With Bilbray absent, Scott Peters, the Democratic contender, got the last word on Medicare, immigration reform and other issues that have dominated a last-minute advertising blitz in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country.
“Nice getting all the time to myself,” said Peters, who touted his recent endorsement of former Pres. Bill Clinton, gave his stump speech and fielded questions from an audience of about four dozen during his unexpected solo act.
Members of the Town Council’s board of directors expressed bewilderment at Bilbray’s nonattendance. President Dave Martin said Bilbray had confirmed his RSVP and, right up to the time of the meeting, gave no indication he was running late or needed to cancel.
The Town Council had touted the forum three times on its Facebook page in the days leading up to it. Two days prior, the group also issued a “civic alert” in an online newsletter to promote the event.
According to the newsletter, each candidate was to receive five minutes for an opening statement, followed by questions from the public.
“This is the best way to get quality time with the two potential people who will be representing you and all Obeceans!” the newsletter stated.
Bilbray has been silent about his absence. Early this week, there was no response to two voicemails left at his campaign headquarters, nor to separate emails sent to Bilbray and to his campaign manager. No mention of the forum or reason for being absent appears on Bilbray’s website, his Facebook page nor his two Twitter accounts.
“He (Bilbray) had the opportunity to address us. So, tough,” Martin said at the end of the forum. “It’s his loss.”
Bilbray, who currently represents the 50th Congressional District, now has to vie for the approval of voters in Ocean Beach and throughout the Peninsula because of redistricting that now puts him in the 52nd District. Before maps were redrawn, virtually everything south of I-8 and west of Pacific Highway belonged in District 53, where Democrat Susan Davis is the incumbent.
“If you’re hiding sir, please come out,” said a board member as the forum was set to begin, nearly one hour after the meeting began at 7 p.m. It soon became apparent that Peters would be the only speaker, and he took full advantage.
In response to a question about an opposition ad knocking Peters for his stance on Medicare reform, Peters said, “I want to cut costs to save the program. Mr. Bilbray has voted to cut benefits and end the program.”
Peters said he supports negotiating the price of prescription drugs, ending fraud and overbilling, taking advantage of electronic recordkeeping and other new technologies, and promoting preventative care as cost-cutting measures.
“It’s taking (Medicare) from a sick-care system that rewards procedures and visits to a healthcare system that incentives prevention,” Peters said.
In response to an attack ad for the pension scandal when Peters served as a member of the San Diego City Council, Peters offered a different account.
“The city had three decades of pension underfunding. When I came on, unfortunately, I voted to continue that practice for another year, which was a mistake,” he said. “The more important thing is, we set about to solve the problem. We hired two outside experts to tell us what to do and we followed their advice. We ended pension underfunding. We made it illegal.”
He said Mayor Jerry Sanders praised Peters as a “partner in meaningful pension reform” for helping to bring about a new pension system and added San Diego’s reforms are seen as a model for other cities.
“No one’s called Congress a model for anything,” said Peters. “My opponent’s trying to get you to look at San Diego in 2002 so you won’t look at Washington in 2012, where they borrow 30 cents for every dollar that they spend, and they’re still pointing fingers and haven’t even got started.”
On immigration, Peters said he supports the Dream Act, while Bilbray has “gone with the Tea Party” and “taken a hard-line stance against any kind of immigration reform.”
Peters also expressed support for better border-crossing infrastructure, development of alternative fuels, fighting climate change and continued tuition support for students.
TOWN COUNCIL NOTES
• The lifeguard station on Abbott Street will be getting a new coat of paint, said Mike Patton, aide to District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer. The $10,000 expenditure has been reallocated from Faulconer’s office budget, Patton said. “He made some savings and he’s happy to do it,” Patton said.
• If you own an electric car and need juice, you’ve got new options. Recharging stations have been approved at city-owned sites at Robb Field and Liberty Station, said Patton. The number of approved stations, which are installed at no cost to the city by a concessionaire, is well over 100.
• There’s still time to enter a float in the 33rd annual OB Holiday Parade
Dec. 1. Applications are due Nov. 15 and can be found on the Town Council website, obtowncouncil.org.
• Some 40 restaurants are on board for the OB Restaurant Walk Nov. 13, said vice president Brennen Bazar. Tickets for $20 are now on sale at the Farmers Market (Wednesdays on Newport Avenue from 4 to 8 p.m.) and the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association office,
1868 Bacon St., Suite A. Proceeds support the Town Council’s annual Food and Toy Drive.