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

Las Cruces International Airport

Plans are taking flight to authorize commercial aviation at Las Cruces International Airport following Monday’s city council meeting. The group heard from industry consultants in a work session about plans to court American Airlines to Las Cruces.

Bill Tomcich, a partner with the consulting firm Airplanners, said the hope is to be able to offer direct flights to places like Phoenix and Dallas.

“The number one and two markets are Dallas and Phoenix and with the competition that exists there today, we believe that is one reason Las Cruces potentially could be very attractive to American Airlines right now,” Tomcich said. “Because currently in El Paso the majority of those passengers in those two markets, as well as many points beyond, are actually traveling on Southwest Airlines.”

Las Cruces business owners advocated for the hourly wage of tipped workers to be decreased during Tuesday’s city council work session. 

“Every person in this community needs to have a job, and in order for them to have those jobs, we must have businesses open in order to employ them,” Marci Dickerson, restaurant owner, said.

Dickerson is imploring the city council to consider decreasing the minimum wage of tipped workers.

The city has the option to temporarily decrease their hourly wage from the current $4.10 an hour to the state minimum requirement, a little over two dollars. If these employees make less than the city’s standard minimum wage in tips, employers will still be required to make up the difference.

The number of UTV vehicles authorized to be on the road has gone up following a unanimous vote by the Las Cruces City Council. The city eliminated a requirement stating all UTVs must have a speed capability less than or equal to 45 mph.

Assistant City Attorney Roberto Cabello addressed the council, stating many UTVs did not qualify to be on the road.

“I’m asking for that provision, maximum speed capability not greater than 45 mph, be eliminated,” Cabello said. “It already reads the speed limit for recreational off highway vehicles or UTVs, operated in the city shall be 45 mph or the posted speed limit, whichever is less. Since it’s in the definition, this actually eliminates a number of UTV vehicles because a number of them can actually go much faster than 45 miles per hour.”

www.freedigitalphotos.net. Image: Arvind Balaraman

The Las Cruces Public School Board voted unanimously for students to remain online through the first semester. Select groups, such as special education, At-Promise youth and early childhood students will be allowed regulated or limited in-person access throughout the semester.  

In an emotional plea, School Board Member Maria Flores spoke about the dangers of putting students at risk.

“I know that sending students back to the classroom is what our students need, but I also know that we are not in control of the virus. The only way to stay safe is to practice safety, and there are no guarantees,” Flores said. “Last week, it was announced that 70,000 children had COVID-19 across the country due to schools reopening, and there were deaths. This is our reality, and one that we cannot pretend does not exist.”  

Monday’s Las Cruces City Council meeting grew heated following a presentation concerning the minimum wage.

“You guys have no idea what it takes to run a business. You don't. To my knowledge, very few of you have been in business for yourselves. It's hard, hard to make that payroll,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said.

Controversy at the recent city council meeting centered around whether or not to decrease the hourly wages of tipped employees. Currently these Las Cruces workers make $4.10 an hour before tips, well above the state’s mandated rate of a little over two dollars.  

When you think of the typical Southwest landscape, the first picture in your head isn’t often a thriving wetland.

Yet, wetlands are vital to the ecosystem, making up approximately one million acres statewide, according to New Mexico’s Environment Department.

If you know where to look, you can find these habitats not far from the city center. Kevin Bixby, the executive director of The Southwest Environmental Center, has worked with his team to create the La Mancha Wetland in Las Cruces through restoration projects.

Tuesday’s city council meeting brought answers for immigrants concerned about the 2020 census. The Las Cruces City Council voted unanimously that current citizenship should not be a factor in being counted. Councilwoman Johana Bencomo was clear every single Las Cruces resident has a right to participate, regardless of immigration status.

“I'm really proud that we're doing this resolution,” Bencomo said. “It's estimated that one out of ten New Mexicans is an immigrant, that two-thirds of those are living in mixed status homes, so there are thousands of undocumented New Mexicans who are at risk of not being counted. Not only is that inhumane, and comes from a really nasty place, but that's also really detrimental to the next ten years of infrastructure needs for communities, housing, clinics, all of these resources.”

Samantha Corral, Twitter

18-year-old Matthew Gardea could have used his time before starting college to catch up on his favorite television shows or get some much-needed sleep. Instead, he’s been hard at work as the youngest planning and zoning commissioner in Horizon City history.

