That’s the math for this year’s Tracy City Council race, in which nine residents who have never before sat on the city’s governing body jostle for positions left vacant by departing Councilwomen Evelyn Tolbert and Suzanne Tucker.
The following is a rundown of each candidate seeking election Nov. 2 to a four-year council term.
Bio: Dement is 50 years old and a native of Union City. She has lived in Tracy nearly 20 years. The one-time stay-at-home mother is now in thereal estate business, a scholarship program founder and an active member of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce and the Tracy Hispanic Business Group.
Positions: Dement supports Measure E, the half-cent sales tax on the November ballot, but “with a lot of reservations.” She said that the city needs the extra tax revenue to protect its public safety services and other services, but that the measure’s proposed oversight committee would be an important watchdog to make sure money isn’t misspent.
She also said building the business community is of utmost importance if Tracy is to thrive in the future, especially when it comes to making the permit process less bureaucratic, adding: “We have to make sure we’re meeting the needs of small businesses.” She believes safety for school students is of paramount importance, and preparing students for jobs has been a longtime commitment of hers.
Personal strengths: Dement says her presence on the council would help the city streamline its process and become more business-friendly: “You need creative business people on the Tracy City Council.” Dealing with short sales and people losing their homes to foreclosure also allows her, Dement said, to work well with people, even in delicate situations.
Bio: Elliott, 61, a native of Kansas and a 1971 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served 30 years in the U.S. Army, including duty as a Green Beret and military attaché at U.S. embassies in Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea. He retired in 2001 as a colonel.
He first moved to Tracy in 2002 and for a while co-owned Debbie’s Treasure Gallery with his wife, Debbie. He is now employed by Westinghouse and serves as president of the Tracy Sister City Association.
Positions: Elliott maintains that a recession is the wrong time to increase taxes on local people and businesses and so opposes Measure E. He says that the city’s budget deficit will be less in June 2011 than was originally projected, because sales tax revenues are on the rise — noting the opening of Macy’s and WINCO — and property taxes should begin to rebound in the future. He says the city should set its sights on “focused economic development,” as when it spent $2.75 million of non-general fund money to draw Macy’s to the mall.
His three main goals are to keep Tracy residents safe, continue efforts to make the city more business-friendly and help attract more higher-education opportunities to the city: “We need to create a pool of educated applicants for businesses looking to locate in Tracy.”
Personal strengths: Elliott says his years of working in the military, including duty in U.S. embassies, and experience as a small-business owner have prepared him uniquely to serve the city of Tracy and help create the right conditions for economic growth. “I spent a lifetime serving my country,” he said. “Now I want to serve my community."
Bio: Gamino is a third-generation, 58-year-old Tracy resident who worked 30 years with the railroad industry, including a number of years as a Southern Pacific conductor. He has a bachelor’s degree in intellectual history from University of California, Berkeley, as well as significant postgraduate education and a teaching credential. He has also been an activist for the city’s Southside and is active in the Tracy Historical Museum.
Positions: Gamino opposes a “regressive” sales tax such as Measure E, saying a parcel tax on landowners, which requires 66.7 percent of the popular vote to pass, would be a fairer approach to raising revenue.
He said that transportation infrastructure, especially public transit and rail expansion, is key to positioning Tracy for a brighter economic future. He also said the city needs “to get away from residential development” as the main focus of growth.
Personal strengths: Gamino said his work negotiating reduced benefits packages with railroad unions gives him a head start on the process of slimming down government expenses when the city next negotiates contracts with police, fire and other bargaining groups.
He also said his personal and family history in Tracy give him unique insight into the city’s past, present and future.
Bio: Hite, 54, has spent 12 years in Tracy. He started a home-inspection business after being laid off from the construction industry and now works with Habitat for Humanity and Animal Rescue. He also runs a crime-scene clean-up business and serves on the Tracy Transportation Committee. The U.S. Air Force veteran and one-time police officer was a board member of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce and is a past president of the Tracy Rotary Club.
Positions: Hite supports Measure E, saying, “If we start stripping down City Hall, that’s going to make (moving to Tracy) even less attractive to businesses.” Hite added, though, that he’s “sure” there are more ways to cut City Hall’s in-the-red general fund budget. He said it’s a top priority to change the city’s reputation as being unfriendly to business, especially by improving the permit process and staying in touch with businesses and developers who are trying to set up here.
Personal strengths: Hite touts his experience as an entrepreneur who has worked with the city’s sometimes-cumbersome permit process as vital in understanding what it takes to turn Tracy into an economic dynamo. He said he also has a strong connection to the city: “I’ve never lived in a community like this before.”
Bio: Mitracos, 61, a native of Tracy who attended University of California, Santa Barbara, for two years, is local building contractor. He has served five years on the Tracy Planning Commission, currently as chairman, and a combined 40 years in Tracy, including the past 20. He has also locally served on the Tracy Tomorrow Committee and on committees that acted as citizen watchdogs over school bond funds.
