Scott Peters, (D) Congressman, 52nd District
Related Story: Sequestration Fallout Looms Over San Diego
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, February 18 Presidents' Day. Here are the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom. Scott Peters is one of the newest members of San Diego's congressional delegation and he's making an effort to reach across party lines. We'll find out if the effort is too little too late to avoid the deep spending cuts facing the nation. Former Mayor Maureen O'Connor gambled away millions. How much of a problem is gambling addiction for other San Diegans? And then puppetry for grown-ups is on display this week at the Museum of photographic arts. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. One of San Diego's newest representatives in Congress warns about the effects of sequestration. We'll hear from Congressman Scott peters and the shocking headlines about former Mayor Maureen O'Connor put the spotlight on problem gambling. This is KPBS Midday Edition. A WebCam set up to monitor the seal colony at the children's pool at La Jolla is shown to women harassing the animals. The seal camera caught two women abusing the seals The average price of a gallon of self-serve gasoline in San Diego County rose to $4.05 today the average price has increased 21 consecutive days rising nearly $.53 and on this president's data holiday parking rules are in effect on San Diego libraries rec centers and administrative offices are closed today but trash pickup will not be affected. Listen for the news right through the day on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition is a discussion on what the sequestration looks like to one member of Congress. Democrats Scott Peters just began his term representing San Diego's 52nd district. The nation waits to see if lawmakers can reach an agreement to avoid automatic spending cuts that go into effect at the end of the month. Congressman Peters will tell us what compromise is needed to avoid the cuts and what kind of action can be taken. Congressman Peters, welcome back.
SCOTT PETERS: Thanks, Maureen, thanks for having me here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You held a news conference talking about the possible effects of sequestration on the infrastructure. Tell us about that.
SCOTT PETERS: Sure, sequestration is the sort of sledgehammer approach that came out of the failed negotiations in 2011. So if folks remember back then there was a grand bargain between the president and speaker Boehner. They came up with this thing that was so bad that everyone said it would never happen. That was after the credit was downgraded. The idea was that we would cut a lot more time and money out of both the defense and discretionary, nondefense discretionary side of the budget and people thought that would be so disastrous for the economy that it would never happen. Here we are two weeks away from happening on March 1 and the speaker has dismissed us for the week. I am happy to be in San Diego. Vitamin D is really great for me but we really ought to be in Washington working to avoid this and the effects in San Diego. There are a few effects. One we highlighted today is that we will lose the ability to invest in our future competitiveness in terms of goods movement I illustrated that by going out to the port this morning, Wednesday we will be talking about scientific research which is a third of the economy that depends on innovation. We have some of the greatest life sciences businesses and discoveries going on here many are funded by the National Institutes of Health. These things will be cut. And finally the military, about a quarter of the jobs in city or County are related to military spending here in addition to needing the jobs, San Diego's role in defense of the country and sledgehammer means cuts to the military. So we are very concerned about that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What specifically on San Diego Bay, what were you highlighting today?
SCOTT PETERS: I've been an advocate as a port commissioner and now member of Congress of a national system of ports that would connect the ports to the national system of rail and roads. So, to facilitate goods movements. That would both help the US economy but also help us create jobs in San Diego. Those are the kinds of investments beyond the reach of individual localities like ours. Without thinking about that as part of the budgeting we will not have those opportunities. The other thing about San Diego, our port is what we are one of the 17 ports designated as one of the strategic ports by the military and so we supply strategic support
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congressman Peters as you pointed out the clock is really ticking countdown to sequestration. Senate Democrats have introduced a plan to try to avoid to sequestration a combination of spending cuts largely to defense and sparring, farm subsidies and the new taxes on oil companies have you had a chance to look at over and have you look.
SCOTT PETERS: Not in detail I think it's helpful, we know what the Republican budget look like with Mr. Ryan last time they had a lot of wrong answers I know the Democratic version of the Senate probably would not be accepted by them but now we have something to talk about. If you look at any of the major budget analyses and proposals by sort of nonpartisan outsiders or bipartisan so like the Simpson Bowles, or the Rivlin de Medici proposals, those in a flood of tax increases and spending cuts and the magnitude of them is really large they do not do them right upfront they take the steps over time to not interfere with the economy recovery as low as it has been we don't want to stop it. I think it's productive and we have work to do to bridge the gap.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is the gap made up of, does it consist of Republicans not accepting any new taxes? Is that still the policy of the Republicans when it comes to dealing with any sequestration no new taxes?
