Cornell students may have noticed that they have trouble receiving a signal for the final hour of the drive to Ithaca, but they may not have known this is more than a mere inconvenience for their Spotify playlist.
Rather this is a problem plaguing New York’s 23rd congressional district. And it is an issue that Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 aims to resolve in her platform for the 2018 congressional election, in which she is challenging Republican Rep. Tom Reed.
Because the University has its own network, Mitrano admits that this issue may not be noticeable to the average Cornell student.
“Once you’re outside that five miles [outside downtown Ithaca], it’s a crapshoot as to whether you have connectivity or not,” she said.
She said she implores Cornell students to consider their high school experience without ease in connecting to the internet, asking students to consider “how could you have gotten through high school and be able to go to a school like Cornell” without connection.
Mitrano said the idea for running for election came following Donald Trump’s election in November, when she questioned “how did we get here.”
This question led her to target Russian interference, an issue of particular concern for Mitrano from her background in technology and cyber security. From that point, Mitrano looked to see how she could get involved.
A closer look into her own district — more specifically a “basic lack of infrastructure” — then spurred what would become a central feature of Mitrano’s platform.
“It immediately struck me that [the district] has fallen behind because of the lack of attention that Reed has paid to it in many areas,” Mitrano told The Sun. “But the first thing that really hit me was because it’s falling behind we do not have connectivity to every farm, every home, every school and every business.”
Not having widespread and broadband connectivity within the district, she said, creates a “tremendous handicap for economic development.” Such connectivity could bring an estimated 40 percent increase in economic development, she said.
However, this process would usher in government regulations. This could be why Reed has been resistant, Mitrano said. She pushed back against considering this form of government assistance and regulations as a form of socialism.
“It’s not socialism. It’s not a crazy thought. It’s been done before. But Reed goes against all regulation, no matter what it is. He doesn’t think through,” she said. “He’s not a leader, he’s a follower.”
Mitrano takes the issue of technology, specifically internet connectivity, and uses it as an extension for other issues in her platform. The lack of broadband was where all the issues came together for her.
“I have a background in law, I have a background in social policy, I have a doctorate in American history and have taught it for years,” she said. “It’s not as if technology is the only thing I do. In fact, to the contrary. I didn’t do any technology 15 years ago.”
“But I have these competencies in all these areas, so it’s also then very easy for me to take just about any other issue and contextualize it in the political dialogue,” she continued.
On the issue of female reproductive rights and the defunding of Planned Parenthood — an issue that has gathered crowds of Ithacans and Cornellians in protest — Mitrano’s platform differs from Reed’s policies.
“I believe that abortion should be legal, medically safe, available and affordable,” she said. “And [Reed] doesn’t believe in any of that.”
Mitrano came to Cornell in 1991 as a visiting professor in the human development department in the College of Human Ecology, with a background in American history. After a year of teaching, Mitrano attended Cornell Law School, where she obtained her J.D. in 1995.
Mitrano then taught as a professor again in the human ecology college from 1996 to 2001. In 2001, Mitrano accepted the position of director of information technology policy, which she held until 2014.
Mitrano said her background in technology policy gives her an edge in the political world, since “technology is so much a part of all aspects of our lives and politics.”
In all, Mitrano said she is hoping to fill the role of a leader for the district, a role that she believes to be lacking with Reed in office.