By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Four years ago, Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson ran for a seat on the Milwaukee Common Council. His eventual success had come after two failed campaigns and a few years working in the mayor’s office, according to Urban Milwaukee.
Last month, Johnson found himself campaigning again, this time to be president of the Common Council.
“When there’s an opportunity to lead, you step up to do that,” he said. “So, I and several others decided to run.”
The vote split 8-7, with Johnson winning the spot against Ald. Milele Coggs and succeeding former president Ald. Ashanti Hamilton.
While the vote may have temporarily caused some divisions, Johnson knows that council members will pull through to do what is best for the City of Milwaukee. Johnson noted that in the weeks since his election, he has already seen some improvements.
He has made a point to meet with every alderperson and wants them all to know that he is willing to meet them halfway.
“I have no ill will towards any of them and I hope there’s no ill will towards me, there’s no time for that anyways,” Johnson said.
Since assuming office, Johnson has used his position to inform the public of what’s happening throughout Milwaukee and what resources are available on the city, state and federal level regarding coronavirus. For example, when the Wisconsin National Guard announced it was closing the Midtown Center COVID-19 testing site, Johnson made sure residents knew about the additional nine testing sites on Milwaukee’s North Side.
He has also been promoting the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP), which has $25 million to allocate to agencies across the state to help residents cover rent. This is especially essential since Gov. Tony Evers’ temporary ban on evictions expired on Tuesday, May 26.
And he’s helping to spread the word on Mayor Tom Barret’s Milwaukee Business Restart Program. Businesses can receive up to $15,000, said Johnson.
Most recently, Johnson voted in favor of giving City of Milwaukee employees hazard pay, which gives employees a bonus as they return to work and begin interacting with people.
Aside from coronavirus, the other concern is the census. Recently, Johnson issued a letter with most of the Common Council members signatures. The letter encouraged Milwaukeeans to participate in the census.
Johnson said he has taken to social media as well to push for a complete count, as the census will help bring resources to Milwaukee.
As president, Johnson wants to ensure that all young Milwaukeeans have access to early childhood education. It makes a difference, he said.
He plans to work with the municipal court and help educate residents on the importance of appearing in court after receiving a ticket. Making an appearance in court to set up a payment plan is better than being issued a warrant or having one’s license suspended, he said.
Johnson also has big ideas for the Business Improvement Districts. When someone walks down a commercial corridor, they should see someone who looks like them, they should see successful businesses and they should be able to get hired there, he said.
Young black men especially deserve to see success, he said.
“First and foremost, always believe in yourself,” Johnson said, on his advice to young people. “You are enough, and you matter.”
As Johnson looks to the months and year that lie ahead, he wants Milwaukeeans to know this: the Common Council is still in business and as president he’s committed to making a difference in every neighborhood.