The Columbus Dispatch
Posted at 4:30 AM
By authorizing a study of a potential municipal identification card, Columbus
City Council has opened an important discussion that must include the larger
A primary purpose for city-issued cards elsewhere has been to allow
undocumented immigrants to live safer, more regulated lives — to be able to
prove to police officers who they are and to enter a child’s school building, but
also to allow access to bank accounts so they can avoid keeping large amounts of
cash and becoming targets for criminals.
Undocumented immigrants aren’t the only ones who could benefit from an
easier-to-obtain ID card. For other vulnerable people, such as the homeless and
those whose lives have been upended by addiction or mental illness, a city ID
could be the first step in re-establishing their place in the community.
Still, considering a municipal ID system means deciding whether Columbus
wants to extend that helping hand to the thousands of undocumented people
who live and work here.
We think the idea has merit; one doesn’t have to settle the immigration debate to
understand that allowing people living among us to do so more responsibly and
safely is better for everyone.
A city ID card wouldn’t change anyone’s citizenship status or make it easier to
get a driver’s license or any other form of ID. Ideally, it would make everyday life
easier and more productive for those who need one.
Backers of the idea also offer other potential benefits, such as fostering
“community pride” or offering resident discounts at museums and other
attractions. Chicago’s new CityKey cards can also function as library cards or
reloadable public-transit passes.
A sense of pride and belonging are undoubtedly good but can be achieved many
ways other than through an ID card.
Coordinating a new card with the Columbus Metropolitan Library or COTA
transit system seems redundant and likely to make the project more complicated
and expensive, but if local attractions want to offer discounts to residents based
on a city ID card, that’s great.
Mayor Andrew J. Ginther isn’t sold on the idea and declined to sign the
ordinance authorizing the $9,000 study. We hope the two Franklin University
professors hired for the study will focus on the concrete — how much a card
system would cost and how cards have been used in other cities — so council
members can make a truly informed decision.