Guest opinion: Why Alamo should incorporate
Twenty-five years after the Town of Danville incorporated, its neighbor to the north is following the same path.
When Danville incorporated, its focus was on planning, parks and policing. Danville concluded, after several attempts at Valley-wide incorporation failed, that it needed to manage its own future, particularly planning and zoning, development of a network of parks, and policing services.
Alamo is currently administered by Contra Costa County and represented by a single supervisor whose district is heavily oriented toward East County. Of the roughly 286,000 population in our supervisorial district, only 16,700 are Alamo residents - or about 5.8 percent. We are effectively disenfranchised.
In addition, Contra Costa County has significant challenges in East County where high growth continues and severe issues in West County where high crime rates and chronic poverty place heavy demands on county services. Alamo is a relatively affluent, mature community whose issues, serious though they are, are unlikely to engage the county's attention to the same extent as East and West County.
So what are the issues that concern Alamo citizens? Alamo is largely built out, but secondary development is occurring largely through lot subdivision and on ridge tops, which will radically change the nature of Alamo. Zoning variances, which allow homeowners and developers to violate zoning ordinances, are also impacting Alamo with no recourse for affected homeowners. As downtown and roads continue to evolve, the ever increasing regional traffic pressures should be addressed. Controversial projects, no matter which side you are on, need to be resolved locally, not in Martinez.
With the planned demise of the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission, the last vestige of local representation on planning will be gone. The impact on Alamo will be profoundly negative, unless we incorporate.
Parks development faces similar issues - park development fees have been withheld by the County, and County administrative costs can run as high as 50 percent of expenditures for special districts. Alamo needs to manage its own parks development and districts.
Traffic issues, particularly related to Alamo's "downtown" area, are complex and challenging and require prompt resolution. This can be accomplished much more effectively if Alamo is incorporated and can make its own decisions.
So incorporation looks like an excellent idea. An incorporated Alamo could be governed by a five-person town council with a town manager and a small staff. There is no need for an expensive city hall - 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of commercial space will be more than adequate to support services that Alamo will provide locally. Every Alamo citizen can vote for its town council and be no more than one degree of separation from council members. As a mature town, Alamo will manage its own future according to its own vision and allow the County to focus on larger and more pressing priorities.
There would be no change to the school district or fire district. Policing would be provided under contract with the County, like Danville.
Can we do this financially, without raising taxes? A detailed outside study (viewable on our Web site www.alamoinc.org) concluded that Alamo will generate a consistent operating surplus during each of the first 10 years following incorporation. In any event, by law Alamo cannot increase taxes as a result of incorporation. Any future taxes for special projects will generally require a two-thirds majority vote for approval - again entirely within Alamo's city boundaries.
Around 170 other communities in California have incorporated with smaller populations than Alamo's nearly 17,000. We have the means, the skills and the pressing need to incorporate and manage our own future. It's time to incorporate Alamo.
Chris Kenber, a member of the Alamo Incorporation Movement Committee, has lived in Alamo for 20 years and served on the school board for eight years.