ORINDA IS one of the best-run cities in the East Bay. Even with limited finances, it has been able to maintain city services without having to endure the severe cutbacks some other cities have been forced to make.

The city has practiced fiscal restraint and has been able to contain employee salary and pension costs. Orinda also has excellent relationships with its schools.

Even with its successes, Orinda faces challenges, particularly in upgrading its poor road system in the wake of two city bond measure losses.

Orinda also seeks to revitalize its downtown to attract appropriate small businesses and provide affordable housing without jeopardizing its semirural nature.

Fortunately, Orinda has five well-qualified candidates seeking three seats on the City Council. They include incumbents Amy Worth, Sue Severson and Thomas McCormick along with challengers Dean Orr, a Planning Commission member, and physician Scott Zeller.

One of the more controversial issues facing Orinda is how to revitalize downtown. Zeller is opposed to increasing building heights and high-density housing.

All of the other candidates agree that Orinda is unique and that any downtown plan should retain Orinda's charm. All five support more workshops and public meeting to reach a consensus on how to renew a downtown that has many 50-year-old buildings.

Any changes to the downtown, including building heights, need to have the support of a solid majority of Orinda residents, which is the stated goal of all the candidates.

With scarce revenues and the defeat of bond measures, Orinda must seek alternative means of raising funds to fix city roads. All five candidates support seeking more federal and state grants and creating partnerships with neighborhood groups, adjacent cities and the fire district to attract road-repair funding.

We believe that the current City Council has done a fine job in maintaining services, seeking creative ways to fix roads and working with residents on downtown revitalization.

As a regional transportation commissioner, Worth has played an important role in attracting funds for the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, which will be used by many Orinda motorists. She also was a key force behind Orinda's successful new library.

Severson has served on the Orinda school board and has provided a valuable link between the city and its schools.

McCormick's legal and business experience has been an asset for the council in dealing with tight budgets.

The three incumbents have worked well together to meet Orinda's challenges, and they all have a strong sense of community service and open minds in listening to the concerns of city residents.

We recommend that Orinda voters re-elect Worth, Severson and McCormick to the City Council on Nov. 2.