Tracing Tracy Territory: Dinner and a show
by Sam Matthews / TP publisher emeritus
Apr 29, 2011 | 2016 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you haven’t taken a look at the three new buildings that now grace the Tracy High School campus, you’ll have a chance to do so Saturday night.

That’s when the Tracy High Alumni Club is staging its annual asparagus and tri-tip dinner — this time in the new Tracy High cafeteria.

The cafeteria is housed in a new one-story building that also contains the Joe Foster Music Center. So a look at the building will be virtually part of the meal.

After dinner, tours also will be conducted in Tracy High’s two other new structures, all done up in mission revival style: the West Building, completed in 2007 with the façade of the original 1917 building, but a modern interior, and also the new (within the past couple of months) two-story building containing the library on the ground floor and classrooms and a conference room upstairs.

Anyway, the new buildings are well worth a look. They have transformed the Tracy High campus considerably. The Saturday dinner, open to anyone who wants to attend, is served at 6 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at the door.

California’s ‘Mr. Sunshine’

Yes, citizens can make a difference when it comes to holding elected officials accountable to conducting the public’s business in public.

Rich McKee proved that — in spades. His name might not be familiar to many Californians in this part of the state, but in Southern California, it was well-known, and sometimes feared.

Rich died unexpectedly last Saturday at his home in LaVerne. He was 62 and had recently retired as a chemistry instructor at Pasadena City College.

But chemistry wasn’t his overriding passion. His major impact was as a volunteer citizen advocate for open government. He spent countless hours attending meetings of city councils, planning commissions, school boards and boards of special districts throughout Southern California. When he felt they weren’t following terms of the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s public-meeting law, he would stand up at the meetings and demand they change their ways. If there was no response, Rich didn’t hesitate to file a lawsuit. He usually won.

I got to know Rich a few years ago when we both served on the board of the California First Amendment Coalition. Most of the people were from the news media, but there were several citizen advocates, including Rich. In fact, Rich became the first non-media person to lead the organization.

He later joined CalAware, where he orchestrated a number of California Public Records Act compliance audits. He forced countless agencies to back off from their “we can’t release that information” policies that were in violation of the law.

The Sacramento Bee called Rich “Mr. Sunshine,” and a Southern California radio station dubbed him “John Q. Citizen.”

Rich McKee earned both of those titles. I was fortunate to have known him and to appreciate what he had accomplished as a private citizen investing his own time and resources in making the actions of public agencies at many levels more open — and more accountable.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at

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