Simon Thompson

Reporter/Producer

Simon Thompson is a reporter/producer for KRWG-TV's Newsmakers.  You can also hear his reports on KRWG-FM.  

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.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimoThom  for story updates and news, or send him story ideas at simothom@nmsu.edu
 

Simon Thompson

Late last week the Labor Federation of New Mexico began a bus tour across the state to rally support .
KRWG was there for their first stop in Las Cruces.

This year’s New Mexico legislative session saw a lot of bills affecting workers and unions. Like the right to work, which would have allowed employees to get the benefits of union-negotiated contracts without having to pay union dues. Pre-emption laws, legislation that would stop cities and counties from enacting local labor laws, like raising the minimum wage. But none of it passed.

One of the world’s best-known reporters covering drug cartel violence recently visited our region to discuss the state of the war on drugs.

Ioan Grillo is a freelance reporter with bylines in the New York Times, Reuters, and CNN as well as two books on the drug trade in Latin America. In covering the issue throughout El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico Grillo has documented distinct similarities that allow organized crime to flourish:  A lack of civil society and marginal infrastructure and opportunity.

Courtesy: GAFTC Holloman

For more than 20 years, a U-S Air Force Base in New Mexico has been home to Germany’s largest military installation on foreign soil. The German Air Force Flight Training Center has meant millions of dollars to the U-S government, and to the community of Alamogordo.

But now the Germans are about to pack up and leave.

KRWG

Nearly one quarter of the nation’s undergraduates are the first in their families to go to college, but most of that group will not graduate within six years. Researchers say cultural pressures might be to blame.

Jose Escobedo was the first American citizen in his family. His parents came to the El Paso, Texas from Chihuahua, Mexico before he was born. Growing up, working alongside his parents on ranches, Escobedo says he never considered college as an option.

Chiuahaha Governor Horacio Duarte Jaquez, Senator Tom Udall and Governor Susana Martinez celebrate the opening of the Union Pacific Inter-modal facility in Santa Teresa Credit Simon Thompson Edit | Remove

Simon Thompson

There are only 1411 liquor licenses in New Mexico and the limited supply means selling liquor can be financially impossible for small businesses.

New Mexico licenses can sell for anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million. Compare that to Colorado where liquor licenses are about $2500.00.

With a big farmers market, the Rio Grande theatre and a soon to be completed plaza, Las Cruces is trying to revitalize its downtown.  Main Street Bistro owner manager Nick Ray said business is looking good.  But even when the plaza is completed Ray said there may still be something missing.

Lobbyists and their clients provided about $750,000 in campaign contributions to New Mexico lawmakers, Gov. Susana Martinez and others in months leading up to this year's legislative session.

The contributions are in addition to nearly $90,000 spent by lobbyists since last spring for food, drinks, gifts and entertainment for lawmakers and other state officials.

The disclosures filed last week with the secretary of state's office cover contributions and spending from May through Jan. 15.

Simon Thompson

A recent study by the Urban Institute found cities reap significant economic benefits when eligible residents become naturalized US citizens.  But each year, only 10% of those eligible do so.

108 about to be US citizens from all over the world gathered at the Las Cruces convention center taking an oath of loyalty as part of a ceremony to become a US citizen.

Raksmey Chan came to the US from Cambodia 3 years ago to live with her husband and son in Artesia, New Mexico.

“It is great! I am happy to be one of the people, to be an American citizen.” Chan said. 

Our Water Future

Dec 31, 2015
KRWG
Simon Thompson

Homelessness is a devastating experience for families.  It affects the physical and emotional health of family members and interferes with virtually every aspect of childhood, including the magic of Christmas.

Christmas may have came early for the kids at the La Posada women’s shelter in El Paso.

Office of the Governor

FORT STANTON, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has dedicated the new $5.7 million Veterans Cemetery in Fort Stanton that's expected to be completed in 2017.

The cemetery is the first of four proposed by Martinez for veterans who live in rural areas throughout the state.

The federal grant to establish the cemetery in Fort Stanton followed the $600,000 in initial funding the governor secured in the 2014 capital outplay bill.

The money will be used to plan, design and construct the Fort Stanton Veterans Cemetery and others in Angel Fire, Carlsbad and Gallup.

Simon Thompson

Spirits were high at Mayor Ken Miyagiashima's election party at restaurant Los Compas in Las Cruces.  

Incumbent Miyagishima  celebrated beating out challengers Miguel Silva and Eugenia Montoya Ortega with his supporters. According to unofficial city counts, Miyagishima received 51% of the vote.

Miyagishima says he plans to use his third term as mayor to continue economic development and infrastructure projects in the city.

The Las Cruces municipal election marked a shift in the Las Cruces political climate . Significant amounts of money were spent by groups from outside the city.

It took the form of persistent robo calls and hard hitting mailers attacking candidates. Most of it was aimed at discrediting Mayor Ken Miyagishima who won re-election.

“I am glad that the residents believed in me and didn’t believe all that information that was being floated out there” Miyagishima said.

Miyagishima says they were the most aggressive attacks he has seen in any recent Las Cruces election.

