- What should be the role of science and scientists in government policy- and decision-making?
To the extent that the policy relates to a topic studied by science – whether biology, economics or social psychology, the opinion of experts within the field will help to inform my decision making. Policy making should never be so dogmatic that it does not seek to better understand the reality which it operates within.
- Optional: Taxpayer-funded basic research is a key economic driver. What is your position on the Endless Frontiers Act? With the added technology arm and focus on commercialization to the National Science Foundation’s mission, what policies would you support to ensure equity for taxpayers?
The Endless Frontiers act has a worthy goal of bolstering innovation in technology and advancing further scientific research. Having said that, it also comes at a hefty cost to taxpayers of $100 billion. The national debt is a looming problem and this price tag only compounds the issue. The NSF currently receives $8 billion annually, already a fair amount of funding that shares bipartisan support. In addition, former NSF director Arden Bement has voiced his concerns over how these funds would be appropriated. Due to both the cost and the uncertainty of how well the federal government would actually utilize those funds, we should be skeptical of passing this bill into law.
- Optional: If you could introduce and/or support any major scientific endeavor, what would it be? (i.e. what would be your “moonshot” project?)
The scientific endeavor I would focus on has less to do with the creation or discovery of technology, but rather with the adoption of technology we know to be revolutionary. I would support the greater adoption and use of Nuclear Energy, especially in the Northeastern United States, as the path to most quickly reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Equally important is the proper disposal of municipal solid waste. Right now in the Northeast most household waste is buried in the ground in landfills. This is a terribly short sighted method for waste management and is the third largest cause of anthropogenic methane production. Especially with recent revelations from NPR about the deceit of recycling, we need to support the construction of clean waste-to-energy facilities.
- What have you learned from the coronavirus pandemic? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics in a more effective way?
I’ve learned that relying on a politically tainted CDC and FDA is a public health risk for our country. The response that we saw from the federal government in not allowing medical professionals to pursue testing when patients didn’t meet the travel criteria, not opening up markets quickly enough to greater testing options, and creating regulatory barriers to the PPE production likely cost thousands of lives. We need to make it easier for medical professionals and governments at all levels to have a nimble response to disease outbreak. In 2020, we got a glacial bureaucracy at the Federal level that made our response inadequate.
Pandemic and infectious diseases are one area especially where the expertise of scientists must be utilized. State and Federal governments should focus less on centralizing power and decision making (since you run the risk of inept or politically tainted decision makers). Pandemic response can be decentralized, resilient, and dynamic with good communication between local, state, and private health authorities informed by scientists.
- Optional: In your opinion, what is the ideal healthcare system? How will you incorporate advances in basic science, clinical, and public health research to inform your positions on healthcare policy?
The ideal healthcare system is one that prioritizes healthy outcomes and access not just universal insurance coverage.
The failure of our current system largely hangs not on failures of science to advance, but the economics and incentives of our current system.
Regulations today restrict the ability of doctors to heal and treat patients at the unique human level they exist, but forces them to put more time into regulatory compliance and insurance bureaucracy. This increases burnout and clinical errors. Taking more healthcare outside the insurance system is critical.
Hospitals are not paid based on the healthy outcomes of patients, but on the number and type of services provided. A major problem in healthcare today is the OVER provision of services. And when money and resources are over provided to some patients, that leaves less resources for others – most always those with lower incomes.
Prescription drug prices are a major point of dissatisfaction with healthcare today. We see stories almost daily about the price of insulin rising, or the “Pharma Bro” price gouging patients. This exists because our patent system is in desperate need of reform so that these pharma companies no longer hold exclusive patents to rip off patients. Certainly, they deserve some returns for their investment and innovation, but the issues of our current system require reform.
CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How would these policies impact other systems, if any (e.g. economy, agriculture, education)?
The two largest sectors of greenhouse gas production are Transportation and Energy production. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
To address transportation, the biggest hurdle is not switching to electric vehicles but the manner in which we use land. Due to the massive investment in sprawling car infrastructure by the government in the mid-20th century, combined with the land use regulations that have segregated workplaces from houses, we have a society where driving is almost a necessity. Even in larger cities like Rochester, NY, it is impractical to rely on public transportation except as a last resort. We need to stop investing money into expanded car infrastructure and put that money instead into efficient public transportation. We also need to require local municipalities to revise their land use regulations to legalize mixed use development and denser housing. Transportation energy use has grown because we have moved destinations further and further apart. We need to bring our communities back together.
