Another election for mayor has left Tracy with yet another dilemma and another opportunity for the council to change the way it fills vacancies.
The installation of Mayor-elect Robert Rickman during the first meeting in December will leave the remaining two years of his four-year term open. In the past, the council has chosen the appointment process to fill openings on the body — a process that not only isn’t popular with those who’ve gone through it, but also robs the community of its due democratic process.
In 2012, the council appointed Charles Manne to complete the term of Supervisor Bob Elliott, who had just been elected to county office. In 2014, the council again chose to pick its own fifth member and appointed Councilwoman Mary Mitracos to fill the remainder of Mayor Michael Maciel’s term.
And there you have the underlying problem with the appointment process — only a majority of the remaining four council members need to agree, so a constituency of three is picking someone to represent 86,000 people.
There are options. The city could spend an estimated $250,000 for a special election or write ordinances that would make the third-highest vote getter in a council race the de facto appointee for a vacated seat.
Not for nothing, but the council has appropriated a quarter-million dollars for far less vital reasons — this year, the city has budgeted that amount for playground equipment in Larson Park and for reroofing the Tracy Branch Library and is spending $450,000 for bathrooms at Legacy Fields.
So our question is this: If that amount of money is worth spending on these things, isn’t it a small price to pay for the democracy of actually voting for a city leader? In fact, money spent to ensure democracy is money well spent.
The council should not substitute its judgment for the will of the voters of Tracy. This year, hold a special election and let the people select someone to represent them. Further, we recommend that the council adopt a resolution to make this standard policy going forward.