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

It has become a staple of the New Mexico news cycle; companies creating new jobs using state economic development incentives. But how often do you hear about these same companies going out of business? According to Gallup more than 50% of new companies in the U.S. close within 5 years. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed an attempt by the legislature to bring accountability to state incentive programs.

Courtesy: MVEDA

In economically depressed New Mexico, job creation is a top priority for voters and politicians alike. To address the issue, the Martinez administration has increasingly used incentive programs. But studies from Ohio State University, Washington University and other institutions show incentives have little to no effect on long term job creation and are routinely given to companies that would have expanded in the area anyway.

Global Trade Magazine

The city of Las Cruces has announced it’s been named among the best cities for global trade by a national magazine. 

Las Cruces received the ranking by Global Trade magazine following a 210 percent boost in regional export growth last year .  The designation also cited investments in the city from foreign and out of state companies.

Las Cruces economic development coordinator Gary Camarano says though Las Cruces has long held a geographical edge when it comes to international trade it is only just beginning to be recognized. 

Joe Widmer (KRWG)

The presidential election has put the focus on the US-Mexico border security and curbing illegal immigration.

As Simon Thompson reports that has some concerned what this political posturing is going to mean for the quality of life in border communities.

In the Unites States Of America the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from random and arbitrary stops and searches.

University of Kentucky

There are as many as 25,000 uses for hemp: Super foods, clothing and cosmetics-
According to industry studies.. Hemp retail products generate as much as $500 million dollars in the US every year. For New Mexico the low water use crop is a chance to maximize profit from scarce water supplies. But hemp’s ill-founded association with marijuana may have derailed New Mexico farmers’ hopes of capitalizing on the emerging hemp market.

Ramon Alvarez worked alongside his father on the family's farm in La Union New Mexico during the brutal drought of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Michael Vadon

Some political analysts say to win the 2016 Presidential election Republicans must do a better job reaching Latinos, millennials and women. Some New Mexico Republicans are worried about another challenge, they’re concerned Donald Trump’s candidacy is compromising the party’s appeal.

Let’s quantify the challenge the Republican party is facing in the upcoming election. According to 2015 Pew Research Center data.

51% of millennials lean Democratic just 35% support Republicans.

When it comes to women: 52% Democratic to 36% Republican.

Simon Thompson

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality New Mexico teachers are among the most poorly paid in the nation.  Starting pay in the Las Cruces district is already ten thousand dollars less than the El Paso Independent Schools.  But it appears pay in Las Cruces will be cut even further due to a budget crisis.

The budget shortfall this year in Las Cruces Public Schools was 7.6 million dollars.  To deal with the crisis the district instituted a hiring freeze, cut the number of assistant principals and even reduced the number of bus stops.  

(Flickr)

19 states and Washington D-C have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the country there’s an effort to expand these policies. 

Marijuana comprises more than half of all Texas drug arrests and 97% of those were for possession of 2 ounces or less.  An ounce makes about 60 marijuana cigarettes.

El Paso Police chief Greg Allen says those statistics hold true in El Paso. He says those arrested for marijuana possession usually have no prior drug convictions or criminal offenses.

Simon Thompson

In the last 15 years every state in the country has seen a decline in the middle class. That’s according to a Pew Charitable trust study based on Census Bureau.  New Mexico and a number of other states saw about a five percent decline in middle class households.  Only Wisconsin did worse with a decline of about six percent.

The recession left a trail of foreclosure, debt and unemployment. 

 

As part of a locally negotiated contract, teachers in the Las Cruces Public Schools are allowed ten sick days and two personal days. But following pressure from the New Mexico Public Education Department- during the last school year. Las Cruces teachers were marked down on their evaluations for taking any more than two days off.   One Las Cruces teacher recently told the school board how this policy affected her evaluation. 

Simon Thompson

The nation’s best Spanish spellers from all over the nation flocked to Albuquerque over the weekend to compete in the national Spanish Spelling Bee. New Mexico has dominated the national competition every year since it began. But that is no coincidence, while the national event has only been going for 5 years the Gadsden Independent School District has been holding Spanish spelling bees for more than two decades.

Santa Teresa Middle School 8th grader Andres Arreola won this years competition, defending his 2014 title.

Simon Thompson

The nation’s best Spanish spellers flocked to Albuquerque over the weekend to compete in the national Spanish Spelling Bee. For the fourth year in a row, a southern New Mexican took home the title. 

Santa Teresa Middle School 8th grader Andres Arreola won this years competition, defending his 2014 title.

“I feel so good winning because it is something that you wish and wish for and then you know you got it. It feels so good!” said Arreola.

Simon Thompson

In 2013, Dona Ana County received $9 million dollars in federal money to pave Baylor Canyon road and the unpaved sections of Dripping Springs Road.  But some county residents fought the project and the county commission only approved paving for Dripping Springs Road.

A study commissioned by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce said the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument should generate an additional 7.4 million dollars in tourism every year. 

  

Café or Communities in Action and Faith says it has received more than 100 reports of companies not paying the full Las Cruces minimum wage. But the lack of enforcement on a city level means those wage violation claims are not being addressed.

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.

Pages