Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) is running for his sixth and final term to represent the county’s 10th legislative district.
To combat the opioid crisis, he says the issue continues to “be a battle with education.”
He applauded the various Narcan training sessions held throughout the county and noted that opioid-related deaths have decreased (a combined 24 percent in Nassau and Suffolk, according to summer reports). “Of course, that’s no consolation to the folks whose family members have overdosed and died,” the legislator added.
Cilmi also mentioned the lawsuit Suffolk is currently engaged in with pharmaceutical companies that, the county feels, marketed products in a “way that was intended to get people addicted.”
He says he couldn’t disclose any more information about the case, which was filed in 2016 and expanded last year, but hopes it will “wield results” and ultimately generate funds that can be used to help get individuals treatment.
Cilmi also believes in stricter penalties for drug dealers and feels New York State is going in the “wrong direction” when it comes to prosecuting. “It seems like every time you turn around, they’re trying to do something to lessen the penalties [for drug dealers],” he added.
As for the budget, Cilmi has been sponsoring a bill, for years, to require multi-year budgeting for the county. He made it clear it wasn’t his bill that recently passed.
“The county executive basically copied my bill, introduced it himself and miraculously, the Democratic majority approved it,” the legislator said, noting that county budgets from now on must plan ahead for three years. “But I was happy to support it.”
Since taking office in 2010, Cilmi has been pushing for the county’s budget committee to meet publicly, rather than privately. “The process would be transparent,” he said, adding that all legislators would be able to participate in drafting the budget, rather than just the nine legislative members on the committee.
Cilmi was initially able to get the Suffolk County Community College budget group to work publicly before the presiding officer authorized the capital budget group to operate in the open for the first time this year.
“I’m hoping [the move] makes for a better budget,” he said, noting that all 18 legislators are now able to give input. “It certainly makes for a better process. And for the first time, I’m on the budget group and will be participating.”
He also addressed development, stating that the proposed Heartland development in Brentwood was too big and there is too much happening at one time.
The legislator recalled the developer coming to the county and asking for authorization to connect to the Southwest Sewer District at a greatly reduced rate than what the standard is. “I’m proud that I was on the committee that said ‘no,’” he said. “A development that large will be a huge impact to our community, in many ways.”
Cilmi insists infrastructure improvements should be made prior to any sort of approval. He also remains hopeful that, in the future, we’ll see a much different project than the one being proposed on the grounds of the Pilgrim State Hospital.
When asked about the proposed Island Hills development, Cilmi noted it wasn’t in his district. “But it does impact folks in my district,” he said, also noting the numerous multi-level developments that are being proposed and constructed throughout Suffolk. “I’m concerned we’re doing too much of it at once,” he said. “I worry if at some point we can’t fill them: What happens?”
Over his last five terms, he has also worked hard for veterans and sponsored a law that requires veterans’ charities to register with the county to make sure they are legitimate. His HOV bill for veterans also helps them to be face-tracked after applying for Medicaid.
The legislator describes the redesign of Union Boulevard as one of his more recent accomplishments. “The residents living on Union were crying for change,” he said, noting the high number of car accidents that occurred on the road.
“There are many other things I’ve fought for that we haven’t been able to get done, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to do in the last 10 years,” he added.
Cilmi promises voters that should he be elected to a sixth and final term, he would work with just as much energy as he did in his first term.
Aside from legislation, Cilmi says the real nuts and bolts of what the Legislature does is “serve the people [they] represent,” noting that his team has helped thousands of individuals in the 10th district with a wide range of issues, big and small, since he took office.
“I’ve prided myself in being the most accessible elected official I can possibly be,” he said. “Whether it’s through Facebook, or a phone call, or someone stopping by the office. If someone wants to speak to me, they’re going to speak to me. And if they want help from me, they’re going to get help from me.”
Cilmi and his wife, Anna, have been married since 1987. They live in Bay Shore and have two grown children.