Candlelight vigil at city hall

Members of the crowd kneel as the names of black people killed by police are read during a Central Valley United candlelight vigil Friday evening at Tracy City Hall.

Following is a sample of some of the non-COVID stories that the Tracy Press covered in 2020. This week’s edition covers the first half of the year, and the months of July to December will be covered in the Jan. 8 edition.

JANUARY

New police chief hired

The city of Tracy announced on Jan. 9 that Sekou Millington, an Oakland Police captain, has been hired as Tracy’s new police chief. His official duties began on

Millington’s 19 years of experience with the Oakland Police includes community policing, undercover narcotics enforcement, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) command, internal affairs division command and executive force review boards. He also had been the two-term president of the Bay Area Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Capt. Alex Neicu had been the acting chief for 16 months and returns to his role as captain. Prior to that the chief’s job was held by Larry Esquivel, who was fired in August 2018.

First supermarket for Mountain House

San Joaquin County planners are looking at a proposal for a 55,000-square-foot Safeway supermarket at the corner of Mountain House Parkway and Byron Road.

It will be the first large retail development in the town of 22,000 people. In addition to the supermarket, the shopping center will included three more buildings, including two restaurants, plus an eight-pump gas station with a convenience store.

Construction has yet to begin, but the streets around the site are in and the site has been graded to prepare for construction.

Chamber honors citizens of the year

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce named local almond grower and exporter Mike Sandhu, and longtime Tracy Realtor Jeanette Pombo Marcucci, as the chambers’ Citizens of the Year for 2019 during the chamber’s gala on Jan. 24.

With the success of his almond business, Sandhu has also become one of Tracy’s leading philanthropists, donating to a variety of local causes when he sees a need.

Pombo Marcucci runs the family real estate business, and was recognized for her tireless efforts as a board member for McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter.

FEBRUARY

Talks on homeless plan continue

The Tracy City Council continued discussions on how to help homeless people in town. Ideas included allowing long-term and overnight parking, and a warming center that could become a hub for services for the unsheltered homeless.

The council has been holding a series of public workshops with the goal of creating a strategic plan to provide some kinds of shelter for people who increasingly set up tents in city parks.

Later in February city staff reported that proposals for a warming center were expected by the end of the month, but legal intricacies meant that other solutions like parking on city-managed lots could take longer.

Ellis agreement faces setback in court

A San Joaquin County judge sided with former City Councilwoman Mary Mitracos, who challenged the validity of an amendment to the development agreement for the Ellis project at the south end of town.

Concerns in the lawsuit included the potential that Surland Communities LLC could get residential growth allotments beyond what was needed to build out the development, even though the developers had previously told the council that they had no intention of selling RGAs to other developers.

TUSD cuts back on teaching staff

The Tracy Unified School District Board of Education approved a cost cutback representing 40 teachers. Tammy Jalique, the district’s superintendent for human resources, explained that declining enrollment led to the cuts. Retirements and resignations are routine, but this year those teachers would not be replaced. The challenge would be to determine which schools or subject areas would be affected.

MARCH

Supervisor election

The March 3 election included a primary vote among four candidates, including three members of the Tracy City Council, running for the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Fifth District seat.

Tracy Mayor Robert Rickman got just over 42.13% of the vote, and Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom got about 29.51% of the vote. Because nobody got more than 50% of the vote the outcome set them up for a runoff in November.

Councilwoman Veronica Vargas got 18.35% of the vote, and Mateo Morelos Bedolla got 9.72% of the vote.

City declares ‘shelter crisis’

The Tracy City Council declared a “shelter crisis” in response to homelessness in town. It was a move that would position the city to qualify for state money to help the homeless. By this time the city had two local faith-based groups willing to run a warming center for the city.

APRIL

County effort to shelter homeless

San Joaquin County officials hope to put state money to use to find shelter for homeless people, including plans to rent hotel rooms in Stockton to get people off the streets.

Landmark demolished

A church building that stood at the corner of 12th Street and Parker Avenue for 100 years by some estimates was torn down. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, owner of the building, had to move the Tracy Family Church of Praise out of the building after structural deficiencies made the building unsafe to occupy.

Church leaders determined that the cost of making repairs would exceed the church’s budget, especially if repair work uncovered even more problems with the aged building.

First homicide

Tracy’s first homicide of 2020 occurred when a 48-year-old man was shot in front of his home on Duncan Drive on April 24. No suspects would be arrested in the drive-by shooting until a few months later.