Positions: Mitracos believes the city needs Measure E to prevent the need to cut fire and police services, which make up a significant chunk of general fund spending. But he promises the only reason he can support the measure is that it will expire in five years. Whether it passes or not, Mitracos said he would “consider it my duty to work to balance the budget” as a councilman. He also stressed improvements that need to be made to the city’s development and engineering services, especially in slashing the “red tape” that can make for a “torturous” process.
Looking ahead to future growth, Mitracos wants to focus on neighborhood connectivity and several in-the-works plans to improve Tracy’s economic prospects, including Gateway business park and the Tracy City Center Association: “I would like the city to form a committee composed of people who work in high-tech businesses, so we could learn what they believe are the best ways to attract high-tech firms to Tracy.”
Personal strengths: Mitracos said his experience with city planning and community development issues makes him an ideal candidate to provide leadership for the city’s future growth.
Bio: Rickman, a third-generation Tracyite, was born and raised and lives in Tracy. The 36-year-old is a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol and was recently transferred from the Tracy station to Castro Valley, but he continues to live here. He also has a law degree and has participated in numerous local teen-driving safety education events.
Positions: Rickman says the city’s “main obligation is to keep citizens safe,” and he supports the Measure E sales tax increase to ensure police and fire department positions aren’t eliminated, stressing that law enforcement efforts, especially in dealing with gangs, has to be supported and improved.
He pledges to cut city costs where possible, but he acknowledges there’s only so much the city can do to negotiate lower pay and benefits for unions with contracts already in place. Rickman wants to streamline the business-permit process to improve economic prospects in Tracy to entice more mid- and high-paying employers to the town.
Personal strengths: Rickman said he is well-versed in the public safety needs of the city, thanks to his on-the-street experience with law enforcement. The father of two daughters also said he is deeply connected to the city as part of a multi-generation Tracy family. “Tracy’s home,” he said.
Bio: Sangha calls herself a “successfully retired” businesswoman who owned several Subway restaurants, both in Tracy and Stockton, and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She also is on the Tracy Arts Commission and is a volunteer with Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.
Positions: Sangha, 47, believes that passing tax increases would harm local businesses, so she opposes Measure E, though she would have supported it if it were specifically earmarked for public safety spending.
She also wants to make the permit process less onerous and help business owners by giving them a better idea of how to navigate the system successfully. She said that, looking forward, residential growth must be balanced by commercial and business growth.
Personal strengths: Sangha said her entrepreneurial experience gives her firsthand knowledge of what the city needs to do to improve prospects for those trying to start and build businesses in Tracy: “I know the sense the average businessperson has out there.” She also said that in addition to being easy to work with, honest and straightforward, she is “very conservative” fiscally, which would help her find ways to balance the city’s budget.
Bio: Soares, 51, moved to Tracy when he was 10 years old from the island of São Jorge in the Azores and has moved “in and out” of the city ever since. He now manages several local McDonald’s restaurants — he’s been area supervisor for 10 years — and worked his way up through the company to his position over 31 years. He is a member of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church and plays trumpet in the Tracy Portuguese Band.
Position: Soares says the way to economic prosperity lies in getting the city to eliminate the many hoops businesses must jump through to operate in Tracy, which include the business permit and business sign processes. He is against Measure E on the basis that the sales tax will hurt residents and businesses, and also because he thinks the city could operate much more efficiently than it does. Soares also said the city can do more when it comes to directing the city’s business to local outfits and suppliers.
Personal strengths: Soares’ campaign is entirely self-funded, which he said frees him from special-interest influences — he said he only wants what is best for Tracy and its businesses. He also maintains that his dealings with City Hall when it comes to economics have shown him precisely what Tracy can improve when it comes to helping entrepreneurs thrive. “I stand on principles, but I can be flexible in working toward solutions,” he said.
Bio: Young is 40 years old and has been in Tracy five years. She has a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from University of California, Berkeley, and is a project manager for JP Morgan in Silicon Valley. She said she is also very involved in programs that reach out to youth, especially through her husband’s ministry.
Positions: Young is against Measure E but thinks economic development strategies like providing Macy’s with $2.75 million to move into the mall can be “good investments.” She wants to focus crime-prevention efforts on reaching out to youth and bolstering city support for such efforts.
Young said that “We have to have infrastructure in place for growth,” which, in addition to focusing on economic growth, means investing in transit and changing how the city’s bus service operates so that routes make sense to Tracy residents using public transportation..
Personal strengths: Young said she would contribute a “fresh voice” to the City Council. She also said she would be able to bring together people with differing viewpoints — both within the council and between the council and public — thanks to her experience with JP Morgan, her work with her husband’s ministry and book-publishing firm and her ability to cooperate with various people. She also said her years of commuting over the hill give her an appreciation that Tracy needs homegrown jobs.