A Friday night forum to introduce candidates for Tracy City Council gave the public a chance to hear from eight people running for two open seats on the council.

Candidates had a chance to weigh in on local issues, such as downtown development around a proposed Valley Link station, the city’s efforts to shelter homeless people, the future of Legacy Fields, and the basis for Tracy’s economic development.

The Tracy Press and Tracy Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which was livestreamed from WorkVine 209 in the NorthgateVillage center on Pescadero Avenue.

The candidates met in a socially distanced fashion in a conference room, and also used an online meeting format so they could all appear on the same screen for remote viewers. Resulting audio feedback, though, led to interruptions throughout the forum, making some candidate comments inaudible, and eventually causing the event to end early.

The candidates still got in their opening statements, and stated their positions on some of the issues the City Council will face in 2021 and beyond.

Ameni Alexander said he wants to bring a spirit of cooperation to the city council in his effort to make Tracy a place where young people are valued, job opportunities abound and public safety is a priority.

“We need a leader who can get along well with other city council members well,” he said. “We have city council members who don’t get along with one another. I would like to be the kind of city council person that, as an ordinary person, you can talk to, along with the other city council persons and the mayor, so that we can work together to provide policies that will work for all of us. Policies that will protect our community.”

The candidates also weighed in on budget priorities.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that everybody here, we’re agreeing that we need to cut our spending, and we need to figure out where we need to cut our spending from,” Elizabeth Ortiz said. “Obviously we do not want to defund our police. We do not want to defund our first-responders. That’s just not an option.”

The next council could end up working with a new downtown plan, should Measure Y, a proposal to allow 2,200 homes and apartments to be built in Tracy’s downtown, be approved by voters. It would make the TracyTransitCenter and the Valley Link commuter rail service the centerpiece of a specific plan for the area.

William Muetzenberg supports the measure.

“If we want to attack the traffic issue we need to make sure that people are going to have easy accessibility to transit, and we cannot have that without building out an efficient and effective transit-oriented development district. I also want to make sure as a city council member, we have jurisdiction on the types of projects that are going to be approved.”

Amrik Wander also supports the measure as a way of promoting economic development. He noted that ultimately the voters will decide on Measure Y, but it’s up to the council to make sure it’s implemented properly.

“We are here to support the public, and if the public votes ‘yes’ for that, if I get elected I will fully support that,” Wander said. “The Measure Y itself does not authorize construction of housing units,” he added, noting that the city will still have authority to review individual projects.

Eleassia Davis does not support Measure Y

“It’s vaguely written. It does not seem to have the best interest of Tracy residents in mind. The city council has already designated three areas as TOD (transit oriented development), and this measure allows the council to designate other areas as TOD, and the minimum number of homes in each TOD area is 2,200. So I can’t even imagine where 2,200 homes are going to go in the first place,” she said. “I’m not against development, but I’m for smart development, and it’s just not smart to put a minimum of 2,200 homes in that area.”

Cliff Hudson said that Valley Link is a good start to recruiting businesses, citing the $3.5 billion in economic impact and 22,000 construction jobs and 400 new permanent jobs it will bring.

“If we don’t pass Measure Y it will drive through Tracy and not stop. Our residents will have to drive to Mountain House, or RiverIslands, or Livermore to get on the train,” he said, adding that as a contractor he often hears people say that it’s hard to do business in Tracy.

“We’ve need to change that image. We can’t keep saying no to everyone who wants to come here.”

The candidates also addressed the homeless crisis. The city has already approved a temporary shelter at the north end of town at the end of Larch Road by the wasterwater treatment plant. Candidates weighed in on that solution and what will come next.

Jaime Medina said that accountability is the key to resolving homelessness.

“I believe that when individuals find themselves in that situation and they become chronically homeless, the way to get them out of it to encourage them,” Medina said. “I also want a high-expectation domicile as well, so as we start moving them up within that homeless shelter, their peers will see them moving up, staying sober, working on themselves. I’ve seen this work. I’ve seen it work with the veteran population as well other populations.”

Bedolla said common-sense government would be the best way to start, first by not treating the homeless as criminals, and then by offering affordable housing and job training.

“The temporary shelter, it’s a start,” he said, “but many people will tell you, and I drove down there, it’s very far from city services and it’s right next to the wastewater treatment plant. Anybody who’s going to go there for services, is going to kind of let your know, message received.”

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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