This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.
Best Audio Book Grammy Nomination: The audiobook version of “Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World,” the young adult novel by El Paso’s Benjamin Alire Sáenz, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Audio Book, Narration and Storytelling Recording category. The audiobook is voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the songwriter-actor-playwright-filmmaker. The Grammy Award nominees were unveiled Tuesday and the winners will be announced Feb. 5. The competition in the category spans generations of artists: Mel Brooks, Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis and Questlove.
School Boards Differ on Vacancy Approach: The El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously decided Tuesday to leave the District 6 seat vacant until it’s filled in the May 2023 election. The seat, which represents campuses in the Franklin High School feeder pattern, has been empty since Freddy Klayel Avalos abruptly resigned in mid-October. The District 6 seat will be one of three up for election; candidate filing opens in January. The Canutillo Independent School District Board of Trustees, also on Tuesday, decided to fill Trustee Sergio Coronado’s soon-to-be vacancy by appointing a replacement. That process can’t begin until Coronado resigns, which he must do by Dec. 31, to take the El Paso County Commissioner seat he won on Nov. 8. Those interested in serving the remainder of his term — which runs through November 2024 — will apply and be interviewed by the board. Trustees Blanca Trout and Breanne Barnes voted against going with the appointment process.
City Opposes $18 million Gas Rate Increase: The city of El Paso is opposing Texas Gas Service’s proposed rate increase that could result in an $18 million increase for El Paso residents and other West Texas ratepayers. El Paso City Attorney Karla Nieman, in a statement, said the city is opposed to the increase because “about 90 percent of the proposed increase by Texas Gas is billed to El Paso residents.” Texas Gas filed a rate increase application with the Texas Railroad Commission on June 30. According to the gas company’s proposal, the average gas bill for residential customers in El Paso could increase anywhere from $4.39 to $7.01 a month. The city will host a public hearing on the rate proposal during its regular City Council meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 300 N. Campbell St. Texas Gas Service representatives have been asked to attend the hearing, according to the city’s statement.
El Paso Under RSV Public Health Advisory: The El Paso Department of Public Health has issued a public health advisory on the dangers of respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. El Paso hospitals reported 687 RSV visits and admissions in October, a case surge seen much earlier in the year than usual. RSV spreads through respiratory droplets from infected persons, which can survive for hours on hard surfaces. In most cases it causes cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, fever and cough, but doctors warn that young infants born prematurely or with certain medical conditions are at highest risk for severe illness. People should seek immediate medical attention if their baby is having difficulty breathing or their chest is retracting around the ribs. People should not bring their child to the hospital if they only have a cold because they could infect more vulnerable patients. It is possible to be infected with RSV at the same time as COVID-19 or influenza.
EPISD Administrator Remains in Custody: Steve Clay, a longtime El Paso Independent School District administrator, will remain detained pending trial, a federal judge ruled Thursday. Clay was arrested Nov. 10 on federal kidnapping and sex charges, which he pleaded not guilty to at a detention hearing Thursday, according to court records. The EPISD Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted to proceed with Clay’s termination. The district has not put him on administrative leave.