7 Compete to Join Maligned Diamond Bar Council

Times Staff Writer

A help wanted listing for this community's Municipal Advisory Council might call for volunteers willing to serve on a board maligned by many in the community as ineffective at influencing county officials.

In addition to donating their time, applicants should be ready to chip in a few dollars when the council's coffers go dry and it is unable to pay the salary of its lone staff member. Job security is not a strong point; if Diamond Bar incorporation proponents have their way, the advisory council will be abolished in four months in favor of a city council.

Nonetheless, seven residents are campaigning for that position.

The two incumbents and five challengers who will vie for the advisory council's three open seats on Nov. 8 recently addressed a sparse crowd in a recreation room at the Diamond Point II Swim Club. Their consensus was that the advisory council has been powerless to deal with the two major problems confronting Diamond Bar: traffic and development.

But although a seat on the advisory council may not offer money, power or acclaim, it does offer publicity that could prove valuable if an incorporation ballot measure is approved in March. Besides expressing their views on cityhood, voters will also be able to select what would be Diamond Bar's first city council.

Name Recognition

"They're running for the advisory council now for the name recognition, so that when they run for city council, it won't be such an uphill battle," said advisory council Chairman Cleve Holifield. "I'm not saying all of them are, but maybe some."

Holifield, 55, manager of quality improvement at General Dynamics' Pomona division, and Diamond Bar attorney Paul Horcher, 37, are both running for reelection to the advisory council and planning city council bids next year. A third seat is open because incumbent Lavina Rowland has chosen not to seek reelection.

The top three vote-getters next week will join Dan Buffington, whose term expires in 1990, on a 4-member council. The advisory council's other member, Don Stokes, died last month of a heart attack, and a replacement will not be chosen until the cityhood issue is decided in March.

Among the challengers, Gary G. Miller and Ivan Nyal said they plan to run for city council, Brad Dixon said he is "tentatively" planning a city council campaign, and Gary L. Neely and Bill White said they have not decided.

With the candidates generally agreeing that the advisory council has not been influential enough in pressing Diamond Bar's case with the county, debate has centered on who is responsible for this shortcoming.

The incumbents have said the advisory council has done what little it could to express community opposition to apartment and condominium construction in this once-rustic area and to the extension of Grand Avenue, which residents fear will worsen traffic problems.

Despite assurances from the county that Diamond Bar would retain its original bucolic character, Horcher said those officials have permitted a glut of high-density development.

"It is now clear that the true master plan for Diamond Bar was a master plan for exploitation," Horcher said. "I feel developers run the Board of Supervisors."

Some challengers have countered that the advisory council could have given Diamond Bar residents better representation.

"I think they could put forth a little more effort in getting the concerns of the citizens across to the supervisors," said White, 56, a parole agent with the California Youth Authority and part-time college instructor.

But Nyal, who said he worked with advisory council members in negotiating with county officials as president of the Heritage Tract Homeowners Assn., said he agrees with incumbents that the council has done what it could given its lack of power.

"MAC is basically a place to bring your problems, but it's not a problem-solver," said Nyal, 46, who works as a food service distributor and led the cityhood petition drive. "We definitely do need local control."

Supervisor Relationship

Challengers who are critical of advisory council members assert that until Diamond Bar becomes a city, the key to increased influence in county planning decisions is a better working relationship with Supervisor Pete Schabarum.

Miller, 40, owner of a Walnut development firm, acknowledged the incumbents' point, describing the council as "the arm of Schabarum." But Miller said advisory council members should take care not to antagonize the supervisor.

"There are limited things we can do," Miller said. "The best we can do is work with our supervisor. . . . If we continually make the man angry, he won't talk to us."

Neely, however, said the supervisor is often unwilling to take advice from Diamond Bar voters. "When Pete Schabarum wants your opinion, he'll give it to you," Neely said at last week's forum.

Dixon, a Diamond Bar real estate broker, said the advisory council's lack of influence with the county and its lack of community support are related.

"For a MAC to have legitimacy in the community, it must have legitimacy in the eyes of the county," said Dixon, 48. "The community's lost respect for the MAC, and you have to earn that. . . . This council needs new blood. It needs people who can get the job done."

Horcher rejected the challengers' arguments.

"I think it's naivete," Horcher said. "(The challengers') true complaint is with the Board of Supervisors, not with their colleagues in Diamond Bar. I think it's a non-issue. It's just the rantings of people on the outside who want to get in."

The most important issue facing Diamond Bar, the candidates agreed, is the severe traffic caused by out-of-town commuters who prefer the community's surface streets to the usually jammed Orange and Pomona freeways. However, most said the problem will most likely have to wait until Diamond Bar has a city council with the authority to install more traffic lights on its thoroughfares.

Neely, a 39-year-old marketing executive, added that he has also worked with the Pomona Unified School District--which serves the northern part of Diamond Bar--to build a new high school in the community, a goal most candidates mentioned as a priority and Diamond Bar officials have been pursuing through talks with state officials to find construction money.

Neely also used the candidates forum to unveil his plan to lobby University of California regents to locate one of three campuses it plans to build over the next decade in Diamond Bar.

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