With regard to energy production, I would support the construction of Nuclear power plants which have shown to be the most efficient and most reliable energy source. They have the benefit of producing minimal waste and with long lifespans of 40 years or more in some cases. To eliminate the use of fossil fuels, we need an energy source that is always available for production and only Nuclear energy provides that consistency. Nuclear also does not use tremendous acres of land unlike solar or wind.
Unfortunately, nuclear power is at a significant regulatory disadvantage right now. Making it easier for communities to embrace new technologies like small modular reactors will be the best thing we can do to tackle climate change.
- Optional: What is your position on policies encompassed in the Green New Deal and the Red Deal? Should the US federal government work with Native American nations to manage and conserve land? If so, how?
See below for my stance on the Green New Deal.
Should Native American nations require assistance from the federal government, I would certainly listen to testimony from those who appear in front of Congress to see how we could address their concerns. Speaking historically, government involvement in this area has been met with controversy, and tensions seem to rise whenever the government promises to make things better despite a shaky track record.
- Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not? If you support transitioning our economy away from fossil fuel dependence, how will you support workers who will need to transition to different industries?
No. The Green New Deal does not provide enough specifics on its proposals, and cannot be adequately evaluated. Well intentioned policies can have significant unforeseen consequences and as implied within the question, some workers, families, and whole communities will potentially be harmed by this transition. Without details we cannot properly evaluate the harm.
That said, I do strongly support some of the goals contained within the Green New Deal. I support the shift to a carbon neutrality or net-negative carbon use and the policies to increase deployment of energy rich nuclear power, reducing the size and scale of our military – the biggest polluter EVER on Earth, improving the efficiency of land use, supporting public transportation or green transportation will get us there.
I understand that large scale economic changes would disrupt the lives of many families and communities. That’s why my decentralized approach to modernization will minimize societal harm. When we rely on top down projects we become over leveraged to its success and any failures become that much more destructive.
Furthermore, any green program that aims to limit economic growth, would likely be counterproductive. Wealthier societies tend to invest more in environmental protection and the creation of innovative technology that reduces environmental harm while increasing quality of life for all people.
- Optional: What does a thriving economy look like for you and your constituents? What role should the government play in addressing income and wealth inequality, particularly in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery? How will science help inform the policies you would introduce or support to achieve this vision?
A thriving economy is a place where all individuals have the ability to make a living and engage in the type of activities that bring them happiness. In
Rochester, that means numerous jobs and diverse small businesses. A robust cultural scene with arts and live music. We cannot expect every individual to always be successful, but I want my constituents to believe that in Rochester the doors are open to them to succeed as much as they are willing and luck will have them.
Part of that requires removing unnecessary barriers to building wealth, such as occupational licensing. It should be easy for people living in poverty to be entrepreneurs and to pursue their passion as long as they’re providing a service others find valuable.
But we also need the government to stop perpetuating the policies that created much of the inequality in the first place. For example, in the 1930’s the FHA first created the program of redlining and housing loans to white families which segregated communities. In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70”s it funded massive
infrastructure projects which supported the “white flight” from cities and to the suburbs. It funded urban renewal which largely destroyed black communities that planners judged as “blighted.” Then through all this it has perpetuated the zoning restrictions designed to keep low-income families from the community. This has the further cyclical effect of blocking low-income families from the good schools of suburban communities and locking them into cycles of poverty. Government has the responsibility to protect the rights of all people, and it has clearly failed in this regard but I will advocate for its repair
- What should our education system, from K-12 to higher ed, be doing to prepare students to be adaptable critical thinkers, especially considering the challenges of climate change, misinformation, and work at the human-technology frontier?
Our industrial educational model is far too narrow for the modern world. We need to fundamentally rethink how we approach educating our children. If the goal of school is to foster the development of well-adjusted adults who are prepared for the workforce, our way of doing things is deeply flawed. This system fails to serve the most vulnerable children while costing a ton of money.
My proposal is to move away from one-size fits all models of education dictated by the federal government. We can move to more dynamic and nimble models of digital education blended with hands-on learning. Students and families should have the ability to design their own rigorous path of study that matches their interests, abilities, and learning styles; preparing students for a lifetime of learning and problem solving as adults. Learning doesn’t only take place in school at the hands of professionals, it takes place through study, play, exploration, and practical applications in the workplace.
