ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than a year after their 12-year-old daughter’s death, the parents of Eliza Almuina are pleading with city councilors to make Albuquerque’s roads safer.
Speaking to councilors at a city council committee hearing Wednesday, Eliza’s parents Michael Gonzales and Jennie Aguirre shared vocal support for proposed changes to a city ordinance that could revamp how the city considers future road projects.
“I don’t want any other family in Albuquerque to go through the pain we’ve gone through,” Gonzales said. Gonzales and Aguirre’s daughter Eliza was killed in March 2018 after being hit by a car outside of Cleveland Middle School.
Albuquerque Police say Almuina was hit as she and a friend used a crosswalk in front of the school, crossing Louisiana Boulevard. The driver told police he didn’t see the girl in the crossing. He’s since been charged with careless driving.
“How many more fatalities do we … do we need here in our city to make a change?” Aguirre asked at the Wednesday council committee meeting.
“I know that we can make a change in our city… to make everyone safe,” Aguirre said.
The change up for city council’s consideration would make significant adjustments to the city’s existing “Complete Streets Ordinance.” The current version of the ordinance pushes the city to consider all modes of transit (cars, pedestrians, bicycles, etc.) before moving forward with road projects.
City councilors are now considering additional language for the ordinance that could force the city to study and prioritize road projects in low to moderate income communities, and communities with high populations of elderly and disabled individuals.
City staff who worked on the revised ordinance say it is common to see people in those communities walking and biking more often, as opposed to using a car. “We need to make these streets safer for our kids, not only our kids, but everyone that lives in the city for whether it’s a cyclist, you know, people walking jogging,” said Gonzales.
Eliza’s family said Wednesday they support the change, saying Eliza’s death has changed their family’s lives in Albuquerque. “After our daughter was killed, we don’t let our boys walk to a park that’s maybe a quarter-mile away,” said Gonzales. Their story resonated with councilors.
“How powerful it is to know that .. your daughter did not die in vain,” said City Councilor Ken Sanchez.
“We’re going to do what we can to prevent that happening to future folks,” said City Councilor Isaac Benton.
The proposed revamp of the Complete Streets ordinance also calls for a public process where people can comment on the city’s plan for what road projects are done next, which is something that doesn’t currently exist. Typically, city road projects are decided solely amongst city councilors, the mayor and employees in the Department of Municipal Development, but there is no formalized process.
Mayor Keller has already said he supports the ordinance. If it passes, the city’s new rules would likely go into play next year.