It was a year of political debate and upheaval, two more Tracy deaths in Iraq and the end of the old West Building on 11th Street.
The headlines ran the gamut from good news to bad, of course, and included developer deals, a beanless bean festival and the possibility that a military biological research lab could be built in Tracy’s backyard.
The following list — in no particular order and with the full possibility that something was left out — includes major stories that the Tracy Press covered in the past year.
Controversial Tracy Congressman Richard Pombo lost the fight for his seat in the 11th Congressional District, after 14 years in power saw him elevated to chair the powerful House Resources Committee. His electoral collapse began when fellow Republican Pete McCloskey challenged Pombo for the Republican nomination.
After Pombo won the June primary, both McCloskey and fellow Republican challenger Tom Benigno of Tracy threw their support behind Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney, a wind-energy consultant out of Pleasanton. Environmental groups also helped lead the campaign against Pombo.
The GOP did what it could to support the local congressman, including visits by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. McNerney earned a visit for President Bill Clinton.
On Nov. 7, voters chose McNerney by a 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent margin. Just 43 percent of roughly 16,000 Tracy residents who voted sided with their hometown congressman. (P1)
Dan Bilbrey, Tracy’s mayor since 1994, retired from the Tracy Community Hospital Foundation in January, then in August announced that he would not seek another term as Tracy’s mayor.
Longtime Councilman Brent Ives was helped to defeat of Celeste Garamendi, one of the leading proponents of Measure A, Tracy’s slow-growth ordinance, by an anti-Garamendi advertising campaign funded in part by Pombo, who previously served with Ives on the council.
On Nov. 7, Ives was elected to office with 55 percent of the vote, and councilwomen Evelyn Tolbert and Suzanne Tucker retained their contested seats.
The council chose to fill Ives’ emptied council seat with former police officer and local Drug Abuse Resistance Education teacher Steve Abercrombie.
Tracy’s local political discourse was dominated by the city’s consideration of two controversial developer deals that promised to bring Tracy a new large sports complex and a new aquatics center.
By November, the city would finally own the 200-acre “Antenna Farm” on Schulte Road, which could become the home of a huge city sports complex. AKT Development, owner of the 5,500-home Tracy Hills project, proposed giving the city $20 million toward construction of that park in exchange for 300 building permits per year for Tracy Hills.
The Surland Cos., which wants offered to build an aquatics park within its Ellis project near Tracy Hills in exchange for 200 homebuilding permits.
But a judge ruled in late November that the deals could not exceed a total of 225 permits per year. It is unclear what will happen next.
The war in Iraq came home again in 2006.
First was the news that U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Christopher Dewey, 20, had died Jan. 20 after a suicide bomber attacked his unit near Haqlaniya in Iraq’s Anbar Province.
Dewey was on his second tour of duty and previously was wounded during fierce fighting in Fallujah in 2004. He was the fifth Tracy serviceman to die in the war.
Then, on Nov. 14, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tung M. Nguyen, 38, was killed during fighting in Baghdad. Nguyen was a native of South Vietnam and a graduate of Tracy High School. He was the sixth local serviceman to die in the war.
The Tracy Chamber of Commerce started its year by firing its executive director, and then the chamber’s board split in two.
Steve Hartje, who had been on the job for only a few months, was voted out of his job Feb. 17 by the chamber’s executive board. A month later it came to light that Hartje had sent a memo to the board stating that board members Taz Harvey and Diane Timan had created a hostile work environment for him and that they should resign.
By late spring, a group of chamber members voted to remove the board of directors and appoint a new board, but the board did not recognize the vote. In June, the dissenting members started their own business group, the Central Valley Business Alliance.
Meanwhile, the Tracy Dry Bean Festival took on some unpopular changes. The Chamber ended free admission to the festival and charged $5 for entry through gates in temporary fencing that ringed downtown, with some local chamber members saying the fence ruined their weekend trade.
The chamber claimed 44,000 people attended the festival but that it only made $25,000 in gate fees.
For the first time in its 20-year history, representatives of the bean industry, including the California Dry Bean Advisory Board and California Bean Shippers Association, did not participate. The only beans available during the bean festival were those served at the chili cook-off.
Measure E, Tracy Unified School District’s $51 million school bond, was approved by voters in the June 6 election with 68.6 percent of the vote.
The bond will pay for demolition of the West Building at Tracy High School, a replacement for that building and the addition of a pool, stadium and theater at West High School. The district board of education approved an 11-member committee in August to oversee how the $51 million is spent.
On Oct. 21, Tracy High School’s 90-year-old West Building was torn down. Construction of the original building had started in 1916 with the support of a $60,000 voter-approved school bond. Tracy Joint Union High School, including 14 classrooms and a 700-seat auditorium, had opened May 1, 1917.
Modern earthquake safety standards meant the building led to it being declared unsafe in 1975. Though students no longer would go to classes in the building, it was still used for Tracy Unified School District’s offices and the Tracy Adult School. The district offices moved to a new home on Lowell Avenue in 2001, and the building was vacated altogether in 2005.
In March, the University of California, which oversees Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, answered a call by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to propose a new home for the nation’s premiere anti-terrorism biological research lab.
The lab’s 7,000-acre high-explosives test range, Site 300 — located a mile west of Tracy — could become a place to study animal diseases to protect the U.S. from biological terrorism attacks against its agricultural industry.
In August, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Site 300 is on the short list of 18 places that could be home to the new lab. That also brought out opponents to the proposed lab, which would be near the proposed Tracy Hills development.
Site 300 was issued a permit to increase the size of outdoor test explosions there threefold, and to increase by eight times the amount of explosives tested outdoors annually.
In April, Caltrans broke ground on the $92 million expansion of Interstate 205. It includes widening of the roadway between Interstate 5 and West 11th Street, plus the reconstruction of bridges and underpasses along the way.
Commuters also have seen the Mountain House Parkway overpass under construction. It will be a new interchange leading to the new town to the north and to the Patterson Pass Business Park to the south.
In June, two local U.S. Marines, Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson of Tracy and Cpl. Marshall Magincalda of Manteca, were charged in the killing of an Iraqi civilian. The charges came from an April 26 incident in Hamdania, Iraq, where a squad allegedly pulled a man from his home, shot him and made it look as if the man was trying to set up an ambush.
Both men faced courts martial, and local military parents and other supporters rallied to help raise money to pay for the two men’s legal defense.
Jackson pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice and was sentenced a couple weeks later to 21 months in prison, including the six months that he had already served since he was arrested. Magincalda’s case is still in court.