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The candidate is long on themes, short on details at his first town meeting event, in San Diego.

August 29, 2003|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Recall candidate Peter V. Ueberroth met voters face to face Thursday in a 45-minute town hall session that was high on themes but low on details for restoring California's health.

Despite earlier promises that he would begin to spell out his governing plan in town hall meetings, Ueberroth on Thursday stuck to broad strokes: No tax hikes, cut spending by targeting unspecified waste and fraud, encourage job growth by making life easier for business, constitutionally tie state budget increases to population and inflation, and squeeze partisanship out of Sacramento politics.

Specific details on how to fix programs such as workers' compensation -- where annual employer costs have jumped from $9 billion to $29 billion since 1995 -- would have to wait until he takes office, he said.

"The first thing you do is get in there and see what is not working and what is working, where cuts should be and where cuts shouldn't be," Ueberroth, the czar of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and former Major League Baseball commissioner, told reporters after the session. "That's kind of how I work, how people expect me to work."

But Ueberroth promised that, as governor, he would focus his attention on the budget crisis "like a mad dog after a meat truck."

During the town hall meeting, Ueberroth repeatedly compared the state's fiscal woes to a family facing money troubles.

"You can't spend your way out of a [budget] problem," he said. "I don't know any family that would say, 'Gee, I'll just go out and get another credit card.' "

Speaking to about 50 people in a hotel ballroom near Qualcomm Stadium, the Laguna Beach entrepreneur warned that his approach to budget-balancing would hurt.

"It's not a pleasant decision," Ueberroth said when asked how he would persuade Californians, including state workers, to get by with less.

"Families, when they have a financial problem, have to give up a lot of things," he said.

For some in the audience, the lack of specifics didn't matter.

"In this setting, I got the answers I was hoping to get," said Mitch Compton, a Chula Vista property manager.

But a key part of Ueberroth's political identity -- that he would govern as an independent, though he will be a Republican on the ballot -- troubled Bobby Daniels, 25, a San Diego lawyer.

He said he feared Ueberroth was positioning himself to answer to no one.

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