Congressional Candidate Forum: My opening remarks

Friends here are my remarks from the Congressional Candidate Forum last night, hosted by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.


Good Evening!

As many of you know, I have lived in Ithaca for over 30 years.  I:

  • Taught at Ithaca College and Cornell University.   
  • Raised my two boys here who went through the ICSD.   
  • Practiced law both in a firm and as assigned counsel.  
  • Developed a career in internet policy and cybersecurity.

As a member of the community, I was

  • 10 years on the Town Planning Board
  • A Member of the Tompkins Co. Broadband Committee.
  • Trustee of the Public Library

In this campaign, I have engaged issues of

  • Tax reform for working and middle class – without a crushing deficit
  • Education improvement, economic development and jobs through internet deployment
  • Labor law reform: we need 21st century labor law to match a 21st century economy

But tonight, I would like to focus on two issues about which there has been misunderstanding of my positions: women’s reproductive health and the environment.

  • About Abortion: I support legal, medically safe, available and affordable abortion.  

Moreover, this issue must be connected to women’s health including domestic violence and sexual abuse, addiction, contraception, child rearing, and other social supports for women, children and families … not least to universal health care, preferably in a single payer system.

  • On the Environment: I support the Governor’s ban on fracking – I vehemently oppose fracking -- and I believe in the scientific method to understand climate change.

And there are connections among: immigration, climate change and the environment.  

Climate change prompts a lot of immigration – look at sub-Saharan Africa or closer to home Central America.  And yet, the very people who demonize immigrants – and deprive family farms of their labor force -- are also those who deny climate change, make their money off of fossil fuels, promote fracking and make money off of industrial agriculture.  The Koch’s, for example.  Furthermore, they poison the national debate on these issues.  To disguise their own greedy 1%, they sow division among the working and middle classes.  And let’s be clear: in their view, immigration is really about race, it is about class, and it is about their BIG MONEY dominating politics.  

The Democratic Party has to get its arms around these issues.  The 23rd District has to connect the dots.  We need comprehensive health care just as we need a comprehensive environmental policy.  We must address its economic, social and political effects – humanely, and within the progressive and liberal traditions of the United States.  

I have the education, experience and expertise to do just that for the people of the 23rd District.  

My remarks from the Straw Poll on October 21st

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STRAW POLL
RANDOLPH
OCTOBER 21, 2017

I began this campaign because of Russian interference in the November elections. As a cybersecurity professional, I thought maybe I could do something.

I am an educator, lawyer, and nationally recognized higher ed leader — and a mother of two adult sons. 

My community service of

  • 10 years on a town planning board,
  • the county legislature’s internet committee
  • and as a library trustee

was not enough.  Now it is time to fight fire with fire!

I started this campaign against something: Trump’s lack of integrity and Reed’s lack of care for this district.  But as I have traveled the 23rd, talked with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – the people of this district -- I am now for something.  You, our communities, and this district.  

  • I understand the hurt of working and middle-class families.
  • I see very clearly the lack of opportunities that cause our children to move away.
  • I feel the burden that places on families and a sense of community that we have been building for generations.

I want to bring my life experience from western and southern tier New York, my education and professional skills, to bear on our challenges.  

  • We need internet for every business, home, farm and school in this district. It is not possible to educate our children, attract business, run farms, or compete in the global economy without it.
  • I want to bring federal funds for local jobs to fix and rethink infrastructure. 
    We need:
    • Clean, updated electrical grid.  
    • Community transportation so people can get to schools, libraries, medical appointments, and jobs.
    • If Congress can contemplate a stupid wall, then maybe we should think about a 21st century train system that runs on time and smoothly connects commodities and people from this part of the state to the eastern seaboard.
       
  • We also need federal, state and local tax incentives to attract new businesses in technology and renewable energy companies as well as support for traditional industries. Hunting tourism would flourish in this area.
     
  • Here are some of the issues that matter to this district:
    • Immigration reform for our farmers and a citizenship path for our patriotic, dedicated immigrant families;
    • To pass $15 minimum wage and to reform labor law to revitalize unions and the Democratic party, and
    • Environmental protection for our beautiful natural resources.
       
