Both the proponents and opponents of Measure A started celebrating early Tuesday night, long before the votes were tallied.
By 8 p.m. a five-man band was playing swing tunes at the Balboa Bay Club, where a crowd sporting "I the A-Team" buttons had formed at the ample bar.
Across the bay, in a private home on the Balboa Peninsula, the mood was no less upbeat among those who fought to defeat the ballot measure that would have allowed a $300-million expansion of Newport Center.
Before the night was out, however, the scene at the Balboa Bay Club would change, as Measure A went down to defeat. But when William Ficker, president of Citizens for a Better Newport, took the podium not long before 9 p.m., the revelers were primed for good news.
"I'd like to welcome all of you to this victory party," he said. And the applause roared back. At that point, Measure A was winning, 1,183 to 866.
It was an hour later, when the count from the polls began pouring in, that the tide of Tuesday's election became apparent.
Earlier in the evening, Arthur Price had agreed that it was going to be a difficult election to call. In his "nearly 91 years," Price said, he has cast a ballot on more November Tuesdays than he can recall.
"The first president I voted for was Warren G. Harding," Price said as he left his polling place at the Balboa Island ferry building, near his home of 50 years. "I was 21 in January, 1917, but that wasn't a voting year."
What about the outcome Tuesday?
"I couldn't tell you what most people will do, but most people I know are against it," he said after struggling out of the cardboard voting booth with a cheerful "Help, I'm lost."
Near Balboa Island, nearly a dozen clapboard homes sported "RESIDENTS SAY NO ON 'A' " signs, and nearby Bayside Drive and Carnation Avenue bristled with the blue-and-white banners.
The area also boasted some of Orange County's more unusual polling places Tuesday. In addition to the ferry building--which overlooked a fiery sun setting behind the New Balboa Fun Zone--polling places were located at the Balboa Bay Club and the posh Lido Island Clubhouse.
At the Bay Club, voters could help themselves to fresh coffee--regular or decaffeinated--and pitchers of ice water. Beverages were served in styrofoam cups emblazoned with the club's crest and name.
"They bring us coffee, they check on us every hour or so, and we even have our own restroom," said election worker Joleene Hanks, 62. "How good can you get it? It's better than a garage."
In the Lido clubhouse, which looked out on the Lido Isle Yacht Club, voters exercised their privilege in cardboard booths constructed beneath an array of colorful nautical flags. The flags, one precinct worker said, were collected by yacht club members on their travels to other clubs around the world.
Not only did the Lido precinct have a boat slip for every voting booth, but it also boasted an abundance of voters. By 4:10 p.m., 361 of the high-toned precinct's 1,099 eligible voters had cast their ballot for a healthy 33% turnout with nearly four hours to go.
"You have a stable population that takes the time to educate themselves about issues and then goes to the polls to exercise that right," said precinct worker Judy Franco, 49.
"Besides," interrupted Franco's co-worker, Dorothy Dudas, 76, "it's a big issue. I think it's very important--pro or con."
It was a big enough issue to spark a debate in Lido Isle's Anthony family--Joy and Gay Anthony, who walked to the ballot box with their mother Oletia on Tuesday afternoon.
"I voted against it, but we had a big argument," Gay Anthony said. "I think I convinced my sister." She paused and looked over at Joy, who shook her head sadly.
"I decided it was a property rights issue, and they (Irvine Co.) have the right to do whatever they want with the property," Joy Anthony said. "Besides, they're giving us roads."
Apparently, the family argument did not end with voting. "The roads were just a smoke screen," Gay Anthony said. "At least I convinced my mother."
Voters reject expansion of Newport Center. Part I, Page 1.