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What's in a Name? Duarte Decides to Keep Moniker

August 30, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

DUARTE — Voters will not get the chance to change the name of a city some people think needs a flashier image.

The City Council reversed itself last week and decided to remove the issue from the November ballot.

The council had voted Aug. 4 to let residents decide in November whether they wanted their city called Duarte, Rancho Duarte, Rancho de Duarte or Duarte Hills. A week later, the council dropped the Duarte Hills option. Then the council became concerned over whether the November vote would be binding.

Last week, the council decided to take the measure off the ballot after City Atty. John Lawson raised several legal concerns.

The council still needed to pass a written resolution putting the issue on the ballot, he pointed out. The resolution the council was prepared to adopt at the meeting was flawed, he added, because it did not allow for rebuttal arguments for or against the name change. Under state law, such rebuttals must be included with the ballot. Since the deadline for making changes to a ballot measure was Friday, there was not enough time for the council to amend the resolution.

The council has been divided about whether to make the decision itself. Under state law, four of the five council members would have to approve any name change.

Mayor John C. Van Doren and Councilman Ed Beranek wanted the council to decide, while Councilman Terry Michaelis insisted the matter go to the voters. On Tuesday, Councilmen John Hitt and Mervin Money, who earlier had voted for the ballot measure, joined Van Doren and Beranek in the 4-1 vote to cancel it.

"I still think the voters should decide," Michaelis said. "It won't get any simpler or easier. I think the others (councilmen) wanted to put it off for the new council to decide, but that won't solve the problem."

Since Beranek and Money are not seeking reelection in November, the council will have two new members.

This is the third time since 1971 that an effort to change the city's name has failed.

Initially, then-Councilman Robert Harbicht proposed renaming the city Rancho Duarte to enhance its image. The proposal got as far as the petition stage and fizzled.

In 1978, Van Doren, who was not on the council, was instrumental in getting the issue on the ballot, but the voters opted to keep the name Duarte rather than change it to Rancho Duarte.

The issue was raised again in June by the Chamber of Commerce. Members were disappointed that the council had decided to let the voters decide since many merchants do not live in Duarte and would be unable to vote.

Beranek has suggested using the estimated $10,000 an election would have cost to conduct a scientific survey of residents and businessmen and use the results to guide the council in deciding.

Van Doren, who said the ballot measure was rushed forward and not well thought out, likes the idea of a survey.

"A survey would give us a clear definition of what people want, including the merchants," he said. "We represent everybody, not just the voters and not just the 9% who vote" in a local election.

No decision about a survey was made.

Van Doren said that if a survey is conducted, the council should then decide what the city should be called. Voters should then be allowed to approve or disapprove of that name, he said.

The city was named after Andres Duarte, who was granted 7,000 acres of land in 1841 by the Mexican government as a reward for his army service. His land became known as Rancho Azusa de Duarte and gradually was shortened to Duarte.

When the city was incorporated in 1957, it officially adopted the name Duarte. Some longtime residents oppose the name change, but some newcomers, saying that they had a negative perception about Duarte until they moved here, favor a classier name to reflect the upgrading of the city in recent years.

"Rancho Duarte is a classy name and we are a class act now," Van Doren said.

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