  • I stand for tax reform that:
    • Lowers the burden on working and middle-class families,
    • RAISES – yes, I said raises – tax burden on those making more than 1.5 million
    • Let’s keep the estate tax, and
    • Let’s close loopholes for the wealthy and open them for the working and middle class: college tuition should be tax deductible.
       
  • So, too, should we have INTEREST FREE student loans
  • Robust support for social security – keep it out of predatory, privatizing hands, and
  • Let’s end the health care fiasco with a single-payer system.

When I was younger I expressed an interest in politics, but my family cautioned that it was dirty and my teachers — I went to Catholic schools — told me it had no spiritual dimension.  That has not been my experience.  

  • My heart swells with compassion when I listen to people’s struggles.
  • My mind bursts with innovative ideas.
  • My soul rises with hope for our community.

I started out against something but now am for something:

  • For you
  • For our district
  • For our children’s future

And I hope you are for me!

Connecting the Dots

It is now almost twelve weeks that I have engaged in campaigning. I have and continue to learn a lot about the politics and people of this district. Breaking out from the strictures of the environment in which I have dedicated so much of my career, higher education, is exhilarating. As I run a campaign attempting to connect the dots between internet and physical infrastructures, economic development and jobs, social policy and people’s everyday needs that require a responsible government, I come to recognize that this experience connects the dots of my own life. Growing up working in my father’s downtown restaurant meant getting to know people from every walk of life. Youthful political action brought me into student politics and leadership. I am grateful that it is not too late to cross over to the road not previously taken, and to bring my education, career and experience to bear on the needs of the 23rd District.

Working through issues from foreign to domestic policy, abortion and guns and health care and civil rights, one thought rises above the rest. Republicans seek to create a divide among us. Name the issue: medical care, tax reform, immigration, civil rights – in every single case, when I boil down what Reed and the Republicans want, it is to divide the working and middle classes so to as deprive them of their fair share of their labors and this country’s wealth, and to siphon that fair share into obscene benefits to the 1%.

There is no better example than President Trump. Winning with no sense of integrity in the process, a pathological desire for attention no matter what the costs, and an obscene love of money, pure and simple, motivates that man from morning to night, at the expense of the people he cajoles and angers, divides and conquers at least to the degree that he now sits in the Oval Office.

The brouhaha that he inspired last Friday and burned throughout the weekend over sports players kneeling protests of police brutality among minorities is a case in point. First, let’s note that this protest did not begin just last week. It has been on-going for some time. Why, then, did Trump choose suddenly to tweet about it? Any other president who campaigned so strongly on repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have undoubtedly been out stumping on the eve of an important vote. Ever the one to want credit for a win and never one to accept responsibility for a loss, Trump knew it would not pass and so decided to divert attention from it.

Until Sunday, he almost got away with it. Whether players stayed in locker rooms, locked arms or knelt, there was a sense of protest at best, rejection at least, of his brassy, crude interference. Now he attempts to capture the flag and divide us once again with the notion that some protests are about patriotism and some are, by his definition, its opposite. Let’s not let him get away with this ruse! Peaceful protest is patriotic. That is, after all, what the First Amendment to the Constitution is all about.

A self-serving definition of patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Let’s not let him use conformist pressures to repress speech about an issue that continues to plague us: racism and political violence. This man with a long track record of racist opinions and behaviors in his housing developments and workplaces, who began his political career on a vile lie, and who creates false equivalencies between white supremacists and left-leaning protesters can say whatever he wants, but we do not have to believe him, we should not feel compelled to fall in line with his wants, we cannot allow ourselves to be divided once again so as to divert attention away from the real issues of health care for working and middle classes.

Connect the dots! Give the people of the 23rd District a fighting chance! In the midst of his loss in the Senate, let us now advance to a campaign for universal health care and other programs that address the real needs of the good men and women, families and children of this District, together, immigrants and natives, black and white, city and farm, working and middle classes. Lock arms against the 1%!

September 11

September 11

As we remember the events and honor those whose lives were given on September 11, let us also reflect on the political meaning of that event.  9/11 renewed patriotism.  I can remember being at church the Sunday following, singing the anthem America the Beautiful, with tears streaming down my face.  Unfortunately, some politicians took advantage of that patriotism to advance their own agenda, as was clearly evident in the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq on false pretenses. The people, veterans and their families especially, of the United States still live with the consequences of that decision.  

