SAN GABRIEL VALLEY ELECTIONS: CANDIDATES ENTER HOMESTRETCH : Former Allies Slug It Out for Mayor in Azusa

Times Staff Writer

With most candidates for the City Council agreeing on the major issues, much of the heat in Tuesday’s municipal election has centered on the separate race for mayor between two former allies.

Mayor Eugene Moses, 53, is opposed by Councilman Lucio D. Cruz, 62, who has sided with Moses on many council issues. If he loses the mayor’s race, Cruz will remain on the council because there are two years remaining in his term. Despite their former alliance, Cruz said he is opposing Moses in order to “upgrade the image of the city, which is very low.” Cruz cited the loss of commercial business, increasing litter and crime problems as some of the issues the mayor should address. He called Moses “very rude” in his dealings with people who speak at council meetings.

Moses has not returned several phone calls from The Times. In a campaign statement he said that Azusa has “a negative image or no image at all,” and said he is working for a “community spirit of togetherness.”

Both Cruz and Moses voted against a conditional-use permit that would have allowed construction of a waste-to-energy plant in Azusa.

The volatile issue remains on the ballot as an advisory measure despite the council’s 3-2 rejection of the proposal. Voters are being asked to say whether they approve of waste-to-energy plants, but are not being asked for their opinion on the plant proposed for the city.

After the council voted on Jan. 6 to deny the conditional-use permit needed before construction could begin, the developer withdrew his application for a permit. The plant would have burned 2,000 tons of trash a day.

Cruz is a retired grading supervisor for the Los Angeles City Department of Building and Safety. He was elected to the council in 1976 and served on the Planning Commission for 20 years before that. He said he is spending about $3,000 on his campaign and is “walking the city to unify it, because it’s been polarized since the last recall.”

Cruz was one of two councilmen who voted for a citywide moratorium on condominium construction. The measure was defeated on a 3-2 vote last month. The moratorium was proposed by the Committee to Save Azusa Greens, a privately owned golf course in Azusa’s northwest corner. Moses voted with the majority.

Moses, a local businessman was elected to the council in 1978 and was elected mayor in 1982 and reelected in 1984. He and Councilman Bruce Latta survived a recall election in 1983. In a separate recall effort in 1983, two other council members were ousted.

The waste-to-energy plant that Azusa Energy Systems Inc. wanted to build in the city still rankles many of the council candidates.

They agree that Azusa is overbuilt with new condominiums, many of which are vacant, and they all say the city must address its deteriorating downtown area.

Incumbents running for reelection are Armando Camarena, 39, a data-processing consultant, and Latta, 35, operations manager for Los Angeles County Fair.

Other candidates are Jennie B. Avila, 40, a director of social services for the American Red Cross; Joseph Beaulieu, 64, a retired building contractor; Mike Falletta, 35, who works in the dispatch office for Southern California Gas Co.; Harry L. Stemrich, 56, owner of an aerial and ground photography company; and Richard Widman, 44, a self-employed inventor who said he has designed a medical device he is trying to market.

Camarena, who was elected in 1983 after the recall of two council members, was one of the two councilmen who voted in favor of the waste-to-energy plant. The other is James Cook, who is not up for election.

Two weeks after the council rejected the plant, its developer, John Macardican, told the council at a public meeting that Camarena had tried to bribe him by asking for $150,000 to buy a liquor store.

Camarena denied the accusation.

The district attorney’s office reviewed the allegation and wrote Lloyd Wood, the city’s administrator and police chief, last week saying that no basis could be found for bringing charges against Camarena. Wood had referred the allegation to the district attorney on Jan. 14.

“It was only an accusation on the part of the developer,” Camarena said. “The district attorney said there was insufficient evidence to pursue it.”

Camarena said the $160-million trash-burning project “once seemed like a good idea, but now we know it is not a perfected science.”

Camarena said he will spend between $8,000 and $9,000 in campaigning “on my proven track record.”

Latta is completing his first four-year term on the council. He calls trash burning the city’s biggest issue and said he has always opposed the proposed plant.

Calling the election “a tough race, with so much going on,” Latta said he opposes new housing in Azusa but favors downtown redevelopment.

He said he plans to spend about $2,000 on his campaign, half of it his own money.

Avila has been on the Azusa Planning Commission for four years and before that served two years on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

“It’s time we have a woman’s perspective on the council,” Avila said. A woman member of the council was ousted in the 1983 recall election. “I hope to bring it some stability and respectability, so (council members) will not feel so free to do the bickering they do, with a woman present.”

Avila was one of the four planning commissioners who voted to approve the waste-to-energy plant. But she said she construed her action as really voting on conditions that would restrict the plant’s operations. Avila said that the Planning Commission vote was not a vote on whether the plant should be built, and that the City Council intended to approve the facility. Avila said she is opposed to the plant and has always been against waste-to-energy facilities.

As for downtown development, Avila said, “What we need there is a good earthquake so we can start all over.” She said she has raised about $2,600 for campaign signs, flyers and advertising.

Beaulieu said he can “bring dignity to the council.” He failed to win a council seat in the 1983 recall election. He said he is not accepting financial contributions for this race.

Beaulieu said he is “100% against trash-burning plants anywhere in the San Gabriel Valley and against any more construction of condos or apartments in Azusa where the market is flooded and real estate prices are dropping.”

Falletta was one of the Planning Commission members who voted against the waste-to-energy plant. “I’m still opposed to it,” he said. His campaign committee, Falletta said, has raised $2,500 for advertising.

Stemrich said that with his bird’s-eye view as an aerial photographer, he knows “Azusa has the worst smog in the valley” and he opposes waste-to-energy plants.

Stemrich said he has “not received one dime from any outside interest.” He said he will spend about $3,000 on advertising.

Widman, a member of the Utilities Commission, said his main reason for running for office is to defeat Camarena, but he did not say why.

Widman said he opposes trash-burning plants, supports a five-year moratorium on all condo development and wants to restrict the mayor and councilmen to two terms.

As for downtown, Widman said, “Either tear it down and rebuild, or beautify it.”

Widman said he will spend between $200 and $300 that people have donated to his campaign.