With the Milwaukee mayoral race heating up, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson on Tuesday announced the steps he plans to take to address reckless driving when he becomes acting mayor in the coming days.
Johnson is one of eight candidates vying to fill the remainder of Mayor Tom Barrett's term when Barrett leaves to become ambassador to Luxembourg.
Others in the race include Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, former Ald. Bob Donovan and state Rep. Daniel Riemer.
Barrett's nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week and his departure is expected in the coming days so the Common Council can meet a Dec. 28 deadline to order a mayoral election in conjunction with the spring election cycle.
He has not said exactly when he plans to resign, a move that will automatically make Johnson the city's acting mayor until voters elect their next executive.
In a press conference Tuesday, Johnson said combatting reckless driving would be his top priority when he becomes acting mayor.
"Residents are both rightfully terrified about the dangerous driving speeds and the reckless road behavior that has increased dramatically over the recent years, and that leaves them feeling scared to drive their vehicles, ride their bikes or even walk across the street at many intersections in the city of Milwaukee," he said.
Johnson traced the city's reckless driving problem to vehicles that are easy to steal but also societal challenges that he said needed to be addressed through economic development and measures that create stability in residents' lives.
He said while the city has taken steps to combat the problem, "clearly it has not been enough to move the needle."
He rolled out a plan that he said would "immediately" address the driving crisis. And while he said the planning was underway before his move to the Mayor's Office appeared imminent, the new position will empower him to take action such as directing department heads.
On his first day as acting mayor, he said, he will declare reckless driving a public safety crisis, meaning he will direct all departments to focus on the problem.
While the Police Department's new Traffic Safety Unit has been out already, residents will notice in the coming months more efforts from the city's Department of Public Works to install permanent and temporary traffic-calming measures, he said.
The plan's effectiveness will be evaluated and it will be adjusted over time by stakeholders including schools and police, Johnson said.
He said his administration would work to put in place physical road improvements, better hold reckless drivers accountable and improve public education in conjunction with increased enforcement by police and bringing retired police investigators back to direct car theft investigations.
Johnson also said he would push for a new policy to tow unlicensed and unregistered vehicles of reckless drivers and create a traffic coordinator position in the Mayor's Office to work with city departments, residents and businesses.
He called for an "all hands on deck" approach to addressing the issue.
"Today, if I were to assure you of one thing, it's that you have a leader coming into the Mayor's Office who recognizes the urgency of this crisis and who will work with all earnestness with each and every one of you in a multitude of ways to address our reckless driving scourge," he said.
The plan got the approval of Sherman Park resident Jordan Morales, who recently took matters into his own hands with an improvised traffic circle that slowed drivers in his neighborhood.
City and state leaders also said they were committed to working together on the issue.
Assistant Police Chief Paul Formolo said police enforcement was just one piece of the needed response and that the department would work with other entities.
City Office of Violence Prevention Director Arnitta Holliman said her department would work with organizations that serve youth to support programming and education that prevent young Milwaukeeans from getting into a reckless driving situation and support those who are moving away from that behavior.
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Common Council President Johnson shows reckless driving plan