Discrimination against transgender people, abuse of power by police, the Black Lives Matter movement, Joe Biden, New York’s re-opening, the postal service, rural broadband, Rep. Tom Reed, marijuana legalization and non-disclosure agreements were among the topics Tracy Mitrano tackled in her town hall edition of the June 16 edition of her weekly online show, “Tuesday Talks with Tracy.”

Mitrano, the Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Reed for the 23rd congressional district, which includes the Greater Olean area, answered questions viewers submitted to Lori Nguyen, her political director. 

At the start of the town hall, Mitrano said the Trump administration has attacked transgender people’s rights by challenging the definition of sex in respect to the Affordable Care Act.  

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The administration may roll back the act’s Section 1557, which says health care providers cannot discriminate against people based on sex, Mitrano said. 

The Trump administration has tried to define sex based on biological determination at birth, but Mitrano said this will fail thanks to a Supreme Court decision made Monday. 

The court decided to change Title VII, a law against discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion or ethnicity, to include gender identity.   

“I am confident that if a challenge now, in light of that Supreme Court decision, is brought to the court, that the Trump administration’s definition will fail and the definition that is now front-and-center of American politics, as interpreted by yesterday’s decision in the Supreme Court, will be the one that prevails.”

Answering the next question, Mitrano said the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 can help negate police abuse of power.

“The failure to have federal oversight, a federal registry (of police misconduct), federal foundation for training, among other provisions of this act, is why we have not been able to get our arms, as a country, around this issue to date,” Mitrano said. 

Mitrano said the law would not defund the police and would help them have better transparency with their communities.

“We, the taxpayers, pay police salaries,” Mitrano said. “It is time for us to be able to see what their histories are.” 

Mitrano answered multiple questions about the Black Lives Matter movement: whether she supported the movement and how she will work in Congress to prevent further police brutality tragedies.   

Mitrano said she has supported the movement since 2015, after the suicide of Sandra Bland, who had been jailed for three days after being stopped in her car by police. 

She again mentioned the Justice in Policing Act, saying she would support it to prevent police brutality.   

She also said racial discrimination needs to be tackled through all areas of life, including health care, education and infrastructure.

Mitrano agreed with a viewer that she would denounce Biden’s mistakes as senator surrounding race relations, such as his 1994 crime law, and she would hold him accountable, should he win. 

“And I don’t think that’s where Vice President Biden is anymore,” Mitrano said. “I agree with you that we want to be sure that there’s no kind of relapse to something that may have seemed like a good idea in the past but really wasn’t.”

Mitrano said she would stand up to anyone, no matter who, if she felt their legislation would fail to see embedded racism clearly. 

Mitrano addressed a viewer’s worry about re-opening and facing a second wave of COVID-19.

“That’s a rational worry because we don’t have a vaccination, and we do not have a good treatment,” Mitrano said. “Right now, I believe in the approach that the governor has taken. It is evidence-based. It deals with numbers of infections, deaths, hospitalizations.” 

Mitrano said she has placed her faith in Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other New York leaders because the governor, if a second wave of coronavirus happens, he is willing to return to quarantining. 

The same viewer followed up, asking about Mitrano’s thoughts on rural broadband. 

Mitrano responded that she has received many questions about rural broadband because quarantining during the pandemic has increased the need for online services.

“When there’s no internet to connect to, you can have all the equipment in the world, but you still don’t have a data network, cable or broadband network,” Mitrano said.

Mitrano said this issue heavily affects the 23rd congressional district, and she suggested that state and federal governments assist in funding by classifying broadband as a utility, like telephone or electricity. That way, the money could in part come from taxation. 

Another viewer asked what Mitrano’s thoughts were on the postal service going bankrupt this year. 

“I think one of the underlying reasons that Donald Trump and Tom Reed have championed privatizing the communication and getting rid of the postal service is they do not want there to be voting by mail,” Mitrano said. “We must have it."

Mitrano then discussed Reed’s motivations for voting.

“When Donald Trump asks Tom Reed to jump, Tom Reed asks, ‘How high?’ ” Mitrano said. “He doesn’t ask why. He doesn’t really care about the interests of the people in this district. He only cares about enhancing himself in the eyes of the president.”

Mitrano pointed out Reed’s status as honorary chair of Trump’s re-election campaign in New York. 

Mitrano answered a viewer about her opinion on marijuana legalization. 

“I do support the legalization at the federal level of cannabis mainly because I deplore the underworld drug trade. We need to get this above-board and regulate it.”

Mitrano highlighted her stance by giving an anecdote about her children.

“When my kids were coming of age, I took them to a liquor store,” Mitrano said. “We chose bourbon. You look at a bottle and you know if you’re getting a 100-percent bourbon, a 90-percent bourbon, an 80-percent bourbon. Right now, people don’t know what they’re getting when they buy from the illegal drug trade.”

Mitrano added the tax revenue from regulation could go into researching the effects of cannabis.

“We still do not understand enough about how that drug acts,” Mitrano said. 

A viewer asked Mitrano whether non-disclosure agreements should become void for people running for Congress.

“No, I don’t,” Mitrano responded. “I think the core issue is how can we communicate out to people about a person’s past life, so we can all evaluate who is going to be the best person for this office?”

Mitrano suggested campaign finance reform could allow for more honest communication by campaigns, as well as allow equal standing for campaigns.

At the end of the town hall, Mitrano answered three questions in rapid succession, giving her stance on student loans, immigration and dealing with mentally disabled adults.  

Mitrano said she believes the interest on student loans needs to be lowered and that partial loan forgiveness could help. Immigration reform needs re-assessment and that Congress last passed a bill concerning it in 1965. And, she said, it is unfair that police officers have the responsibility of addressing conflicts with mentally disabled people. 

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