Monday, September 6, 2010

County Dems Call on County Clerk to Stop Issuing Special License Plates

Do Special Plates
Equal Special Privileges?

Columbia County Democrats
call for an end to the issuance of
"special license plates"
by the
Columbia County Clerk

With great fanfare, the Columbia County Clerk’s office issued a press release touting the availability of a special series of license plates. The special license plates begin with the letters HT- (for Holly Tanner, the current Columbia County Clerk).

The Columbia County Democratic Committee seeks an end to the issuance of these special plates. 

The license plates in question are not “Vanity Plates” which individual motorists order. The plates include those beginning with HT- as mentioned above, but also CC- and 1CC- for Columbia County, HD- for Hudson, along with DT- plates. The initials DT are the initials for former County Clerk Don Tkacy.

Clearly there is a long history of Columbia County Clerks issuing these types of special license plates. But New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (15 NYCRR §16.1 et seq.) does not allow the County Clerk to issue plates that make it look as if the owner of a vehicle is operating in an official capacity or for a governmental organization.

County Clerk Tanner
That the current County Clerk is issuing these plates with her own initials as a sitting elected official, or with letters signifying Columbia County or the City of Hudson, makes the chance far too great that the drivers of these cars may, mistakenly or not, be seen not as a civilian driver but rather someone who is on official business, or is “connected”. The fact that we have discovered that many of the holders of these special plates include Republican operatives, government employees, and other well-connected individuals makes the situation of even greater concern.

The Committee calls on the County Clerk to immediately end the issuance of any license plates that might be construed as “official”.

With the economic situation taking a major toll on local municipal budgets, many believe that traffic enforcement has been increased, in order to make up for some of the budget shortfalls. If that is indeed the case, any increase in enforcement needs to be applied equally and justly. These license plates could be seen as potentially offering a level of protection not afforded to ordinary people. For that reason alone, the practice should be stopped.

There is a long history in Columbia County of cronyism and favoritism toward members of the ruling party and their relatives and friends. Those days must end. We support equal protection and equal opportunity for all, regardless of political affiliation or connections.

Committee Chair Christopher Nolan said,
“Whether or not these plates actually convey special privileges or protection is difficult to say. But even the appearance of favoritism or cronyism should be condemned and not be tolerated."
The Columbia County Democratic Committee believes that license plates purposely bearing the initials of elected officials, should be forbidden and that any other municipal signifiers should be banned unless issued for official purposes.