The Neighbors' Alliance-led growth-control movement which stalled four years ago and appeared dead two years ago came back with a vengence Tuesday as both incumbent Deborah Ruddock and newcomer Dennis Coleman were swept onto the Half Moon Bay City Council.
Ruddock, who for the past two years has consistently been on the losing end of 4-1 votes, broke into tears at a longer-than-expected City Council meeting when the results were read aloud and cheers and applause erupted from a coterie of her and Coleman's supporters.
According to figures from the City Clerk's office, Ruddock was the highest vote-getter with 1,702 votes, followed by Coleman with 1,577. Challengers Phil Schiller and Ed Stoehr received 1,131 and 1,124 votes respectively. The results do not include a small number of absentee ballots turned in at the polls on election day, but they are too few to change the results.
The Neighbors' Alliance also scored a huge victory in its seven-year war against redevelopment, defeating the North Wavecrest Redevelopment Plan.
The scene at the San Benito House, the traditional election-night gathering place for the Neighbors' Alliance and its supporters, was euphoric, a complete turnaround from two years ago when they lost one of two seats they held. Gatherers broke out the champagne and showered each other with hugs and high-fives.
"I see it as a mandate for change," Ruddock said, "(for) limited use of redevelopment in particular and growth issues in general. I think people see that traffic on the roads is getting worse and worse and worse and nothing's being done about it and they (the City Council) continue to approve projects. And they're worried about their community."
Echoing his campaign slogan, Coleman said, "We felt we really needed to restore the balance and we did."
"(Voters) elected some people they trusted, that's all," he said, adding, "Now I can talk to (Mayor) Naomi (Patridge) and (Councilman) Larry (Patterson) for more than three minutes without the buzzer going off."
At Cameron's Inn, where Stoehr, Schiller and the pro-redevelopment forces met, a band played for a lively but obviously disappointed gathering.
The two candidates handled the bad news differently.
An optimistic and positive Schiller said he was grateful he received as many votes as he did and said he would be back for another try.
"This isn't the end for me," he said. "It's a beginning."
An angered Stoehr on the other hand declined comment, saying, "You're talking to the wrong man."
Although it lost Tuesday's election, the current majority on the council _ Patridge, Patterson and Councilman Jerry Donovan _ will still hold a 3-2 advantage over Ruddock and Coleman. But Ruddock said the victory will aid her and Coleman because they will have someone to second each other's motions. She also she believes the strength of the vote will make it easier to get ideas on the table and have them taken seriously.
"I'd like to look at a serious reform agenda of how we do business in this city," Ruddock said. "I think that too long we've been focusing our time and resources on redevelopment and expanding the sewer plant and too little time on the basic operating mode of the city: How we conduct business; how we provide basic services."
Coleman said he would like to start his term by coming to grips with where the city makes and spends its money and "aligning the priorities with what people want."
"I want to understand the input and output of this little system," he said.
But Tuesday night's council meeting offered a glimpse at the likely rocky relationship in store for both sides on the council until the next election in 1997. Usually council meetings on election nights are tepid affairs with nothing more exciting in store than a quick approval of a consent agenda.
But two items on Tuesday's agenda, an emergency tree removal ordinance and approval of a 45-acre passive park at the west end of Poplar Street, drew recriminations from audience members _ all diehard Ruddock and Coleman supporters _ who accused the council majority of trying to sneak them through while people were focused on voting. The meeting degenerated into a shouting match at several points, with people on both sides of the podium telling the other to shut up and sit down.
Turnout for the election was a low 49.1 percent, or 2,903 of the city's 5,901 registered voters.
Ruddock and Coleman won seven of the city's eight precincts by at least 50 votes. The only precinct they lost was Ocean Colony, which was also the only precinct to vote yes on Measure I, the yes/no vote on the North Wavecrest Redevelopment Project.
According to unofficial results from the City Clerk, the breakdown by precinct was as follows:
*78 Alcatraz Ave. _ Ruddock 159; Coleman 145; Schiller 91; Stoehr 79.
*410 Casa Del Mar Drive _ Ruddock 216; Coleman 191; Schiller 120; Stoehr 116.
*The Coastside Lutheran Church _ Ruddock 165; Coleman 160; Schiller 84; Stoehr 83.
*Both Robinhood Lodge precints _ Ruddock 408; Coleman 392; Schiller 200; Stoehr 191.
*Hatch Elementary School _ Ruddock 239; Coleman 229; Schiller 127; Stoehr 101.
*Ocean Colony _ Stoehr 259; Schiller 246; Ruddock 110; Coleman 88.
*Can^Tada Cove Mobile Home Park _ Ruddock 170; Coleman _ 149; Stoehr 77; Schiller 71.
*Absentee ballots turned in prior to election day _ Ruddock 235; Coleman 223; Stoehr 218; Schiller 192.