Downtown stop sign removal sparks mayor, city council power battle


A recent removal of some downtown stop signs has an Albuquerque city councilor pushing back against the mayor’s administration. 

Councilor Isaac Benton says he’s concerned Mayor Keller’s administration is overstepping its authority with traffic projects. 

The councilor is now proposing two new pieces of legislation aimed at reasserting the council’s policy and lawmaking power. 

The inciting downtown change happened in late April, when Mayor Keller’s Municipal Development Department reactivated several traffic signals at downtown intersections along Lead, Coal and Roma avenues. 

For more than a year, those intersections were controlled by stop signs for all four directions of traffic. 

“I was given no warning what-so-ever,” said Benton of the stop sign removal. 

“Why would we do this all over again, just because there’s a new mayor? That’s not OK,” said Benton. 

Understanding the history of the stop signs goes back to 2014. Back then, Benton paid for an urban planner, Jeff Speck, “to review downtown Albuquerque and suggest ideas to make the area more ‘walkable,” or more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. 

One of the suggestions in Speck’s report was to remove traffic signals at several downtown intersections.  

“Small investments in the streets, that’s something the city can… we can really do,” said Benton at the time of the Speck report’s initial release in August 2014. 

After the Speck study of downtown Albuquerque was published in September 2014, Benton drafted a resolution in 2015 for the city to adopt the “Downtown Walkability Analysis” as policy. The resolution passed a full council vote in 2015. 

However, that legislative process didn’t stop the Keller administration’s Department of Municipal Develop from removing the signs in late-April/early-May. 

“The previous administration was implementing this public policy and the new mayor doesn’t just get to do that without council action, in my opinion,” said Benton. 

In response to the removal, the councilor has introduced two new pieces of legislation. The first, a resolution, aims to clearly state that the “Downtown Walkability Analysis” is city policy.  

The second piece of legislation, an ordinance, aims to rewrite city traffic code to “incorporate any traffic policy directives” that city council passes. 

“The traffic code gave a whole lot of latitude to the mayor when it was written”,” said Benton. “Clearly this incident illustrates the problem.” 

A spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller’s office didn’t offer a comment on Benton’s legislation Monday night, saying they’re still reviewing it. 

Meanwhile, Benton says he will try to get the Mayor’s Office and DMD to reinstitute the stop signs that were recently removed. 

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