Gardea was unanimously appointed to his position by the city council this summer, after support from Councilwoman Samantha Corral. He says hearing so many people talk about his age makes him take the responsibility even more seriously.

“Having city council members express to me you are the youngest ever to sit on this commission,” Gardea said. “For me it wasn't hearing it once, hearing it twice or three times —hearing it from almost every city council member, and even going into city hall and being sworn in, and just that being repeated over and over again, at some point, the reality does start to sit in. That daunting moment would be as the youngest on this commission, I feel that it's very important that I set the example.”

Picacho Middle School (Google Maps)

The Las Cruces Public School District is working on a plan to switch from the current all online teaching style into a hybrid model. Superintendent Karen Trujillo spoke to the Las Cruces School Board Tuesday on the current progress.

“Up until last week when Doña Ana County was listed as a green county, we were sure that we were going to be yellow and if not even red,” Trujillo said, “As we were designated as a green county, now we're able to kind of put all of our planning in play to start looking at what that yellow plan looks like. We scheduled a reentry task force meeting for September 9 to get more input from them to look at our yellow plan and update it with any new changes from CDC or the Department of Health guidelines.”

Wilhelmina Yazzie of Gallup, New Mexico / Courtesy photo

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the New Mexico Education Department are asking the Legislative Finance Committee to create a funding plan that will help support New Mexico’s most at-risk students.

“We need a comprehensive, long term funding plan that’s based on the actual needs of our students, but specifically the educational needs of our students most at-risk of being failed,” Alisa Diehl, with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said.

Spaceport America

Spaceport America might be trying to reach for the stars, but COVID delays and pending investigations are currently leaving them grounded.

Interim CEO Scott McLaughlin presented to the Legislative Finance Committee Thursday, offering insight into the controversial workings of New Mexico’s only commercialized spaceport.

Senator John Arthur Smith (D-Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Sierra-35), Chair, Legislative Finance Committee

The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee met Wednesday to discuss the fiscal future of the state, amid concerns about COVID’s influence on New Mexico’s economy.

Steve Kopelman, the executive director for New Mexico Counties, spoke about how the climbing unemployment rate will hinder the state’s recovery.

“The unemployment rate in New Mexico…is close to 13%,” Kopelman said “And, you know, it was one thing when the federal government was subsidizing unemployment to the tune of $600 a week, now that that's not happening we're expecting this to just be a pile on. It's going to be very, very dire.”

Unemployment was up 8.4% from June to July, with over 197,000 unemployment claims filed last month. Kopelman empathized that the struggles of both individuals and small businesses are felt at the county level.   

Saddle Back Ranch isn’t just a milk farm for Ryan Parks—it’s his family’s entire way of life.

“It’s not for the faint hearted,” Parks said. “It's a great thing. I mean, what would we do without agriculture?”

It’s a question that’s been in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, where, here in Las Cruces, Saddle Back Ranch had to delay expansion plans.

facebook.com/city of las cruces

The Las Cruces City Council is moving forward with plans to construct permanent shade structures for the Plaza de Las Cruces. During Monday’s work session, the group was presented with three shade options—transparent panels, decorative metal or a retractable canvas system.

In the end, the council decided the metal structures would be the best fit for the city, providing the most shade and durability. Ken Gutierrez, a member of the architectural firm tasked with the project, spoke about the merits of the decorative metal option.   

las-cruces.org

The Las Cruces Public School Board reviewed a series of proposals Tuesday night concerning police presence within education facilities.

In a 3-1 vote, the board approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the city of Las Cruces to allow for the services of school resource officers during the 2020-21 school year.

The district will not be charged for the services of resource officers until schools begin to physically reopen.

Board Member Teresa Tenorio, the only member to vote against the motion, brought up concerns regarding the presence of guns in schools. She cited a 2019 incident at Picacho Middle School, where a now former resource officer discharged his gun.

Ifo Pili / education.byu.edu

The Las Cruces City Council voted in a 6-0 decision to approve an approximate 19 percent salary increase for the city manager position. Council Member Yvonne Flores was absent from the meeting and did not have the opportunity to vote.

The city will offer Ifo Pili, who previously worked as the city administrator in Eagle Mountain, Utah, $216,000 of base pay to take on the role of city manager.

Council Member Gabe Vasquez said he was originally shocked by the high salary, but feels the increase is necessary to attract top leaders to the city.

