Incumbent Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove is seeking a reelection for the office she’s held since 2012. Challenger Meagan McCarty, a Republican from Port Washington, is seeking a first term in the Nov. 2 election. The Herald asked the candidates questions focused on vital issues and what makes them qualified for the position.
Herald: Nassau County continues to see an exodus of its younger population. What can you do to do entice them to stay or move to the county?
DeRiggi-Whitton: Nassau County is blessed to have some of the finest schools in all of New York State. However, a shortage of high-paying employment opportunities and the lack of workforce housing options forces many young people out of our region – taking our investment in their education with them.
A multi-pronged approach is needed if we are going to reverse the “brain drain” that continues to plague our region. I believe it is essential to reduce the cost of living. That is why I support County Executive Curran’s proposal to reduce taxes by a total of $150 million during the next four years and joined forces with a coalition of advocates and elected officials to free North Shore water customers from the exorbitant fees charged by New York American Water. Furthermore, I remain committed to saving taxpayer dollars in county government by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse where it may exist.
In addition, we must use every tool at our disposal to cultivate the opportunities for young people to live, work, and raise a family in Nassau County. Supporting the growth of businesses that will create the high-paying, high-tech careers that our next generation is essential – as is providing young professionals with diversified housing options in vibrant communities.
McCarty: There is no question in my mind that District 11 in Nassau County is the best place to live and to raise a family. We have some of the best schools, it is beautiful, and we have such amazing and generous people. However, it is very expensive.
My first act as an elected official will be to continue advocating for an elected assessor. The current reassessment came down during the worst financial and health crisis during our lifetimes. It triggered a butterfly effect, even with the freeze, that will cause several more taxes to skyrocket within the next five years. Many people have seen that reflected in their latest school taxes and they are shocked. Rents will go up and that will trigger already struggling businesses to close and people will have to move.
Let’s start over and give people a bit of time to breathe and financially recover from the [pandemic]. I trust the people of Nassau County to vote for an assessor who will actually live in our county and be affected by their decisions, as we are. This assessor will be held accountable and be transparent.
Once this tax mess is cleaned up, we can refocus on revitalizing downtowns. As part of a “young family,” I enjoy a downtown that is walkable, has fun and unique stores and delicious restaurants – I know that I am not alone. I look forward to working with the local municipalities and bringing back more funding for our area and also advocating for county incentives to help grow small businesses and make them thrive.
Parks, public safety and a general high quality of life are also a huge draw. If you go to some of the county parks, they seem dilapidated and worn down. Some are downright dangerous with jagged, razor sharp and rusted banisters at my 5-year-old son’s level. I am proposing a Quality-of-Life Taskforce that will be the eyes and ears, boots on the ground, so that we can be notified about these issues and take a more proactive approach to solving these problems. Already existing Nassau County employees will be chosen for this taskforce and ultimately, we will save taxpayers money through this initiative.
Herald: What would you do legislatively that would help in the housing crisis?
DeRiggi-Whitton: Smart investments in our infrastructure are an essential foundation for the type of smart, community-driven development that will more optimally position us to address this issue. I have secured the inclusion of tens of millions of dollars of investments in the county’s capital plan focused on expanding and modernizing sewer infrastructure in Glen Cove and Sea Cliff and have fought to fulfill an aggressive road-repaving agenda for county roads in the district.
However, our efforts to address the housing crisis will be moot if we do not protect the aquifer and our drinking water from contamination. Recently, the county directed millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding toward the S.E.P.T.I.C. program, which provides up to $20,000 in grants to property owners seeking to replacing outdated or failing septic systems with state-of-the-art technology that greatly reduce dangerous nitrogen pollution. In addition, the county applied over $1.55 million in ARP funds toward helping local water districts ameliorate the presence of emerging contaminants such as 1, 4 dioxane in our drinking water supplies.
McCarty: This is a very personal issue for me. At one point, over a decade ago, I found myself having to sleep in my car because driving back and forth to work was so expensive and I had to find a way to survive due to my rent being raised. Eventually, I couch surfed and that allowed me to save up enough funds for a room in someone’s home.
I think that an elected assessor would methodically and wisely help with what is going on and about to happen with rent about to skyrocket due to the initial reassessment and landlords scrambling to pay their taxes.
I will also seek to advocate for allocating some of the state and federal emergency monies that Nassau will receive to bridge the gap between what long-term tenants have been paying and what the landlords want to raise the rent to for an adjustment period.
There are also first-time homebuyer programs that I think need to be communicated more effectively and shouted from rooftops. I look forward to working with local Realtors (I used to be one) and LIBOR on getting this messaging out and to forging meaningful and productive relationships with them.
Herald: How would you bring more businesses and revenue to the area post-Covid?
DeRiggi-Whitton: Thanks to conservative budgeting and smart fiscal management, the county has been able to earmark large portions of its nearly two-year, $395 million allocation of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds toward direct relief programs that will help local businesses adapt to the terrain of a post-pandemic business world.
This summer, my Minority Caucus colleagues and I strongly advocated for and secured unanimous approval for dedicating tens of millions of dollars from that allotment to recovery grants for small businesses, low-interest loan programs, and other forms of crucial support to small businesses. Looking toward the future, I believe we can build upon these investments in our recovery by closely analyzing how county government operates and implementing responsible reforms that eliminate the bureaucratic red tape that stifles growth.
I will continue to work closely with my colleagues in local government, community leaders and local chambers of commerce to ensure that Nassau County continues to strengthen our downtown business districts and support local entrepreneurs in their pursuit of the American dream.
McCarty: There is absolutely no reason why Nassau County should not be the most business friendly county in New York. We need to be innovative and think outside of the box. As a mom who went back to work eight days after my youngest son was born and eventually had to push pause on my career due to the exorbitant cost of childcare for two young ones, we need a major overhaul in the system. Incentivizing companies who exist and move here who have amazing parental leave/work from home/childcare programs and offer flexibility for families is something that I would like to accomplish. This would act as a juggernaut to encourage businesses (large and small) to keep their valued employees, discourage turnover and in the end, save them a lot of money. We will see more young people staying in Nassau County and raising their families here and that will grow more businesses and contribute greatly to the health of our local economy.
I will also continue to hold quarterly small business round tables and seek feedback from businesses owners, as well as their workforce and unions. The information that is gathered will be brought back to the Legislature and I, in turn, will disseminate Nassau County information to them so that we all will be working together flawlessly.
I look forward to tirelessly working to not only make businesses aware of the funds that are available to them through the government, but also following up, cutting red tape and offering assistance wherever it is needed. I think that more informational satellite locations with extended hours before and after the typical workday are also needed. With me as the District 11 Legislator, monies won’t just “expire” because I will not stop reaching out until every last cent that Nassau County receives gets to the people and businesses that so desperately need it.