The Orange City Council, which has had many of the same members for most of the past 2 decades, could be greatly changed after the Nov. 8 elections--or not at all.
Two council members, Fred L. Barrera and Gene Beyer, are up for reelection. Both are heavily favored to retain their seats over their five challengers.
But Mayor Jess F. Perez, also up for reelection, is involved in a bitter fight for his seat with Councilman Don E. Smith.
If Smith wins, the top three finishers in the council race would earn 4-year terms on the City Council. Only one council member, Joanne Coontz, is not involved in a race this year.
Essentially, Smith has nothing to lose in his race against Perez, who has served on the council for 20 years. Smith, whose own council term does not expire until 1990, would simply remain on the City Council if Perez wins.
Although the city election is nonpartisan, the tough fight between Perez and Smith, who has been on the council for 22 years, has taken on strong partisan overtones.
Smith, 67, says he is running for mayor because he is now retired from the real estate business and can be a full-time city leader. He also has tried to make the race with Perez, an architect, a conservative-liberal battle.
“I’m a conservative and, basically, the mayor is liberal. There’s no question on that,” Smith said.
Perez, 52, said Smith’s political consultant, Harvey Englander, was behind the partisan labels.
“I suspect his consultant has tried to tag me as a liberal,” Perez said. “But I am not a liberal. I have always believed in local control. I believe in the flag and I don’t believe in abortion. Those are certainly not liberal positions, and those are positions that I’ve always had.”
Despite their political battle, both Perez and Smith basically are pro-growth advocates who want to continue to develop Orange, especially the east side of the city. Both also say they want to find solutions to traffic problems created by growth.
The mayor criticized Smith’s motives for running against him in a year when Smith’s council seat is protected.
“If he thinks he can lead better than I, he had the opportunity to do so 2 years ago. Now he doesn’t have anything to lose. I don’t think a person should run for another office while holding another. I’d like to change that,” Perez said.
Smith said he is challenging Perez because he thinks that he has more experience in development and can be a more effective leader. The fact that he will remain a councilman if he loses the mayor’s race was not a major factor in his decision to run, Smith said.
“I wouldn’t run (for mayor) if I didn’t think I could win,” he said.
A third candidate for mayor is Juan Pablo Serrano-Nieblas, a self-proclaimed Juaneno Indian medicine man and environmentalist who has run for the seat twice before.
Almost in unison, the challengers for the open council seats cite the longevity of the current City Council and development as the major issues.
Barrera, 66, a retired businessman, is running for his fourth full term, while Beyer, 61, a retired school principal, is attempting to win his third term. Three of the five challengers have run previously for the council.
Timothy F. Smith, a 29-year-old security analyst, is making his third run for the council. He criticizes the council for moving too fast with development without first alleviating traffic congestion in Orange, a city of 105,000 surrounded by four freeways.
“Traffic improvements have to be in place before we can have more commercial growth,” Smith said.
Two other strong challengers--Douglas Newall, a systems analyst for McDonnell Douglas, and William Leming, a real estate agent--both want a change in the council’s representation.
“I think people get locked into what they are doing. But we need new blood and new ideas within the city,” Newall said.
Newall, 32, also criticized the City Council for doing “little to improve traffic. We need planned growth. The city cannot survive without it, but we need to plan it right.”
Leming, who lost a City Council race in 1986, said the council members have been there too long. “I don’t think they can address the problems we have today.”
L. Caren Willis, a 30-year-old telecommunications representative, also calls for “well-planned growth” but declined to criticize the incumbents.
“I would rather work on my qualifications than criticize,” she said. “I just think more citizens need to be involved.”
The fifth challenger is Frank A. Safarik, a 24-year-old painter who lost a 1984 council race. Safarik, who has been involved in the Alliance for Survival, is given little chance to finish among the leaders.
The incumbents, Beyer and Barrera, disagree with the challengers’ criticism. Beyer said the city has done its best to alleviate the problems caused by new development.
“There are a lot of things that have happened in the last few years . . . redevelopment, enlargement of East Orange. Those things are going to take a little longer. I don’t think the job is done yet,” he said.
Beyer also said the present City Council is continuing plans to control traffic congestion and has used a portion of the developer fees it has collected to help with housing for senior citizens.
“You have to understand that traffic circulation is not just an Orange problem but also a regional problem,” Beyer said.
Barrera said the City Council has done a good job “of balancing out” growth and the standard of living city residents have enjoyed in the past. He also said the long-term service of most of the council members should not be an issue.
“You can’t beat experience,” he said.
Beyer, citing his long friendship with Smith, has endorsed him in the mayoral race. Barrera chose to remain neutral in that race.
CITY OF ORANGE ELECTION CANDIDATES The mayor’s office and two, possibly three city council seats in the city of Orange will be up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election. Five challengers are testing two incumbents for a pair of council seats while another councilman, Don E. Smith, is after Mayor Jess F. Perez’s job. If Smith wins, the third place finisher in the council race would be elected to Smith’s seat.
Meanwhile, City Clerk Marilyn J. Jensen and City Treasurer Lorraine H. Schade (not pictured) are unopposed for reelection.
Juan Pablo Serrano-Nieblas
Jess F. Perez
Don E. Smith
Fred L. Barrera
Frank A. Safarik
Timothy F. Smith
L. Caren Willis