Congressman Peters is looking forward to having the chance to represent Escondido as part of the new CA50. He talked with the Escondido Times Advocate about his background, what he’s working on in Congress, and the opportunities ahead for this diverse city.
Read their full discussion in this November 1st piece from the Escondido Times Advocate, posted below:
Rep. Peters works to improve district’s “four economies”
By David Ross
November 1, 2022
Rep. Scott Peters is a Democrat running for re-election in California’s newly drawn 50th Congressional campaign. This is Peters’s fifth term and 10th year in Congress.
Peters visited the Greater Escondido Chamber of Commerce recently for a conversation with CEO James Rowten and The Times-Advocate.
Since Peters is new to the Escondido electorate although well-known in San Diego, we talked about his background.
“I practiced environmental law for about 15 years,” he said. “I started in the Midwest and moved to San Diego when my wife got a job which we couldn’t turn down.” He worked at a big law firm but found the County’s environmental lawyer position was open.
He “loved” the work, but wanted more than advising decision-makers. He wanted to make decisions. “I knew a City Council seat was coming open because of term limits. So I ran in 2000 and was the first Democrat to represent the district.” He loved the job and was the first City Council president when the city changed its form of government.
Peters feels he accomplished a lot. “We worked on the ballpark and finished it. We finished the Beaches And Bays and we got Highway 56 to go all the way through. We did a lot of really good infrastructure projects.” He then served four years on the Port Commission.
Because of this work, conservation voters asked him to run for Congress. “At that time, there had never been a Democrat in that district. My daughter was in college and my son was on his way to college,” so he went for it. He was narrowly elected in 2012 but has won with comfortable margins since.
Peters concentrates on “San Diego’s four basic economies.” The first is the military. “About twenty percent of our jobs are National Defense: the Marine Corps, Navy and the Coast Guard which are also big investments. Since I’ve been in Congress we built a new SEAL training facility in Coronado; made major upgrades to the Miramar Air Station infrastructure and we’re building more spots for ships to berth at San Diego’s 32nd Street as the country faces off against China.”
He also devotes a lot of time to his large veteran constituency which includes 235,000 veterans.
The second economy is tourism. “During the pandemic we focused on getting relief for venues and hotels,” he said.
The third part of the economy is the border. When first elected he asked San Diego’s mayor what the most important investment the federal government could make to help business. “He said reduce the border wait, which was up to four hours.” The border crossing was stalled with one-third completed. “Our San Diego delegation came together—with two Republicans and three Democrats—to get the funding. Today it’s a magnificent piece of infrastructure taxpayers can be proud of. We see the border as an opportunity—not as a threat—as does every Chamber of Commerce across the southern border. So that’s the third part of our economy.”
The fourth economic piece is science and technology. “We’re the third leading biotechnology cluster in the country—maybe in the world,” said Peters. “The amount of innovation here is amazing. By some accounts, 68,000 in San Diego county are working life sciences at one thousand companies. Yes, we’re happy to have Eli Lilly and Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson but most of those companies are just scrappy outfits trying to solve hard science problems using private risk capital— that’s amazing.”
He cites companies like Genomatica, which makes fibers without petroleum, using sugars and genome technology. “That sort of technology is happening right here,” he said. “We want to invest in basic scientific research and preserve the incentives for private investment in private companies.”
He hasn’t forgotten his environmental background. “The other thing I work on is climate change,” he said, which comes under the Commerce Committee. “I’m the number three Democrat on energy right now. I’m also on the environment and climate change committees, working hard to make sure we maintain a healthy economy while we clean up our act on climate.”
Peters is excited to be representing Escondido. “One of my best friends in local government is Lori Holt Pfeiler [the former Escondido mayor], one of the three or four best local elected officials I ever worked with. On SANDAG she was just brilliant, a highly underestimated former mayor who is now working with the BIA (Building Industry Association.)”
Escondido is different from other communities he has represented. “I have a super affluent 10th best educated congressional district in the country and I dearly love all my cities,” he said. “But I’ve also enjoyed representing more working neighborhoods like Mira Mesa and Claremont and feel like often they’re the ones most affected when government isn’t working.”
Escondido is still growing and has a lot of opportunity, he says. “La Jolla is all grumbly about change—Escondido’s more interested in change and more optimistic.”
Asked to elaborate on whether government “is working” he said, “In some ways I think we’re doing OK. It’s a time when there’s a lot of division. So when we came together on Ukraine recently I was pretty proud. I thought President Zelensky is reminding us that democracy is worth defending. Democracy is precious and it’s difficult. Zelensky is showing us probably what it was like for us 250 years ago.”
He is proud of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, “that builds roads, bridges, rail, ports and broadband.” He was amazed to learn during the pandemic: “there are parts of our own county where there is a digital divide.” The bill also includes $55 million for clean water. “The biggest investment is in passenger rail since everyone complains about how much slower Amtrak trains are.” Plus “the biggest investment ever in public transportation.”
That doesn’t mean high speed rail, “because it will never come to San Diego, which is the second largest city in the state. So I’ve not been that supportive of that.”
When Peters met with Chamber CEO Rowten, he got a little education in the fact that “the 15 is the freeway of commerce “ and how it creates opportunities for the North Inland area to attract other industries into the area. Rowten talked about the Chamber’s new annual Green Transportation Expo, which Peters found exciting.
Peters has “community project funding,” formerly called “earmarks.” “Last year we were able to get decent $2 million grants. We’ve done very well in every city we represented. Each got something significant that they asked for.” He encouraged Escondido to route some grant requests to his office.
Rowten showed Peters the 48 acre Opportunity Zone that includes the Chamber office and goes back toward the National Guard Armory and said it was ripe for something visionary. Peters said this may be the only Opportunity Zone is his district.
Asked to comment about SANDAG’s plans, which don’t include road improvements for North County, but rather trolley expansion in downtown San Diego, Peters observed, “First, I think you should have a representative on SANDAG. You need to sit at the table. One thing I would certainly encourage the City Council to do is put someone on there.”
He added that the only way the federal government can funnel transportation money into the county is through SANDAG, and its regional organization plan. “I have to wait for the region to figure out what it wants to do,” he said. “That’s why everything goes through SANDAG. My role doesn’t put me directly in that fight.”
Peters bragged this his office does extremely well on constituent services. His district office is located at University Towne Center and Rowten urged him open a satellite office in Escondido.
“We have a really great local staff!” he bragged.