Hernandez said. “This includes pushing forward design standards that move us toward electrification such as solar, E.V. charges and again, making sure that infrastructure is there.”

Las Cruces Public Schools has successfully recruited additional substitute teachers, following a shortage that left the district with approximately 190 teachers in the substitute pool. The district is seeking to restore the pool to pre-pandemic levels, working toward a long-term goal of 1,000 substitute teachers.  

LCPS Chief Human Resources Officer Miguel Serrano attributed the recent interest to an early September job fair, which helped to recruit hundreds of additional substitutes.  

“We had 72 applicants the first day…The next day we hired 166, for a total of 238 and counting,” Serrano said. “We had people with bachelor’s, master's, we even have people with PhDs that want to come in, and they don't have a job right now and they want to contribute and support our kids in the classroom.”

City of Las Cruces

Afghan refugees seeking to resettle in the United States now have the full support of the Las Cruces City Council, following a unanimous vote to welcome those fleeing violence in Afghanistan.

Councilor Gabe Vasquez noted the proximity to Fort Bliss—where many refugees are temporarily living in the wake of America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan—as one reason the city should prepare to welcome refugees into the Las Cruces community.

Memorial Medical Center, Las Cruces

ICU bed availability in New Mexico remains scarce, with only 30 vacant ICU beds available statewide as of August 31. The New Mexico Department of Health reported only three vacant ICU beds in the Las Cruces area.

Acting NMDOH Secretary Dr. David Scrase says that while crisis standards of care have not yet needed to be activated, the strain on the hospital system remains considerable.

“We already have all of the actual beds full,” Scrase said. “And so, these are stretch beds where we converted areas, and we still have some room there, which is good, but very, very tight.”

Missy Morris

Mercedes Esquibel Herrera’s 100-year-old home was built room by room by her grandfather.

“I was born and raised here, all my brothers. And it's like a 100-year-old house, and I've done a lot of work to it and try to keep it up,” Herrera said.

But historic August rains devastated her Anthony home—leaving one wall collapsed and other rooms with cracks and holes. 

City of Las Cruces

In a presentation to the Las Cruces City Council, Economic Development Deputy Director Francisco Pallares reported on the current state of city unemployment.  

The Las Cruces unemployment rate was 7.9% in June, down two percentage points when compared to June 2020.  The percentage is still higher than June 2019 numbers, when unemployment was at 6.3%.

“The city of Las Cruces is recovering from the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pallares said. “We are recovering, however, about 6,000 individuals are still filing for unemployment insurance in Doña Ana County.”

NMSU

Following a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced an indoor mask mandate. The mandate is expected to last through at least September 15.

“We now are reinstating an indoor mask requirement for any indoor activity,” Lujan Grisham said. “Outdoors, not required, it doesn't matter. Indoors, whether you're vaccinated or not, it's a universal policy.”

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen significantly over the last few weeks, jumping from 180 on August 3, to over 340 on August 17.  Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, says that a large portion of hospitalizations have occurred within the unvaccinated population, stressing that hospitalizations are 25 times more likely among the unvaccinated.

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