DeRiggi-Whitton seeks 7th term to complete legislative projects

DeRiggi-Whitton seeks 7th term to complete legislative projects
Nassau County District 11 Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton is running for her seventh term. (Photo courtesy of Delia DeRiggi-Whitton)

Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) is seeking her seventh term to complete projects she is working on, many of which involve addressing the opioid crisis and the environment and depend on pushing the county to use the money it has allocated for them.

DeRiggi-Whitton is a 12-year Nassau County legislator for District 11, serving Port Washington, Roslyn, Roslyn Harbor, Sea Cliff, Glenwood Landing, and Glen Cove.

She is a staunch advocate for addressing the opioid issue exacerbated by the presence of fentanyl in Long Island, pushing for fentanyl test strips throughout the county and hosting Narcan training sessions.

“It’s affected a number of people that are very near and dear to me and I lived through it for years with some of these parents,” DeRiggi-Whitton told Blank Slate Media. “It’s really such a nightmare.”

But DeRiggi-Whitton said there is an easy first step in taking control of the issue: utilizing the $70 million from the pharmaceutical opioid settlement that is currently just waiting for the county to use it.

Only $2.5 million has been spent in the last two years, according to DeRiggi-Whitton.

She said the county is expecting even more, approximately another $30 million, which can only be used to tackle addiction.

She said she doesn’t know why there is a hold on spending this money.

DeRiggi-Whitton said what’s clear to her is funding the Nassau University Medical Center, which she said has at least three empty floors. Those floors could be used for opioid treatment, she said.

“We could make that building the center for opioid rehabilitation,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

She said this plan could also help the hospital which has faced financial hardship, making the plan a “no-brainer” to DeRiggi-Whitton.

Distributing pharmaceutical settlement money is not the only funding distribution shortfall of the county that DeRiggi-Whitton pointed out.

DeRiggi-Whitton said she assisted Sea Cliff in using ARPA money – federal funds distributed to address the COVID-19 pandemic – to install sewers through parts of the village. She said this also reimbursed homeowners the $7,500 fee to hook up to the sewer lines.

She said this is the only project in Nassau County she knows that has used the federal funds.

She said ARPA funds can be used for water projects, which is the only type of infrastructure project the money can go toward.

DeRiggi-Whitton said the county has nearly $260 million in ARPA funding, which is sitting in an account and not being allocated to projects that are needed in the county.

“I really encourage the administration to focus on the ARPA funding as soon as possible and use it for something that will last, in my opinion, which would be improving our infrastructure,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

Since the money was appropriated several years ago, DeRiggi-Whitton said she does not know why it hasn’t been distributed. She said that if it isn’t used, then the county has to return it.

The legislator said this is part of a larger issue of securing federal funds and grants. She said she hasn’t heard from the administration and they do not willingly share that information.

“It needs to be a priority,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “And in my opinion, I haven’t seen much to show that using that funding and getting it all out is a priority. It’s been moving at a snail’s pace.

This is especially important with Long Island facing the effects of climate change.

“As we’re seeing now with these storms which are due to climate change, they’re coming more and more frequently and bringing more and more water to our island,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “There is a great opportunity right now.”

She said Nassau County’s preparedness for climate change is not where it should be.

DeRiggi-Whitton said she is concerned with the trajectory of the Legislature’s partisanship, which is one seat away from a Republican super-majority. With the Republican Party also controlling the executive branch of the county, she said there is a possibility they would control all decisions.

Yet with 100,000 more registered Democrat voters than GOP voters, DeRiggi-Whitton said efforts to get Democrats and independents to vote have been tough, and the Democratic Party is grappling with how they can get an edge in the county.

“So it’s probably, I would say, the multimillion-dollar question my party is trying to figure out,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

But as a seasoned elected official, what she has found as key to her success in getting elected is engaging with constituents, taking taxpayer money seriously and dedicating herself full-time to her job.

DeRiggi-Whitton has previously been endorsed by the Conservative Party, something she said came as a surprise, but this year she did not secure the endorsement. She said she was told the prior endorsement was a method for the Conservatives to show they were working across the aisle.

DeRiggi-Whitton, who represents a split district in partisanship, said she accepted the endorsement to secure a vulnerable, Democratic seat in the Legislature.

“When I spoke with them, they never once asked me about anything, any issue that I think would separate us, put it that way, and I never had to go against anything I believed,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

She said that many of the polarizing stances of the Conservative Party are not issues that she addresses in the county Legislature.

“I don’t vote on anything that has to do with that,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “My job as a legislator is different than the state job.  You know, it’s completely different. So you know, again, it didn’t affect anything that I did as far as voting; they never asked me to compromise on anything.”

She said in this election she does not have the Conservative Party endorsement and will see how the election pans out.

DeRiggi-Whitton said that regarding the tax reassessment issue, her party under former Executive Laura Curran went about it the wrong way in ordering a re-evaluation, not a reassessment.

In the re-evaluation, the process involved looking at each school district and neighborhood factors rather than assessing each house.

She said going forward, a true reassessment needs to be done and she thinks it is possible.

As to why DeRiggi-Whitton thinks voters should re-elect her, she said it takes time to learn how to fulfill the job and serve constituents’ needs and she is in the middle of it as she works to get her projects to completion.

“Am I going to be one of those people that tries to stay forever? Absolutely not,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “I will absolutely hand this off to the next person one day, but at this point I really do feel that I serve my community well.”

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