Councilmember defends peers, says they and others have been ‘thrown under the bus’

By Per Peterson

Amidst the tornado of rhetoric, fingerpointing and general debate over the future of the senior/community center, Tracy City Councilmember Jeri Schons on Monday spoke up on a personal level.

“We as a community, including us councilpeople, need to work together on this,” Schons said at Monday’s city council meeting. “The last council meeting, people got very emotional … emotion has to be used at the appropriate time and place.”

During an impassioned, seven-minute speech, Schons spoke about the discord that has been growing between the community and members of the council, as well as City Administrator Erik Hansen and EDA Director Jeff Carpenter, the leads on the project. She also questioned where the misunderstanding came from that the City “sold the Multi-Purpose Center out from under the seniors.”

“We did not do that,” she said. “We had meetings, we had public hearings, we had multiple people come down to the public hearing — we had them sitting in the gym. We had to do that before we sold the building; it is required that we had a public hearing. I don’t think (Jeff or Erik) did anything underhanded.”

Schons reminded the public that Hansen and Carpenter acted only on the council’s orders when it came to the MPC and should not be held as scapegoats for what has happened regarding the issue.

“They should not be thrown under the bus anymore than the rest of us council members should be,” Schons said. “I’m very disappointed in how people think we did this underhanded, we did not do that. We had the appropriate opportunities for people to talk.”

Schons said the seniors’ voices were heard, especially when it came to the possibility of using the second floor of the Veterans Memorial Center for a place for seniors to use — an option that was deemed a deal-breaker from the beginning.

“At an (earlier) meeting, we said, ‘Yah, we need to take that off the table, we don’t want to move them up to the second floor,” Schons said. “What I want this community to do right now is to start acting like a community together. We as a council have always said that we are going to take care of our seniors. We have not given anybody any reason that we are not going to take care of our seniors.”

Schons also reiterated the fact that the Eagles Club is only a temporary solution to the larger issue, because “seniors said they would be willing to wait a year or whatever to get another location. That’s what we’re doing. We’re following what we promised we were going to do. I’m not sure where the misunderstandings are coming from, but we have to clear up these misunderstandings.”

Schons encouraged the community to continue to bring concerns related to the issue to councilmembers and the lines of communication can remain open and made it clear the council doesn’t appreciate how they have been perceived in the community.

“I feel like we’ve been thrown under the bus,” she said. “I don’t appreciate that. I’ve known a lot of these seniors for years — I’ve known you, I’ve respected you, and I would just ask the same in return. Give us the respect that we are good to our word. When we say we will take care of our seniors, we will take care of our seniors.”

Schons finished by saying the last thing the community of Tracy needs is to be further divided than it already has become.

After Schons finished, Hansen suggested the council set a time and date for a study session to keep the ball rolling on the issue. It was decided that it will take place at 6:30 p.m. on March 1 in council chambers after the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. The meeting will be open to the pubic.

“We need to make sure that the senior committee is there,” council member Ron Koopman said.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.