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Race for legislator heats up in District 11

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With an election a few weeks away, it’s time to consider who would best lead District 11 in the Nassau County Legislature. Incumbent Delia De-Riggi Whitton, a Democrat, hopes to win so she can remain in office for a fourth term. James Greenberg, a Republican, is an attorney hoping to bring his experiences to the position of legislator. We asked the candidates a few questions to assist voters when they go to the polls on Nov. 5.

Herald Gazette: The price of living in Nassau County has continued to rise, leading the young and senior citizens to leave. Additionally, it is causing an increase in homelessness. What can you do in as a legislator to change this pattern? 

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton: Senior housing and next generation housing are both major issues in Nassau County. Holding developers to the “next generation- affordable housing “ requirements are very important standards that should not be easily negotiated. The 10 percent requirement the very least we should do, and an increased amount should probably be considered.

The HUB in Nassau County is designed with Millennials in mind. It includes affordable apartments near mass-public transportation and nearby vocational opportunities. This is a great example of the type of projects we should be supporting in our county.

James Greenberg: The mismanagement of our budget has been a long-standing issue that has serious repercussions for taxpayers. Tom DiNapoli, our state comptroller, summed it up best when he said that the key fiscal problem in Nassau and Suffolk is that more money is spent than raised in revenues. The county has not only failed to address this problem, but also piled it on, refusing to respond to changes in federal and state taxes and laws that has caused the cost of living in Nassau to skyrocket. It is a failure of leadership, pure and simple. Our elected officials lack the courage to make decisions to cut the cost of their services, which are often paid at a premium to feed the demands of high priced, well connected consultants. Instead, they look to our residents as ATMs.

I will conduct a full audit of government operations and work with my colleagues to begin improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of government services, including exploratory pilot programs and partnerships with businesses, real estate leaders and nonprofits to ensure services are provided. We need to bring new revenue into our community by encouraging business development, balancing real-estate development and continuing to build a tax base with new housing.

Herald Gazette: Studies have indicated that Long Island’s drinking water is the most contaminated in New York state. What will you do to help treat our water and make it safer for human consumption?

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton: We live on top of our water supply and everything we do, including how we fertilize and irrigate our lawns can affect our aquifers. I have been very involved with LICAP, an agency designed to protect our aquifers that helps with advertisement efforts to promote conservation and regulate water usage from various water districts. I am also involved with Residents Forward, which monitors our aquifers and drinking water. I  recently signed on to a letter to the DEC that includes suggestions to protect our aquifers. One of the main subjects has been the threat of reopening the Queen’s Wells. I am happy to say that to date our efforts have been successful and part of the reason the reopening has been delayed. I will continue to be active in trying to stop this attempt for future generations.

James Greenberg: We need to continue to work with federal officials on treating our drinking water, finding environmentally friendly solutions to cleaning the water but also short-term solutions to ensure it is safe. If there are parties immediately responsible for contaminating the water we need to prosecute and hold them accountable. It’s not just the drinking water but the fact that we can’t swim in the water off of some of our beautiful beaches that concerns me as well. High levels of bacteria off Crescent Beach in Glen Cove must finally be addressed. I will find out what is going on, report it back to you and find solutions to solve the problem.

Herald Gazette: As politics are increasingly polarized, how can you reach across the aisle to create bipartisan support for a bill to make sure it doesn’t just die in the legislature? 

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton: My entire career as a legislator has been spent in the minority. This situation has made it necessary to work across the aisle and in the past few years I have found it easier to get legislation and projects passed.

As a legislator I am one of the most successful at getting grants and projects for my district. I have also had many pieces of legislation passed, most often unanimously. I am always willing to have other legislators sign on to my pieces of legislation and I believe that also helps my efforts.

I have also worked with legislators from across the aisle on various projects including Super Storm Sandy fraud, and working on improving conditions at the jail. These efforts also help my relationships with the Republican majority.

As the daughter of the last Republican mayor in Glen Cove, I have little patience for any political interference, especially with important legislation and other governmental efforts.

James Greenberg: Nassau County is not Washington D.C. or Albany. We understand how to work together to get things done for our residents. Ironically, my nickname growing up was the “Great Negotiator.” I have always taken pride in listening to all ideas with an open mind and working with people to get things done. I will never let petty, partisan, political games influence my service to our community and will always do what is right for our community. And most importantly, I will always give my constituents ample opportunity to make their case when they disagree.

Herald Guardian: As a legislator, what can you do to get the word out about the dangers of vaping? 

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton: Vaping has become a major concern in Nassau County, especially with our young people. Education is most important as vaping was first marketed as a “safe” alternative to smoking. Now that we are fully aware of the dangers we are passing legislation to try and help correct the situation. One piece of legislation we recently passed was to ban the sale of flavored brands. These flavors, which include bubble-gum and other kid-friendly flavors demonstrate how these flavors are designed to get kids hooked on vaping. We also proposed legislation that would ban advertising of vaping products near schools. And we also wrote legislation to ban vaping in parks and other public areas.

We need to keep the pressure on this subject as well as the opioid crisis. As a mother of three, I believe these subjects are extremely important.

James Greenberg: As a father of an 18-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son I am living with the issues of vaping. My wife and I do not rely upon the government to address this issue. We deal with it ourselves. We were clear that vaping would not be tolerated in our household and our children eventually realized how unhealthy it was for them on their own. I am a former smoker who quit 8 years ago. My wife is still trying to quit. Perhaps we set poor examples, but all we could do as parents was to prevent them from making the same bad choice.

I am proud to be a community leader and organizer through the Glen Cove Soccer program, as well as with other sports and teen programs. Speaking with the children directly one on one and using my own life as an example is the only way to truly educate young people on the dangers of vaping, experimenting with drugs, alcohol etc. 

We as parents have to be realistic that some will fall into the trap of trying to be cool or from peer pressure to do something they would not have done normally. A combination of educating our children of the harms caused by these vices, discipline and even punishment are ways to address the problem. And we can get the word out by working hand in hand with youth organizations that have the attention of the children and make it a rule that you can’t be a vaper and a soccer player or dancer or baseball star.