Members of the public came out to support the concept of a local municipal ID card, the creation of which would likely fall to the town clerk and her staff members if it were to happen in New Paltz. Town and village board members had a number of questions about state record-keeping requirements, cost of equipment and other issues which must be clarified before any decision could be made.
Jonathan Bix, executive director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, told local officials gathered for their monthly joint meeting on April 4 that a local ID could bring benefits to any resident who obtains one, but would be particularly helpful for those belonging to marginalized groups. While the group most often considered are illegal aliens, Bix listed senior citizens, domestic violence victims, transgender individuals and homeless people among those who could benefit from a local ID. That’s because the criteria for obtaining one and what’s displayed would be set up by local officials. A homeless person might be able to use the address of a local shelter, for example, while another person might not be mis-gendered as may be required with a state ID. Business owners might support the ID by offering discounts or accepting it as valid, while elected officials could require its acceptance in government offices.
“Lots of people are invisible,” said Maggie Bennett, and such an ID could make them visible when they need to be. About a dozen people carrying signs and wearing buttons in support of the measure were at the meeting but did not speak; it might be construed that their silent presences added weight to Bennett’s words. She also addressed a concern about information sharing by noting that information collected for such identification would not be shared with agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The municipal ID movement seems to be building momentum in this area: they’ve been adopted or are being considered in Newburgh, Middletown, Poughkeepsie and Kingston. This made Deputy Mayor KT Tobin wonder if it’s as feasible in a smaller community as it is in a city, where there’s already some systems in place for issuing official documents at scale. Town Supervisor Neil Bettez asked about if a town-issued ID would even be accepted by school officials from parents picking up their children, as school districts are governments in their own right.
Bettez had another concern, that “it will look like a Blockbuster card” and thus not be taken seriously. One issued in a city, he mused, might “carry more weight.”
His deputy, Dan Torres, saw how including incentives offered by business owners could remove the stigma associated with having one, by encouraging residents to procure it even if they have other forms of identification.
As for cost, Bix said a suitable printer could be purchased for as little as $1,500, and that the price of the card could be modest but still ensure that the investment in hardware was returned. There was no direct discussion about the labor costs associated with issuing these documents, but town clerk Rosanna Rosenkranse had questions of her own once Bix confirmed that her office is best equipped for this job. Most concerning to her was the idea that little or no details about those applying for the card should be kept, to minimize what can be requested through official channels. The idea is that the individual would produce documents for inspection, but copies would not be made. Rosenkranse didn’t seem concerned that broader requirements might be set than are necessary for state identification (such as foreign passports), but there remains a need to track how many of these IDs are issued if only to prevent someone from stealing the cash collected. Legal tender is supposed to be acceptable for all debts, public and private, and in the town clerk’s office it’s still accepted at face value. One approach would be to create a record of names and birth dates only, as that’s private information not subject to freedom of information requests.
Rosenkranse also asked for specific training for her staff members, should council members decide to follow through and offer identification to all residents of the town.