While challenged by Republican Stephen Becker, Tom Donnelly says that he does not compare himself to other candidates who run against him. Rather, he feels that we as a society need to come together. “We have to remember that we are representatives of the people. They send us there to work for them regardless of political affiliation.”
Donnelly has several ideas if he is re-elected as the Suffolk County 17th District legislator, pointing out that a number of grants are available through the American Rescue Plan, in which small businesses damaged by the Covid-19 shutdown can receive a jumpstart. He said that as a county legislator, it is important to “help streamline the permit processing for new businesses; as well as trying to make sure that their applications are getting back to them in a timely fashion.”
Donnelly noted that his office has tried taking a lead role in assisting the town of Huntington with the re-development of South Huntington Station. He explained, “We recently passed a resolution to allow that downtown revitalization effort to hook up to the Southwest sewer district;” which is located in West Babylon.
When asked what should become of vacant commercial spaces in town, Donnelly said that in order to revitalize a community, “The local government can’t do the re-development on its own. It has to be a collaborative effort between the business community, the residential community, and the government.”
Regarding roads in the town of Huntington, Donnelly said that Suffolk County is responsible for county roads. He noted the recent repair of Ruland Road in Melville along with the current work being done on West Hills Road. Donnelly feels the county has been successful in maintaining the roads in the district; not solely due to his own efforts, but overall throughout the past 10 years.
Donnelly touched upon this upcoming year’s budget saying, “…there is about 125 million dollars dedicated to water quality that will include the expansion of sewers.”
When asked what the county can do to help combat drug addiction, Donnelly said that we have to “…wrap our hands around the fact that we have a serious mental health crisis…” He noted that Suffolk County will be receiving $25 million as a result of a recent settlement with opioid manufacturing firms. Donnelly believes that the best way the county can help is through outside nonprofit agencies, and stressed the importance of their funding through the county.
Donnelly also mentioned that during his tenure as a town board member in Babylon, the board started the Beacon Family Wellness Center. He said that at the town level, they brought in many terrific mental health and addiction counselors as well as mental health professionals who are available to help regardless of the patient’s healthcare status. “…there’s no questions asked whether they have healthcare or they don’t have healthcare,” said Donnelly, “…they do the intake, and they start receiving the services.” Donnelly said that he is very passionate about the topic, mentioning how addiction should not be treated as a disparaging thing; “It should be treated as an illness.” He believes that in order to help the community, “You help one family at a time.” Donnelly said, “Empathy and compassion are good skills to have in government.”
Donnelly noted that Suffolk County’s demographics are changing. He stated, “I make the argument that diversity is our strength, not a weakness.”
In regards to recent incidents regarding racist messaging and graffiti, Donnelly said, “There’s no place for hate in our society.” He added, “We deal with these hate crimes as a very serious matter.” Donnelly said that“… those found, that are committing these types of offenses,” have to be held accountable.
When asked about bail reform, Donnelly stated that it has been a disaster, regardless if it had been well-intentioned. He said, “It’s not been implemented the right way. Its created a whole host of issues.” Donnelly said that in 2019, he had written a letter to the governor pleading with him to delay the implementation in order for it to be properly vetted. This would have ensured that safeguards could be put in place to protect the public. He expressed his discontent saying, “…there was a rush to implement this by Senate Democrats, and they really are accountable for this right now.” He said that after speaking with precinct commanders, he understands that “it’s the same people being arrested over and over again; for the same serious crimes. Judges need to have the ability to hold dangerous people.” He added that there must be “…consequences for violent crimes.”
Donnelly is proud of the work that he and his office have accomplished for residents of the 17th legislative district. He feels he has been very responsive to constituents. He said he has been “fiscally conservative and pragmatic about the budget issues,” has had a strong work ethic, and that he’s shown strong cooperation with his colleagues, local law enforcement, local fire service agencies and local residents.