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Listen MKE is an initiative created by WUWM, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library to help Milwaukee's north side residents get the information they want and need.

Residents ask Milwaukee mayoral candidates how they would address reckless driving

Seven people sit at a long table facing forward.
Kobe Brown
Milwaukee Mayoral Forum held at Turner Hall on Feb. 9.

Tuesday is the spring primary and Milwaukee hasn’t had an election like this one in nearly two decades. There are seven candidates on the ballot for Milwaukee mayor, and just two will move on to the general election in April.

Last week, all seven candidates gathered for a mayoral forum where they answered questions from community members, as part of a Listen MKE discussion. The conversation was moderated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's James Causey and TMJ4’s Charles Benson.

>> Make your voice heard! Tell Listen MKE what's most important to you in the race for Milwaukee's next mayor.

Milwaukee resident Nancy Pesci started the discussion by asking the candidates how they would address reckless driving if they become mayor.

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic said one of the things she is calling for is free universal driver's education in all Milwaukee Public Schools.

Dimitrijevic also referenced making infrastructure improvements like adding speed bumps and roundabouts to roads. "As a mother, I think about a child that would get in a car, perhaps a stolen car, and crash into anyone or anything. That's a failure of the city and society and we need to look in the mirror and make sure we're providing support and resources," she said.

Businessman Michael Sampson agreed that driver's ed should be brought back immediately. He suggested that Milwaukee Public Schools use the current funds they've been recently granted to make this happen. Sampson also said that red-light cameras and more sheriff patrol might be a solution to the issue as well.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said there are four things community members could do: educate, engineer, enforce and engage with technology.

"This is our 1960 seat belt problem and until we get all of the entities in the city working together to bring pressure to bear on the automakers, we won't see no immediate remedy in Washington and helping us deal with this issue," said Lucas.

READ: Residents press Milwaukee mayoral candidates on housing concerns

Moderator Charles Benson pointed out how young some of these drivers are and how many violations they already have. He asked acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson if reckless driving is an education issue or enforcement issue?

Johnson answered that it's all of the above. "I'm the candidate in this race that's released a comprehensive plan to address the issue of reckless driving. It's called S.T.A.N.D. for Safer Streets. It does all the things we are talking about: safer street design, utilizing police for track enforcement and holding accountability for folks that break traffic law," he said.

State Sen. Lena Taylor said that Milwaukee should connect the city's youth to its auto industry to positively shift the youth's interest in cars. She also suggested that car manufacturers start adding kill switches to their vehicles.

"I wish I could tell you that there's a switch that I'm going to be able to flip and we're going to be able to undo the neglect [that's happened] for so long. What I will tell you is that I believe we can turn negative energy some of it into positive energy, those young people need to be provided some other opportunities," said Taylor.

Former Ald. Bob Donovan, who spent 20 years inside Milwaukee's City Hall, said there were no consequences for criminal behavior when it comes to driving. He also highlighted there was a shortage of staffing within the Milwaukee Police Department.

"Sadly, I believe an atmosphere of lawlessness as taken over large portions of Milwaukee, we need to work closely with our district attorney and our judges," said Donovan.

Community activist Ieshuh Griffin stated that the city couldn't address reckless driving without addressing drunk driving. "I will get into reckless driving as it relates to the children, but we have to look at the reality of the matter in reckless driving. It's not just about reckless drivers, it's about drunk driving and speeding. As far as the children, we're talking about the stolen cars and different things of that nature," she said.

The primary election for mayor is this Tuesday, Feb. 15. Two candidates will move forward and face off in April.

Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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