GOP luncheon serves up Alamo incorporation debate
Each side tells pros and cons of Measure A
The issue of Alamo incorporation has been polarizing the community with strong statements on both sides of the issue for some time. Finally on Tuesday last week there was an organized presentation by both sides, held at the monthly luncheon of the San Ramon Valley Republican Women Federated.
"This is a topic I find intriguing, even if you're not an Alamo resident," said moderator Danville Councilwoman Candace Andersen.
About 60 members of the club met at Crow Canyon Country Club along with five of the 15 candidates running for Town Council if Alamo chooses to incorporate.
Featured speakers were Vicki Koc speaking in favor of incorporation and Cecily Talbert Barclay against.
Barclay was a last-minute replacement for vocal incorporation critic R. Jean Taylor. Taylor said she chose to substitute in Barclay because of the latter's background as a land use attorney and her experience in dealing with town governments.
Both women brought formidable credentials to the floor. Koc, a long time Alamo resident, has been at the forefront of the incorporation movement since its inception. She has also served on a number of Alamo committees and is very familiar with the incorporation effort.
Barclay is a three-year resident of Alamo but a 20-year resident of the East Bay. The Harvard educated attorney works in the area of land use and has extensive experience working with government.
Andersen allowed both women to make a 15-minute statement, then opened the floor to questions. Koc was given the opening position and spoke at length about the viability of Alamo as a town and the importance of providing its residents with local control.
"We believe that Alamo citizens will make better decisions on behalf of their community than five supervisors and county staff in Martinez," Koc stated. "Some of the county's recent proposals and decisions, particularly around traffic issues on the boulevard and at Stone Valley, show clearly why Alamo decisions should be made in Alamo by an Alamo Town Council."
Koc pointed to a number of issues the community has had with the county during past years that demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the area and a lack of commitment to getting things done in a timely manner.
Koc also answered some concerns that she has heard voiced in regards to the financial stability of the new town.
Firstly that she believes the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA), done as part of the due diligence for creating the town, is solid even as the economy is seeing serious declines.
"They say we can't afford to incorporate in a weak economy," she said. "Frankly, we can't afford not to."
She added that the recent decision to close Yardbirds would not affect the bottom line in the CFA as the store was not open when those figures were calculated.
Other issues addressed were affordable housing and horse properties.
"There's a false concern that affordable housing mandates will cost Alamo and force it to grow," Koc said. "State affordable housing mandates already apply through the county's general plan ... a plan we are legally obliged to adopt upon incorporation."
As for rumors that the town would be rezoned to disallow horse properties? With a smile she pointed to fellow council candidate Randy Nahas in the audience and said if that were the case she was pretty sure he wouldn't be running for office.
Koc's opponent, Cecily Talbert Barclay, said she appreciated the work Vicki had done in the community, but that she had many reservations regarding the fiscal viability of a Town of Alamo.
"I spend way too many of my waking hours trying to make local governments work," she said.
Barclay said she read the CFA last year, had serious questions about it and doubts the revenues stated as being generated. Estimations she has made say the CFA could be off by as much as $5 million.
It's a mistake she said the new town can't afford to make
"If we're wrong, there will be nowhere to turn except to cut services or raise taxes," she noted.
At the recent candidates fair, Barclay said, she asked the various people running for town council what they will do if there's an error regarding these revenue and expenditure predictions. She said the only answers offered were they were "counting on the cushion."
One line item in the CFA she pointed to as off was the start-up costs, which were projected at $32,000. Barclay said they would be more like $132,000.
She added that arguments by proponents that having a town council will replace the county's governance are wrong. She pointed to all the services the town would still be contracting for with the county and said that putting a town government in the mix will just create additional bureaucracy
"It will be a layer of government, an expensive layer," she said.
In response to comments by proponents that incorporation is important with the state and federal economies reeling, Barclay said the county may have serious financial problems but they are in a position to respond to the situation.
"The county is already governing. They can cut and streamline," she explained.
Barclay said she and other incorporation opponents have hired an expert to go over the CFA and determine the viability of the document. She said that report should be completed within the next week.
Once both candidates finished their speeches, the floor was opened up for questions. They covered a variety of topics including:
* Affordable housing
* Police protection
Afterward both speakers said they were pleased to have the chance to discuss the issues. Barclay said she can appreciate the work done by those in favor of incorporation but she questions whether the current economic climate is cause for a second look at the feasibility of Alamo becoming a town.
"My bottom line is we should incorporate someday, but we absolutely should not incorporate based on a report created in 2006," she stated.
Koc said she feels that the time is right for Alamo to take the step into self governance and she understands that some people are frightened by taking that step.
"We understand that change frightens people, but change is happening all the time," she said. "How we manage that change and make Alamo the community we all want it to be is the central issue."