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Orange Ballot Offers Quirks, Conservatism : Election: The 13 candidates include a "shaman" and an ex-policeman with thoughts of legal and taxable prostitution.

October 03, 1994|LESLEY WRIGHT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ORANGE — Voters here will choose from 13 candidates who range from a "shaman" in his 20th try for mayor to a former New York City police officer who thinks government is overlooking a prime revenue source in legalized prostitution.

But most of the candidates tend to reflect the city itself: a sturdy field of home-grown conservatives, punctuated by the quirky and the unusual.

Campaign platforms are notably similar. Two of the three mayoral candidates and all 10 of those running for City Council push for more police, more business, less government and no new taxes.

City residents are sharply divided into two groups--Old Towne "preservationists" and "property rights" advocates. Residents who live east of the Costa Mesa Freeway also present some issues, such as concern about spill-over crime from the county-run island of El Modena.

Two of the mayoral candidates--Joanne Coontz and Fred L. Barrera--both hold council seats and are in a tight race.

Coontz, a 65-year-old former planning commissioner, has gathered a wealth of endorsements, including that of the police union. In 1986, she became the first woman elected to the council. She describes herself as tough, a risk-taker and someone who can unify divided residents. She said the mayor should be an ambassador for Orange.

Political observers credit her with being involved, knowing the issues and doing her homework. She advocates Neighborhood Watch groups, beefed-up business programs and the library as a city priority.

Her leading opponent, Barrera, 72, is a lifelong Orange resident who went to a segregated Latino elementary school and then went on to own a Union Oil dealership and co-found the Orange National Bank.

He stresses the social problems of gangs, drugs and the disobedience of youth, all of which he said can be tied to hard economic times and the need for jobs and business growth in Orange. Barrera is in his fifth term and, as mayor pro tem, has some edge. He lost a battle to use the title on the ballot, but he has exposure as acting mayor for the often-absent Mayor Gene Beyer.

The third person in the mayoral race is Juan Pablo Serrano Nieblas, 59, who lists himself on his voter registration as a shaman and on the ballot as an environmentalist. A shaman is a native healer-priest. Nieblas explains that he is the son of Mexican immigrant and a member of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians. The 59-year-old son of migrant workers who practices psychic healing and He is the only candidate running on an anti-business theme. Nieblas is known in the city as a perennial candidate and he says he has run for the office 20 times.

Rather than woo business, Nieblas said he wants to cease offering enticements to industry. He said he has turned down money from political action committees and would restore the canyon lands. The former custodian would close the Redevelopment Agency and force developers to build low-cost housing.

The field vying for the two open council seats is wide.

Incumbent Mark Murphy has a list of powerful endorsements and is the only council candidate to win the police union's backing. A city native, Murphy, 37, stresses his business sense acquired as an account manager for Hewlett-Packard Co. and takes credit for beating down a proposed utility tax last year. His record also includes pushing for the city's gift ban and working to lure the Mills Corp. to Orange. His platform includes public safety, business growth and property rights.

Another homegrown candidate is Dan Slater, a 35-year-old real estate broker running on the issues of police protection and business expansion. The current council is too wimpy, too easily influenced by gadflies, he has told voters. He will give the city the decisiveness it lacks, he said. He also strongly favors imposing stringent design regulations to preserve the historic Old Towne.

Michael Alvarez, 38, also works in real estate, overseeing his family trust and business operations. He wants to establish Neighborhood Watch programs to fight crime. He has the firefighters' union endorsement and wants to make support of the city library system a higher priority. He is president of the Downtown Owners Assn.

Opposing them is Corinne Schreck, one of the city's most vocal property rights advocates. The 51-year-old property manager thinks Old Towne regulations are too restrictive. She would like to create ties between Orange Unified School District and the city, beef up the police, lure businesses and consider making the library privately run.

Coming from the east side of town is Mara Brandman, a longtime activist. She is vice president of Orange Park Acres and the Wilderness Homeowners Assn. and is running on an anti-crime theme. One solution to reducing crime from El Modena might be to annex the area, she said, or to force the county to increase its anti-gang efforts. Brandman, 49, is president of the library's Board of Trustees.

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