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Rome DMV office becomes hot button issue in clerk’s race

Jolene Cleaver
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 6/29/22

In recent days, there has been a dust-up in the Oneida County Clerk race, as candidate Merima Smajic-Oren announced her candidacy and County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. weighed in.

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Rome DMV office becomes hot button issue in clerk’s race

Posted

In recent days, there has been a dust-up in the Oneida County Clerk race, as candidate Merima Smajic-Oren announced her candidacy and County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. weighed in.

In a story published June 23 in the Daily Sentinel, Smajic-Oren is quoted speaking about the Rome DMV among other topics related to the county clerks office (currently run by outgoing County Clerk Sandra DePerno) stating, “The Rome DMV is not a luxury, it’s a necessity that the people of Rome and all of Western Oneida County pay for and to which they are entitled.”

“Money isn’t an issue. The county’s budget is $457 million. Oneida County is receiving $44 million in American Rescue Act funding. County sales tax revenues are skyrocketing, much of that due to the relentless increases in gas prices paid by working men and women who rely most on the Rome office. And don’t forget the unique fiscal safety net provided by the county’s agreement with the Oneida Nation -– $21 million budgeted in 2022 alone,” Smajic-Oren noted, continuing, “The predictable red herring in this debate is that funding the Rome DMV will cause an increase in taxes. Not likely. Oneida County’s taxes have not gone up in nearly a decade. A relatively modest dollar commitment that gives the taxpayers a necessity they deserve and pay for won’t change that. … Shutting down the Rome DMV defies all logic and reason.”

Monday, Picente issued a statement referencing Smajic-Oren’s position.

The county executive said, “As a former Assistant Oneida County Attorney, I would think Ms. Smajic-Oren would know how county government works. The County Clerk is an independent elected official charged by the state constitution with running the DMV. While I, as County Executive, do not have the authority to order the County Clerk to do anything, if it wasn’t for my urging, the Rome facility wouldn’t currently be open at all. My office and the Board of Legislators has done nothing but support the Office of the County Clerk, fulfilled all of the Clerk’s requests and given her the tools to be successful. The deficiencies of that office are a direct result of mismanagement, and if this lack of basic operational knowledge is any indication, it won’t get any better under candidate Smajic-Oren.”

The flipside

In a Tuesday response to Picente, Smajic-Oren added, “First, Tony Picente can’t have it both ways. He can’t say, on one hand, that he has no control over the County Clerk’s office and then, on the other hand, take credit for opening the Rome DMV office two days a week.

“Second, I know enough about county government to know the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. The power of the purse is the ultimate power.”

“The truth is that Tony Picente can get anything he wants any time he wants through his near-absolute authority over the county budget and the County Legislature.

“Third, the County Legislature’s own study, which was deliberately hidden from the public for nearly one-hundred days, clearly supports the need to pay DMV workers a dignified and fair wage. Finally, why doesn’t my opponent take a stand on this issue instead of having Picente run interference for her? The voters of Oneida County are entitled to a County Clerk who owes allegiance only to the people.”

More

The Daily Sentinel reached out to DePerno for potential comment, but the county clerk was not immediately available.

To see the related Daily Sentinel story, visit: https://bit.ly/3OAaS4Y

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