The Headlight Herald recently posed a number of questions to the two mayoral candidates. Here are their responses:
Planning is underway for several sanitary sewer, storm sewer, water, and street improvement projects in Tracy that have an estimated priced tag of about $21 million. About $7.8 million in state and federal grants has been promised to help pay for these improvements. Do you support these planned projects?
Peterson: The planned infrastructure improvements are necessary as well as overdue. These improvements will also help the city grow as the moratorium on new construction has been lifted. It will be a long process, but it will be worth the effort and expense.
Dimmers: Yes, these projects are vital to the sustainability of the City of Tracy. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in a position that so much needs to be done at this time. These systems are very old, and the required updates are essential to the future of Tracy as well as the health and welfare of Tracy residents.
If you support these projects, what will be your suggestions to pay for the expenses not covered by grants?
Peterson: It is unfortunate, but the unfunded items will have to be paid for with bonds. We need to, as a community, lobby our state representatives to change the statutes to allow for the lower interest bonds. It will also be necessary to raise utility rates to pay not only for the loans and bonds, but to pay the operating and maintenance costs of the water and sewer systems. What we collect today will be used in the future to pay down the debt. If we walk up the increases over the next few years it will not only add to the different funds, but it will also keep from having to jump the rates at an unacceptable price.
Dimmers: We will continue to look for available grant monies, possible cost reductions, and ways to offset costs. We can also make a concerted effort to eliminate waste without sacrificing quality. Ultimately though, some of the burden will fall on residents. I will work to see that the burden is spread evenly and fairly.
Do you support the assessment policy that was used for the 2017 infrastructure project? (Assessing all benefitting properties an equal amount, regardless of front footage or lot size). And why?
Peterson: The assessment policy of 2017 was in line with the policy used for the 5th Street and Park Street water improvements. Due to the appeals of the 4th & Morgan assessments, it was necessary to find a way to keep the assessments as low as possible and still qualify for bonds. Our community does not have the tax base to support the oppressive assessments of the 20% rule that has been used in the past. The infrastructure projects benefit all members of our community.
Dimmers: Yes, it makes sense. This infrastructure project updates systems that benefit everyone equally regardless of lot size or footage.
If you happened to meet a family looking at a house “for sale” in your neighborhood, what would you tell them about the advantages of living in Tracy?
Peterson: I would tell anyone that Tracy is a friendly community. Our school system is second to none. There are sports programs to fit almost all needs. We have a hospital that is part of a large healthcare network and a full service drug store. Our parks and the pool are second to none. Our stores and services provide for our needs and they support the community. Our churches and service organizations also support the needs of our community. And should the need arise, the community comes together to support each other as was demonstrated during and after the July flood.
Dimmers: Tracy is quiet and peaceful. One of my favorite things on a weekend morning is sipping coffee on my front porch and hearing the church bells or a train whistle in the distance. Waving hello to a friend or neighbor as they walk past. It harkens to a simpler bygone time.
What is your leadership style? Why does that make you a good fit for the council?
Peterson: I believe in leading by example. I take the time to gather all the available information in order to make informed decisions. I do not get involved in gossip or petty arguments. I believe in having the right people in the right places and support them fully. I also believe that the needs of the entire community are more important than the needs of a few. I also feel strongly about making decisions that reflect the long term benefits for the community. Quick decisions are only necessary in times of emergencies and should not be applied to all situations.
Dimmers: I would have to say maybe a cross between democratic and situational. I often ask for input from team members before making a final decision, however, I also believe the best leaders utilize a range of different styles depending on the environment.
What would you establish as your most important objectives if you are elected?
Peterson: There is no simple single answer on important objectives as they all are intertwined. The infrastructure projects will be on top of the list for a long time yet, but we need to do all we can to attract more people to Tracy. The EDA and TDC are doing a good job laying the ground work in this area but we as a community can help by supporting their efforts. The airport is another asset that has not been exploited to its fullest extent. We are well into the Master Plan completion and are adding more pilots and planes. The local input from the meeting and fly-in were a big help.
Dimmers: Community! Together we can do almost anything. I think it is essential that Tracy come together as a community if we are going to meet our needs and goals. Working against one another, finger pointing, personal disputes, and grudges are distracting and preventing us from accomplishing important tasks. I believe fostering and re-establishing a sense of community and trust within Tracy is a key element and the basis in which we can move Tracy into the future.
What is keeping the city from attracting more people/families to it?
Peterson: The biggest deterrent in attracting more growth in the community is our tax burden. With the high cost of the infrastructure improvements and the lack of new construction due to the moratorium and the low tax values of the older properties have put a huge burden on the tax capacity. More new construction such as the drug store and dollar stores are helping, but we still have a way to go. I am confident that the development of some of the highway 14 properties will help in this area.
Dimmers: Tracy’s reputation. One thing that I hear is Tracy is a city with issues and chaos in city council. I have also been told Tracy doesn’t look good, looks rundown, needs to be cleaned up, too many empty houses, etc. Again, together as a community we can turn around Tracy’s reputation and get Tracy back on track.
Summarize your education, work, family and public service background. Why will aspects of your background help you be an effective leader in City of Tracy government?
Peterson: I have 10 years of service on the City Council, four of which as Mayor. I have served on the EDA, Planning Commission, Hospital Board and Airport Commission. I am a Life Member of the VFW and the VFW Children’s Home. I am also a member of the Eagles and St. Mary’s Church. I attended Tracy Schools and graduated from the Community College of the Air Force with two separate AAS degrees. I have attended NCO Leadership, NCO Academy and the Senior NCO Academy schools. I look forward to being able to continue to serve my community.
Dimmers: I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in IT (BSIT), Graduated USAF leadership school, completed Aircraft Maintenance Technology courses at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University as well as several other courses at the Community College of the Air Force. I served over 23 years in the US Air Force and Special Operations as a C141/C5 instructor flight engineer. I have also served as the VFW Post 8691 Commander for 2 years in NY and I am the charter Commander of the AMVETS Jack Leyden Memorial Post 1213. Additionally, I serve on the Pipestone Calumet Players Board of directors and I am a former member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. My entire adult life has been in service to country and community. I have decades of experience working together with various groups of people to accomplish common goals, aid those in need, and supporting communities. I have participated and assisted in rebuilding communities and disaster recovery, to providing food and clothing to the homeless.