I worked in information technology at Cornell University at the time of that event.  Almost immediately, I was drawn into a national discussion about the impact that the USA-Patriot Act (“Patriot Act”) had on electronic surveillance in general and on higher education and libraries in particular.  There has been almost no reform in that area.  The Patriot Act amended the Electronic Privacy Communications Act, originally promulgated in 1986 — seven years before the internet became open to the public -- in a manner that favored the government at the expense of individuals and institutions that represent individualism such as schools and libraries.  To date, no reform has reset the balance between “privacy and security.”  To the contrary.  Eavesdropping capabilities, together with the power of data gathering, combining and selling, has grown exponentially much to the detriment of both citizens and consumers.   

The article I wrote to summarize government surveillance issues remains as poignant today as it was then.  It can be accessed by clicking on this hypertext:  Civil Privacy and National Security Legislation: A Three Dimensional View

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Upcoming Events (Amended)  (Events in bold are Tracy Mitrano for Congress specific events)

Tomorrow, September 12:  Tuesdays with Tracy, video conference conversation on 23 District Politics.  Please send your email address if you would like to join!
September 14 Tracy will give a videotaped interview at Pegasus Studios, Ithaca. Public release of video to be announced
September 16, 11:00 Mitrano Announcement, Yates County Courthouse, Penn Yan

September 16, 7-9 Announcement Party, Publick Coffee Bar, 13 Main Street, Penn Yan
September 16 3:00 p.m. Hear the candidates for 23rd Congressional District!  Parkside Drive, Ellicottville
September 17 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Meet and Greet event sponsored by Citizens for a Better 23rd, Hornell
September 17, 4-6:30, Tompkins County Democratic Committee Picnic, Stewart Park Ithaca
September28 6:00 pm The Steuben Livingston Central Labor Council and the Chemung Schuyler Central Labor Council at the United Steelworkers union hall in Corning(100 Civic Center Plaza).
September 28, 5:30 - 8: 30 p.m. Fundraiser for Corning City Democrats, 22 East Market Street, Corning***
September 29, 6-8, Meet Tracy Mitrano at Microclimate, Linden Avenue, Geneva
September 30, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. House Party for Tracy Mitrano, Vickie Everett’s, 104 Greenridge Drive, Horseheads, 14845, telephone (607 731 5127)

October 4 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.  Fundraiser for Chemung County Democrats***, Hill Top
October 5, Fundraiser for Corning Democratics
October 21 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Cattaraugus-Allegany-Chautauqua Dems to Hold Straw Poll for 23rd Congressional District, Randolph Fire Hall, 70 Main St.

PRESS RELEASE: Tracy Mitrano's official announcement for congressional run

Today, Tracy Mitrano officially announces her campaign for New York's 23rd Congressional District. She issued a statement that can be read below. 

“After eight weeks of exploring a campaign for the congressional 23rd district seat, I have decided to file for candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. I would like to share my thinking with all of you about this next step.  

My concern with the political climate in the aftermath of the Trump election generally, and the cybersecurity issues that contributed to that outcome, prompted me to think about running for elected office. I have chosen the congressional seat because of my life-long experience in this district and because my professional expertise comports with federal issues that include foreign policy, tax policy, economic development related to the internet for agriculture, small and large businesses, universal health care (including the opioid crisis), maintenance of Medicaid and Social Security as a government program, the environmental protections, balanced gun laws, immigration reform, civil rights including for transgender and same sex relationships, and education support, both K-12 and higher ed.

I have formed positions on many of these matters, much of which can be accessed in the platform below. At the time of this announcement, I would like to speak on a quality that transcends specific policy issues and touches the heart of what I have learned in the last eight weeks.  

This district is hurting, unnecessarily, and in large part because of poor congressional leadership. At the bottom of that analysis lies a lack of compassion for the people affected by policies that neglect the needs of the middle and working classes.  Enormous potential exists in the NY23 by virtue of the independent and robust spirit of its people, its vast and abundant land resources, its natural beauty, and not least the educational resources that, if properly connected with its communities from Johnson City to Dunkirk, could provide opportunities that today do not exist but would not be too difficult to create and support for a “lifting of all boats”.

