Beginning next April, New York state license plates will have a new look, as the current blue and white plates will be replaced with a bold new design featuring New York's official colors - blue and gold.
Along with a pair of plates, however, motorists will also receive a $25 plate fee that will be added to the current registration renewal fee. According to David J. Swarts, state motor vehicles commissioner, the fee will generate $129 million in General Fund revenue over the next two years, helping to address the state's financial crisis.
The state also cites highway safety, control over the number of unregistered and uninsured vehicles on the roadways and improved law enforcement as other reasons why it is necessary to replace the license plates on passenger and commercial vehicles, motorcycles and trailers. Many members of the community, however, disagree with the need to replace the plates.
"I don't approve of it," said Paul Salerno of Jamestown. "I'm spending money for nothing. All you get is a plate."
"It's just another way to get money," said an anonymous resident who was doing business at the Department of Motor Vehicle's office in Jamestown. "I just paid $1 to turn in my plates. It's just ridiculous, that's all I've got to say."
"All the money goes downstate," added Falconer resident Dick Scott. "I do like the looks, though. They look like the old plates. But they are asking for money that no one has."
In response to the new plates, Chautauqua County Clerk Sandy Sopak has issued a campaign called "No New Fees Please," aimed at voicing residents' concerns about the plates and additional fees. Petitions can be signed at any of the three DMV offices in the county as well as the County Clerk's office in Mayville.
"It's going great," she said. "People are happy to have a means of expressing their concerns."
Sopak decided to make petitions available because she believes there are two reasons why the new license plates are unnecessary and wants the public to be able to voice their own opinion.
"First, it's an alphabetical type of process," she explained about how the state produces new plates. "When we get a new series it starts with 'A.' We are on 'E.' We have plenty of plates, we don't need to inconvenience the people. We don't need to take extra money from them.
"Also, in New York state, it's been one thing after another," she added. "We've already had a number of new fees in the motor vehicle bureau. If there's one that isn't necessary, why do we want to add on to a bad idea in the first place?"
Jim Bloom of Lakewood agrees with Sopak, and was at the DMV on Thursday to pick up a petition to pass around the community.
"I don't like the idea," he said. "We are getting taxed enough. They are doing anything they can do to get us out of debt. They got us into this, let them get us out."
In addition to the petitions, people can send e-mails to the county clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org. All e-mails and petitions will be forwarded to the governor's office periodically.