Voters will re-visit council size issue

By Seth Schmidt

Would a larger city council better serve the citizens of Tracy?

That’s the question that Tracy voters will consider next week during the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election.

Passage of a proposed amendment to city charter would expand the council from a five-member to seven-member governing body.  Currently, the council is comprised of four council members and a mayor.  Approval of the charter amendment would increase the council membership to seven: six councilmen and a mayor.

The Tracy City Council agreed to put the proposed charter amendment on the ballot at the recommendation of the city’s charter commission.  The commission unanimously recommended the larger council, arguing that it would result in more diversity on the council and result in better representation for town residents.  Proponents of the status quo feel that four council members and a mayor are adequate to govern a town the size of Tracy.

Adding two council members would represent an added annual expenditure of about $5,400 for city government.  City council members are paid $551 a quarter, and $20 for each council meeting attended, adding up to compensation of just under $2,700 for a council person who attended two meetings per month.    (The mayor is paid $689 quarterly, and $25 per meeting).

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The proposed increase in council size would reverse a 2010 city vote that decreased the council size by two.  The charter commission at that time recommended the smaller council as a way to improve council efficiency and save money.  The council agreed to put it on the ballot, and in August of 2010, the public approved the smaller council by a 199 to 106 margin.  In the November 2010 general election, voters filled only one council term, instead of three, and in January of 2011, the council became a five-member body, with four council members and one mayor.  The board has remained at four council members and a mayor ever since.

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The council size issue is one of two proposed amendments to city charter that voters will consider.

The other relates to term limits for council members.

City charter already has term limits established for the mayor and the council.  However, it was unclear whether the term limits applied to someone who served consecutive terms as a council member and then as mayor. The new charter language limits combined council and mayoral service to no more than 14 consecutive years.