Subcommittee debates merits of investing in municipal ID

Debbie Cotton (Left) and Toni Maccarone (Right) present an updated plan for the Municipal City Service Cards to the City of Phoenix Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee (Craig Johnson/DD)
Debbie Cotton (Left) and Toni Maccarone (Right) present an updated plan for the Municipal City Service Cards to the City of Phoenix Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee (Craig Johnson/DD)

Concerns over the cost of municipal city service cards dominated discussion at a city subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, and a motion to determine more specific estimates of cost failed to pass after a tie vote.

The estimated costs associated with creating the card total $5 million, and some members of the Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee had concerns about the expected cost of creating an inter-departmental service. Parks and Recreation, golf, senior centers and public libraries make up the current list of the service that this municipal service card would provide to residents.

“It takes 200 years to get that money back,” said District 2 Councilman Jim Waring, citing the high initial cost versus the small potential savings.

Public transit has been dropped from the list of services for the time being due to the nature of its existing smart-card service.

“The department’s systems currently don’t talk to one and other, so we would need to invent a new system,” said Debbie Cotton, special assistant to the city manager.

This high price tag was a major concern to the subcommittee considering the expected $40-60 million budget deficit expected for next year. The consolidation of these city services into one card is expected to bring $25,000 in savings to the city each year through reduced printing expenses.

Each of the services included in this plan have their own membership system contracts that expire at different times and those expenses must also be considered in this plan.

“Are we missing an opportunity to roll those budgets into trying to make something happen here so they can all talk together?” Daniel Valenzuela, City of Phoenix District 5 Councilman said, citing concerns about how the new card service will deal with each individual service’s current contract.

Valenzuela put forward a motion to create a request for information (RFI) about the municipal card service. The intent of this RFI is to provide the subcommittee with a more refined estimate of the cost of creating the card service and also to explore the potential of this service as mobile phone software instead of a physical card.

The motion failed to pass with a 2-2 vote with District 4 Councilwoman Laura Pastor and Valenzuela voting for and District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski and Waring in opposition.

During an earlier meeting of the Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee on March 25 the discussion about these city service cards was mainly focused on their potential to be used as a form of identification for undocumented citizens.

“Hopefully we established that this would not be really used as any kind of credible ID card,” Waring said.

Related: Phoenix subcommittee votes to look into adopting multipurpose municipal IDs

Even though the discussion at the city council meeting was much more focused on the logistics of the service, there was still a presence from those who oppose the municipal service card because of its potential impact on undocumented citizens.

“One of the big pushes behind this is for the undocumented to be able to have some type of photo ID and use benefits,” Tim Rafferty, one of the founders of No One PHX ID said.

This website opposes One PHX ID, an organization that supports using the municipal service cards as a form of identification.

Rafferty and his partners believe that One PHX ID has attempted to hijack the process of creating these service cards in order to use them to help establish Phoenix as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

“They’re trying to legitimize the status of the illegal population in the city of Phoenix,” Rafferty said. “It has nothing to do with race, it has to do with our country.”

The root of One PHX ID’s argument is that providing a form of identification to the undocumented would increase safety in the community and give a boost to local businesses.

The group is following the model of cities such as New York that have created municipal ID programs, which ignore citizenship status in order to get a better gauge on the immigrant population.

The card still faces an uncertain future in Phoenix.

“I think this is clearly in the informational stage,” Valenzuela said.

Correction: September 28, 2015: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a motion to determine more specific costs associated with the creation of municipal ID cards passed with a tie vote. The motion did not pass. During the meeting, Pastor, the subcommittee chair, announced that the motion passed, but city staff later reached out to Downtown Devil with the correction.

Contact the reporter at craig.r.johnson@asu.edu.