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POLITICS '95

A behind-the-scenes look at Orange County's political life : Run Into Dornan Lately? Opponent Cites Absence as Missed Representation

October 15, 1995

Where's Bob? While conservative Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) was in New Hampshire announcing his plans to seek reelection to his central Orange County seat as he continues to run for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination, one of his local rivals was strategizing in Washington at a Democratic Party congressional candidates school.

Former Capitol Hill staffer and current Santa Ana resident Jim Prince said he plans to capitalize on Dornan's absence from the district as he pursues lofty presidential ambitions. Despite Dornan's claims to represent the district, Prince said he will keep asking the question: "Where has Bob been?"

Dornan received the first hint of this strategy after Wednesday's presidential debate: A Democratic Party staffer gave him a map outlining the routes leading to Orange County from New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

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Close Encounters of the Curtis Kind: Former Mission Viejo Councilman Robert A. Curtis, whose career at City Hall wasn't always serene, can be found these days in a familiar setting: Mission Viejo City Hall.

Known for surviving a half-million-dollar recall attempt at the hands of the Mission Viejo Co. in 1990, Curtis is running a private law practice one floor above city offices in an commercial building on La Pala Lane.

His close proximity came in handy this summer when Curtis represented Western Waste, a trash hauler shooting for the city residential waste contract. When the city staff recommended another firm, Curtis burst into City Manager Dan Joseph's office without an appointment. After a few minutes, Joseph, who was an assistant city manager when Curtis was mayor, asked his former boss to leave and led him out of the office.

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Gag Me With an Order: Speaking of trash, Laguna Hills officials are being careful as they prepare to put their trash contract out to bid next year.

City officials have watched trash controversies erupt in places like Mission Viejo, where several disappointed waste haulers complained when the city franchise was awarded to another firm this summer. One waste representative left the council chambers giving the City Council a Nazi salute.

The reaction? When Laguna Hills recently put out a request for proposals from area trash haulers, the document contained a gag order prohibiting any contact between trash companies and any city official other than Assistant City Manager Don White. The only exception is council meetings.

"Historically, these firms have hired lobbyists who then put a lot of pressure on decision makers," White said. "They want the job, so they get real competitive. That's fine, but we want to see their competitiveness on the bottom line in the form of low rates."

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Doris Scores One: Life hasn't been a box of chocolates for Assemblywoman Doris Allen of late. She's stepped down as Speaker after one of the shortest stints in history, she's been feuding with Gov. Pete Wilson and she faces a Nov. 28 recall. But she got some good news last week as the South Orange County Congress of Republicans endorsed her and voted to oppose her recall. Allen spoke to the group and got a standing ovation.

"She candidly explained why and how she had become Speaker," said Doris Gray Emerson, one of the group's leaders. "It was clear that this all has been horribly distorted by her adversaries."

Recall proponents scoffed at the Allen endorsement, suggesting that the South County group was packed with backers of former Assemblyman Gil Ferguson, who remains popular among many conservatives in the Newport Beach-based district he once represented. "I suspect," said one recall official, "that they're mostly a bunch of Gilbots."

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Political Garbage: Rivaling the ugliness of some political campaigns is the mess caused by political signs plastered on seemingly every vacant square inch in a city.

Looking to clean up that sort of political blight, the Laguna Hills City Council agreed last week to ban signs on utility poles in hopes of removing what officials called a public eyesore.

"I've seen some ugly utility poles," said Mayor Joel T. Lautenschleger. "They look hideous."

The proposal drew opposition from Councilwoman Melody Carruth, who called it a convenient move by a group of incumbent politicians eager to trim the tactics of political challengers.

Lautenschleger called that hogwash. "This isn't an incumbents-versus-nonincumbents issue, this is a clutter issue," he said. "Putting up signs on utility poles is ugly."

UPCOMING EVENTS

* Monday: Republican candidates trying to replace Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) will speak at the Republican Central Committee, 7 p.m., Westin South Coast Plaza hotel. Information: (714) 556-8555.

* Wednesday: Partnership for Responsible Public Policy has its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. at United Way of Orange County offices, 18012 Mitchell Ave. South, Irvine. The public is invited. Information: (714) 966-9058.

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