The Spitz Report

Interviews by Stephen Spitz, broadcast on New Mexico NPR affiliate KUNM.

Albuquerque police have shot and killed nearly 30 mostly unarmed citizens since 2010.  With each killing, concern and protests grew.

Then, on March 16,2014 the police shot and killed James Boyd, a mentally ill, homeless man, who had been illegally camping in the Sandia foothills. Unlike prior shootings, video footage taken by a police lapel camera was available and appeared to show that Mr. Boyd had been needlessly shot in the back while surrendering. The video immediately went viral and mass demonstrations ensued with the chant: “They say ‘justified’! We say ‘homicide’!”  

Then the Department of Justice, which had been investigating the APD for nearly 2 years, issued a comprehensive report finding that the APD had a practice of violating a suspect’s civil rights through the unjustified use of lethal force. This report fueled further demonstrations including at the city council chambers and Mayor’s office where only one protester, our guest, was arrested and charged with a felony. And, in truth our guest, UNM professor David Corriea has been among the most prominent critics of the APD but has declined interviews with the mainstream media. So please join host Stephen Spitz for this exclusive interview with one of the leading critics of the APD. Produced with the assistance of Jefferson White

The National Climate Assessment is out and, no surprise here, the US is still headed for disaster without major policy changes: “Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer while winters are generally shorter and warmer.”

Significantly, conditions in the Southwest, including New Mexico, are expected to progressively worsen. But what exactly does this mean and what’s now happening with alternative energy sources? Two Los Alamos Laboratory scientists have been studying these very questions and join host Stephen Spitz with the answers.

Dr. Nate McDowell is the lead experimenter on how drought and a warmer climate affect plants, particularly trees native to New Mexico. We know intense heat and lack of water kills trees, but which ones die first, how long does this take, and what is the expected impact on all plant life? Dr. Jose Olivares is an expert on algae (pond scum) and will explain how algae’s use as a renewable transportation fuel can lower the climate change curve. Produced with the assistance of Jefferson White.

Politics and process inside New Mexico’s “Roundhouse” are notoriously complex with legislative success dependent on personal connections, the power of lobbyists, and basic deal making. 

Our guest, former progressive Senator Dede Feldman, gives us an insider’s account of what goes on behind closed doors. Feldman’s book, Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens, details, among other things, the coup against Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, her battles to restrict fireworks sales and drug prices, and her perennial fights for ethics reform and open government.

For example, if you are interested in how corrupt the New Mexico legislative process really is, be sure to join host Stephen Spitz and special guest Dede Feldman, as we go inside the New Mexico Senate.  Produced with the assistance of Jefferson White.

The Albuquerque post-recession recovery remains one of the worst in the nation with employment continuing to decline.  The cause appears to be major cutbacks in Federal and State spending.

There are, however, two rays of hope: 1) Innovate Albuquerque – a plan to establish a research district based out of the old First Baptist Church complex at Central and Broadway. The goal is to create an incubator where start-up companies, researchers, students and entrepreneurs are all housed together, spurring creativity and innovation, and 2) A $100,000 “Living Cities,” planning grant from a collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest charitable foundations and financial institutions.

Communities across the country applied, but ABQ was one of only five cities selected. According to Abq Mayor Berry, the “Living Cities” selection is an endorsement of local efforts to bring a “bus rapid transit” system to Central Avenue, revitalize Downtown and improve economic development through UNM’s “Innovate ABQ”, and entitles the city to millions in grants.

But will these plans work? Joining host Stephen Spitz are Abq Mayor Richard Berry, Gary Oppedahl, a serial entrepreneur and Director of the City’s Economic Development Department, and Robin Brule, the new coordinator of the Living Cities effort.  Produced with the assistance of Jeff White.

UNM Professor David Correria joins us to discuss his recent article,  “The Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of: The Kirtland Air Force Jet Fuel Spill”. Here is what he has uncovered: Somewhere between 8-24,000,000 gallons of aviation gas and jet fuel has leaked from Kirtland Air Force Base fuel tanks resulting in a toxic plume 1,000 feet wide, and more than a mile long, moving northeast from the Base and headed directly for Albuquerque’s municipal water wells and the Ridgecrest neighborhood. Unlike the crude oil in the Exxon Valdez disaster of  “only” 12,000,000 gallons, the leaked gas contains a very serious threat to human health: ethylene dibromide or EDB. Every gallon of this aviation gas has enough EDB to contaminate millions of gallons of drinking water.  The EPA considers no amount of EDB in drinking water safe for human health; however, KAFB’s plume-monitoring wells have found dangerous EDB concentrations in shallow wells on the Base at concentrations of 240,000 ppt. Nevertheless, in the 40+ years since this gas began leaking, almost no remediation has occurred. Please join host Stephen Spitz and Dr. David Correria to learn more about how and why so little has been done and why this spill has attracted so little attention. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green

