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

    

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.

A series of resolutions were approved by the Las Cruces City Council Tuesday, including a police auditor contract and additional COVID aid.

The council is working to provide additional pandemic support—approving $977,000 of emergency assistance. The city has allocated over 3 million dollars since last spring to help offset burdens related to the pandemic, with money going to food initiatives, emergency shelter operations and other assistance programs. City Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Natalie Green says that while COVID cases have gone down, there is still a need for continued funding.

Las Cruces Public Schools outlined a plan to increase face-to-face learning opportunities during Tuesday’s school board meeting. Small groups of students will be returning to in-person learning starting February 22nd.

Earlier this month, school board members voted to allow select groups of students to return to the classroom in a modified hybrid plan. School Board Member Teresa Tenorio, who spoke out against a full hybrid reopening, says she’s hopeful the new plan will balance both health and safety while still prioritizing continued education efforts.  

“I think I was willing to go in this direction, to experiment with the reopening, as long as it wasn't too big, where we would have bigger mistakes,” Tenorio said. “And what I see now with this plan is even when we start small, with such a big district, it still has a significant impact.”

Jim Peach

New Mexico State University hosted the 2021 Economic Outlook Conference, covering both the state and national economies.

If there’s a reoccurring theme from the conference, it’s the vast economic uncertainty from the pandemic that has led to high unemployment across the nation. Wells Fargo Economist Charles Dougherty emphasized it’s reduced economic growth at a historic rate.

“A lot of what's happened over the past year or so, has been directly tied to the pandemic, the Coronavirus,” Dougherty said. “We saw the sharpest reduction in economic growth that maybe we've ever seen aside from maybe back to World War II.”

According to a Pew Research Center report, one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the start of the pandemic.  Dougherty says that while some of the over 22 million jobs lost have been regained, the recovery rate has slowed down.

“We’ve only recovered about 50% of jobs, a little bit more than 50%. Essentially, we've lost 22 million, and we've recovered about 12,” Dougherty said. “So, we're still very much in the hole. Furthermore, over the past few months, we've sort of slowed down in terms of job growth.”


 

  

In 2020, the city of Las Cruces adopted a Climate Action Plan, pledging a 19% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Now, the Las Cruces City Council is taking steps to guarantee the goal is met. 

 

During a work session, the council listened to a presentation by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project [SWEEP]. The presentation was prompted by a resolution proposed by Councilor Gill Sorg calling on the city of Las Cruces to ensure climate goals are met through proactive planning.

 

 

While the resolution itself has yet to be voted on, Sorg spoke about the importance of implementing concrete changes, specifically stressing the need for the city to invest in more electric vehicles.

New Mexico has administered over 291,000 COVID vaccines to those in groups 1A and 1B—healthcare workers, people over 75 and those at risk of COVID complications. But reaching seniors with limited mobility, transportation and technology remains a concern for government officials.

Las Cruces Assistant City Manager Eric Enriquez outlined some of the challenges of reaching the senior population for COVID vaccination.

“The top challenge is the technology. There's a lot of seniors out there that don't have access to computers, or registering for the vaccination,” Enriquez said. “So the city is creating a vaccine task force. And this task force will be comprised of a lot of leaders in the community to get resources out there, such as funding, education, communication, using as much of the leadership in the community to help those that are vulnerable and have challenges with getting the vaccination. So, the seniors, the elderly, that's one of the priorities.”

New Mexico Department of Health

In a press conference Wednesday, the New Mexico Department of Health highlighted the high COVID vaccine administration rate—the fourth highest in the nation.

New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins says over 316,000 COVID vaccines have been delivered to the state of New Mexico.

“We've administered 92.3% or 291,742. Second doses administered have been more than 67,000,” Collins said.

Las Cruces Public School District

Las Cruces Public Schools will begin offering increased face-to-face learning opportunities following a vote Tuesday by the Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education.

In a 4-1 decision, the board voted to expand current in-person learning efforts. While board members discussed the possibility of implementing a hybrid learning model, allowing for students in the classroom twice a week, they ultimately decided to begin with a smaller reopening approach — targeting students most in need of in-person instruction.

Just who will qualify for those in-person opportunities is still being defined by the district, but Superintendent Karen Trujillo says a plan will be presented at the next school board meeting in mid-February.

New Mexico Congresswoman Yvette Herrell’s objection to the certification of Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral votes has been unanimously condemned by the Las Cruces City Council.

Councilor Johana Bencomo was just one of the vocal members on the council who voiced disdain for Representative Herrell’s opposition to certifying the electoral votes.

“I think it's important for us to have this conversation because Representative Yvette Herrell represents all of us.” Bencomo said. “As this body, who I know respects the sacredness of democracy and the vote, I think this is an important public statement. We can disagree on policies, but this is not that. Disenfranchising voters is not up for argument on a policy issue.”

New Mexico State University leadership discussed reopening efforts and COVID vaccine distribution during a town hall Tuesday.  NMSU President John Floros says the institution is currently planning for a normal 2021 fall semester.

“You never know what spring is going to look like, or what summer is going to look like, but everything right now, it points towards we're going to have enough vaccines to vaccinate a large number of the population,” Floros said. “The vaccines will work. The virus will be much below levels of where we are now, if we do the right thing between now and then. And therefore, I think we do need to plan for face-to-face classes starting in August of 2021.”

Las Cruces City Councilors received an update on current GO bond projects during a public work session Monday.

City Public Works Director David Sedillo presented on GO bond projects expected to be completed in the next two years.

“These bonds were approved by the voters on August 21, 2018 for $35.6 million,” Sedillo said. “Now one thing that I wanted to make sure to pass on to council was that all of these projects will be completed by the end of 2022.”

