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|2/9 City ID Cards May Spread to the East Bay
|City ID Cards May Spread to the East Bay
By Matt O'Brien
OAKLAND — The lines have gotten smaller, and some of the controversy has died down, since San Francisco last month became the second and biggest city in the nation to give out city ID cards to willing residents.
The next stop of the municipal ID bandwagon could be in the East Bay, where activists and some political leaders in Oakland, Richmond and San Pablo are determined to get their cities to take up the cause. How much San Francisco serves as a model could depend on how the big city program fares in coming weeks.
"Their cards are focused on immigrants, homeless people, transgendered people, younger people, and our card is designed for everybody," said Wilson Riles, a former member of the Oakland City Council who aims to get an ID card for all interested Oaklanders.
Riles, now a nonprofit consultant, is part of a coalition that has spent a year putting together a plan for an Oakland ID.
"The realization in Oakland was that it would be much more successful if the ID was something of value to all the citizens of the community," he said. "Not just an ID but also a potential debit card and the carrier of a local currency."
The former politician is among a few hundred people gathering today on the Laney College campus to hash out ideas about local card programs. The group includes a lawyer who helped defend New Haven, Conn., from a legal challenge to its pioneer ID program; the mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, who supports offering municipal ID cards in her city; and a former mayor of Maywood, a small city in Southern California where 98 percent of residents are Latino. Other guests hail from as far away as Idaho and Minnesota, said Daniel Luna, a conference organizer and legal adviser for the Latin American Alliance for Immigrant Rights.
San Francisco's program ran into problems last year because of political and legal controversy. Designed to serve marginalized populations, including immigrants who are in the country illegally and cannot get a driver's license or other recognized form of identification, the card program attracted the attention of the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, D.C. The group, which promotes reducing immigration and enforcing immigration laws, sued to stop the program, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit in October.
San Francisco has issued an average of 27 cards a day since the program began Jan. 15, according to records released by the city this week. By Thursday, 351 San Francisco residents were in possession of a SF City ID Card, with a few hundred more waiting to get one.
Providing a service for undocumented immigrants remains a top priority for those trying to implement ID programs in the East Bay.
"What New Haven found is that the crime rate has been reduced significantly because immigrants can use the ID cards to open a bank account, so they don't carry cash as much in their pockets," Riles said.
But he added that the card is not seen as a solution to immigration problems, nor is that its only purpose.
In San Francisco, the cards serve as proof of identity and residency and include emergency contacts and volunteered information about medical conditions. Holders can show them to some banks to open a checking account. They can also be used as a library card and provide discounts when shown at participating businesses.
In Oakland, along with being used to access libraries and the zoo, Riles envisions the cards carrying the city's own local currency, which promoters have dubbed the ACORN — Alternative Currency for Oakland Residents and Neighbors.
ID proposals have generated some interest, and plenty of caution, in local city halls, and the rationale for and against them varies. Oakland Councilwoman Jean Quan, who has spoken with city card supporters, said she likes the idea of a kind of "smart card" similar to what she observed during a recent trip to Hong Kong. The card could be used both for businesses and to pay local taxes and fees.
"A lot of immigrants, in particular, pay extortionist fees to check-cashing services," Quan said. "It could help them not get exploited in terms of depositing their money."
Quan said it would work best if there was a mechanism for program expenses to be borne by financial institutions rather than by city government.
"I'm looking for something that would cost the city very little," she said.
The "Cities for All: Integrating Our Communities" conference began late Friday afternoon and continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., in Oakland.
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|Article Date: 2/9/2009
|Source: City ID Cards May Spread to the East Bay