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Jurupa Cityhood Petition Drive Eased : May 17 Fund-Raising Carnival Takes Precedence for Committee

Times Staff Writer

Although the group is still well short of its goal of 10,000 signatures supporting a vote on cityhood, a committee of residents of rural northwestern Riverside County has turned its attention away from its petition drive.

“We have eased up on getting the petitions signed because of our May 17 fund-raiser--a carnival with three Western bands, square dancing . . . and an auction of over 4,000 items,” said Karen Shuerger, co-chairman of the Jurupa Study Committee.

The group has collected signatures requesting a cityhood vote from about 4,900 residents of Mira Loma, Glen Avon, Pedley, Rubidoux, Sunnyslope, Indian Hills, Jurupa Hills and Agua Manza, Shuerger said. Using a combination of volunteers and paid workers, the committee was able to gather an average of 300 signatures daily, she estimated.

Petition Drive Stalled

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But the group’s petition drive--one of the requirements for a vote on cityhood--stalled last month, shortly after 600 petitions bearing about 3,600 signatures allegedly were stolen from Shuerger’s car.

“They were sitting in the back seat of my car,” she said. “When I went to pull them out to count them . . . they weren’t there. I’m not sure where they disappeared.” A television set, also in the back seat, was not taken, she said.

Shuerger had hoped to quietly replace the signatures, which were collected by her and two other committee members, she said. “To me, it was kind of an embarrassment. . . . I was hoping to replace as many as I could before anybody noticed.”

The missing petitions scuttled the group’s plans to announce at a March 9 dance that they had collected the minimum number of signatures--about 7,000--needed to set the cityhood process in motion at the county level.

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‘Couldn’t Have Lost Them’

“Because those were stolen there was just no way,” Shuerger said. ". . . I couldn’t have just lost them. Not if they were in the back seat of my car in a box. . . . I guard the petitions now with my life.”

The lost signatures represent the most recent in a series of setbacks that, some cityhood supporters fear, has damaged the group’s credibility with local residents.

The committee missed its self-imposed mid-February deadline to submit its completed petitions, a study of the feasibility of becoming a city, and $1,550 in application and environmental assessment fees to the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, thus delaying a vote by area residents until at least next March.

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The missed deadline came close on the heels of the resignation of the group’s first chairman, Jack Gallagher, amid financial difficulties and personality clashes. The group had repeatedly delayed payments to Don King, the Rancho Cucamonga-based planner who prepared its feasibility study.

Bad Publicity

Just when committee members thought they had put the bad publicity behind them by announcing they had settled their debt with King and releasing copies of his report, a local newspaper printed the story of the missing petitions.

With the petition drive now on the back burner, the group is hoping to sell 5,000 tickets--at $5 a head--to its May carnival. Local merchants will keep 20% of the gross from tickets they sell.

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The group’s profits will be used to pay outstanding bills, to cover operating expenses and to inform area residents about the benefits of cityhood--as outlined in King’s study, said Jaxon Miller, the committee’s other co-chairman. The semi-rural communities, which if combined would probably be called Jurupa, pay Riverside County $6 million more in taxes each year than they receive in public services, cityhood supporters say. By incorporating, the area could retain a greater share of its tax dollars, gain local control of land-use planning and prevent annexation by neighboring Norco or Riverside, the supporters point out.


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