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'Rags to Riches' Story Makes City a Contender

May 02, 1991|FRANKI V. RANSOM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

During the early 1970s, Duarte was so poor that it had to use hand-me-down stop signs from Arcadia.

Then the city took advantage of new redevelopment laws, tore down old structures and built commercial developments and housing. By the mid-1980s the city was "full of new people and full of hope," civic leaders said in asking that Duarte be named an All-American City.

On Monday, the Denver-based National Civic League recognized the resurgence, selecting Duarte, population 20,688, as a finalist for its 42nd All-America City Award.

The league was established in 1894 by Theodore Roosevelt and others to promote citizen participation in solving community problems.

A 16-member screening committee reviewed 97 applications before selecting 30 cities ranging from Anacortes, Wash., to Shoreham, R.I. Only two other California cities, Lynwood and Modesto, were named finalists.

"Being selected one of the 30 finalists is exciting because it is a national competition," Duarte City Manager Jesse H. Duff said Tuesday. "For a small city to get national recognition, it feels good."

The finalists will make oral presentations June 6-8 in San Antonio. Ten winners will be selected. The award has prestige but no monetary value, league and city officials said.

Duarte's application contained a 1988 comprehensive community development plan adopted by the city, the school district and Chamber of Commerce. The community project included joint use of city and school facilities and a health care referral system.

"Duarte is small and quiet, but we've shown that we can be the mouse that roared," Councilman John C. Van Doren said.

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