- Optional: How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should be the federal government’s role in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?
I think we’re behind the curve in embracing digital learning models and thinking beyond the district system. Why shouldn’t a student in Rochester who wants to learn math from a teacher who can make the subject interesting and fun for them, not be able to connect with qualified educators around the country? Particularly in the age of COVID-19, this should be an accessible possibility for all families.
Furthermore, while teachers and administrators have done an admirable job of trying to make virtual and hybrid models work, this doesn’t always work for many families, particularly those in the service industry who have inconsistent hours and cannot stay home to monitor their young children. Parents should be able to take their education dollars if the public school model no longer works for their children and apply those dollars to homeschooling pods or private schools that better meet their needs.
FOOD & AGRICULTURE
- To what extent are you concerned about the threat of climate change in disrupting agriculture in New York State in the coming decades? What, if any, policy changes should be made to ensure our farms are resilient?
Unlike other parts of the country like the American south west, New York will be well positioned to adapt it’s agricultural practices to climate change and have adequate water resources to continue supporting a thriving industry.
I’m also pro GMO and know that universities in NYS are working diligently to provide heartier and more productive crops that can adapt to however the climate might change in NY. My policy here would be to make sure we don’t ban or discourage GMO crops.
That being said, government subsidies and regulations that encourage crop monocultures and risky practices should end. Crop diversity and market forces are an important part of having a resilient industry.
- Optional: How do you see federal food and agriculture policies impacting public health? What interventions should the federal government employ to help people living in food deserts or with food insecurity?
Federal funding to support large monoculture crops have increased the cheap production of cattle and pigs as well as the increased use of corn syrup in foods. We should be encouraging a more diverse diet filled with fruits and vegetables but instead we have subsidized sugars and fats. Government intervention and subsidies have made us less healthy.
- Restrictions and suspensions of new work visas, especially for high-skilled workers in science and technology fields, could affect scientific progress and innovation. Do you agree with these restrictions? Why or why not?
I don’t agree with the restrictions. Part of what has made the United States a success in the technology development sector is our ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world. It should be as easy as possible for people of all skill levels to come to the US, study, work, and invent. We need to not only lift the restrictions on new work visas, but do away with quota systems all together and simplify the process. It should be easy for companies and workers to make work arrangements. It enriches all of us.
- Optional: As climate change worsens, the number of climate refugees will increase within the US as well as globally. What role should the US play in mitigating this problem? How, if at all, should US immigration policies adapt to this issue?
US immigration policies should adapt to become more humanitarian. We must recognize that all individuals are attempting to realize their best life, and it does not matter whether they are American. We cannot let people suffer abroad because they were born elsewhere.
Upstate NY and the Midwest, two places more safe from Climate Change are perfectly positioned to accept these refugees. There is a lot of excess capacity in infrastructure and housing from the hollowing out of the last 5 decades. But we need to reform our immigration policies and zoning regulations to make the most positive impact.
- What is your position on the 1996 Dickey Amendment? What role should the federal government take in addressing issues relating to gun violence?
The Dicky Amendment makes sense in that the CDC shouldn’t be in the business of advocating gun control, but it doesn’t actually prevent research. And even if it did, there are plenty of private universities and nonprofits studying how gun violence impacts health outcomes. Just because the government isn’t doing something, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
I think gun violence is far more connected to issues like poverty and economic opportunity than anything else. Gun control takes away the rights of law abiding citizens, are disproportionately used against people of color, and do little to solve the underlying issue of access to illegal firearms.
Addressing the issues of intergroup and individual violence that impact our city requires a grassroots approach, not a one size fits all national solution.
- Optional: Considering the majority (over 60%) of gun deaths are due to suicide, what are some policies that could be enacted to promote safer gun ownership practices and address people’s mental health needs?
One big challenge related to gun ownership and suicide is the fear of gun owners that any acknowledgement of mental health challenges or suicidal ideation will be met with the permanent removal of their self defense rights. For many individuals, their understanding of NYS law leads them to avoid seeking mental health treatment and keeping a firearm in the house when they are a suicide risk.
If the goal is harm reduction, finding better ways for gun owners to seek mental health treatment without fear of long term removal of gun rights is a critical policy solution. It’ll also be important to continue to build a culture of mental health awareness and stigma reduction within second amendment communities.