Michael “Mickey” Kearns, a Democrat running as the endorsed Republican, is The News’ choice to fill the unexpired term of former clerk Chris Jacobs, now a state senator. Kearns has been on the political scene for years, serving on the Buffalo Common Council and then in his current position as an Assembly member. While a political résumé is not required to run for clerk, Kearns has been able to use his years in office to show voters how he has worked on critical community issues.
Kearns was one of the leaders in passage of the “zombie property” legislation known as the Foreclosure Relief Act. He would use the clerk’s post to apply more pressure on banks that allow properties to deteriorate.
While working to rid neighborhoods of zombie properties – vacant homes that languish because banks fail to complete the foreclosure process – Kearns found that data on such properties is sorely lacking. That would change under his watch. As clerk, he would systematically request the data on zombie properties in Erie County, and offer weekly reports to municipalities to let them know about the filing of a foreclosure.
The clerk’s job is not high profile. People generally think of it as the place for driver’s license and auto registration renewals and applications for pistol permits, a process both Kearns and his opponent say should be shortened. But the clerk has an important role as the collector of critical data that should be readily available to the public.
Kearns’ ambition for the office is acute, and understandable. He wants to leverage the powers of the office to increase efficiencies to help elected officials and citizens to rid their neighborhoods of zombie homes, while improving the experience at the Auto Bureau and pistol permit office. A better Auto Bureau will encourage auto dealers to make their transactions there, which will generate revenue for the county.
Kearns has an independent streak – he left the Assembly’s Democratic conference rather than support Speaker Sheldon Silver – and has proven that he can be proactive and passionate on issues he believes in.
His opponent, Steve Cichon, the endorsed Democrat, a former radio newsman, also wants to see the clerk’s office run more efficiently. He showed brief interest in running for Common Council two years ago, but has little political experience. He should set his political sights elsewhere.