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Coordinating Council Called ‘Catalyst for Action’ : Pacoima: The group, celebrating its 50th anniversary, continues its work to make the community a better place.

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In this community’s battle against drugs and alcoholism, the Pacoima Coordinating Council has been where the war plans have been laid out.

“It’s a catalyst for action,” said the Rev. Alicia Broadous Duncan, the group’s recording secretary for the past year.

The council, which celebrated its 50th anniversary at a luncheon Thursday, does much as its name implies. It coordinates.

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It played a key role in the late 1980s when activists identified a major problem with drugs, crime and alcoholism, which in part was made worse by Pacoima’s proliferation of problem liquor stores.

Harold White, the council’s new president, said activists led by the Coordinating Council have been able to persuade city officials to deny permits to most prospective store owners. “I can’t remember a case which we have lost,” he said.

As a result, the community’s alcoholism rate has dropped and the number of liquor stores has declined.

The council also coordinated an effort to persuade the city to impose special restrictions on liquor stores and worked with store owners to make them more responsible and responsive to the blue-collar community.

Working with the San Fernando Valley Partnership Against Substance Abuse and other local agencies, the council fought against a proliferation of billboards promoting alcohol in the area.

The groups persuaded billboard companies to limit the alcohol advertising and co-sponsored a contest last month to select artwork from local schoolchildren that will be used in an anti-alcohol billboard campaign.

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“The image of Pacoima has changed in the last 10 years,” White said. “But we still have a problem.”

Los Angeles Police Officer Tom Souza, who has been in the San Fernando Valley for almost 30 years, said the Coordinating Council has helped turn the community around.

“I saw that what they were doing was effective, so I wanted to lend myself to it,” said Souza, who started working with the council about a year ago. What the group does makes his job easier, he said. “These people are solid citizens.”

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To plan strategy to make the community better, the council’s members, including about 40 individuals and representatives of community organizations, churches and businesses, meet once a month at the Girls & Boys Club on Glenoaks Boulevard, where Thursday’s luncheon took place.

They talk out issues, check schedules--and they coordinate.

With the range of groups and individuals checking with each other, the council serves as a clearinghouse on all Pacoima issues. And when the council decides on a course of action, the word gets out through its members to much of the community.

“It’s more effective that way because people aren’t clashing with each other,” Duncan said.

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“The Coordinating Council has played a very integral part in bringing them all together into one network,” said Marie Harris, who has been with the council off and on for about 20 years, and is a member of a variety of community groups. “I think Pacoima is better with it.”

Evelyn Sanders, who stepped down as president of the Coordinating Council on Thursday, put the council’s role in the community simply: “We are interested in helping the youth of the community. We would like a safer and more attractive community.”

White, who grew up in Pacoima, said the community is very different than it was 30 years ago. He remembers dirt roads, hard-working people, family values and church activities. Pacoima’s image may need polishing a bit but, White said, those values still remain.

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