SCOTT PETERS: I think that is the stated policy and I think you know, we saw them we so the compromise last month with Pres. Obama so I hope there is some room to negotiate. As I said Democrats will be having to put up with some people things for us as well. So, but if we are people with goodwill we understand we need to solve problems that is where I think we will have to go.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Democrat messy policy as speaker. Her to keep the house in session to hammer out a deal to avoid sequestration and yet you are on recess at this time tell me how you are taking that.
SCOTT PETERS: I think it is remarkably are I am ready to go, I'm ready to work, I will be at work all week getting to know the basis I have a new district I have a new staff we will look at how we approach constituent issues but I think this will be a weekend next week when we should be in Washington working on the sequester. Which is clearly the biggest priority for the country in San Diego so I'm a little confused by it but I will tell you to, all the freshmen I think our, Republican and Democrat, there are many of us, kind of had the same reaction. It looks like we are doing the same thing they did two years ago when we had the credit down. And I think the markets had so much trouble. I don't want to go there again and I think a lot of us would rather be working on this particular problem that be in our districts this week.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There seems to have been an effort likely to type the sequestration to president Obama. There is a line in a book by Bob Woodward that says the White House came up with this idea. There was even a flyer sent out calling the Obama Peters sequestration.
SCOTT PETERS: That's a good one. I have not seen that one.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In Washington, do since there's a lack of urgency from Republicans on this issue because there may be some capital to gain about having seen these cuts go into effect?
SCOTT PETERS: I think there's a lot of politics in Washington this whole notion that we need to figure out who to blame is what a ridiculous waste of time. I was not obviously there. That is kind of cute that they would attach to it, but I wasn't there. Like to be part of the solution and that's really what we ought to be focusing on the idea that people would spend time at microphone pointing fingers at the other side at this .2 weeks from sequester is really a shame. We really ought to be solving the problem.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congressman peters, you're part of the new no labels group in Congress also the United solutions caucus. These are both groups tried to reach across the aisle to find solutions. Who are the Republicans in the Congress is there anyone local?
SCOTT PETERS: Local I don't think so. No labels is an organization of not just freshman, the other one you mentioned is a bunch of us freshman. They are people, the interesting thing is we all have different politics. I don't think everyone agrees necessarily on exactly what the right answer is but everyone is committed to working to try to solve problems. No labels.org does have on its website a number of procedural kind of things like ending the filibuster, having things, for votes in a certain amount of time that would help everybody resolve issues because there's a lot of gamesmanship and how things get brought to the floor and the freshman group that we joined has some wonderful people from across the country. I think you would find we all have different views from the left to the right there really sincerely interested in seeing can we make things work and we've actually sat down with a few people in and really talked about some of the harder issues like taxes or Medicare and Social Security. Not that we've come to any kind of resolution but it starts with listening and there is a lot of that going on among us.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You are talking specifically about the freshmen?
SCOTT PETERS: In this group, I think in general the freshman has an attitude that we were instructed by the voters in 2012 they are fed up with the partisanship and fighting and they want us to figure out how to solve problems. Even a deal is less than perfect is better than no deal and I think we let perfect be the enemy of the good and that is what we get.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you see any legislation coming out of the caucus?
SCOTT PETERS: I'm not sure. We are really focused on the debt issues, the sequester stuff for instance I don't think there is a lot of caucus on social issues particularly choice issues or gay rights where some of us may be way more to the left and others, those issues you might just count the votes and see where it lands but a lot of the economic issues we want to see if we can listen to each other and see if we find a compromise that moves the country ahead.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If we begin to see members of this group on economic issues let's say begin to vote a straight party line, does that mean that the idea has failed?
