Bronx-raised Dr. Miriam Levitt Flisser was nominated by the Republican Party to run for congress in New York’s Congressional District 16. The recently redrawn district, is comprised of most of Westchester County, south of Interstate 287 and its four largest cities —Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers, as well as a section of north-central Bronx.
Dr. Flisser has been a pediatrician for several decades and is also a pediatric consultant in several school districts in the Bronx and Westchester County. She is Board Certified as a Diplomate of The American Board of Pediatrics and holds certification by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as a Designated International Vaccine Center. She is also a Provider for the New York State Department of Health Vaccines for Children Program. Flisser has dedicated countless hours of community service, especially in the Bronx. She also served as Mayor of Scarsdale in 2011-2013.
Flisser is running against Representative Jamaal Bowman, whom I interviewed separately. The election is November 8 and early voting starts October 29th. I sat down with Dr. Flisser to discuss her platform, experience, and expertise.
Why are you running for Congress. Dr. Flisser?
I have immense gratitude to America, and I am a strong believer in community service. These are also the reasons that I ran for Mayor of Scarsdale and served as the police commissioner and the fire commissioner. I was born in Eastern Europe, and was smuggled out under a mail truck. My parents and I were detained in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany. Brought to the U.S. on a Marine troop ship, I first saw the Statue of Liberty from the ship’s deck. This affected me deeply, and I am still moved whenever I see her.
I was an immigrant raised in the Bronx. I attended the Bronx High School of Science and graduated from New York University’s Bronx Campus. I received my medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and also did my training in Pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center. When I was a child, there were few women doctors, and who could imagine then, that I would be the Mayor of Scarsdale and now run for Congress?
I honor the tremendous opportunities I had in the Bronx by being a lifelong volunteer there. I never give up on the people of the Bronx!
What is your professional background?
I have a pediatric practice in Bronxville. Also, I am the Medical Director of the Bronxville School District, St Joseph School, Chapel Lutheran School, the Reformed Church Nursery School, and the Horace Mann School in the Bronx; these are consultant appointments. I am an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
I have served as the Chief of Pediatrics at Lawrence Hospital for fifteen years in a voluntary position, where I was elected as the first woman President of the Medical Staff. I have been a member of the Voluntary Staff at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx ever since I completed my training there. As a Physician Volunteer for FEMA and the Westchester County Medical Corps Disaster Response Team, I served during the current pandemic.
What are the main issues in New York’s Congressional District 16?
Increase in crime is a major issue. We must reduce the flow of drugs from the border, and the related influx of indentured criminals, due to the cartels’ control of the system. A failed immigration process, which enables the abuse of unaccompanied minors, requires major change. I am horrified about what happens to young girls crossing the border; they will carry this trauma for the rest of their lives. And immigrant boys are forced into criminal gangs. Teens are a big part of my medical practice; I would work to reform the immigration system to help them. I will work on legislation that stops the abuse of immigrants. We the need proper channels for people to come to the US from different countries, and we must improve the system in our consulates abroad to process immigrant applications. If we do not reform the system, we will end up spending even more money for police and drug enforcement here. In addition, we must also put in place the effective policing strategies that dramatically reduced crime in large cities in the 1990s, beginning in New York.
For crime control, we must support our men and women in police departments in our district, and around the country, who keep us safe. The various efforts to “defund” the police are misguided, dangerous, and a central part of my opponent’s campaign. I will support legislation to ensure that our police departments are sufficiently funded, so that they have the people, training, and equipment they need to reduce and prevent crime.
What do you think are biggest economic problems in District 16?
Inflation is a serious problem for all of us, increasing the costs to cover essentials like housing, gas, electricity, and food. The Fed just increased its benchmark rate by seventy-five basis points, which translates into higher mortgage and car loan rates. Persistent inflationary pressures hurt families at the checkout counters, and the corporate economy is adversely affected by reduced consumer spending.
As a health care provider for children, I am aware of the economic pressures that their parents endure, and how these pressures affect the health of families. I recall the local community hardship when the North Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow GM Auto Assembly plant was closed in 1996, exactly one hundred years after its opening. The plant had provided 49% of the total tax revenue for the village. Today, a number of US corporations are cutting jobs, and I fear that the gross mismanagement of our economy by the Administration and the Democrat Congress will result in a serious recession. We must change course on policies.
What legislation would you introduce in Congress?
My priorities are jobs, security, schools, and family. I support policies that will respect what people work for. I want businesses to grow. My father had a food shop, where I worked since I was eleven. I saw what hard work it was. The Government should respond to our problems. I am very much part of our community because of my position as a school doctor, and as a physician in practice. All day long, I talk to people about what they want and need. Recently, for example, I went to a neighborhood meeting to hear about crime.
We need to focus on creating better manufacturing and value-added jobs here. Too many manufacturing jobs have been exported abroad. In fact, it is dangerous to export certain jobs like pharmaceutical production, medical supplies, infant formula and semiconductors. We need to create jobs that at least pay minimum wage. Our workers spend money in our own communities.
I have been a small business owner, a parent, a pediatrician, a public health official, a medical response corp volunteer, and a Scarsdale Village trustee. I am married to a middle school teacher. I was instrumental in the distribution of infant formula and foods through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program in the Bronx. These issues inspire me.
I am also focused on making changes in education. Education needs a significant overhaul. When we have college graduates who cannot repay their loans based on the employment available to them, we have a damaged economic structure. I was a scholarship student, with loans for my medical education, and after training, I worked in a South Bronx program to obtain credits to repay them.
We are lacking creative solutions. Why have universities become so expensive? There is something wrong in a system where massive institutions have huge endowments and yet students cannot afford tuition, nor repay their education loans. Everyone with kids knows they should save for college, but not everyone can. The White House debt forgiveness program is not forgiveness; it is an unfair outcome, transferring the costs to others.
We also need reform in the greater area of healthcare. We need to reform insurance companies. I serve on numerous hospital institutional committees, and I see the number of regulatory systems that must be addressed, and the incredible amount of documentation needed. Often the regulatory compliance is more expensive than the medicines or treatments being prescribed.
I understand that there are caucuses of moderates from both sides in Congress. Since I am a centrist on many issues, I believe that I would be able to bridge the gap.
What do you think of the Inflation Reduction Act?
You cannot increase government spending and think you can reduce inflation. We need to be finding ways to support small businesses and not add IRS workers aimed at middle class. Also, to reduce inflation, we need to be energy independent. Of course, I understand the environmental implications. Yet, nuclear plants should not have been closed.