The Tracy City Council has acknowledged that homelessness is going to be a long-term issue in town, and a new standing council committee should be formed to address homelessness well into the city’s future.
On a unanimous vote Tuesday night the council agreed to form a two-member committee, a followup to a previous ad-hoc committee – formed in April 2019 with Councilman Dan Arriola and former Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom – that led the way toward creation of the city’s Homeless Strategic Plan, approved by the full council in May 2020.
Creation of that document led to approval back in September of a plan to build a homeless shelter between Arbor Avenue and Larch Road at the north end of town. That project has yet to break ground and will be up for discussion at the council’s March 2 meeting as the city considers the budget and funding source for that project.
On Tuesday, the council’s discussion revolved around transparency of the committee, and the need for it to be a long-term effort.
Councilman Mateo Bedolla suggested that a three-member committee be formed and also asked if the city keeps meeting records from such committees. City Manager Jenny Haruyama replied that two-member committees don’t have the same open-meeting and reporting mandates as the full council, though committees do provide the council with regular updates of their activities.
Arriola said that it has always been his goal to make the process more accessible to the public.
“I believe that as we have gone along this route, I do think it is so important that we do enhance that transparency for our community,” Arriola said.
“I do think that unfortunately homelessness is something that didn’t happen overnight and will not be solved overnight,” he added. “There is a semi-sense of permanency and it is appropriate to have a standing committee at this time so that we can really engage the public and make sure we’re having really transparent conversations.”
Councilwoman Eleassia Davis said that as one of the council’s newest members, along with Bedolla, she considers homelessness in town as an issue that could benefit from a new style of leadership.
“With this being a new council I would like the opportunity for the new councilmembers, myself and Mr. Bedolla, to be given the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about the direction of homelessness,” she said.
“With all due respect to former councils, the strategic plan, ad hoc committee and all the work that was done there, what I don’t want it to be is an appearance of the continuation of former councils. I would like to see at least one or both of us be able to participate on the standing committee if it’s something council choses to do.”
She also agreed with Bedolla that a three-member committee should take the lead on the issue.
While the council logged unanimous votes on most of motions presented during the discussion, it was split on a 3-2 vote regarding the number of members the committee should have. The longer-serving council members — Mayor Nancy Young, Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas and Arriola — rejected Bedolla’s motion to form a three-member committee.
City Attorney Leticia Ramirez had pointed out that a three-member committee would be a council majority, subject to the same open meeting and record-keeping rules as the full council. Young added that it would also make the committee more than just an advisory panel.
“It can be technically advisory all day. We can say that all day, but the reality of it is, if the three have already made a decision, and you’re not one of those three, and you may have something else, then once it comes to the council it feels like a moot point,” she said.
“I will gladly step back and have whoever else be on that committee when we get to that point, but I want to feel that I do have a part of making those decisions when it comes to us.”
The council did eventually agree on a unanimous vote to Arriola’s motion to create two-member advisory committee, with those two members to be selected at a future meeting. It also agreed that the standing committee would meet quarterly and provide updates to the full council after each meeting and also schedule special meetings as needed.
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