AZUSA — Voters on Tuesday spurned waste-to-energy plants and the only council member who supported a plant once proposed for the city.
The 27% of the registered voters who went to the polls gave a resounding no to a trash-burning plant in their smog-plagued city, declaring their opposition by a 6-1 margin.
Although the ballot measure was purely advisory, the result was seen as adding political strength to a 3-2 City Council vote in January that rejected a conditional use permit for such a plant proposed here.
Councilman Armando Camarena, who voted in favor of the plant, lost his bid for reelection. Camarena said he later changed his mind and even worked on forming a consortium of San Gabriel Valley cities to oppose trash burning.
Camarena was accused by John Macardican, head of Azusa Energy Systems, of asking him for $150,000 to buy a liquor store at the same time the council was deliberating the request for a conditional use permit.
Camarena denied the accusation and the district attorney's office declined to bring charges after reviewing the allegations.
But Camarena attributed his loss to the charges.
"I think the adverse, negative publicity was what hurt my chances for reelection," Camarena said. "But I'll be back. I'll be a spectator. I'll be an involved and concerned citizen."
3,003 Voted No
With 27% of Azusa's 12,500 registered voters going to the polls, 3,003 voted no on the measure that asked, "Shall a waste-to-energy plant be allowed in the city?" Only 467 voters said yes.
Both candidates for mayor and all seven candidates for two council seats campaigned with platforms that opposed trash-burning operations that could add more pollutants to Azusa's frequently fouled air.
Councilman Bruce G. Latta easily won reelection with 1,592 votes. Challenger Jennie B. Avila was also elected with 1,274 votes. Camarena finished fifth, with 791 votes.
Eugene Moses, who was elected to his third two-year term as mayor, said that a trash-burning plant in the city became "a dead issue" earlier this year when the council rejected the permit for the facility.
Opposition 'Not Surprising'
Moses said that heavy voter opposition to trash burning "wasn't surprising, but I'm very happy that people did come out and vote."
City Clerk Adolph Solis added two extra precincts to Azusa's southwest area, expecting a heavier than usual turnout of voters who live near the Azusa Land Reclamation landfill on Gladstone Street, where Azusa Energy Systems had planned to build the plant. However, workers at polls said voting remained normal throughout the area.
There was no campaigning by either proponents or opponents of trash-to-energy plants on the ballot measure.
"When the council voted against it we turned around and walked away from it," said Bruce Williams, vice president of Azusa Energy Systems.
Williams called the trash-burning issue "a subject of passion. Like motherhood, if you're against it, you can't win." He said his company now will "go . . . where we'll be appreciated."
Macardican said he was not surprised at the results of the ballot measure because his company did nothing to promote its passage.
"If you don't campaign actively for something you don't get it," he said.