Mayor’s Office Adds ‘Vision Zero’ Czar
Newly-created position will coordinate citywide effort to eliminate traffic deaths.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson is poised to gain a new ally in his quest to tackle reckless driving.
The 2023 city budget adds a transportation planner position to the mayor’s office staff. The individual would be in charge of coordinating the city’s multi-departmental “Vision Zero” effort, a strategy to eliminate traffic deaths. Milwaukee formally adopted the policy in June, joining an international movement that started in Sweden in the 1990s.
“Vision Zero is not just a DPW initiative. It’s a citywide push forward,” said Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke on Oct. 27 when the Finance & Personnel Committee reviewed the amendment. Krusche and Murphy said placing the individual in a highly-visible office would elevate the importance of the effort, and help compel other departments to act.
“To make other departments do certain things is difficult, so having it in the administration is helpful,” said the commissioner.
Murphy said it was important the position is directly in the mayor’s office, not in DPW or the Department of Administration. “It has a much different weight and carries the mayor’s imprint on what the public policy will be,” he told his colleagues.
Riordan presented the policy to the council in June. “Vision Zero recognizes that people will make mistakes, but those mistakes should not cost lives,” she said. The policy is designed to make streets safer for all users, including drivers and pedestrians, by reducing the number and severity of crashes. It also pushes to call any incident a crash, not an accident. “This is very important to remember. Calling it an accident implies that there was nothing that could be done to prevent it.”
According to Wisconsin Department of Transportation statistics, 87 people were killed in traffic fatalities in Milwaukee County in 2021, 101 in 2020 and 74 in 2019. Eighty-six fatalities have been reported in 2022.
The mayor is now tasking his cabinet members to come up with three strategies to reduce reckless driving and for defensive driving courses for city employees who drive regularly.
The new position is to be paid $53,957 in 2023, which Bohl and others said might not be enough to recruit the level of candidate desired. Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic suggested delaying the start date to effectively increase the pay for the first year. According to city budget staff, the mayor’s office currently includes 14 full-time equivalent positions, including two interns.
Ald. Scott Spiker joined Murphy as a co-sponsor on the amendment. It was unanimously adopted by the full council on Nov. 4.
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Read more about 2023 Milwaukee Budget here