By Steve Dreyer
Meeting Friday with members of the editorial board of San Diego MainStreet Media (owners of this newspaper), Congressman Scott Peters of La Jolla said he is approaching the six-month mark of his first term with a handful of first impressions of Washington, D.C. He called his first six months both hectic and rewarding.
Peters said he’s been able to forge productive legislative relationships with key congressional members, but that some of the attitudes within the Beltway leave him a bit puzzled. He says he’s frustrated by what he perceives an overall attitude of “acceptance and complacency” among his peers regarding the state of politics in the nation’s capital.
However, Peters said he is somewhat hopeful that he and other freshmen members of Congress can nudge that process away from party partisanship toward a more consensus-building atmosphere.
“We need to start fixing and stop fighting,” Peters said.
Himself a Democrat, Peters added that he is “very frustrated” with the leadership style of President Barack Obama, declaring him to be “the most disengaged person you could imagine.”
“I am very disappointed in him,” Peters said of the president. “We could really use his engagement.”
Peters narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray last November to represent the 52nd District, which extends from the coast to take in much of inland North County. He is a former San Diego City Council member and port commissioner.
“San Diego is the home of collaborative cooperation,” Peters said. “In Washington, it’s more hierarchical. The first thing they want to know there is ‘What school did you attend?’ and ‘What’s your title?’ ”
During his first six months, Peters said he has focused on the federal budget, the economy and clean technology. San Diego, he said, is the “Silicon Valley of the military” and that the commandant of the Marine Corps is very interested in developing ways to use solar energy in the field as a replacement for petroleum. Peters has also been involved in helping veterans adjust to civilian life.
Peters said there seems to be “a lot of motivation to do immigration (reform)” in Congress and to achieve some kind of tax code reform.
Earlier this month Peters introduced the “Strengthening the Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act.” He said the act will save taxpayers money over the long run by having the federal government be more proactive, rather than reactive, in providing disaster relief funding in the wake of wildfires, hurricanes and drought.
He also called on leaders in both the House and Senate to take definitive action to stop student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.
In the coming months, Peters said his office would conduct a series of local workshops designed to help businesses of all sizes prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.
His “Congress on Your Corner” town hall-style public forum will be coming to the UTC-area in July, he said.
The congressman said he would launch a re-election effort early next year. However, he did have a few comments regarding his first declared Republican opponent, former City Councilman Carl DeMaio of Rancho Bernardo.
“Carl is not right for the district,” Peters said. Noting DeMaio’s reluctance to compromise and his penchant to achieve political goals through ballot initiatives, Peter said, “You can’t do a national ballot initiative.”
Voter registration in the 52nd District is roughly one-third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third independent. Peters said he wants voters to disregard political labels and study the qualifications and accomplishments of candidates.
“I’m not Nancy Pelosi, Donna Frye or Bob Filner. I am what I am. We need to break through the labels.”