This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.

Federal Judge’s Courthouse Portrait On Display: The official portrait of the late U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez will be unveiled today, Friday, at 3 p.m. at the Albert Armendariz, Sr. U.S. Courthouse, 525 Magoffin Ave. The ceremony will occur on the second floor. The portrait will eventually be placed on the first floor, alongside the other judges. Martinez spent 19 years on the federal bench before he died last year. Martinez, 63, grew up in El Paso and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and his law degree from Harvard University. He served as an elected county and state district judge in El Paso from 1991 to 2002. He was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the Senate in 2002.

Texas Constitutional Election Early Voting: The early voting period for the May 7 Texas constitutional election runs from Monday through Tuesday, May 3. Voters will be asked to approve two constitutional amendments that the Texas Legislature passed during its 2021 special sessions. The first amendment would reduce property taxes that Texans over age 65 and those who are disabled pay to public school districts starting in 2023. The second amendment would raise the residential homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000, effective immediately. Early voting locations and hours are listed on the El Paso County Elections Department website. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot for this election is April 26.

City May Decrease Property Tax Rate: The agenda for Tuesday’s El Paso City Council meeting includes an item calling for “the City Manager to develop a Fiscal Year 2023 Budget that includes a decrease in the overall property tax rate to minimize the financial impact on taxpayers and continue to execute the City’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.” The agenda item is vague, but it’s an indication of the challenge the council will face in developing a budget. Because of the substantial increase in property valuations this year, the city government will be required by state law to greatly reduce the tax rate from the prior year. That will protect homeowners from large increases in their property tax bill, but rental properties — and renters — don’t have protections and could be facing tax increases of 20% or more, an El Paso Matters analysis showed. Taxpayers’ financial well-being has been greatly disrupted by rising prices across the board, making them more sensitive than usual to tax increases. But the rising prices are also raising costs for services provided by the city. So city leaders will have to decide how to balance the pain inflicted on taxpayers and ongoing concerns about issues like road quality and public safety.

SISD Town Hall Meeting: Nate Carman, the new Socorro Independent School District superintendent, will have his second town hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Americas High School in the cafeteria. Carman’s presentation on the future of the district will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a community discussion.  Carman was hired last month. His first town hall meeting was at Socorro High School on April 21.

Surgeries Resume At Army Hospital: William Beaumont Army Medical Center resumed trauma care and elective surgeries this week, which had been on hold since April 7, after engineers determined a valve failure in the water softening system had contaminated the hospital’s water supply. The valve failure introduced brine (salty water) into the system, which corroded pipes, discoloring the water and contaminating it with sediment. The hospital will remain under a water advisory until the system is flushed to remove any remaining debris from the pipes and the water is tested to ensure it’s safe to use.

Ramon Bracamontes

Ramon Bracamontes is editor of El Paso Matters. He may be reached at ramonb@elpasomatters.org.