SCOTT PETERS: I would be discouraged. I will tell you that so far a lot of us have voted in the middle. And some of these have been more symbolic like we said let's take a look at some symbols as a platform, as a platform from which to work. We have people from left and right so now because there is nothing that that all of us hate but a lot of us said came to the middle and said let's take a look at it and I'd like to keep the mood if we could that would be productive for Congress.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You had an open house in your district over the weekend how did it go.
SCOTT PETERS: It was great it was fun to see a lot of people come out. The district office I'm really excited about the people we have there, my district director (inaudible) McIntyre is a San Diegan of a long time and was involved from Mayor Golding up to me. She does the district. We've got some really good people that can help solve problems when they come across difficulties in the federal government whether it's benefits issues or veterans issues we want to be available to help people so it's great that we had so many people come out and see the office. It's in UTC and all between Coronado and Poway and we encourage everybody to contact us, take advantage of the resources that we are providing and we hope to see more people out there as we go forward.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congressman Peters you may have heard that Mayor Bob Filner vetoed San Diego's Port commission appointees. It may be quite some time before the positions are filled. As a former Port Commissioner what is your thought on that?
SCOTT PETERS: And as a former Council President. I did not understand before that the mayor had any role in the appointment of port commissioners. I believe that state law assigned to the legislative body. And I guess that there is a different view about that now. But I would say that it is in everyone's interest to make sure that we get good port commissioners. I thought that the two that were chosen would have been fine public servants. They both have excellent backgrounds. But again, let's not make perfection the enemy of progress.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does it hurt San Diego not to have full representation?
SCOTT PETERS: There are five cities who all have different perspectives and the biggest city of San Diego. We generate a lot of the income. We need people there who understand kind of where we are coming from and our perspective so that we do not miss anything when we are going along and I think the board acted 1962 set up a seven-member commission with one member from each of the smaller cities which are Coronado, Imperial Beach Chula Vista national city and (inaudible) there are four members from San Diego to provide balance. Right now it is seen in balance and if it was up to me I would be working really hard to get people appointed sooner rather than later.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering what is it like being a freshman congressman. What are you learning about Washington DC that you did not know before you got there?
SCOTT PETERS: Well it is very interesting. It is more political than I'm used to in San Diego. It is one of the great things about San Diego you hear all the time for people in other places and around the state that there really is a sense of collaboration here. We are known as a place where people work together to make things happen. President Clinton himself has said this about San Diego that he just as amazed at the creative collaboration we have here. That has not infiltrated Congress. As much. And I think it is a little bit more top-down then, I don't get to run it, but I would say there is a lot of talent that is not getting taken advantage of because of the way it is structured. It tends to be a little bit more political than I would think we would want I hope that people in the campaign take a little San Diego attitude to Washington and see if we can collaborate to make some solutions. We are a different country working in a different world than we were 30 or 40 years ago and Congress is going to have to appreciate that the president, Congress has to appreciate that we need to adapt.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to take it full circle and come back to sequestration for my last question we're going to be hearing so much about that in the next couple weeks it's an event that president Obama referred to as a manufactured crisis even though there is a controversy now over who manufactured it. Is it your sense that lawmakers in Washington really have any idea of the kind of real harm these events are causing constituents?
SCOTT PETERS: I think it varies, Maureen. I think I mentioned one of my colleagues said no one is going to be talking about this in the district because he had a district that would not suffer the direct impacts that we are going to suffer here but they're going to send me home, I want to talk about this, I want to make sure we elevate it in people's understanding and I hope they are doing this around the country so people know it hurts people in Washington DC that is the other thing I would say about Washington is they are doing pretty well out there, they have not suffered the kind of effects from the downturn that a lot of places did including San Diego and other places had it even worse. There is insularity and isolation there and you know, I think one of the things we can do this week is to start to highlight the effects that really affect families here whether they are working in the defense industry or scientific research or any industries here that depend on spending from those. That's what I'll do and I'm disappointed we are here this week instead of working on it but while I'm here going to try to raise the profile of these issues for San Diegans.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Congressman Scott Peters thank you very much.
SCOTT PETERS: Thank you so much for having me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just a programming note, we have reached out to the Republican members of our congressional delegation. So far we have not been able to schedule an interview with them.