Many of the candidates on hand were doing double duty, attending the event to talk about their own campaigns but also to continue stumping for incorporation. Tables lined the outside of room, one per candidate; when people entered, they were given a program with a list of candidates and their campaign statements.
The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Alamo Chamber of Commerce and Alamo Community Foundation. Diablo Valley chapter of the League of Women voters Vice President Joyce Kingery said she was excited by the large number of residents who came out Thursday night.
"I think it's a wonderful turnout," she enthused, "and everyone seems to be taking advantage of this event to talk to all the candidates." She added, "I like to see so many people engaged."
Kingery said the League does not endorse candidates and it has chosen not to take a stand on the issue of incorporation, citing incomplete information. "The time frame was not right. Our position on incorporation needed to be updated."
The group did a study on the issue 15 years ago, but Kingery said that report is outdated.
Residents who were both pro and con on the incorporation issue attended the candidate's fair and spent time discussing the issues with the council hopefuls. Kingery said that while they had definite rules as to decorum at the event, the one hard and fast rule being maintained was that the candidates were not allowed to debate the issue of incorporation among themselves.
"We wanted them to be talking to the residents, answering their questions, not getting into a debate on incorporation," she explained.
The candidates said they were hearing a lot of the same questions from residents. Karen McPherson said, "A lot asked me why I am running, why do I think Alamo should incorporate."
Karl Niyati echoed those comments, adding, "Many asked me about my vision. What I see happening for Alamo."
Resident Allen Makely, a strong advocate for incorporation, said that while some opponents have pointed to the economic downturn as a reason to avoid incorporation, he said he feels more in favor of it now than before.
"Initially I was wanting us to incorporate so we could run our own town, but now with the county's financial crisis getting worse, I think we are better off on our own," he said.
A dissenting opinion came from Bob Oliver. The retired airline pilot said he views the possibility of incorporation with mixed emotions, but when he looks around the area he isn't seeing any shining examples of what incorporation could do for the people of Alamo.
"I'm not impressed with how Danville turned out after it incorporated," he stated.
Having worked on Danville incorporation over the years and having been involved in earlier attempts at incorporation in Alamo, Oliver said Danville's growth as a town has been a disappointment.
But if incorporation does pass, Oliver was quick to say what his No. 1 issue will be for the new Town Council. "Straighten out the traffic on Danville Boulevard. It's total chaos. Across from the Safeway, it's a deathtrap," he said.
One surprise in the evening was the loss of a candidate. Brad Stribling, one of the 16 to take out nominating petitions for a post on the council, withdrew his name from the race, bringing the field of challengers down to 15.
Those still in the running are Diane Barley, Bob Connelly, Dennis Johnson, Vicki Koc, Karen McPherson, Steve Mick, Vishwas More, John Morrow, Kevin Morrow, Randy Nahas, Karl Niyati, Joe Rubay, Grace Schmidt, Roger Smith and Brad Waite.
Those who missed the fair last week will get another chance to meet with all the candidates. The Alamo Improvement Association will be holding another candidate's fair from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Creekside Community Church in Alamo.
Voters on March 3 will cast their ballots first to decide whether Alamo will become a town, by voting Yes or No on Measure A, then to choose five of the 15 candidates to sit on the new council. Voting is expected to begin next week when absentee balloting starts.
The three candidates with the most votes would serve four-year terms; the next two would serve two-year terms. The candidate with the most votes would serve as mayor.
The deadline to register to vote in this election is Feb. 17, which can be done in person at the Clerk-Recorder's Office in Martinez or by mail. Voters who register 29 days before the election, or by Feb. 2, will receive a sample ballot for the March 3 Special Election. Those who register by the official registration deadline of Feb. 17 will only receive a polling place notice.
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