Will use post to advance issues impacting DMV, pistols
By Christian W. Peck
Niagara County Public Information Officer
Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski has been elected chairman of the Western Region of the New York State Association of County Clerks, and is already promising to use the post to advance several hot-button state issues impacting county clerks across the state.
The New York State Association of County Clerks is the chief policy and lobbying body representing county clerks' offices from around New York state. Its mission statement notes the organization "unites clerks from across the state, gives us the strength of our collective knowledge, allows us to speak as one voice, and provides opportunity to share best practices."
The clerks' association is also heavily focused on the role of technology in how county records are maintained - one of the chief responsibilities of county clerks.
Jastrzemski vowed to be a strong advocate for Western New York in his new role.
"A lot of concerns of the Western Region are unique. We are a long way from New York City and Albany on a number of levels," Jastrzemski said. "My chairmanship will help put the focus on our Western Region constituents and their unique concerns."
In addition to Jastrzemski, Western Region clerks elected Genesee County Clerk Michael Cianfrini vice chairman. Jastrzemski said the Western Region clerks would aggressively focus on Department of Motor Vehicles fees.
"State law provides that our local DMVs are supposed to receive a portion of the fees from locally performed transactions, and having three DMVs is a valuable benefit we can offer our taxpayers and motorists around this county," Jastrzemski said. "Unfortunately, Albany is taking steps every year to ensure more and more of the transactions performed at local DMVs are now performed directly with them - meaning we receive fewer funds to operate our local DMVs."
The new chairman said he plans to continue to raise awareness on the issue and push for enactment of legislation that would increase the share of fees kept at local DMVs.
"Our motorists deserve to have local DMVs, because some transactions are much more complex than registration renewals, and require being able to interact, face-to-face, with a human being instead of navigating a telephone menu and waiting on hold," Jastrzemski said.
Pistol permit concerns will also be a top priority. Cianfrini and Jastrzemski have both been critical of various aspects of the SAFE Act gun control law, and Jastrzemski said he and his colleagues will seek changes to new legal requirements that were passed into law "without consideration to the impact on both law-abiding gun owners and county taxpayers."
"I plan to push back on Albany over the SAFE Act and its mandates," Jastrzemski said. "It's created a mess for our pistol permit office. Recertification was just the latest boondoggle."
Jastrzemski was referencing a requirement that pistol permit holders "recertify" their personal information with the New York State Police every five years - a requirement set in the law that became effective this year, and suffered from a bad rollout.
The Niagara County clerk also plans an aggressive schedule of meetings where county clerks can share information and train their staffs on various issues, including the latest requirements for handling legal documents in the Electronic Age. Training and discussions centered on e-file will be held in concert with the Office of Court Administration, Jastrzemski said.
"I hope to share our best practices and have a positive impact on my colleagues from throughout the Western Region, but I also hope to learn as well," he said. "Our goal is to provide the best service and the best outcomes for our residents when they come to our clerks' offices."