City council debates change to proposed ID card system

on July 27, 2011

The Oakland City Council debated a change to a proposed municipal ID card system and signed off on previously tentative deals with city unions at its final session of the summer Tuesday night.

The idea of a municipal ID card system that would provide identification to city residents has been in the works for three years, and is meant to serve those who would have difficulty obtaining federal or state identification, including undocumented immigrants. The city adopted an ordinance authorizing the cards in 2009. In 2010, the city council selected SF Mexico LLC, the firm that implemented San Francisco’s municipal ID system as the ID provider and a debit card function was added, allowing cardholders to deposit money into an account associated with the card.

Other cities, including Washington, D.C., have a municipal ID system, but Oakland would be the first to have a debit card function as well. The Richmond City Council recently voted unanimously to approve issuing municipal ID cards.

The debit portion has proved to be the most difficult part of the card program to roll out. After the council approved SF Mexico, the city attorney’s office determined the city didn’t have anyone on hand with the expertise, and could not secure funding to get outside help, who could help with the complexities of the debit function of the card, and to make sure cardholders would be covered for problems like theft and fraud.

Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5), who in June suggested moving forward with an ID card without the debit portion, on Tuesday asked about implementing a temporary ID-only program while the debit card functions are being properly vetted. He suggested temporarily contracting with San Francisco to set up an ID-only card.

“Then we can accomplish what we set out to do, which is have an ID card, hopefully the perfect card,” De La Fuente said.

Mayor Jean Quan said an ID-only card would be “significantly” different, and suggested moving ahead with the current plan to conduct a due diligence report on SF Mexico that would ascertain whether the company is equipped to roll out a card that includes a debit function. Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6) noted that any plan would have to be “cost covering” for the city to be able to implement.

The city administrator’s office will present information on the cost of the card, [the confidentiality of information provided by card carriers and what information will be asked for in order to obtain a card, at the next city council finance committee meeting on September 13.

Also on Tuesday, the council approved contracts with all five city unions that were tentatively agreed upon the first week in July. The deals are expected to save the city $23 million by boosting the amount that most union workers pay towards their pensions and lowering salaries for some new hires.

A ballot measure to amend the city charter so that the police and fire department pensions do not have to be fully funded by 2026 was also approved and will go before the voters at the next special election in November.

1 Comment

  1. hedera on July 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I’m not gonna “Like” this on Facebook because I don’t like it. With city finances in the state they’re in, this city council has no business even thinking about issuing ID cards with an associated debit function. The city of Oakland is not a bank and shouldn’t try to act like one. If they feel they must spend their Extremely Limited funds on ID cards, I suppose they must (but just wait for the next election, folks). But get the money out of this NOW.



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