The Tracy City Council now has a set of guidelines for how council members should behave when they discuss the public’s business and represent Tracy’s city government.
The Tracy City Council Code of Conduct, adopted on a unanimous vote Tuesday night, was developed in response to a San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury Report from June, which cited “power politics,” persistent 3-2 splits on important decisions, the council’s “reputation for its inability to work together as a collegial legislative body,” an inability to previously agree on an ethics policy, and an “open disregard” for the council-manager form of city government.
On Tuesday, the council adopted its new 33-page code of conduct, which clearly outlines the roles of council members in relation to the city staff, including the city manager in particular. It also defines the powers and responsibilities of council members, council committees and the council as a whole.
There’s a chapter devoted to legal and ethical standards and chapters on communications with city staff and the city’s advisory boards, council salaries and expenses, and how council members should address legal issues before the city, as well as a “Norms and Values Statement” that defines council members’ roles as public servants and government officials.
During City Manager Jenny Haruyama’s presentation, she also highlighted disciplinary measures the council could take if one of its members violates the code of conduct.
The council members all endorsed the new code of conduct and complimented Haruyama and City Attorney Leticia Ramirez for drafting a document that the entire council could agree upon.
From the Tracy City Council agenda for the Oct. 15 regular meeting.
“We really have some good checks and balances in there,” Councilman Dan Arriola said. “I’m excited that we finally got here. It took a little longer than we wanted, but at the end of the day, this is a solid product.”
Councilwoman Veronica Vargas said she wanted to highlight the section on council ad-hoc committees, which are assigned to interview and select appointees to advisory boards. She hopes council members will rotate through those committees.
“That was the complaint that we had in the past, that several people serve on those committees and the appointments are friends,” Vargas said. “So it’s just to have credibility, so all of us get to participate in commissions and appointments.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Nancy Young noted that the process of creating the code took several years, but the work was worthwhile.
“I’m glad that it has finally come to a workable, living document that, as we said, could be adjusted whenever it needs to be amended,” she said.
Ransom agreed that she sometimes doubted that the council would agree on the final document because there had been so much contention within the council in the past, but the code of conduct turned out to be inclusive of everyone’s concerns.
“Everyone’s voice and the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish was actually what came through in this document, so we can really get back to doing what we should be doing, which is conducting the public’s business,” she said. “This is another great tool that will not just be specific to this council but for councils to come.”
Mayor Robert Rickman also said that the concerns that all council members had raised in the past were addressed in the new code of conduct.
“I think everybody appears to be happy, which is nice,” he said. “I’m glad myself to see there is an enforcement side of it, so you do have teeth in the document itself.”
In other action on Tuesday, the Tracy City Council:
• Amended its flag policy, affirming that the display of commemorative and ceremonial flags in front of City Hall must be proposed only by City Council members and must be approved by the full council.
• Approved $175,000 in grants through the Mayor’s Community Youth Support Network to five local nonprofit groups that work on behalf of Tracy’s young people: Restoration Center’s intervention, prevention and outreach program ($27,000); Tracy Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hire Me First program ($40,000); Give Every Child a Chance tutoring program ($35,000); the Tracy Boys & Girls Clubs’ SMART Moves and SMART Girls programs ($38,000); and UNeed2 Inc. youth and family technology training ($35,000).
• Approved a deferred improvement agreement with MLP Realty Inc. for a temporary stormwater retention basin. The developer, doing business as Central Plastics, plans to build a 60,456-square-foot industrial building at 1480 E. Pescadero Ave. and will also build a stormwater retention basin to serve the project on a smaller parcel just to the east. The basin will fulfill the city’s stormwater drainage requirements for the new building until a larger basin, designed to serve the Northeast Industrial Area, is complete.
• Approved a $62,507 contract with SpectraTurf of Corona to install a pour-in rubber playground surface at Veterans Park on Glenhaven Drive. It will replace worn-out rubber surfaces covering 4,919 square feet of play areas.
• Introduced an ordinance that would allow more flexibility in the design of new parking lots. City policy requires that a certain number of trees be planted in new parking lots to create shade and reduce the “heat island” effect of parking lots on hot days. Businesses and developers who incorporate solar panels into their parking lots, as Kaiser Foundation has proposed to do at its site on Joe Pombo Parkway between Grant Line Road and Interstate 205, would not have to plant so many trees.
• Accepted the annual report for the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts. The center is in its 13th year. During the 2018-19 season, it hosted 44 events and performances and had 65 rentals, including 13 commercial rentals, with all the others for nonprofit groups. The center’s art gallery hosted 144 artists, and the center’s arts education program counted 7,353 participants in 1,710 classes and events at the center.
• Approved an amendment to the city’s Joint Powers Agreement with Tracy Rural Fire Protection District regarding the South San Joaquin County Fire Authority’s compensation package for firefighters. The fire authority employs all the firefighters who make up the Tracy fire department, and CalPERS, which manages pension funds for government workers, requires both the city and the rural district to define their obligations to contribute to the fire authority’s retirement fund. The city of Tracy will contribute 78% and the rural district will contribute 22%.