Phoenix subcommittee votes to look into adopting multipurpose municipal IDs

Tomas Rubles makes an address on Wednesday about the potential creation of municipal IDs. (Zack Bunting/DD)
Tomas Rubles makes an address on Wednesday about the potential creation of municipal IDs for the city of Phoenix. (Zack Bunting/DD)

Municipal ID cards may be coming to Phoenix, as a subcommittee voted on Wednesday to explore the possibility further amidst strong objections from some citizens.

The Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee voted to continue researching other cities’ use of the IDs during the preliminary study that looks at the startup and maintenance costs for them, as well as ways they could be used.

“It acts as an ID card, library card and a debit card,” said Toni Maccarone, special assistant to the city manager.

Other cities who have utilized municipal IDs include Oakland, Calif., San Francisco, and most recently New York City.

Each city offered similar services with the card: transit access, access to public buildings, the ability to link a debit card, emergency information and discounts to local businesses. Each also had similar costs relative to their population, with New York City at the highest with a maintenance of $5.6 million a year.

The IDs were beneficial to many of the cities and were “good for civic spirit,” said Brendan Mahoney, chairman of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission.

“We endorse moving forward to examine the concept,” he said. “We worked with city staff to overcome some of the logistic hurdles we perceived were there, and we ask the subcommittee today to take further steps to formulate a concrete proposal that can be presented to the council at a later date.”

Many Phoenix residents in attendance were strongly against the ID cards.

Vinc Ansel, a member of Riders United for a Sovereign America, said the IDs will end up in the hands of undocumented immigrants.

“This is unconscionable,” he said. “If these cards were to be issued to the legal population of this city, that would be a different story.”

Other residents said the measure costs too much money and that undocumented immigrants could use the ID cards to get benefits from the city.

“I respectively oppose this measure on the grounds of cost,” said Richard Zuckerman, a Phoenix resident. “We are having enough problems balancing the budget in the city, and it encourages violations of the federal immigration laws. I’m against giving uninvited immigrants one iota of benefits.”

Despite the opposition, others seemed to be in favor of the IDs, saying that they would help foster a tighter community in Phoenix.

Jeff Smith, superintendent of the Balsz School District, voiced his support for the IDs, saying they would help a lot of families in his community.

“70 percent of our student population is Hispanic, and we have the state’s largest homeless shelter right next door to us,” he said. “As a result of this, many of our families have needs when it comes to identification.”

According to Smith, some of these needs are related to education.

“Balsz schools are very security-minded,” he said. “We have very strict requirements for getting on campus. Many have to have an ID or leave an ID, and many in our population don’t have anything that is suitable, or are afraid to bring an identification.”

Smith said that an easily accessible city ID would allow more of the parents at his schools to get involved with their children’s education.

Another reason residents supported the card was because they believed it would foster a sense of civic pride.

“I will be the first in line to get my card, and it will go in my wallet in front of my Arizona drivers license, especially with days like yesterday where the state legislature passing SB 1445, the city of Phoenix was passing the Equal Pay ordinance,” said Jeremy Helfgot, member of the Human Relations Commission, referring to the state bill that would keep the names of police officers involved in fatal shootings secret for two months. “I’d rather have pride in my city than my state in that moment, and this will give us that pride.”

Many local religious leaders were also in attendance, with the majority voicing their support for the IDs.

“It creates an equality among residents, and it promotes peace and justice,” said Michael Hoffman, minister at Community of Christ.

District 2 councilman Jim Waring, the only voting member of the subcommittee to oppose moving forward on the ID cards, said the benefits didn’t justify the costs.

“I’m glad it makes people feel good, but is it going to make people feel $3 million good?” Waring asked. “We’re going to spend a lot of money to be fashionable and keep up with these other cities.”

District 5 councilman Daniel Valenzuela said the ID cards have the potential to make the city better.

“This is a lesson in good business, it consolidates a lot of purposes, and that seems like a good idea to me,” Valenzuela said. “If there is an opportunity to become more efficient, to get better, we have to look into it. We are missing an opportunity if we don’t look into this.”

Contact the reporter at Jzbuntin@asu.edu.