KRWG

Simon Thompson

Reporter/Producer

Simon Thompson was a reporter/producer for KRWG-TV's Newsmakers from 2014 to 2017.  Encores of his work appear from time to time on KRWG-TV's Newsmakers and KRWG-FM's Fronteras-A Changing America.

Thompson is originally from Australia, where he graduated from Monash University with a B.A in Journalism and Politics.

After graduating, Thompson wrote features and worked as subeditor for a social culture magazine in his hometown of Melbourne.

Thompson came to the United States to travel and embark on a freelance career, sending articles to a string of publications in Australia. After realizing the gravity and extent of crucial issues begging to be covered, Thompson worked to extend his time in the U.S.

Thompson got his start in public media in Indiana at PBS/NPR stations WTIU/WFIU, shooting and producing in depth feature stories for TV and radio.

Thompson chose to come to the southwest during the polar vortex of 2013 – 2014 to report on life in the border region, master Spanish, and get as far away from any future polar vortex as possible.

As an Expat living in the U.S., Thompson has a natural inclination towards immigration issues and has focused his reporting on drug policy, education, and socioeconomic challenges in the region.

 

Dona Ana County Sheriffs Department

Three Dona Ana County Clerk employees were placed under arrest on Monday on charges of fraud, public corruption and identity theft.

It is the second in a series of arrests, following a federal investigation into a identity theft ring operating out of Mexico, that has allegedly been paying off Dona County Clerk employees to fraudulently notarize documents and cash thousands in stolen federal tax refunds.

District Attorney officials says it is one of the largest in investigation involving identity theft in the country.

Simon Thompson

The Las Cruces Police Department has been using body cameras on a limited basis since 2012. An expansion of the program this June will outfit more than half of uniformed offices with the cameras.

In December 2014 Ross Flynn was taken into police custody on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a police officer and resisting or obstructing a police officer.

Cell footage shows Flynn with his arms handcuffed behind his back repeatedly being dragged, kneed and thrown into the cell’s concrete walls and floor by two former Las Cruces police officers.

Simon Thompson

Only twice has a New Mexican ever won the Scripps National Spelling Bee… 

And both times the victory ended up going to Texas.

A lot of New Mexico’s best spellers only get a shot at making the national spelling bee by crossing state lines and competing in a Texas competition.

New Mexico ranking second to last nationally in both reading and writing the trend might spell out a bigger problem for the state education.

Simon Thompson

In 2013, Dona Ana County received $9 million dollars in federal money to pave dirt sections of Dripping Springs and Baylor Canyon roads all the way up to the Organ Mountains. But some residents remain divided over the plans just months before the work is scheduled to begin.

Simon Thompson

Area residents are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.  But some are concerned about how the surrounding area will be managed. 16 acres of land at the base of Tortugas Mountain is at the center of a long-running dispute.  The landowners are pushing for commercial zoning that could pave the way for retail businesses like fast-food restaurants.

Native Las Crucen Meg Freÿermuth is a professional artist who paints abstract, color drenched portraits of natural landscapes mainly around Las Cruces and Dona Ana County.

Dripping Springs Road near Las Cruces

  Should the two roads leading up to the Organ Mountains be fully paved?  That is a question that has put a monumental divide between many Dona Ana County residents.

In 2013, Dona Ana County applied for federal money to pay for the proposed road enhancements with the intention of improving public and tourist access to the Organ Mountains and public lands.

In a Tuesday night meeting at the Farm and Ranch Museum County residents got a chance to discuss the proposal.

Simon Thompson

Owners of a parcel of land at the base of Tortugas mountain or ‘A’ Mountain near Las Cruces have been pushing for a commercial zoning that could pave the way for a shopping mall on the site.

But in meeting on Wednesday night the Extra Territorial Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend industrial zoning.  This is consistent with the current land use in the area, where mining companies have been located for years.

Simon Thompson

As part of a locally negotiated contract teachers in the Las Cruces Public Schools could take ten sick days and two personal days before absences started to count against their teacher performance evaluations.

The Public Education department says that the number of days teachers can take without being penalized should be no more than two days and they recently threatened to take over the Las Cruces Public School district if the district did not comply.

Hugo Perez

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers…better known as the PARCC test…has been billed by the New Mexico public education department as latest and greatest in public school testing.  Officials say the test increases standards and will improve college and career readiness.  But some educators say the increased focus on standardized testing might be having the opposite effect.

Simon Thompson

A Michigan State University study says attending a bilingual school may improve reading and math test scores of native English speakers. Research also shows bilingual programs benefit those learning English as a second language.

Despite the benefits the state education department says only 17% of all New Mexico students are in bilingual education and districts are doing what they can to get more students into the bilingual programs. 

 

Teachers in the Las Cruces Public Schools receive ten sick days and two personal days as part of their contract.  But the state education department says those days should be included as absences on performance evaluations.   The Las Cruces School Board only wanted to provide the state with absence data that did NOT include the personal and sick days.  But some school board members appear ready to bow to pressure after Education Secretary Hanna Skandera threatened to take over the district.

Simon Thompson

Mega drought, climate change or a combination of the two scientists and climate change skeptics may not see eye to eye on what’s behind dryer weather and increasingly scarce water supplies in New Mexico but many agree on the need to dramatically improve water management. 

