Dear Santa, Please send our town:
1. Water. The drought conditions of 2013 are continuing and raising the specter of major problems ahead in 2014. Lack of rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra is threatening to cause a severe shortage of water. The city of Tracy is in good shape waterwise, as it has multiple sources of water — Delta-Mendota Canal, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, contracts with local irrigation districts and, if needed, city wells — but agriculture will be suffering. Allocations of water from the Delta-Mendota Canal are predicted to be from zero up to 10 percent of full quotas. This is especially serious for districts solely dependant on Delta-Mendota water, especially those with major new plantings of almonds. Let it rain and let it snow, Santa baby.
2. A new bookstore to replace the Barnes & Noble store in the West Valley Mall, which is closing at the end of the year. The local Barnes & Noble has been a busy place — and a great intellectual resource for our town — but financial problems at the company’s corporate level have doomed some Barnes & Noble stores across the nation, ours included. Honest, Santa, people still read books, listen to tapes and use Kindles.
3. A decision to repair the Joe Wilson swimming pool in Dr. Powers Park and put it back into use for recreational and instructional swimming. The City Council has danced around the issue too long, and a valuable city recreational facility is standing unused. The Wilson pool in operation during the summer months would not only afford recreational and instructional opportunities, but also provide more time for competitive swimming programs to use the Olympic-sized pool at West High School for practice and meets.
4. Some new tenants for major downtown buildings. Community Banks of Colorado is closing its Tracy branch at 10th and Central at the end of the year, and that building will soon be standing vacant at a strategic downtown corner. Across the street, the former Helm’s Ale House location (once Tredway’s stationery store) has been long vacant at the same important corner. Tenants for the former city-owned West Side Market building at Eighth and Central and the major part of the Tracy Press building at 10th and A streets, now under new ownership, would also help.
5. A new superintendent of Tracy Unified School District with as many of the same qualities as retiring Superintendent Jim Franco as possible. Jim has a unique history in Tracy, moving up the ranks from Monte Vista Middle School principal to superintendent. In every position, he has demonstrated his commitment to the schools and community in any number of ways, not only as an administrator, but also as a visible presence of district leadership at countless school and community events. While finding another up-from-the-ranks superintendent is problematic, these are the qualities we should be looking for in a new school district leader, wherever he or she comes from.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.