By Tina Richards
With no one challenging the incumbents for the five open city government seats in Orange, the city council voted, Aug. 23, to withdraw from the November election and simply appoint the unopposed candidates to the offices instead.
The election code allows an agency to skip an election if there is only one candidate for a given office. For the first time in memory, none of the open seats in Orange have attracted any challengers. The decision not to hold an election saves the city some $70,000.
“We may be making history,” Mayor Tita Smith said. “We did some research, and this is the first time that every open city office has had no opposition . . . at least since 1950, which is as far back as the records could be found.”
Mayor Smith, City Councilmen Mark Murphy and Mike Alvarez, City Clerk Mary Murphy and City Treasurer Richard Rohm will be appointed to those positions following the election date, and be sworn into office in December.
No race to the finish
Smith recused herself from the vote to reappoint the incumbent mayor; Murphy and Alvarez abstained from voting on their reappointments to the city council. Those votes passed, 4 to 0. All five council members voted unanimously to reappoint Mary Murphy and Richard Rohm.
While the City of Orange is sitting out this election cycle, Villa Park is gearing up for a contested race. Three candidates have filed for two council seats vacated by Mayor Greg Mills and Councilman Rick Barnett, who have chosen not to run for those offices.
Howard Kirschner, Robbie Pitts and Vince Rossini are vying for the openings. Rossini, a two-year Villa Park resident, is supported by several neighborhood groups who applaud his work on the city’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee. Kirschner and Pitts, both residents of Villa Park for decades, are supported by voters seeking a “calmer,” more city-centric approach to government. Neither candidate is affiliated with any specific political or social faction.
At the starting gate
As in Villa Park, races for two trustee seats in the Orange Unified School District promise to be heated. Incumbent John Ortega is being challenged for his Area 2 seat by Daniel Correa; Mark Wayland is not running for his Area 6 seat, but his son Jeremy Wayland, Nicole Baitx-Kennedy and Brenda Lebsack are.
Ortega, who has been on the board since 2002, has never campaigned for his seat; he’s always been unopposed. Correa, an Orange planning commissioner, is challenging Ortega’s attendance record (he’s been to just four of 11 board meetings this year), his willingness to sell surplus school property to high-density developers, and his reluctance to approve the Measure S school bond.
The Area 6 challengers include the second generation Wayland, a teacher with a long-term special education background (Lebsack) and a child care supervisor with OUSD experience and a son enrolled in Linda Vista Elementary School. Alexia Deligianni-Brydges is running unopposed for the trustee Area 3 seat. The entire district votes for candidates in all area seats. The only elected officials in the Canyons are those of the Silverado Modjeska Recreation and Parks District. Two of that board’s five seats are open, with Steven Duff, Heidi Murphy-Grande and Tara Saraye in contention. Unlike past SMRPD elections this one looks to be fairly benign. The Serrano Water District, serving Villa Park and portions of Orange, has three board seats open, with only one candidate filing for each. Incumbents Jerry Haight and C.L. Pharris have re-upped for their seats; Greg Mills is the lone filer for the third seat. They will likely be appointed to those positions to save the district the costs of a balloted election.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Robbie Pitts. The Sentry regrets this error.
Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez
Orange Councilman Mark Murphy
Orange Mayor Tita Smith