Alderman Karas calls for Reorganization at City Hall
Offers thanks to retiring City Administrator for his dedication to the City
First and foremost, Alderman Pete Karas offers his appreciation to the retiring City Administrator. “I thank Steve Nenonen for his service to the City of Racine,” said Karas. “Personally, I have always found him to be honest, responsive, hard-working, and to do what he felt was best for the City of Racine. He is a fine individual with admirable core values and I wish him the best in any future endeavors, whether they involve other civic activities or an enjoyable retirement.”
With the announced retirement of our current City Administrator, Karas feels the timing is right for the City of Racine to make organizational changes in the City’s administrative structure. These changes need to be tailored so they not only fit the needs of the people of Racine, both as taxpayers and users of our City services, but also enhance the democratic process. Any new structure should ensure that City government’s administrative structure meets the criteria of being more accessible, efficient, effective, and democratic than the current structure.
Four years ago, Karas advocated against creating a City Administrator position and offered the alternative of creating a Vice-Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) position, filled by a person that would be more accountable to the people the City serves. Karas’ position on this has not wavered in the last four years. Karas believes that to now hire another highly-compensated City Administrator does not serve the people and taxpayers of Racine well and will have an adverse affect on the City’s future budgets. This effect is especially apparent in these tight fiscal times when the City is reducing its workforce and services, while at the same time, generating revenue through the increased charging of fees to its citizens and businesses.
“It is very bothersome to me that any individual the City may hire in the highly-compensated, powerful and authoritative position of City Administrator is too distantly accountable to the people of Racine,” said Alderman Pete Karas, who serves the ninth district residents. “I do agree that in order to make the Mayor’s office operate at a high degree of efficiency, that there does need to be another position involved in our chief executive’s office. I believe that an appointed vice-mayor, who is more directly accountable to Racine’s people and voters, as the elected mayoral position is, adds to democracy and transparency in City government.”
Karas envisions the vice-mayor position to be compensated at a level less that the mayor’s salary and appointed or terminated at the discretion of the mayor, with very few restrictions. In addition, the term of the position would coincide with that of the term of the mayor, so that they could work together productively and be accountable to the voters as a team. If this position is created, it should attract a highly motivated, dedicated local person who not only has an interest in serving the people of Racine through civic service, but also will have both strong administrative and communication skills, freeing up the Mayor, whomever it may be at any time now or in the future, to work on the broader issues facing the City. With our local economy desperately needing local jobs, this position should allow for a mayor to work on key economic issues, while at the same time, having a right-hand person to help with administrative and constituent duties and services.
Karas recognizes that this new position will not be an elected official, as State law prohibits this becoming an elected position. That said, just the title (whether it be vice mayor or deputy mayor) and coinciding term length of the new position will create and imply direct accountability to the position of mayor.
“In reality, I believe that it may be very difficult to eliminate an administrative position of this sort altogether,” noted Karas. “I believe the proposal I’ve again put forth could be a middle ground for those on the City Council who will be approving the future direction of administrative roles. I look at this recent retirement as an opportunity to make administrative position changes so that the City may better serve the people and taxpayers of Racine.”
Karas will be submitting a formal communication in the near future to the City Council that further expands on the details of this proposal.