Members of the Alamo pro-incorporation movement got a chance to hear the firsthand experiences of people who had recently gone through the incorporation process and the clear message was, "You're not alone."
Wildomar Mayor Pro-tem Bridgette Moore spoke to around 40 people Monday at Ristorante Forli's, including 11 of the 15 residents running for Town Council, about the perils and pitfalls of incorporation. "We had some bumps along the road," she told the crowd. "We got through it. You will get through it, too."
Wildomar incorporated in 2008 after a nearly 10-year long effort. The vote taken in February of last year was 62 percent Yes, to 38 percent No.
Some of the "bumps" were having to fight off an annexation effort by nearby Murrieta, and losing more than 200 acres of their town in an annexation bid by Lake Elsinore. Another issue that threatened their ability to get on the ballot was a member of the incorporation movement who switched sides on the day of the LAFCO vote and paid several thousand dollars to have a review done of the proposed town's finances.
Moore said that same resident, only five days after Wildomar was incorporated, paid $25,000 to sue the town. She said that in any event of this nature there are going to be people on both sides and things will often become heated.
One resident asked Moore about sign stealing, referring to the recent spate of Yes on A signs that have gone missing or been torn down.
"Oh yes, we had signs stolen too. I think that happens in any election," Moore said. "If you have the resources, keep putting them back up."
City Manager John Danielson focused more on the nuts and bolts of how to run the newly formed city. He said for the elected council members there is going to be a sense of urgency, a feeling that they need to do something as soon as the votes are counted. He advised them not to give in to that feeling.
"You don't have to rush into anything. Take a breath. Don't make fast decisions, think it through and make good decisions."
Danielson said that in the first blush of a new city he recommends working as a contract entity, so that there are fewer financial demands or obligations. This will give the newly incorporated town time to get a handle on where revenues are and what residents are looking for in regards to services.
"That's when you'll find out what your community is made of," he stated.
He said that one of the biggest things the Town Council will have to do in the first six months is figure out how best to separate from the county. "You're going to need to figure out how to untie the financial knots with the county. It's kind of like a divorce."
Another piece of advice was to always negotiate. He said that if a town has been receiving services from the county, they can contract with the county. And they should negotiate, not just take the first offer from the county.
Council candidate Karl Niyati pointed to the divisive nature of the issue and the distance that has formed between the two groups, and asked how a newly elected council can heal that rift.
Danielson said the key is to include everyone, no matter where they stood on the issue of incorporation. "They are going to come to the meetings and they are going to want to have their say. And meeting after meeting you let them talk. And then do the good job," he explained. He said that in some cases, as time passes you will find some of those same people seeing what is happening in the town and wanting to be a part of it.
No opponents of incorporation attended the luncheon. However, plans are under way for the opposition group to meet in Alamo Plaza at 10 a.m. Saturday and then begin canvassing the neighborhoods in one final push to defeat the incorporation issue set for a vote on Tuesday.