That was no mistake. The next four years will prove crucial to the city’s fortunes, and voters would be best served to judge the quintet on their fiscal acumen and credentials.
The two new council members will be part of a group that must close the general fund deficit by spring 2016, when the Measure E half-cent sales tax passed by voters expires.
The present council and staff have already done plenty of heavy lifting to set the stage.
The size of Tracy’s government has been pared down, while city employees have agreed to contribute toward their pensions and forgo cost-of-living pay increases in exchange for leave time, an end to furloughs and the probability of no layoffs.
The upshot is a decent, if not spectacular, savings and a chance at even more savings to taxpayers when those employee contracts expire in three years.
Ensuring those future contracts build on the present ones is an area in which the two council members elected this fall will have a chance to shine, and a reason it is vitally important to vote for candidates who understand the urgency of thinking long-term when it comes to the budget.
But it won’t be the first chance the next council will have to impact the city’s fiscal fundamentals.
The council’s attitude toward economic development will perhaps be the most important. While elected officials can’t magically make businesses appear, their direction to staff and the example they set when dealing with the entrepreneurial community can make or break future prospects.
Of course, any decent council
member will accommodate the needs of business while making sure not to sacrifice Tracy’s character.
Turning the Tracy Ballpark into houses or apartments, for example, would be the definition of infill development, the buzz of smart-growth building. It would also create a community within walking distance of a shopping center in dire need of a consumer base.
But is plowing under an iconic park gifted to the city, a place where thousands of children play and practice, worth it?
Likewise, an aquatics center attached to the proposed Ellis residential development would be a great addition to the city.
But is it worth a subsidy from the general fund, when vital core services like police, firefighting and public works are being squeezed? Are Ellis and the aquatics project so important the city might be willing to allow a private developer the chance to determine the fate of a chunk of residential growth allotments, the passports to residential development in Tracy?
These are the types of challenges Roger Birdsall, Michael Maciel, Charles Manne, Ray Morelos and Nancy Young will face when two of them take the dais this winter.
And they’re the issues voters should keep in mind when they mark their ballots this fall.