Niagara County Clerk Candidate Joe Jastrzemski is asking your newspaper to consider publishing the following Guest View, which reflects his thoughts about the changing local needs that must be addressed by the Niagara County Clerk’s Office:
When I decided to run for Niagara County Clerk, after a successful decade managing the great lakeshore Town of Wilson, I knew that it would be necessary to listen to what my fellow Niagara County residents had to say—and one in particular.
Wayne F. Jagow—your County Clerk for the past two decades—has been a wealth of knowledge and a friendly guide as I’ve set out to succeed him. While he’s too modest to admit the great strides accomplished in his tenure, seeing how well this office truly performs under his leadership gives one appreciation that our voters have made the right choice again and again over the last decade.
Wayne told me—as have other clerks around the state—that the challenges facing county clerks around Upstate New York in the next five to 10 years will be substantial, particularly where your local Department of Motor Vehicles offices are concerned. Some of this is driven by bad policy generated by our state government in Albany—like an ill-conceived idea to undercut local DMV offices and capture all fees associated with putting new cars on the road. Other challenges, though, are being driven by more and more motorists opting to renew their registrations online. All of this is cutting into the amount of revenue available to keep DMV services here in Niagara County.
Any number of initiatives have been proposed to keep more dollars local, but the reality is, only one thing will fix this problem: Albany allowing us to keep a fairer share of the revenues generated when a DMV transaction occurs in our local office. That’s why I am joining with the New York State Association of County Clerks to urge the state to raise the locally retained share of DMV fees from a paltry 12.7 percent to a more reasonable 25 percent. There’s no reason Albany should take so much of the money from these transactions—and more than 30 others—when the job is being performed by local workers, paid from local dollars. The state’s current course is unsustainable—and Sen. Rob Ortt has assured me that he, and his colleagues, know this and are ready to work on solutions like the ones I have proposed.
Of course, the Niagara County Clerk is responsible for so much more than managing our three DMV branches. That’s why, in the next five years, I plan to put significant effort into managing two other areas in particular, expanding and improving services there.
First, our Veterans Service Agency. Again, no one could do more than Wayne Jagow has done over the years for our veterans, but as veterans of our 21st Century conflicts become discharged veterans, there will be new demands for these services, from a very different group of veterans. Women will be, for the first time, a very large portion of the veteran population. These will be tech-savvy veterans as well, who expect their government to provide technology-driven services and online portals—but above all else, they will expect quality customer service.
I have spoken at length with Niagara County Director of Veterans Services Nina Cabrera. She is an innovator, and as County Clerk, I will give her the resources to meet her mission. Veterans need to know this: on my watch, their services will never be treated as a secondary mission, and never rolled out on the chopping block to make room for other government spending. Our veterans stood up for us; the least we, in Niagara County, can do, is stand up for them.
Lastly, though, I must address another key government role that falls under the Niagara County Clerk: our Pistol Permit Office.
There is no more important role for government than seeing to it that citizens have full access to their rights. As a sportsman myself, I know these have been challenging times for our law-abiding gun owners, and I want them to know, quite simply, that I stand with them. In Niagara County, on my watch they will always have a Pistol Permit Office that remembers the Second Amendment is a fundamental right.
It’s nearly November, and it is my hope that my neighbors will ask me to be their County Clerk, but more than that, it’s my hope that my neighbors will exercise their right to vote no matter what. My best to all of you.