Phoenix Councilwoman Explains Why She Voted Against 'Vision Zero' Pedestrian Safety Plan
LAUREN GILGER: Yesterday on The Show, we told you about a decision by the council not to go forward with a proposal to consider adopting the so-called Vision Zero pedestrian safety plan. This came in the face of sobering statistics here in Arizona which has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation. Since that vote at City Hall, two more pedestrians here have been killed: 60-year-old Hewlett Epperson was killed while crossing Thomas Road and 35-year-old Thomas Taraba was hit and killed when a vehicle drove onto the sidewalk where he was walking. Council members who voted down the safety plan have expressed concerns that adopting a plan like 'Vision Zero' would force Phoenix to adopt stricter speeding and traffic control, which could lead to more congestion. And here to tell us more about why she voted against the plan is Councilwoman Felicita Mendoza. Good morning.
FELICITA MENDOZA: Good morning and thank you for having me.
GILGER: Thank you for joining us. So, let's start with the why behind this. What was your reasoning behind not wanting to go forward with looking into this plan?
MENDOZA: Well first of all, some of my concerns about ‘Vision Zero’ is that it would create a blanket policy for the city of Phoenix and I represent downtown. I represent South Phoenix, Laveen, and each of these areas, the needs are different. And what may work in Laveen, may not work in downtown. So I want to make sure that we focus on each community and not a blanket policy for everyone. Also there's unintended consequences to these. In L.A. For example, some groups have expressed over policing. They have also expressed that some of these road tides can slow down emergency vehicles and that's concerning to me. So that's a few of the things why I voted against the ‘Vision Zero’ framework.
GILGER: So, Phoenix is also, we mentioned, so Arizona has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation. Phoenix is reported to have the highest pedestrian fatalities in the state, nearly twice as many as Tempe and Tempe did adopt this ‘Vision Zero’ plan. So what is your concern here, I guess? Is there another way you would like to approach this, it seems to be a growing problem here?
MENDOZA: Absolutely. I believe that we should take immediate action in focusing on district-specific hotspots. They were presented at the meeting and I believe we need to tackle those hotspots. Also, a strong education campaign, a grassroots campaign and beginning with the schools. But especially, you know, identifying more funding sources for crosswalks, for our HAWKs [High Intensity Activated CrossWalK]. Our HAWKs right now are funded through grants and we need to identify more funding for those HAWKs, not just depend on the grounds. Lighting. Lighting is a huge issue, especially in my district, because I have older areas, older neighborhoods, that need street lighting and sidewalks. There's portions in District 8 that don't have any sidewalks. Bike lanes. Downtown does not have, there's areas in downtown that do not have bike lanes. So those are the immediate things that we can do now. And I would love to focus on those things now.
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Councilwoman, as we mentioned in the introduction, there have been unfortunately two more pedestrian deaths just in the last few days. So is there a sense of urgency on council to do something about this rapidly? We certainly understand what you're saying about things looking different for different neighborhoods and different areas, but is there a commitment to do something as quickly as possible?
MENDOZA: I am committed to do something. Like I said, immediately, now. And it's focusing on those hotspots. Educating our public, educating our kids. So those are the things that we can do now. We have those resources now. So I believe that we should take immediate action on those things.
GILGER: Are those things happening at this point? Are there motions you can put into place and put into motion right now?
MENDOZA: I would love to work with the mayor's office and my colleagues here to put forward some of those immediate actions. Absolutely.
GILGER: All right. That is Phoenix City Councilwoman Felicita Mendoza. Thank you so much for your time.
MENDOZA: Thank you.