Can referendum reverse Azusa mining?

44156-Azuza Rock operations Sept 29 tour 003.jpg

Jim Gore, Vulcan Matericals Co’s manager of permitting and governmental affairs, points out how new “microbenching” techniques will lessen the damage to the mined slopes during a tour on Sept. 29.

As people from Save Our Canyon gather signatures for a referendum outside the Azusa Post Office (see article from Pasadena Star-News), the question remains: Will it reverse all the actions of the City Council?

Some say if a measure is put on the ballot (a big if) and if it passes, it will only negate the monetary aspect of the deal the city made with Vulcan and will not invalidate the mining permit. The City Council voted 4-1 to give Vulcan permission to mine the western portion of the canyon for aggregate. This lies closer to Duarte and further from most Azusa residents.

Most likely, this kind of referendum, whereby voters make a law or in this case, reverse a city council action, will have to be interpreted by the courts. In other words, if the anti-mining plan folks gather enough valid signatures, and if it appears on a future Azusa ballot, and it if passes, it could be overturned by a judge or a court.

Sound familiar?

This sounds very much like the approval of Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriages, by California voters, which has since been overturned by a federal court judge.

Don’t miss the overarching issue: Direct democracy — in which people go to the polls and make a law or change the constitution — is subject to the court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Why? Because the Constitution doesn’t contain provisions in which people directly vote and make a law. That power is reserved for the legislature, which in the case of the United States, falls to the Congress. The voters vote for members of Congress and they make the laws.

Thus, when people say “my vote doesn’t count” or “a judge can’t overturn a vote of the people” they are mixing apples and oranges. Direct democracy is a vestage of California law, not U.S. law. It was brought about by Gov. Hiram Johnson to give people more power — the power to make laws. Or in the case of Azusa, to throw out a law using a referendum. It is a weighty power that is not present in the Constitution and missing from most states.

By the way, didn’t Azusa voters directly vote out a housing tract, the one that was installed by the Council as Rosedale I? And I can recall Glendora voters using referenda power to reverse actions of the city council. It will be interesting to see if Azusa residents can do this to Vulcan. Stay tuned.

This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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