Milwaukee reckless driving, leaders' inaction has neighbors fed up

Reckless driving was the topic of a lengthy conversation at a Milwaukee Common Council committee meeting Thursday, Dec. 2. Members of the public say they're fed up with the inaction from the city on an epidemic that has taken too many lives.

"Our homeowners want to leave," said Mabel Lamb, Sherman Park Community Association executive director. "That's not where we want to be."

Two and a half hours were spent discussing the "epidemic" of reckless driving during a meeting of the Public Safety and Health Committee Thursday. Residents of the Sherman Park and Grasslyn Manor neighborhoods demanded city leaders stop talking and take action.

"When are you guys going to do something? We’re stuck," said Steve O'Connell, Grasslyn Manor resident.

They suggested changes to police policy to tow and impound vehicles, changes to state law and enforcement of the laws that are on the books.

"Clearly, the sense of urgency is utmost," said Milwaukee Alderman Mark Borkowski. 

A crash at 13th and Manitoba Wednesday night came up several times as an indication this problem isn't going anywhere.

"We're working closely to create a plan that incorporates some of the things that folks in this room have been talking about for some time," said Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson.

Reckless driving crash near 60th and Hampton

Johnson said he intends to announce that plan in the next week or so, called in by Borkowski to speak before the committee.

"Folks do have reason to be concerned," said Johnson. "Folks do have reason to be angry."

Marina Dimitrijevic, who chairs the committee, was excused.

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Johnson, as well as Dimitrijevic, are running for mayor if and when Tom Barrett leaves office for an ambassadorship that has since stalled in the U.S. Senate.

"I realize the boxes are packed and stuff but until he's actually gone, I mean, we're rudderless," said Borkowski. 

13th and Manitoba crash, Milwaukee

13th and Manitoba crash, Milwaukee

Alderman Michael Murphy also arrived to appear in person to address the issue and said as the head of the Reckless Driving Task Force, the Common Council can only do so much. He added a number of recommendations brought up Thursday were submitted to the mayor for action last summer and still, there's been no action.

In a statement, a spokesman for Barrett said reckless driving is a consistent priority, he is working with the police department, mobilizing its new Traffic Safety Unit, he pushed forward with redesigning streets that limit reckless driving, publicly called for strong prosecution and proposed spending millions of dollars on reckless driving initiatives passed by the Common Council in late September.

"The mayor can’t just take a pass, said Borkowski. "He’s still the damn mayor right now."

One of the solutions that came out of this discussion was the appointment of a "czar" to handle reckless driving that would be within the mayor's office, but obviously, with the mayor likely taking an ambassador's post, any person appointed would likely be removed in the next administration.