This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.
‘Ari & Dante’ Premiere in Toronto: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” a movie based on the novel by celebrated El Paso author Benjamin Alire Sáenz, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall. Writer and director Aitch Alberto adapted the book for the movie, which is being produced by actor/playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. Eugenio Derbez and Eva Longoria star in the film, alongside newcomers Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzalez as Ari and Dante. Named among Time Magazine’s 100 Best Young Adult Novels of All Time, “Aristotle and Dante” is set in El Paso in the 1980s. It tells the story of two gay Mexican American teen boys who forge a friendship and fall in love. One of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, the TIFF will be held in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 8-18. “After the premiere at the festival, we will have news as to when Ari & Dante will be released in theaters,” Sáenz posted on Instagram, adding that he hopes it shows at the Plaza Theatre in Downtown El Paso.
County Tax Rate: The El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday approved publishing a proposed tax rate that would need voter approval as it is 10% higher than this year’s tax rate once increased property valuations are taken into account. However, the voter approval rate of 46 cents per $100 valuation is solely for publication purposes, as the county judge and chief administrator said as the county is working to adopt the lower rate of 42 cents – the no new revenue tax rate. The reason for publicly announcing the higher rate is so that the court can have flexibility in adopting a tax rate after budget hearings. The court can adopt a rate lower than what it publishes, but not a higher one. Still, the vote to proceed with publishing the higher rate was 3-to-1 as Commissioner Iliana Holguin encouraged the court to adopt the lower rate and put local taxpayers – who are facing higher property tax bills from other entities – at ease. Commissioner Carl Robinson was not at the meeting. A public hearing on the tax rate will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 22. The tax rate is expected to be adopted in September.
Million Dollar Fine Dispute to Continue: El Paso Water and the New Mexico Environment Department will continue their dispute over a $1.2 million fine through an administrative process, but an attorney for the utility warned a lawsuit was also likely. “I think the commission should be aware that there will likely be a court action simultaneously in this proceeding because of the jurisdiction issues,” said Thomas Hnasko, a Santa Fe-based environmental attorney representing El Paso Water. Attorney’s for El Paso Water argued in briefs that New Mexico environment officials have no power to fine the utility over the decision to divert more than 1.1 billion gallons of sewage into the Rio Grande after pipes burst last August. The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, which is the pollution control agency for the state, heard arguments from both sides, and agreed to schedule a hearing at a future meeting.
And Now, The Weather: It was hotter and drier than a typical July in the Sun City – a fingerprint of climate change. Summer 2022 scorched Texas, and July was the hottest on record for the state since 1895, according to the National Weather Service. Much of the record-breaking temperatures occurred in Central Texas, but El Paso had a string of triple-digit days. Extreme events like these are more likely because of climate change, said Andrew Pershing, the director for climate science at Climate Central, a nonprofit that tracks climate data. “I mean this summer is just bonkers, it’s really really crazy,” Pershing said. Daytime temperatures in El Paso were about 2.4 degrees hotter on average “normal” which is 94.7, and a ridge of pressure interrupted the seasonal monsoon cycle, pushing storms over Arizona instead. Missing out on monsoon moisture puts more stress on the environment, and farmers looking for moisture to supplement this year’s short irrigation season. Jesús “Chuy” Reyes, manager for El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, said the river was expected to stop running through El Paso on Aug. 24, wrapping up 12 weeks of irrigation.