Cannabis businesses regulated

The Tracy City Council got a look at tentative timeline for issuance of cannabis business permits. Cannabis was legalized statewide in 2016 and the city has worked on its own program of regulating the different types of businesses that could operate in town.

The city figured it would take 3 months to process applications and another 3 months for businesses to get the rest of the permits needed to open. The city ended up extending the application deadline to October, and received 41 business proposals, including 31 applications for the four retail storefronts that would be allowed.

MAY

NDNU closes

Notre Dame de Namur University closed its Tracy campus after a 5-year presence in town. The Belmont-based university had housed classrooms and offices in the Opera House building on Central Avenue, but had been reporting financial troubles.

Tracy grad joins Browns

Tracy High alumnus George Obinna, class of 2014, announced that he had joined the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent. He was a Lions All Star in his senior year at Tracy High and is also a graduate of Sacramento State University.

Homeless plan approved

The Tracy City Council approved its Homeless Strategic Plan, the result of a year-long effort that started when council members Rhodesia Ransom and Dan Arriola were appointed to an ad-hoc committee to lead the process. The plan outlines strategies to make shelter, as well as services, available, and also sets a framework for city government to interact with the unsheltered homeless.

North School upgrade

Tracy Unified School District has announced plans to upgrade North School at Holly Drive and Kavanagh Avenue. The new layout, expected to take about 2 years to complete, will include a 25,000-quare-foot, two-story classroom building.

Cannabis tax on ballot

The Tracy City Council agreed to put a cannabis tax measure on the Nov. 3 ballot. Retailers would pay a 6% tax on sales and all others would pay a 4% tax, and indoor cultivators would pay $12 per-square-foot of their operation. The measure would end up passing.

Sea lion visits Tracy

A sea lion wandered far away from its ocean home, made its way up the Delta and came ashore after reaching Paradise Cut, emerging on the median along Interstate 205. The California Highway Patrol and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department called upon the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito to capture the sea lion and return it to its natural habitat.

JUNE

City eyes Measure V funds

With a budget deficit looming, the city of Tracy is considering drawing on Measure V sales tax money to help balance the budget. COVID-19-related reductions in economic activity have affected sales tax revenue, presenting a shortfall of about $11 million on a spending plan of about $90 million.

Black Lives Matter protests

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police on May 25 sparked protests across the U.S., including marches and rallies in Tracy and Mountain House during the month of June.

Hundreds of mostly young people participated in a march in Tracy, and while there were some street closures as marchers took over, this and a couple follow-up events were peaceful. A march in Mountain House also drew participation from across the community, including remarks from local government and elected officials.

Bystanders rescue driver

A woman whose car plunged into an irrigation canal was rescued by three bystanders. The South County Fire Authority responded to a report of a car underwater in a canal along Schulte Road just west of Lammers Road. Before they got there Jorge Mendoza dove in and broke the car windows, Daniel Miranda pulled the unconscious woman from the car and a third man, who had not been identified, administered CPR to revive her.

JC Penney to close

One of West Valley Mall’s key retailers, JC Penney, announced plans to close its Tracy store by fall. It’s one of 154 stores across the U.S. that JC Penney will close under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The retailer had been in Tracy for 90 years, including 24 years at West Valley Mall.

TUSD online charter school

Tracy Unified School District is opening its Tracy Independent Study Charter School, an online program that had been envisioned as an educational alternative pre-COVID-19. The district planned for the charter school to go live with the start of school in August.

TUSD avoids wave of layoffs

Tracy Unified School District Superintendent Brian Stephens expected deep cuts in the 2020-21 budget because of shrinking student population and also COVID-19-related reductions in the revenue that the state expects to get for education.

The cuts the district’s board of education had to consider included laying off 153 classified workers as a way to balance the district’s $161.2 million budget. Before the board was set to vote on the cuts Superintendent Brian Stephens got word that the state’s contribution to the local budget would remain intact.

Homicide at bar and hotel

A man who had been hailed as a hero the week before for his role in rescuing a woman who drove into an irrigation canal is the suspect in the second Tracy homicide of 2020. Daniel Miranda Lick is accused killing a man on the 2700 block of Pavilion Parkway. Police responded to a report of a stabbing at a bar, and arrived to find that a man had been chased down and beaten after fleeing from the scene. Miranda Lick is in San Joaquin County Jail awaiting further court hearings.

Homeless service group expands reach

Tracy Community Connections Center, which is dedicated to help Tracy’s homeless population, hopes to reach more people by setting up its mobile shower trailer in El Pescadero Park, where many people live in a tent city at the park.

In addition to showers the group provides people with resources that could help them gain government benefits, long-term housing and employment.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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