“They come at a price that's dictated by the market within the city administration world,” Vasquez said. “And so that was kind of a hard pill to swallow for me, right, having again experienced a different type of salary range my whole life, but regardless I have a confidence that Mr. Pili will do great things for our city.”

pnm

During the second week of August clean energy advocates celebrated American Wind Week. Key energy players across the state sat down to discuss the future of renewable resources in New Mexico.

In an event moderated by New Mexico State University Chancellor Dr. Dan Arvizu, energy leaders discussed ways to implement the state’s Energy Transition Act. The act dictates that 50 percent of New Mexico electricity will come from renewable energy resources by the year 2030.

Country Club Estates / Las Cruces

New Mexico has an economic development incentive called a tax increment development district. It’s been in use in downtown Las Cruces for some time, but recently a single developer proposed using it for the property where the former Las Cruces Country Club was located.

After strong criticism of that plan, developer Zachary Wiegert withdrew his tax increment development district request, or TIDD. It would have allowed a large portion of tax revenue to be reinvested in the district’s public infrastructure rather than going to the city, and would have covered Wiegert’s proposed retail, home and office development.

 

Daniel Kim has had a singular focus since the start of the pandemic—creating sewing kits for the many volunteers of The Blue Mask Group.

“Good fitting masks that have excellent filtration abilities can mean the difference between health and sickness, or even life and death,” Daniel Kim said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

  

In the most recent COVID update, the state announced long term care facilities with no reported COIVD cases will be able to start welcoming visitors in select counties.

These visits will be by appointment only and require a plexiglass barrier between visitors, as well as masks and correct social distancing practices.

Selected counties include Grant and Sierra. Doña Ana County does not yet meet the requirements due to the higher case count but will continue to be monitored.

New Mexico State University hosted a town hall recently to address new ways to foster the use of clean energy statewide.

A recent NMSU town hall focused on the development of the i-CREW project, a plan centered around developing a statewide clean energy roadmap, creating new business opportunities and accelerating technology innovation.  

 


The Las Cruces School Board voted Tuesday on a new name for Oñate High School. The new name will become official in time for the 2021-22 school year. 

 

The board voted in a 4-1 decision to change the name of Oñate High School to Organ Mountains. Ray Jaramillo was the only board member to vote against the change.

 

A recent Yelp survey indicates over 60 percent of restaurants nationwide that closed temporarily because of COVID-19 have now shut their doors forever.

Here in Las Cruces, the weight of the pandemic is being felt by restaurants across the city. 

“The unknown. That's the problem, the unknown, are we going to be able to go inside again?” Jodie York said.

www.freedigitalphotos.net. Image: Arvind Balaraman

A survey from The National Education Association of Las Cruces finds many teachers have unreported underlying medical conditions. 

“It's going to be devastating if we end up losing one child, or one teacher, or you know, one staff member, that's too many,” Denise Sheehan said.

The Las Cruces City Council unanimously approved The Las Cruces Safe Promise campaign, a program dedicated to encouraging residents and visitors to use safe COVID-19 practices.    
 

The campaign will work in conjunction with the state’s New Mexico Safe Promise, a certification program for businesses that promise to use safe practices.   Councilor Johana Bencomo is hopeful this will make customers feel more comfortable.  

A lack of internet access is not a new problem for many families in the state of New Mexico, but the divide has only become more apparent in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Nowhere is the internet divide clearer than in the classroom, as students battle both computer and web access. Latino Decisions and its partners highlighted some concerns Latino families have about access to education in a new survey.

  

Local businesses could be the key to revitalizing the Las Cruces economy post COVID-19.

“It doesn’t have to be the next Microsoft. Economic development is getting people who are not gainfully engaged in the economy, engaged,” Michael Shuman said.  

Christopher Smelser

It’s been almost a year since the city of Las Cruces last has had a police auditor. 

The city council recently discussed hiring a new company for that job. 

The Las Cruces City Council discussed the need for a new auditor to review police department operations. While not legally mandated, the city has historically had an auditor to look over internal affairs.

Facebook / Onate HS

 

  What’s in a name?

That’s the question Las Cruces school board members debated Tuesday in response to a motion calling for the renaming of Oñate High School.

In a 3-1 vote, the Las Cruces school board moved to select a name they believe will better reflect the identity of the school community.