Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 23 October 2009 00:00On Nov. 3, voters in the 12th district will select their representative to the Nassau County Legislature. John Rennhack will challenge incumbent Peter J. Schmitt. The district includes the villages of Massapequa, Massapequa Park, plus portions of Seaford and portions of North Massapequa. The candidate’s profiles are listed below.
John Rennhack, a 39-year-old homeowner in North Massapequa was born in Queens and grew up in Middle Village. He is running on the Democrat Party and Working Families Party lines.
Rennhack graduated from St. John’s University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Communications. During and after his years at St. John’s, Rennhack worked for Lufthansa German Airlines. In 1995, Rennhack joined CBS Television as a broadcast satellite distribution manager. In December 2008, Rennhack joined the Nassau County Board of Elections working in the ‘Help America Vote Act’ department, which is responsible for the new electronic voting machines allowing voters with disabilities to vote on their own. Since 2002, Rennhack has been the creator and writer of local political websites that have received mention in the broader media.
Rennhack and his wife Jean, a schoolteacher, bought their home in North Massapequa in 2001. The couple are the parents of 5-year-old twins Matthew and Allison, and 3-year-old Jonathan.
“I am running again because we need real leadership residents can trust,” Rennhack said. “I am the true independent in the race, having spent my adult life working in private industry, not going from one political patronage job to the next. I know what the real world is like and what my neighbors are going through. The race is uphill due to voter registration but residents of the 12th LD deserve to hear the truth and solutions and that is what I bring to this campaign.
“We don’t need or want reckless, small-minded gimmicks,” Rennhack said, addressing the county’s economic situation. “We need and want steady leadership through these tough economic times. Taxes that Nassau County levies are at their lowest as a percentage of the total tax bill than it has been in decades. Nassau County only accounts for 17 percent of the tax bill, while school taxes and town/special district taxes account for the majority of the tax bill. The county workforce is no longer bloated and has gone from the “worst run county” to record high bond ratings and a much better reputation under the Democratic legislature.
“I support special district consolidation and would use my position in the legislature as a means to bring consensus and also work with school districts and Albany to lower the school tax burden and bring spending under control,” Rennhack continued. “Only about 12 percent of the County budget is discretionary spending. The rest is non-discretionary items like salaries, social services, police, Medicaid, pensions and the like. Of the small percentage of discretionary spending, we must identify non-critical infrastructure spending and hold off on that until we are in a true economic recovery. I would resist any county tax increase while in the legislature.
“There is always talk of high-tech jobs for the old Grumman site and other large abandoned sites,” Rennhack noted, addressing the issue of jobs and keeping young people on Long Island. “What we need is a balance between the well-paying white collar high-tech jobs and bringing in well-paying blue collar high-tech manufacturing jobs. Green industry, like the manufacture of photovoltaic cells for the solar panel industry and development of next-generation hybrid/electric car batteries and components, follows the great history Long Island has with technical manufacturing. This will help fight the brain drain, boost the economy, and make Nassau an attractive place to live and work.
“The scourge of drugs like heroin has increased in recent years,” Rennhack added. “I would in conjunction with the Nassau County Police and groups like D.A.R.E., hold community forums for parents and other concerned citizens to educate them on how to identify drug use and how to confront their children about stopping its use.”
Peter J. Schmitt, a Republican, was elected to the first Nassau County Legislature in 1995. He is running on the Republican Party, Independence Party, and Conservative Party lines.
Schmitt was re-elected in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and again in 2007. He served as the Legislature’s Deputy Presiding Officer from 1996 through 1999 and has been the Minority Leader since January of 2000.
Schmitt said he is running for re-election as the representative of the Massapequas because “we must act now to reduce the tax burden on Nassau residents, cut wasteful spending and fix the broken property assessment system.”
Schmitt said he would continue to “forcefully advocate” for the repeal of the county’s home energy tax.
“This regressive tax imposes an additional 2.5 percent tax onto all home energy sources including LIPA electricity, gas, oil, steam, propane and even firewood,” he said. “This tax is the fiscal equivalent of a 4.5 percent property tax increase. The people of this county cannot afford to continue to be taxed to fill budget gaps. Taxes, fees and fines are continually increasing yet services for residents are decreasing.
“The fiscal mismanagement of this county is making it impossible for young people and seniors to remain on Long Island,” Schmitt continued, when asked what can be done to stop the exodus of young people from Long Island. “This trend must stop. A major cause of this problem is the $100 million spent each year to pay assessment refunds. The county borrows money to pay the refunds which serves only to saddle future generations with the burden to pay it back. We must fix the broken assessment system now.”
Schmitt would also like to continue to represent the Massapequas in efforts to protect and preserve the environment. He said that he procured the $7.9 million restoration project in the 423-acre Massapequa Preserve and is proud that the project will improve the water quality for residents and still provide a beautiful natural sanctuary for all to enjoy.
Schmitt added that he continues to be a supporter of the two Environmental Bond Acts, which have allotted $150 million for the preservation of open space and cleanup of contaminated properties. Legislator Schmitt has also recently co-sponsored a Green Energy Fund, which would provide loans to residents and businesses to make energy efficient improvements to their homes or businesses and cut utility bills.
Schmitt received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University in 1973. He and his wife, Lois, have one married daughter, Samantha, and have been homeowners in Massapequa since 1974.