OUR VOICE: Clarity required on council agenda item
by Press Editorial Board
Mar 16, 2012 | 3029 views | 6 6 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s ironic that during Sunshine Week — dedicated to reducing obfuscation in government — the Tracy City Council is preparing to deal with the fallout of an agenda item that provided no clear illumination of the goals behind it.

An item scheduled for the Tuesday, March 20, council meeting discussing

developer agreement

“priorities” has roots in one originally put before the council March 6.

The March 6 item, if approved, would have allowed city staff to negotiate “amending” a developer agreement with The Surland Cos. regarding a swim center and the Ellis residential project, an agreement struck down in court that awaits appeal.

It is less than clear how it is possible to change an agreement under legal review, or whether council-approved negotiations would lead to a truly amended agreement or one that’s wholly new.

The city attorney even said at the time he could not be certain if a new or amended deal would result from negotiations with Surland.

Because of the ambiguity, the council feared acting on the item might violate the state’s open-meeting law, as the agenda clearly foresaw amending, not reinventing, the developer agreement.

The council wisely erred on the side of caution when it decided to reconsider under a description that more accurately reflects the issue’s true nature.

Ironically, that requires an official description that is more vague, not less — something that seems to miss the point of having a noticed agenda in the first place.

The question that remains from the March 6 meeting should be simple to answer: Does the city want a new agreement, or an amended one?

If leaders are unable or unwilling to describe what they are seeking on behalf of citizens, it’s time to put on the brakes.

Instead of plunging ahead, the council must ask what, exactly, the city and Surland would negotiate. What are we, the city and its residents, trying to get out of this deal? What are our goals and priorities? And, finally, how do we best achieve them?

We hope answers to these questions will surface at this week’s meeting, when the council discusses its

priorities for developer agreement amenities.

Regarding the Surland developer agreement and swim center, there has been no convincing reason offered why the city should not simply wait for the court battle to play out or start the process completely anew, though some observers suggest the hurry is an intentional ruse.

In any event, clarity is lacking.

This has been our issue with development in Tracy since the boom days. It’s not that growth is bad or development an evil; it’s that the process must be clear and fair, and the goal for Tracy’s future must be one that is balanced, livable and sustainable.

Ellis looks like a well-planned community, although one is left wondering how well it fits with the rest of the city and adjacent uses, specifically the Tracy airport.

Its lead developer, Les Serpa, has shown his commitment to Tracy through various civic projects.

And the swim center that could be part of a developer agreement would be an attractive public amenity, if the center addresses community need and doesn’t burden city finances.

None of those things, however, supplants the need for a clear, transparent process so our community can make a fair decision.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 21, 2012
Out of curiosity, did anyone at the meeting mention how well the sales tax increase is doing, how much extra it's yielding into the Tracy city budget? I'm looking at John Chiang's (California state conptroller's office, http://sco.ca.gov/Files-EO/03-12summary.pdf) Comparison between revenues in Feb 2012 vs Feb 2011. Hmm.

Just for that one month, income tax receipts down 16.5%, corporate tax receipts down 38%, and OH, HERE IT IS! sales tax receipts down 25%. I'd imagine some of that decrease is from Tracy.
March 23, 2012
If you attend the Measure E Oversight Committee meetings you will find out there's going to be about $500,000 in surplus money at the end of the year.

The city's finance director, under the direction of the city manager has recommended putting the extra money into the "Rainy Day Fund", but the Oversight Committee members are saying use it to add additional police and fire staff.

Especially since the city manager and finance director told everyone that Measure E would keep the city from cutting police and fire. Now those two are changing their story, once they have the monney.

There's some real controversy going on between the Oversight Committee members and city staff, specifically the finance director.
March 24, 2012
If sales tax is going down then the city may well be right to put the money away. Measure E will expire and then we will need that surplus even more.

I don't know, but it's probably not a bad idea to put some money away.

One more thing. The fire department is paid, in part, by San Joaquin government who already collects our taxes. Why would the oversight committee allow San Joaquin to double dip?

March 17, 2012
I would only guess, but I think they let the high school interns write letters at the editorial desk of the Tracy Press, because it always turns into a whiney letter. And it is always the same childish complaint. After a while is seems rather boorish reading the newspaper. I'm certainly not surprised they are going bankrupt.

I would like to address the back handed compliment however. Here is what the Tracy Press wrote: "Ellis looks like a well-planned community, although one is left wondering how well it fits with the rest of the city and adjacent uses, specifically the Tracy airport."

Tracy Press Kid, who wrote this dandy letter. Might you know there is already a swimming pool near Ellis and it is not dangerous? The Tracy Airport NEVER (and I repeat NEVER EVER) crashed into that swimming pool. In fact, if you want to start the subject of danger and airports may you know that they use their landing strip for drag racing and turned it into a swim center.

Ya! Go figure.

Anyway, I used to swim at the hotel at Great America with Jumbo Jetliners flying over me. So I'm sure the two will be fine together.

PS. You are doing a ok job, but stay in school. Ok?

March 17, 2012
I dont see why the newspaper is complaining the process is not fair. Here is what should have been clear to the Tracy Press. Or anyone with half a brain. Nobody else is willing to build homes and design a swim center. And besides, isn't Surland paying for the ad on the front page of their newspaper? I ask. Why is the Tracy Press always complaining about homes in Tracy, but they said ZIP about Mountain House and other communities where they peddle their paper? I am beginning to wonder who writes these editorials too.
March 16, 2012
Couldn't agree more.

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