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Editorial: Kearns for Erie County clerk

The job of Erie County clerk comes with some anachronisms attached. County clerks are elected, rather than appointed, in all but five of New York’s 62 counties. Why? The clerk’s job is to oversee record keeping and manage departments that issue licenses for driving, hunting or owning a pistol, among other duties. It is not to make policy, so it is puzzling why the clerk affiliates with a political party and is elected by popular vote. That should change.

Then there’s motor vehicle money. When a citizen renews his or her license through the Erie County Auto Bureau, 12.5 percent of the revenue stays with Erie County, with the state getting the rest. Renewing online means all the revenue goes to the state. In an age of online everything, this arrangement needs to be revisited.

As for the occupant of the office, Michael P. “Mickey” Kearns deserves a full term. Kearns came into the office a year ago in a special election. He has gotten things done.

Last July the county Auto Bureau office in Town of Tonawanda became the second auto office to offer Saturday hours, joining Cheektowaga. The bureau also added 11 civil Service employees – Kearns says at no additional taxpayer expense – and reduced wait times for auto dealers who purchase titles and other documents. Saturday hours and the additional staffing have caused auto bureau revenue to increase, doubling in some offices, according to Kearns.

Kearns also added satellite offices to process pistol permit applications, reducing the waiting time.

Kearns, a registered Democrat who was elected on the Republican and Conservative lines, occasionally strays into making political pronouncements, as when he said that if the state passed legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, he would deny them. Making policy is not his job, but Kearns passes the test of making the office work better for Erie County residents.

Kearns’ opponent, Angela Marinucci, is an immigration law attorney from Grand Island. Marinucci is a rookie candidate who interned in the offices of Sen. Hillary Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg while in college. If she comes up short in this race, Marinucci figures to be a strong contender in future ones.

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