We met Will Yandik in New York City on May 18. What follows is a version that he was given a chance to edit.
TMI – What is it that you want voters to know about you?
I grew up on my family farm in Livingston in Columbia County that was started over 100 years ago by my grandfather who came here as an immigrant from Eastern Europe. After graduating from public high school in Hudson, I was fortunate to get scholarships to Princeton and Brown, where I studied journalism and Environmental Studies. I have always held a personal and professional attachment to this area. I’m running for Congress because I want to help the community that’s always been there for me.
I am not afraid to stand up to powerful specials interests, as I have done my entire career. When the energy utilities tried to take 153 miles of people’s land here through eminent domain for power lines that we didn’t need and would have cost the ratepayers $1.3 billion, I organized my community to found the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition. We took them on and forced them to revise the project. As a journalist, I’ve covered the excesses of large pharmaceutical companies, the pollution of the Hudson River by General Electric, and the erosion of social security benefits for our seniors.
My father died when I was 15. My mother had to work twice as hard, running the farm and running us kids. It was her work and her courage that gives me the courage to seek better things for our community and for the country. I want to see opportunities in our area for people who work hard to get ahead. I want to give people the tools to do that.
TMI – What do you see as the major issues facing our district?
The number one issue facing this district is creating the economic opportunities that will attract and retain young families. We export young people from this area and it’s unsustainable. Every one of the 11 counties in this district is losing population. To accomplish this goal, we need to end unfair trade deals that have been hurting the American worker and shipping jobs overseas for decades. We need to invest in clean energy technology, which has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in upstate New York, and work with community colleges to offer affordable education and business training to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.
This district is one of the worst served areas in the country in terms of high-speed internet services, which is a vital for businesses to participate in the 21st Century marketplace. Market access can be greatly expanded to online customers and facilitate telecommuters here. Even a 21st-Century auto repair shop needs to get online for the shop’s diagnostic software.
Because of the scarcity of good-paying jobs, the school-age population in some areas of this district has dropped by 57 percent since 2000 and our district is greying. I want to redirect federal funds to home care so seniors can age in their home longer and can avoid expensive nursing home care.
TMI – What is your vision for the district?
I see us having to prepare our citizens for the changing economy. It is harder and harder to find jobs that you can work for your entire career and that offer a defined-pension plan. We have to give our young people the skills they need for them to participate in the economy we have today which is not the economy we had yesterday. I see opportunities in solar and clean energy, an emerging food and tourism economy, health care, select light industry, and the online knowledge economy.
Our area has two resources that give us a competitive advantage – we have water and proximity to the biggest food market in the country. We have to create a better distribution system so more of our agricultural products can reach markets more efficiently. I think agriculture can still be a big part of our future.
TMI -The Republicans want to end Obamacare? What do you say to them?
Although Obamacare is far from perfect, I oppose its repeal because it has covered millions of Americans who were previously unable to get coverage because of preexisting conditions, has allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans longer, and is closing the doughnut hole for Medicare. However, it has not done enough to control costs. More competition among providers and oversight is needed to bring down the cost of deductibles and premiums, and I would support a public option to compete with private plans. No health care system can work without slowing the costs of health care, and I support leveraging the full power of the federal government to negotiate for cheaper prescription drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid, work to fund preventative medicine that studies have shown reduce long-term costs, and reward innovative medical programs that move us away from fee-for-service and focus on health outcomes.
TMI – What can you do to break through the gridlock that everyone talks about?
I was elected to the town board of Livingston where I am now deputy supervisor and, despite being the only Democrat, have managed to work with Republicans to ban hydrofracking, support our historic resources, and expand solar energy. I will take that same approach to Congress. Nationally, I believe there is a common ground that can be found with Republican colleagues on issues of agriculture, a reformed tax code, infrastructure, and a new electricity grid to ferry clean energy across the nation.
TMI – You mentioned a ban on fracking in a prior statement. Would you want to ban fracking at the national level?
I worked for years to ban fracking here locally and in New York because I place a higher value on protecting our water resources than extracting oil and gas that would be shipped overseas to more lucrative Asian markets. Nationally, the extent of fracking infrastructure that has already been developed makes a federal ban impractical but I emphatically oppose subsidies for additional exploration and drilling. We do not need to drill one additional well to have the necessary oil and gas resources to transition away from coal.
TMI – What is your view on the importance of balancing the budget?
In order to balance the budget, we need to make sure corporations pay their fair share and we need to grow the economy. We cannot cut our way to a balanced budget without slashing key programs like Social Security and Medicare, which are cuts I oppose. Locally, I’m proud to have been part of a Town Board that managed services efficiently without raising taxes in the last five years.
TMI – What is your response to the Republican mantra of making government smaller?
I believe that government, if responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens, can be a force for good in this country and the world. We short change ourselves in the long run if in our zeal to shrink government we do not make the necessary investments in education, infrastructure, the environment, and research and development that are necessary to expand opportunities for private business and for our citizens. I find it disingenuous that many of the same political voices that call for smaller government support corporate welfare such as ethanol subsidies, policies that allow corporations to offshore earnings to avoid paying taxes, and the more than $35 billion we give to coal, oil, and gas companies as subsidies each year.