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City ID proposal draws outside criticism

P. Kenneth Burns

The Baltimore City Council is expected to approve a municipal ID program at its next meeting Monday.

The cards are aimed at helping residents who may not have other forms of identification gain access to city buildings and city services.

The idea is an outgrowth of one Councilman Brandon Scott had when he was on the staff for then-City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Scott said he thought city school students should have one ID card for what they need rather than “a school ID, a different thing for the bus, different thing for their lunch ticket, different thing for library, different thing for the rec center when it can all be done on one.”

Baltimore City Public Schools implemented their One Card this year.

Scott now wants to expand the concept to adults after reading about municipal ID programs in other cities.

“So for example, if you’re in New York and you have an NYID, particular supermarkets give you a discount,” he said.  “There are attractions in the city, like their museums, their sporting events, their music events; everything down to their prescription drugs, you get a discount around just having an NYID.”

In addition to New York, there are municipal ID programs in Washington, Newark, N.J., Hartford, Conn., San Francisco and Oakland, Ca.

Scott’s bill, proposed in April, is similar to those programs. It would provide municipal ID cards to city residents upon request.  He said the ID’s will open access to city services.

“It’s especially helpful to those who are the vulnerable; your homeless, victims of domestic violence, your immigrants, your refugees, people returning home from prison who have a tough time receiving a state ID,” he said.

But the bill has drawn sharp criticism.

“Handing out taxpayer funds like its candy to anyone who shows up and requests the card is actually quite silly,” said Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Maryland’s counties, cities and towns from the negative effects of illegal aliens.”

Botwin called Scott “delusional,” dismissed the program as another layer of bureaucracy and argued that it does nothing more than support illegal immigration.

“There are private groups that do a lot of these things that Brandon is crying about as well,” Botwin said.

Scott said critics of his proposal are stuck on one portion of the bill.  And there is more to it than immigration.

“This is in place in cities across the country and they don’t seem to have a problem and it doesn’t violate any federal law,” Scott added.

Christina Flowers, an advocate for homeless people, said Scott has an interesting concept that “can definitely be something that could benefit our less fortunate population like the homeless.”

“I’m definitely on it,” she said.  “So let’s get to the core of it and see what it’s going to look like.”

What the program looks like remains to be seen.

Under Scott’s bill, the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology would develop the rules and regulations for the program.  The Board of Estimates will be in charge of setting the fee for the ID card.

It’s also not known how much it would cost to implement the program.  The city Finance Department is trying to come up with an estimate at last check.