Given my life and career experience and education, I believe I am the best candidate for this district. I have worked intensively with policy as a matter of formulating needs into programs that work and make sense. I am intimately familiar with issues of national scope and significance that can be brought back productively for this district.  I have created a public-private partnership — a vision of the future that we might create and support in the 23rd, whether it be for training in trades or in discrete areas such as information technologies. Finally, in addition to that which I can offer from my head in terms of education and experience, this district has my heart.  To date, I devoted myself to the service of higher education. Going forward, I would like to give back to this land that nurtured me, and, if we give it a chance, can nurture all of us.” 

About Tracy Mitrano
Tracy has lived her entire life in the Central, Western, and the Southern Tier New York. She grew up in Rochester where her father had a downtown restaurant at which she worked while growing up. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in English and History from the University of Rochester in 1981, Binghamton in 1989 with a doctorate in American History, and a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1995. Tracy raised her family in Ithaca and worked as a professor and a lawyer before taking the position of director of information technology policy at Cornell in 2001. Nationally, Tracy worked on matters of internet policy including government surveillance, intellectual property, privacy and security, information literacy and management. In 2014, she created a successful consulting company, Mitrano & Associates. Between 2016-2017, Tracy was the Academic Dean of a cybersecurity certificate program for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She is currently the interim director of the Executive Master’s Program of the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College.  

My thoughts on DACA

Congress must act to legislate the deferred action for childhood arrivals.  Known as DACA, this action, which President Trump has ordered to end by March of 2018, is under administrative law at the moment.  Congress can and should change it.  

My campaign fully supports DACA as administrative law and now as proposed legislation.  So, too, does it support immigration reform.  Immigration reform not only comports with the value and values of our country — the economic value that immigrants bring and consistent with the historical moral strength of the United States, but it will put to rest an issue that unnecessarily roils us.  

Let’s have immigration laws that we feel are right and balanced.  Those are the laws to enforce and not ones that scapegoat and discriminate against millions of good, hard-working people who would love nothing more than to be citizens.

 

National Emergency Assistance: A Bipartisan Issue

The heartbreaking images from Texas prompt Americans into renewed awareness about what our government should and should not be responsible for in emergency assistance. With a strong tradition of giving, many aid organizations, most notably the Red Cross, are appropriate recipients of individual contributions to aid those affected by events such as Harvey. But the government should and must play a role as well.  How should we assess the appropriate quality of that help?

A little history helps us understand the situation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is among the more recent of federal agencies. President Carter created it by executive order in 1978 with the plan to bring together a number of other federal administrations such as fire, insurance, and disaster recovery.  In 2003, after the events of September 11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA was brought in under it.

Hurricane Katrina tested FEMA and found it failing. Not only was leadership there and under the Bush Administration wanting, its material resources, its ability to organize other state and local agencies were far below the necessary standards of a Category 4 hurricane and the destruction that it brought.  FEMA leadership and responsiveness improved under the Obama Administration but it was not tested again so severely until these recent events in Texas.

Between Katrina and Harvey, I have a personal report to describe the quiet steps that FEMA took to improve.  I have a rental home in Milo, New York, near Penn Yan, and on the lake.  When I purchased it in 2003, flood insurance was not a requirement for the mortgage.  About six years ago or so, when the mortgage interest rates went down, I remortgaged it and learned that flood insurance was now a required part of the process.  A little researched revealed what was behind the shift: the insurance industry pushed the pen, so to speak, on this new requirement.  Not only that, it was excessively expensive to get.  

I, together with so many others, was furious. How did my house suddenly find itself on the “flood zone” FEMA map?  A quick look at the Finger Lakes region revisions of those maps from Katrina to Harvey looked as if someone at FEMA had taken a magic marker to a road map of the area and filled in about a mile space around each of the Finger Lakes.  That road map held no relationship to a topographical survey of whether anyone was high or low to the lake.  

I also remember talking with the bank and then the insurance broker who explained that even with this insurance, it did not cover the basement but would only take effect if the water level reached up to the level of the first floor of the house.  I practically screamed into the phone!  “This would be a 10,000-year event in the Finger Lakes!  If it were to occur, you and I would not be on the phone talking about an adjustment!”  Of course, that is the point. The insurance industry gets all kind of new money by tying their expensive insurance to bank mortgages. They pushed the FEMA pen to create a greater swath of people in their net.  And yet, when it comes to disasters such as the one in Texas, where are they to help out?