Our guest this month Marilyn Mason. Dr. Mason is an internationally recognized consultant and speaker on leadership and coaching. She has conducted numerous seminars and made frequent radio-TV appearances including five on the Oprah Winfrey show alone. Her latest book, Becoming a Genuine Leader, explains how shame and vulnerability affect the way we interact with others and why some work environments are so toxic. The central thesis of the book is that some of our “first families” have left us with scars that cover up our shame for not measuring up to our parents’ demands. We explore with Dr. Mason how one can face that shame in order to change the present. So please join host Stephen Spitz for a discussion of how to change and manage challenging relationships. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green

Last month we concentrated on how politics and the 2014 election season would influence the Legislature. This month we focus on individual budget items along with specific legislation such as a proposed a Constitutional Amendment which would distribute 1% of New Mexico’s $12 billion Permanent Fund to early childhood programs, retention of 3rd Graders not reading at grade level, the shortfall in lottery fund scholarship monies, funding for K – 12 education, and repealing drivers licenses for “illegal” immigrants. So please join host Stephen Spitz as we explore what will and will not pass this Legislative session. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green

Our 30-day legislative session is next month and politics is already taking center stage.  New Mexico has divided government with a Republican Governor, Democrats holding a very slim (and getting slimmer) majority in both our House and Senate. In the Senate, Democrats are lead by a coalition of 6 Senators, who often side with the Governor. Under our Constitution a 30-day session must focus on the budget; however Governor Martinez’s first three budgets have been very close to the figures put forward by the conservative Senate Democrats who also dominate the Legislative Finance Committee. Assuming this trend continues, any real action will be in other areas. Thus, apart from the budget, what legislation will (or should) be considered and what impact will New Mexico’s November 2014 have?  To analyze this, we will be joined by one of the foremost political experts in New Mexico, former Lt Governor Diane Denish. So please join host Stephen Spitz as we explore what will and will not pass this Legislative session. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green

Will the poor always be with us?   Albuquerque based Scott Miller, of Circles USA (formerly, “Move the Mountain”), says no, and believes we can totally end poverty by simply focusing on one person at a time. Absurd, you might say, but Miller counters that this reaction is one reason the US has had so little success in alleviating poverty. We (meaning anti-poverty programs and people in and out of poverty) have “normalized” and accepted poverty instead of working to eradicate it. Instead what Circles does is associate low-income people (called circle leaders) with a community organization, which in turn builds a coalition of private, and public service groups.  These groups then target each circle leaders’ specific needs and issues. To do this, 25 circle leaders are each paired with 2-4 middle-income volunteers who support that leaders’ efforts, conduct weekly meetings with all 25 circle leaders, and link circle families to education, training and jobs. Can such a program actually lift people out of poverty? Miller says yes and that he has proof.  Please join host Stephen Spitz and Circles founder Scott Miller to learn more about the program and what the results have been. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green.

Saturday Night Live’s Jack Handey talks about his “Deep Thoughts”

Today’s guest is the most famous comedian you have never seen and didn’t even believe existed. His name is Jack Handey (yes that’s his real name), and the name is undoubtedly familiar to fans of Saturday Night Live. Jack Handey, a long time resident of Santa Fe, is the person responsible for SNL’s consistently hilarious series,  “Deep Thoughts”, along with many other sketches. On SNL Deep Thoughts was an interstitial segment between sketches that was introduced by Phil Hartman and read live by Handey (neither actually appeared on screen). Handey’s one-liners proved to be extremely popular. Hartman would intone “And now, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey…” and peaceful easy listening music would play while the screen showed soothing pastoral scenes, much like a New Age relaxation video. Handey would then read the Deep Thought as the text scrolled across the screen. Now Handey has written his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure. The plot is not complicated, a search for treasure in Hawaii, but the humor will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoyed Deep Thoughts. Please join host Stephen Spitz and Jack Handey as we learn how Handey got into comedy and what makes comedians and jokes “funny”. Produced with the assistance of Joe Green