Kingston lawmakers resolve to support municipal IDs

The Kingston Common Council took a step closer to a approving a municipal identification card program earlier this month when members voted unanimously on a non-binding resolution expressing its support for it. Legislation authorizing the issuance of the card could come before the council as early as next month.

The municipal IDs would be issued by the City Clerk’s office with a machine currently used to produce city employee ID cards. Proponents of the measure say it provides an affordable and easy to obtain alternative other forms of ID like driver’s licenses and passports. The measure has been pushed by immigration rights groups who say that members of the community often lack access to birth certificates and other documents necessary to obtain state or federal ID. Proponents say the local identification cards could serve a wide range of Kingston residents ranging from the elderly and youth to domestic violence victims and transgender individuals who currently face obstacles to obtaining identification. The cards, supporters say, would enhance public safety by encouraging members of marginalized groups, who are often wary of interactions with police, to come forward when they are victims of or witnesses to a crime. They also say that the cards will promote a sense of community identity by, for example, giving local merchants a way to provide discounts or other benefits to city residents.

“We want people to be card-carrying members of our community,” said council majority leader Rennie Scott-Childress.

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The city’s corporation counsel’s office is currently reviewing proposed legislation authorizing the issuance of the cards. The law is modeled on legislation that passed in Poughkeepsie last month. The documents would cost $10 with a $5 discount for people under age 18 or over age 62 and remain valid for four years after issuance. Issuance would be based on a point system with different documents assigned different values. Among the documents accepted are foreign passports, benefit cards, inmate identification cards and school transcripts and employment authorization documents. Applicants would also have to verify their residence in the city using a utility bill, lease agreement or other documentation.

Under the law, the municipal ID card would be accepted for access to all city services, like registering children for summer recreation programs, and by city police except in cases precluded by federal or state law. Under the law, the ID card cannot be used to access certain services that currently require state or federal ID, including voter registration and social services. The law also bars the city from sharing card applicants’ information with outside agencies, including law enforcement and immigration authorities.

Scott-Childress said the memorializing resolution passed by the council on Oct. 3 was intended to gauge the law’s support among aldermen and the general public before moving ahead with binding legislation.

“We wanted to make sure it was something we were definitely interested in doing,” said Scott-Childress. “We didn’t want to put the work in if there was going to be a lot of strife around it.”

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