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APS to City Council: Butt out

Neighbors who live adjacent to Jefferson Middle School have been protesting a proposed loop road since May. Some have gone so far as to spray paint protest messages on their own fences, on the sides that face the campus. (Journal File)
Neighbors who live adjacent to Jefferson Middle School have been protesting a proposed loop road since May. Some have gone so far as to spray paint protest messages on their own fences, on the sides that face the campus. (Journal File)
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Albuquerque Public Schools officials took a swipe at the City Council on Tuesday afternoon, and even hinted at litigation, as the debate over a proposed loop road at Jefferson Middle School continued to escalate.

“I really believe that the City Council was tremendously out of line poking their nose into a school matter,” school board President Martin Esquivel said at a news conference. “That City Council was not elected to run the Albuquerque Public Schools. The Albuquerque Public Schools board was elected to do that.”

The news conference was in response to the council’s Monday night decision to place a two-month moratorium on curb cuts APS has requested as part of its plan for the loop.

“If we have to go to the courts and make a point of them overstepping their authority and their bounds, we’ll do that,” he said.

The proposed loop would take drivers off Girard NE, bring them behind the school and channel them out onto Lomas. Neighbors, specifically those whose homes are directly adjacent to the Jefferson campus, have been vigorously protesting the project since May.

The neighbors have an ally in City Councilor Isaac Benton, who represents the area and led the charge Monday night to delay the curb cuts. Benton said Tuesday that APS’ response to the City Council shows “arrogance.”

“This kind of tough talk indicates a lack of willingness to coordinate with the community,” Benton said. “APS is a small part of the community; there’s a lot bigger community out there, and they should be playing ball with that community.”

Benton also took umbrage to APS officials’ comments that his actions are politically motivated.

At their news conference, both Esquivel and APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said they believe Benton’s actions are motivated by his upcoming re-election bid.

“I think it’s really sad that we’re sacrificing kids’ safety because of a City Council election that’s coming up,” Brooks said. “I think that’s what this is really all about; unfortunately it’s about politics.”

Benton called that accusation “patently ridiculous,” saying he has been elected twice to represent that part of the city, and has always supported development that encourages walking and cycling.

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