Republicans and Democrats have a lot to do to reform FEMA and the industries that national disasters such as this one begets on good people from every walk of life.  Currently, FEMA is over 25 billion dollars in debt. It requires a serious administrative overhaul. But that overhaul is not, nor will ever be enough. The insurance industry makes out like bandits as a result of events like this one. They use the trauma that these awful events create to soak more money out of consumers and keep agencies such as FEMA responsive to their profit wants instead of the basic needs of people affected by it.  

Time for this scam to stop. Stop the insurance industry from taking advantage of people who need the help most.  And time to start.  Let’s start with a bipartisan effort to make sense out of our nation’s emergency preparedness and ability to help people when they need it the most.    

What to make of Charlottesville?

For Republicans and Democrats, the Charlottesville events offer lessons.  The first is one about history.  The Confederacy represented complex political concepts not always given the full attention of those who would only politicize the events.  Many historians, from both the right and left perspectives, have noted that the Civil War was the United States “Second Revolution.”  From the right, that perspective noted that fighting against a tyrannical central power was precisely what fueled 18th century events, as well as the ability of states to form their own union. From the left, historians view the Civil War as settling the question of slavery, apparent from the start, and negotiated not merely to satisfy southern states but the vast majority of the 13 original colonies in which slavery was legal.  

But what few observers have noted in this discussion of the statues is that it was not the Confederacy that put them up.  In other words, it was not slave owners and holders. It was, however, in the main the daughters of men who fought that war on the side of the South. While one can understand the pride of a daughter for her father’s service (as I have for my father who fought in World War II), what many neglect is that the Daughters of the Confederacy did so in the midst of the height of Jim Crow segregation. To me, that is the poignant point about these statues and why they are controversial, not slavery so much.  

The federal government – not just the states of the Old South -- enshrined segregation in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.  It is that case that established the notion of “separate but equal” that assuaged the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment sufficient to make segregation laws legal. “Separate but equal” Jim Crow segregation lasted until the Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy in 1954. In other words, segregation was the law of the entire United States, North and South, for 58 years. Recognizing that segregation and systematic oppression of people with African origins (along with other groups throughout American history, not least Asians) occurred long before 1896 and long after 1954, I have nonetheless supported “affirmative action” for 54 years beginning in 1954.  It is a crude and rough measure for compensation, to be sure, but at least one that makes some basic sense.  

Which brings us back to the lessons of Charlottesville.  The origins of the contemporary white supremacist’s political agenda are complex and involve not merely an understanding of race but of American economics, society and culture.  In that context, “affirmative action” has taken on representative meaning, just as the statues have in this current debate. Perhaps the most important lesson to be taken from these events is that violence will never resolve the real issues at stake such as economic opportunity made available equally and without discrimination and at least behavioral toleration of differences among us.  By law, given the First Amendment on the grounds of both speech and religion, the government cannot tell an individual what to say or think.  Surrounding law, including exceptions to the First Amendment such as incitement of violence; time, place and manner restrictions; other criminal acts does dictate behavior.  Follow the law we must while allowing for this debate.  

Beginning with the 1954 case, the federal government embarked on a path of civil rights.  Constitutional protections exist for protected categories of people in terms such as race, national origin, and sex. In other words, governmental entities cannot discriminate against those groups. Civil law establishes those protections in public spaces operated by private entities such as restaurants, hotels, schools and workplaces; these laws further extend protection against discrimination to those with disabilities or, for age, to those private entities that receive federal funds. 

People of good faith -- Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Conservatives and Independents – can agree on this much: that we must follow the law.  In a democratic republic, processes exist whereby the law can be changed.  That approach does not and never should include violence.  It is this proverbial line in the sand that we must draw.  To date, the Civil War incurred more deaths than any other war that the United States has ever fought.  It is national suicide for us to go down a path that leads to violence.  It is time for people of different political positions joined by good faith to join hands on this essential understanding of what is at stake and how we might go forward to strengthen our body politic.  It is to that path that I dedicate my public work.