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Diamond Bar Advisory Panel Left 'Basically Out of Money'

May 22, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

DIAMOND BAR — While neighboring cities wrangle over how to spend the millions of dollars in their budgets, the Diamond Bar Municipal Advisory Council--the closest thing to local government for this unincorporated community of 70,000--is struggling to pay its postage costs and telephone bills.

At the council's last meeting, treasurer Dan Buffington informed his colleagues that the group was down to its last $92.57.

The council, a five-member elected board that seeks to represent the consensus of the community to county officials, requires about $300 a month to cover various bills, rent on its modest office at Heritage Park and the salary of its only paid staff member.

The group, created by the county Board of Supervisors in 1976, has no taxing authority and depends entirely on contributions from the community. Lately, those donations have been dwindling.

'Out of Money'

"We're basically out of money," Buffington said. "We're going to have to figure out something."

Because it is an advisory council, the council is frequently as powerless as it is penniless. Although it advises county decision-makers on issues affecting Diamond Bar, its recommendations often seem to carry little weight.

In one incident that was particularly galling for council members, the panel voted unanimously to oppose a 160-unit apartment complex, arguing that Diamond Bar was already glutted with high-density housing. The project was then approved by the county Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

"We can get some minor concessions from time to time, but on the bread-and-butter issues--zoning and land use--we're ignored," Horcher said. "The developers call the tune and they generally get what they want."

Despite its lack of authority, the council is the only of local control Diamond Bar voters can exercise, council members said. Now, they want voters to start footing the bill for that representation.

Pizza Night

One answer to the council's financial woes may be pizza. A local pizza parlor recently donated 20% of its sales for one evening to the council. The "pizza night" brought in $105, more than doubling the council's holdings.

Council Member Lavinia Rowland said she would like to see two or more similar fund-raising events each month involving various Diamond Bar businesses.

The "pizza night" fund-raiser brought in the lion's share of the $106 in revenue taken in by the council this month. The remainder? "Somebody came up at the last meeting and gave us a dollar," Buffington said.

The council will consider various fund-raising options at its meeting Tuesday night, when the most pressing issue on the agenda will be the question of how to keep the council solvent.

Los Angeles County may not be sympathetic. The council still owes the county $1,705 of the $5,000 cost of council elections in 1986. Before that can be paid off, the council will have to go deeper in debt to hold elections this November.

Making MAC Obsolete

"I don't know what we're going to do," Rowland said. "We may end up having to dissolve the MAC before the elections."

Ironically, council candidates might be on the same ballot as a cityhood measure, which if passed would make the council obsolete. Council members said the incorporation drive has drawn money and interest away from the council.

"People say: 'What do we need a MAC for? We're going to be a city soon and we don't need that,' and in a way that's true," Buffington said. "But we still have another six months in which the MAC is the only form of local control."

Paul Horcher, a Diamond Bar attorney who has been on the council since 1982, said the council has seen lean times before but has always received help from constituents when needed.

The council got out of a similar financial pinch four years ago when community members pledged donations of $50 a month.

Pay as You Go

At times, council members have had to pay their own way. Two of the top donors in the last pledge drive were Horcher and fellow Council Member Don Stokes, who contributed $600 each to keep the group alive.

"I'd prefer it, of course, if everyone in town just chipped in $1," Horcher said. "We'd have enough (money to operate) for three or four years. And I think people would get their dollar's worth."

Rowland said she made such a plea two years ago.

"I think we took in a total of $5," she said. "I'm at a loss as to why the community doesn't respond more favorably."

If the community's financial support is not adequate, is it up to council members to make up the difference? Buffington and Rowland say no.

Contributions of Time

"I have not contributed any money to it, and I refuse to," Buffington said. "I contribute a lot of time, as do the other MAC members. Why should we also contribute money?"

The council's main source of revenue is the Diamond Bar Ranch Festival, an annual carnival that benefits the council and various service clubs. Last year, the council received slightly more than $2,000 from festival organizers.

"They probably should have given us more," Horcher said. "They still left us basically insolvent."

Ron King, chairman of the council's finance committee, had been planning to raise funds with a Fourth of July raffle, but some council members say the group needs an immediate source of funding.

"We're going to need money before the Fourth of July," Buffington said.

Rowland said the council may be hard-pressed to even pay for the printing of the raffle tickets.

"That's another 59 and some-odd dollars," she said. "We don't have that to give."

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