Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D–Glen Cove), a 12-year Nassau County legislator who has been a staunch advocate for measures combatting the opioid crisis and government transparency, is seeking another term in the Legislature with the goal to bring some of her current projects to fruition.
“I really feel that there’s a lot of work that’s still going to be done,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
Nassau County will hold an election on Nov. 7 for all 19 of its County Legislature districts.
DeRiggi-Whitton is seeking her seventh term as a Nassau County District 11 legislator, facing off against Republican challenger John Stalzer. The district encompasses Sands Point, Port Washington, Roslyn, Roslyn Harbor, Glen Head, Glenwood, Sea Cliff and Glen Cove.
The legislator said she considers herself a moderate Democrat who doesn’t “vote down the line.”
Prior to her time in the legislature, DeRiggi-Whitton served two terms as a Glen Cove Councilmember.
DeRiggi-Whitton graduated from Hofstra University and previously worked as a senior claims adjustor for State Farm.
Her legislative initiatives have focused on environmental issues and actions.
During her tenure, DeRiggi-Whitton said she has worked on notable legislative actions, including banning the use of fracking water to make pellets that melt snow. This was a method that Nassau County was hoping to implement, she said, but was banned from doing so through the legislation she pushed.
DeRiggi-Whitton said Nassau County’s ban was then adopted by New York City’s five boroughs, utilizing Nassau’s legislation verbatim.
Another legislative action that DeRiggi-Whitton has been passionate about is addressing the opioid crisis, exacerbated by the presence of fentanyl in communities.
DeRiggi-Whitton has hosted Narcan training sessions over the years to teach residents how to administer the overdose-reversing drug and inform them of the issues at hand.
She co-sponsored legislation that would require fentanyl test strips to be included in Narcan kits, which is still awaiting approval in the Legislature.
“It’s one of the only tools we have against fentanyl, which is a whole new game changer in the opioid crisis,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
She has also presented a separate measure that would allow the county to distribute drug deactivation pouches.
If re-elected, DeRiggi-Whitton said she would work to distribute the money the county received through its opioid settlement to local organizations and small businesses.
“Seeing how that money is dispersed is a big thing on my mind,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
She added that she would like to see Nassau University Medical Center offer specialized treatment to address opioid use, which could be aided by providing the institution money through the county’s settlement.
DeRiggi-Whitton, while an advocate for affordable housing in Nassau County, opposed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s initial plan to increase housing by 3% over three years, which failed to pass due to staunch pushback.
“You can’t just come down with one plan that might work in Buffalo but isn’t going to work on Long Island because of the traffic situation we have, the density issues already and then our resources,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
She said she was against the governor’s initial housing plan as it is an issue that needs to be addressed locally.
“The local government is here because they really understand the needs of their constituents and it’s really important to abide by what the local government and constituents wish for,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
She said she supports an increase of affordable housing in Nassau County, saying it is a necessity, but issues of sustainability need to be considered to preserve the quality of life of residents.
DeRiggi-Whitton has also been outspoken in her opposition to the recently proposed Sands New York casino.
As the one legislator who voted against the new casino, DeRiggi-Whitton said there are better alternatives for the old coliseum that would bring sustainable and higher-paying jobs to the county.
“I really care about my constituents and my community, the future of my area and all of Nassau County,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
Recently, DeRiggi-Whitton proposed text-to-911 legislation that was adopted and will be implemented so individuals can contact the emergency phone line during incidents when a call cannot be made.
“Which will come in handy, God forbid, for any type of domestic violence situation or if there’s a school invasion or even if there is someone who’s hearing impaired,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
She said she has also requested that language availability be included in the service, which would allow someone to text 911 regardless of English proficiency.
DeRiggi-Whitton said she has also worked on a series of projects that have been notable to her during her tenure.
This included a $6 million project revamping Manorhaven Boulevard through drainage, improving traffic flow and beautifying the downtown.
A project the legislator has currently been spearheading is to get Crescent Beach in Glen Cove reopened, which she said has been in the works for about 10 years. The beach has been closed due to bacterial contamination, but DeRiggi-Whitton said the source of contamination has been found, nearby homeowners have implemented filtration systems and the bacterial levels have been diminishing.
In order to reopen, the beach’s bacterial levels need to be below a certain limit for five consecutive weeks, which has not been achieved yet. Despite this, she said she is hopeful the beach will be reopened soon enough.
DeRiggi-Whitton said she is a dedicated fiscal watchdog who believes in strict financial oversight and responsible budgeting.
Going forward, one issue that DeRiggi-Whitton said she is focused on is the installation of the current inspector general, whose contract has not been renewed with the county. She said she is concerned that the county may be working to remove her.
“If they choose to get rid of the one that we have now—I think she’s excellent and I don’t really think there’s any reason or cause to remove her—but if they do and they replace her it’s going to have to be with a legitimate, strong independent voice,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Not someone who’s afraid to question the administration’s decision on contracts or anything else.”
DeRiggi-Whitton wroked to create an independent Office of the Nassau County Inspector General to oversee county contracting.
She said having an inspector general who does not act independently from the municipality served can be worse than not having an inspector general at all.
DeRiggi-Whitton said that a concern of hers is that the Republican Party is one seat away from obtaining a super majority in the county Legislature, meaning that the party would be able to act independently when making decisions. She said this essentially diminishes checks and balances within the Legislature as it reduces the amount of diverse oversight over decisions made.
“I don’t believe in supermajorities, even if it was a Democratic supermajority. It doesn’t matter what party I really don’t care,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Supermajorities are very dangerous.”
Despite this, Nassau County has approximately 100,000 more Democratic voters than Republicans.
Nassau County residents and the Nassau County Democratic Committee filed a lawsuit against Nassau County’s recently redrawn legislative map, citing an alleged illegal partisan advantage for the Republican Party in county Legislature elections. While DeRiggi-Whitton declined to comment on the lawsuit challenging the current legislative map because she is named in the lawsuit, she said that ”something does seems off.”
Because of this, DeRiggi-Whitton said she is concerned about losing Democrat-held seats which has motivated her further to run for re-election.
While she said she doesn’t plan to serve in her position forever, she has been very lucky to represent the 11th District and wants to continue in order to see her current projects for the district come to fruition.