The first returns showed less than desirable results for those in favor of incorporation. Gathered at the Alamo Women's Club while the rain pelted down outside, proponents of Measure A watched as results from the Contra Costa County Clerk's Web site painted a picture of an effort doomed to failure.
With more than half of the voting in Alamo done by mail-in balloting, the clerk's office was able to begin posting results shortly after 8 p.m. Of the 3,812 mail-in ballots, 2,534 voted No, with 1,278 voting Yes.
That margin, 66 percent to 34 percent, carried through the rest of the vote tabulation, and the final tally announced an hour later was 4,074 No votes to 2,099 Yes - a total of 6,173 votes.
Amid the sound of popping balloons as the decorations at the clubhouse were taken down, incorporation spokesman Chris Kenber said he was disappointed but not surprised by the vote.
"I think it's a missed opportunity," he said, "it won't come again for a very long, long time."
Kenber said proponents have known all along that getting incorporation approved by a majority of the residents was going to be an uphill battle. He pointed to a study done at the beginning of the incorporation movement that showed an overwhelming majority of residents satisfied with the situation in the community.
"Combine that with the worst economy in 60 years, and getting people to accept change in those circumstances is very hard." He added, "I frankly thought we had a chance, not a great chance, but obviously I was wrong."
In discussing the campaign, Kenber said there was nothing that he felt he would have done differently. He said that educating the populace proved to be a challenge and trying to create some cohesiveness in the community was also very difficult.
"One of the things that became very clear in this election is that there is no 'Alamo community.' There is a Rotary community, there's a Round Hill Community but there's no 'Alamo.' Alamo is a somewhat selfish collection of relatively wealthy people," he explained.
One of the leaders of the incorporation movement, Vicki Koc, who also ran for council, lauded the efforts of her fellow proponents. "I think we had a fabulous effort. They worked really hard and educated the community about what local government is ... but it just wasn't enough," she said.
Koc's disappointment in the loss is tempered by pride in the efforts they put forth and concern about what the future holds for Alamo. "A lot of stuff is coming down the pike (from Contra Costa County), and I don't think people are going to like it."
She said with the county going through rough financial times, it's going to fall on residents to bear the burden. And those in unincorporated areas will feel it more than most.
"We already know that they're going to find revenues through a utility tax on unincorporated areas. They're going to tax and they're going to cut services," she added.
With the end of the Alamo Incorporation Movement, Koc said that AIM has seen its swan song and most likely will not return. Some questions remain as to what will be next for Koc herself. A long time Alamo committee volunteer, she said she is re-evaluating her role in Alamo and where she intends to put her time and energy.
"I don't think sitting on some advisory committee with no teeth and always overruled is where I would want to go," she stated.
Opponents held no gatherings on election night, choosing instead to stay home and check ballot counts on their computers. This did not stop them from savoring their victory.
"This is a little guy's victory, a victory for the little guy," said opposition leader R. Jean Taylor. "Pleased isn't even the word I would use for how I'm feeling. It was a great, great victory."
Taylor, an at-times reluctant voice for the opposition, said she saw the way the incorporation movement was rolling ahead and decided she needed to take a hand in the future of Alamo. "It wasn't just me. I sowed the seeds, but the grass grew very big and very tall and choked out the incorporation movement's weeds," she said.
The lack of organization and the sense that incorporation was a "done deal" motivated Taylor to get involved. Her tipping point, she said, was the fundraising sign with the red thermometer erected by the Alamo Community Foundation at the shopping center on Stone Valley Road and the anger she felt at seeing incorporation moving forward with such strength. "The ACF thermometer ... I think my temperature rose with that."
Taylor threw time and money into stopping the incorporation movement: paying the fee to force a reconsideration by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO); using her Web site Alamospotlight.com to fight against incorporation; and even helping fund a study to contradict the conclusions drawn by the feasibility study used by LAFCO to make its decision to allow the vote on incorporation.
Ultimately, Taylor said, she doesn't think residents bought into the idea that financial plans drawn up two years ago would hold up during the current economic climate. "The fact is we're in a freefall. I don't think people were willing to vote due to the timing," she said.
Another charter member of the opposition, Tony Carnemolla, said the economy was one thing, but he felt some voted against Measure A simply because they feel the county is doing right by Alamo.
"I think the county's been doing a good job all the way down the line. Mary Piepho's done a great job," he said.
He acknowledged there have been times the county has not done everything that Alamo citizens would have wanted but he believes that the recent move toward incorporation has gotten their attention. "I think it will be a lot better than it has been," he said. "I think the county's ears are opened to the kinds of things we want."
Carnemolla congratulated the proponents on a hard fought campaign. "They did a really good job. They were well organized. They had a lot more signs out there than we did. But it was the will of the people. They won the battle of the signs, but we won the war for incorporation," he said.
Emotions ran very high during the campaign, with accusations of deception, underhanded dealings and sign stealing being tossed back and forth between the two groups. The question now is: Will the groups be able to bridge that gap?
"I don't know," said Kenber. "I think it can be healed but not for a long time. In elections like these, emotions run high and it's hard for people to get past that."
Despite the victory, Taylor echoed Kenber's comments. She said she doesn't see any healing coming soon either.
"Not by the people who called Cecily (Cecily Talbert-Barclay, a spokeswoman for the opposition) a liar, not by people who have personally attacked me and others against incorporation," she said. "It's going to be hard to get over that."
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