Simon Thompson

In June of 2013, a small New Mexico village ran out of water.  Magdalena is home to about a thousand people in the central part of the state. Hydrologists regard the village as a canary in the coal mine; a taste of what the future could hold for New Mexico if rising temperatures and scarce water supplies aren’t managed for the future. Almost two years Magdalena’s recovery is shaping the state’s ground water policy. 

Simon Thompson

According to New Mexico State University New Mexico dairies generate one hundred eighty million dollars in economic impact annually in Dona Ana County alone. But that might be coming at the expense of some communities scarce ground water resources.  

While a number of dairies in Dona Ana County will tasked with new ground water monitoring requirements- County residents are concerned they won’t go far enough to protect their drinking water. 

Simon Thompson

Economic development projects throughout New Mexico and Dona Ana County- prioritize job creation- That’s usually done by convincing out of state companies to move in, set up and bring jobs with them. But that might be putting the horse before the cart. Companies operating in the region say they can’t find enough capable workers. Simon Thompson went to a Job to Career Readiness Boot Camp to report on what is being done to improve the quality of Dona Ana County’s workforce.   

Simon Thompson

 

It has almost been a year  since President Obama designated the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. In the lead up to the anniversary community groups have been working on projects to promote the site. Economists say these projects are key to the monument generating the projected 7.4 million dollars economic activity every year.

About 50 volunteers armed with shovels, rakes and wheel barrels met up at the foot of the Organ mountains for a working day in the weekend sunshine.

Simon Thompson

On January 1st of this year Las Cruces minimum wage workers saw a wage increase from $7.50 an hour to $8.40, At least they were supposed to.

Amber Care is an in home personal care provider for the elderly and disabled. Though the business is registered in Las Cruces, Amber Care has been withholding the full minimum wage from employees serving clients outside the city limits.  Instead of receiving $8.40 an hour they have only been getting $8 dollars.

Simon Thompson

New Mexico has been in a sustained drought since 2002 far longer than experts predicted.  And scientists from NASA, Cornell and Columbia University are warning if climate change continues the way it has the drought may get a lot worse.  As Simon Thompson reports some water experts say New Mexico is trailing far behind other southwestern states in developing strategies for sustained growth and water access.

Simon Thompson

Nearly one thousand Las Cruces students staged a walkout Monday protesting the increasing number and intensity of high stakes tests. They say an overemphasis on testing is ruining their education.

Students at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces walked out to protest a new standardized test being administered throughout New Mexico.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as the PARCC test.

About 100 students walked out at Mayfield. And 950 throughout the Las Cruces Public Schools.

Simon Thompson

Many Las Cruces students staged a walkout Monday protesting the increasing number and intensity of high stakes tests. They say an overemphasis on testing is ruining their education.

Students at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces walked out to protest a new standardized test being administered throughout New Mexico:  the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as the PARCC test.

About 100 students walked out at Mayfield.

Simon Thompson

According to MIT, mid-size companies, that’s businesses with 10 to 99 employees, generate 35% of jobs nationally.  And these companies are better at creating middle class jobs in high-skilled areas. New Mexico economic initiatives are not focused on supporting the growth of these companies.

Simon Thompson

Creating jobs and generating development in New Mexico has largely been approached by giving business incentives and tax exemptions. But some economists say those tools don’t offer a guaranteed return on investment.  Some lawmakers are proposing an end to wasteful programs with a way to evaluate incentives.

MVEDA; The Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance has what is called an economic base approach to generating jobs and economic growth. Davin Lopez is the CEO of the Alliance.  

Simon Thompson

In the November midterms, voter turnout in New Mexico and Texas was just below the national average of less than 37 percent, the lowest it’s been in the U.S in 72 years. 

It’s led many analysts to question the U.S. political system’s capacity to represent its people. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance ranks the U.S. 120th for voter turnout internationally.

The countries at the top of the list like Belgium, Singapore and Australia, which is number 1, all have compulsory voting policies. 

Simon Thompson

Las Cruces is finalizing its arroyo management plan and the city council could vote on it in the coming months.  Despite almost a decade of delay some property developers say more research and discussion is needed.

It doesn’t rain often in Las Cruces but when it does it can really pour

Lupe Archuleta has lived in Las Cruces for 35 years, she says she had no idea how the nearby arroyo could damage her East Mesa home until a major downpour years after she moved in.

Simon Thompson

Southern New Mexico and West Texas surface water levels are just slightly above hundred-year lows.   Meantime legislation that funds regional water conservation research and development is about to expire.

Elephant Butte, the area’s major reservoir is at low levels in the fall, it was less than ten percent full.

Simon Thompson

Every day 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide. The recent murder-suicide that took two lives at Fort Bliss is raising questions about the VA’s ability to manage ongoing mental health issues facing returning soldiers Simon Thompson reports.

Sierra Club NM

As many as 150 demonstrations, in 50 states protested House approval of the Keystone XL pipeline last week.  For many, even in states like New Mexico far from the pipeline route the debate represents a broader question over the future of energy generation in the US. 

Simon Thompson

Krazy Kathy Korte, that is what some are calling the Albuquerque mother and outspoken critic of education policies developed by the Martinez administration.

Korte’s advocacy group Stand4kids New Mexico has put education at the center of the November election. But a Republican lawmaker has filed a complaint against the group’s conduct with the Secretary of State.

Kathy Korte was elected to the Albuquerque Public School board, right after Susana Martinez became governor and began her campaign to overhaul public education.  

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