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City Hall OKs Oakland City ID program. Well, sort of.

on June 4, 2009

The City Council voted 6 to 1 in favor of the ordinance allowing Oakland to have a City ID program – as long as council members Ignacio De La Fuente and Jean Quan can do their math homework.

De La Fuente and Quan received strong support from a packed hall but council members Desley Brooks and Larry Reid were vocal about looking at the economics of the program-especially given Oakland’s $83 million budget deficit.

“You are forcing it down our throats,” said Reid, as he slammed his pen on the desk and rubbed his forehead in frustration. “It’s totally wrong what you’re asking us to do.”

“Just to make everyone in this room happy? I’m not shutting down a library or cut back on services to our elderly so we can start a new program.”

Reid and Brooks were not against the ordinance in principle, but felt the Oakland City ID program wasn’t properly vetted. They wanted to see the dollars and cents of its cost. The ID program could go forward if it paid for itself, something staff will present to City Hall in eight to 12 weeks.

The council changed the language of the proposal. They penciled in “effective upon approval,” instead of it being effective immediately.

“If we’re looking for excuses not to vote on it, then you can do it,” said a frustrated Fuentes, who represents District 5 in the predominantly Latino Fruitvale,

The city split along the center row. To the left side of the chamber, young activists were busily passing out flyers, whispering to one another about the importance for different communities, including undocumented and transgendered residents to have a city identification card.

To the right of the aisle, residents dropped their signs reading “No ID Card for Illegal Aliens” to flip through the heavy agenda looking for item 19.

Tim Peterson, a Berkeley resident, said he’s picking his son up from UC Santa Cruz for summer vacation next week, but so far he hasn’t found a job.

“I’m here to plead to your sanity,” Peterson told the council member.  With Univision’s cameras running, he argued that the ID would attract more immigrants at a time when there are too few jobs to go around.

But the crowd made his speech inaudible, and he left the podium, red faced and with his hands in the air in surrender.

Despite his efforts Peterson expected the council to approve the program. “I don’t doubt that. I’m here because I have to try. I have to try.”

Maricruz Manzanarez, holding her sign “No Human is Illegal.” said she didn’t believe illegal aliens existed.

“It’s about time that we get integrated into society,” said the former resident of Zacatecas. “We contribute the same way. When you contribute blood, they don’t ask you what nationality you’re from.”

“There’s a lack of understanding and education,” said Miguel Robles, who initially proposed the idea of having city identification cards to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano when he was a supervisor in San Francisco.

“If you’re poor and you don’t have identification or any credit, you’ll end up paying more than if you’re in the middle class,” said Robles who uses his San Francisco ID card to check out books in a library, open a bank account and get discounts at select stores.
“Good afternoon,” said Carlos Mares to the council members in Spanish. “I speak Spanish because many here speak it, even if you don’t. It’s an honor for me.”.

“If you don’t understand my language, everyone can understand this human need,” said the Day Labor coordinator.

Some 57 speakers spoke for 57 minutes.

If council members are convinced the program can-at the least, pay for itself, it will share company with two other cities. Connecticut began its ID program in July 2007 and has distributed 7,560 cards. San Francisco quickly followed suit in January this year with a city ID program that has issued 2,000 cards, according to Claudia Burgos, a policy analyst for the city of Oakland.

Issuing cards, however, comes at a price. San Francisco inherited almost a million dollars in cost. That’s a fiscal model Oakland’s council members don’t want to follow. Currently, cards are sold for $15, and Fuentes believes fees will eventually cover administration and production costs.

For Alba Aguilera, an Oakland resident, there’s an even higher cost for not implementing an Oakland City ID program. “For many years I was invisible,” said Aguilera. “I couldn’t go to banks or anywhere where they asked for an I.D. After I established my citizenship I was able to participate.”

Civic participation is only part of it. Burgos believes that undocumented immigrants will feel empowered to call police and report a crime.

As council members went back and forth about implementation, fiscal impact and the language of the proposal, many – including camera crews- left without listening to the closing arguments.

What just happened?” asked someone as they pushed the door opened to leave.
We won,” someone said.


  1. Andy K on June 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    I’m sorry, but why can’t people use their passport, ID from their home country, etc. It is not like this card is going to be acceptable as proof of a legal right to be in the USA, in fact, just the opposite.

  2. Oakland North » North Oakland Now 6.04.09 on June 7, 2009 at 11:38 am

    […] the meantime we’re keeping a close eye on City Hall.  Pupusa problems and Identity problems […]

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