Office of the Governor - Michelle Lujan Grisham

Over 162,900 COVID vaccines have been administered in New Mexico and more than 60% of those in Phase 1A have already been vaccinated.

New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins says the state intends to offer the vaccine to the general public by mid-2021. The state began its effort by targeting the most vulnerable populations. 

“We started in Phase 1A with health care personnel, frontline and also first responders, those taking care of patients. We’ve now opened up the initial part of Phase 1B, which are individuals 75 years of age or older,” Collins said. “We will then move to individuals who are 16 or older with underlying medical conditions, followed by frontline essential workers and vulnerable populations.”

The Las Cruces City Council approved additional legislative priorities Tuesday, including supporting the legalization of cannabis and the need for additional early childhood education funding.

In a 6-1 vote, the Las Cruces City Council approved a resolution advocating for the legalization of cannabis in New Mexico. The resolution of support will be sent to the state legislature, where City Policy Analyst Christopher Dunn says legislation is expected to be introduced.   

“I reached out to many of the senators and representatives that have previously sponsored legislation in New Mexico, to try to understand what 2021 legislation might look like,” Dunn said. “And with that, I found out that Representative Javier Martínez and Senator Ivey-Soto are both expected to introduce bills in this legislative session.”

The Paycheck Protection Program has helped fund loans for over 5.2 million small businesses across the United States in the last year. That number is set to rise as another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program has been approved by Congress.

$284 billion has been allocated to fund small business loans. Shelley Brown, a lender relations specialist for the Small Business Administration, says the priority is to focus on businesses most impacted by the pandemic—especially those that have not received previous help from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Fair Districts For New Mexico

Every ten years, New Mexico redraws voting districts to better reflect the current population following the census.

Fair Districts For New Mexico is an organization advocating for the formation of a Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission that will allow for a more independent process.

Kathy Brook, the Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Southern New Mexico, outlined the role a commission would play in the state’s redistricting efforts.  

“Members of the legislature would appoint several people, and then the New Mexico Ethics Commission would appoint three people to oversee the process. And this would involve working with the technical people to develop a set of maps,” Brook said. “I think the requirement would be three to five maps, for each area that requires redistricting. So three to five maps that would cover congressional districts, three to five for the legislature, three to five for the Public Education Commission. And the idea is that the legislature would then select from those sets of maps rather than drawing their own maps.”

The Las Cruces City Council reviewed the current UTV ordinance Monday, discussing the impact of increased UTV use in 2020.

The current ordinance, which allows for UTVs on municipal roads, was adopted in early 2020 and amended to include UTVs capable of reaching speeds over 45 miles per hour in September.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima says he’s been surprised by the amount of UTV use in Las Cruces.

“It was probably almost a year ago that we had passed the ordinance to allow UTVs. And I have to say, I for one had no idea the magnitude of how many UTVs there are in the city,” Miyagishima said. “I know some have taken videos, and the city does their best, the city police do, to regulate it. But it has just gotten very difficult.”

City of Las Cruces Via NASA

New Mexico is one of the fastest warming states in the nation, with the number of days classified as dangerous due to heat expected to double by 2050.

Las Cruces experienced five weeks of extreme heat during the summer of 2020. Historic temperatures included nine days over 105 degrees, something State Climatologist David DuBois says is evidence of a larger trend.

The New Mexico Department of Health gave an update on the state’s vaccination efforts Wednesday, announcing a new call center to help register New Mexicans for the vaccine.

State Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins highlighted the high rate of vaccine administration in New Mexico and stressed the need for providers to report vaccination numbers to the state.

The Las Cruces City Council passed a unanimous resolution to build a park in the Mesa Grande Road neighborhood by next January.

Councilor Gill Sorg has spent the last eight years advocating for a park to be built in the area. Over the last two decades, multiple housing developments have been constructed, and Sorg reports that building a park is on the minds of his constituents.

“This area of the East Mesa hasn't had a park ever for children,” Sorg said “Very far away there's two parks, not at a distance that children up to ten years old could ever go and walk to…This is a park that’s been asked for, for eight years, and I’ve been asking staff to try to find a park.”

The Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted a virtual public briefing to highlight how the Energy Transition Act has shaped New Mexico. 

Signed into law in 2019, The Energy Transition Act set statewide renewable energy goals, established protections for customers in order to reduce cost and ensured financial assistance for areas affected by the closure of coal plants. The ETA sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 for New Mexico investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives.

The Las Cruces City Council passed a resolution in support of city AARP network membership and cemented 2021 legislative priorities during Monday’s meeting.  

The city of Las Cruces is seeking to join the AARP Age-Friendly Network of States and Communities, following a unanimous vote by all present city council members. According to AARP Las Cruces Chapter President Dave Lynch, joining the network will showcase the city’s commitment to building a livable community for residents of all ages.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham updated New Mexicans on pandemic measures Thursday, announcing 852 current COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 48 additional deaths.

All counties in New Mexico are now operating at the most restrictive level of the state’s three-tiered reopening system. Previously, San Miguel County had been in the yellow tier, allowing for looser restrictions surrounding activities like shopping and dining.

“All 33 New Mexico counties are now in the red zone,” Grisham said. “You can see that even in the red people are spreading COVID which means that we had a county, a couple of them as we started this, in the yellow and are no longer in the yellow because what happens in the state creates risk for all of the counties.”

Country Club Estates / Las Cruces

The city of Las Cruces was considering an enormous economic incentive to an out-of-state developer who owns the former Las Cruces County Club property.

But when the deal faced scrutiny, the developer withdrew his proposal.

The incentive would have created the Royal Crossing Tax Increment Development District. An analysis of the proposal was recently presented to the Las Cruces City Council.

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