Downtown association director takes job with city
by Jon Mendelson
Sep 07, 2012 | 2559 views | 6 6 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The leader of a downtown improvement district is jumping to Tracy City Hall, where she plans to take a job.

Jan Couturier, the first permanent manager of the Tracy City Center Association business improvement district, announced Aug. 30 that she will depart effective Sept. 14.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to have acted as your district manager during the last two years,” she said in a statement. “It has given me a great insight into the importance of the efforts of the TCCA in connection with the Chamber (of Commerce) and the city.”

The TCCA was established in December 2009 to promote businesses in the downtown area through special events, extra maintenance and marketing efforts.

Reached in the late morning Thursday, Sept. 6, Couturier was not available to comment immediately.

According to City Manager Leon Churchill, Couturier will begin work with the city Sept. 17 as an administrative analyst. Though the position to which she applied for was advertised as being in the city manager’s office, he said, Couturier will be posted in another department.

Couturier’s husband, Roger Birdsall, is one of five people running for two seats on the Tracy City Council in the Nov. 6 election. He faces Councilman Michael Maciel and challengers Charles Manne, Ray Morelos and Nancy Young.

“Jan will not be working in the city manager’s office to avoid real and perceived conflict (of interest) possibilities,” Churchill said, adding that he expected her transition to be “smooth.”

According to Dino Maragos, owner of the Tracy Inn and president of the TCCA board, Couturier strengthened the organization during its first two full years of operation.

“(She) put us in good position,” Maragos said. “I think she did a good job. I think, for the first couple of years, there’s a tremendous amount of ramp-up we had to do to get things … to the point we’re actually doing work and not working on setup-type stuff.”

According to Maragos, the organization is not sure who will replace Couturier at the helm or whether the position will be split between two or more people.

“We’re not sure exactly what we’re going to do,” he said.

However, Maragos confirmed that the association will work with interns from University of the Pacific to gather demographic information about who visits the downtown area and why — information that can be used to help attract businesses.

“(We can) shape the downtown with what it is that we need based on those demographics,” he said.

The interns will not be paid, Maragos said, as the TCCA is trying to have the internship incorporated into UOP’s business curriculum.

Maragos also confirmed that Marcos LiMandri, who works with consulting firm New City America, was signed to a 10-month contract by the TCCA’s 15 directors.

Tracy Press Publisher Emeritus Sam Matthews is one of those directors, and the city’s Kim Scarlata is the board secretary.

Maragos said LiMandri’s experience — New City America has helped establish numerous business improvement districts in California — will be an asset to TCCA.

“He’s going to focus a little more on business attraction, promotion, those sorts of things,” Maragos said.

The contract specifies LiMandri will receive $25,000 for his consulting work, which began Sept. 1.

Under the umbrella of New City America, LiMandri helped the city of Tracy establish the TCCA. He signed a consulting contract with the city in July 2008 to conduct surveys, generate enough support to establish the association and help form its governance structure, among other tasks.

According to city records obtained via public records requests, New City America was paid $69,682.73 between Aug. 20, 2008, and June 30, 2009, for services related to forming the business improvement district.

Between July 1, 2009, and March 2, 2011, New City America was paid $54,918.71 by the now-defunct Tracy Redevelopment Agency and $34,079.55 in federal Community Development Block Grant money, according to city documents.

Formation of the TCCA was approved Dec. 15, 2009, by landowners — including the city of Tracy — representing 59 percent of the property within the business district’s boundaries. According to Press reports at the time, the city holds an 11 percent stake of the land within the district, making it the largest single landowner.

A public records request seeking confirmation of those numbers is pending.

The Tracy Press, as one of the landowners within the district boundaries, also voted in favor of creating the TCCA.

The improvement district is funded by a special tax on landowners within the district boundaries, which includes a general fund expenditure by the city.

According to a previous Press report, the district cost the city of Tracy $13,000 in general fund money during the first year the district was in place.

An updated total of the city’s expenditures related to the TCCA was not available as of press time.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 12, 2012
Conflict of interest aside. Where does the Grand get the money to hire? They are running in the red. Just look at the Willie Nelson fiasco.. down $30,000, so why are they hiring?
September 09, 2012
Was Ms. Couturier the best candidate? Is this position a reward? Her husband is running for City Council? Frankly, this hire is highly suspect.
September 10, 2012
My understanding is that the selection process was made through an outside firm after vetting quite a number of candidates. It's sad that we have sunken to such a level of cynicism that if a person is chosen based on merit, we still want to find some sort of ulterior motive, especially in Ms. Couturier's case. Whatever happened to the concept of each us of being our own person and standing on our own 2 feet?
September 10, 2012
Now you are starting to understand how Tracy works.

It's a good old boy system.
September 07, 2012
Not only is there a conflict of interest, but why is the City creating an Administrative position when we are running in the "red". I keep hearing how the City Staff has downsized and cut to the bone. This is an Administrative position, so it ain't a worker bee's salary.
September 07, 2012
Ms. Couturier was a good Director for the TCCA. She got things moving and built a strong relationship between the business owners so it is certain she will do well as an analyst for the city.

That being said; churchill really needs to think about his statement. The perception or reality of a conflict of interest is clear. Her husband is running for council, she worked with the TCCA, which is funded by the city?

It seems rather clear there is a real conflict with no perception involved.

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