Gary Becker is Racine Mayor for another three hours as I write this, his resignation not taking effect until 5 p.m. tonight, and the City Council doesn't meet until 6 p.m. Thursday to determine how to fill his job.
But Pete Karas has no indecision.
The former three-term City Council member filed papers with the City Clerk this afternoon to run for Mayor.
Karas said he had planned to run in 2011, when Becker's term expired, "but now it's moved up."
"I wanted to announce early because I encourage as many people to run as possible," he said.
An insurance agent, Karas resigned from the Council in 2007 when an obscure state law came to light, declaring that aldermen were prohibited from selling anything to anyone who holds a liquor license. That law has since been repealed.
"I want to run not only to bring some integrity back to city government, but because we need to focus on jobs, on the city's economic health." Karas also said he wanted to get more people participating in government.
When he was a Councilman, Karas recalled, "it's no secret my time on the Council was spent clashing with Becker." Karas likes Becker's renewable energy programs, but he takes them much further, advocating for Racine forming its own municipally owned electric utility. "These generally save the consumer between 20 and 40 percent," Karas said. He's a proponent of the Bright Public Power Initiative.
Another change Karas would bring is the elimination of the city administrator's position. "I've always advocated for a vice mayor position, directly accountable to the people, rather than a city administrator," he said. "A vice mayor would serve the same term as the mayor, be appointed by the mayor and provide much greater accountability."
Current City Administrator Ben Hughes and Karas worked together only briefly: Hughes was hired on Oct. 1, 2007, and Karas resigned that November.