Story by Katie Bisaro
The Village of Warwick Board of Trustees meeting on Mon., Nov. 19 was filled to capacity with supporters of a program being proposed to the Village: Municipal Identification (Municipal ID).
A presentation was made by Jonathan Bix, Executive Director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a community organization that, according to its website, “brings together the people most directly impacted by injustice to fight around the issues that most deeply affect our community, and to challenge the systems of power that are at the root of these problems.”
Bix explained the Municipal ID program to the Village Board, outlining its benefits to those who obtain the ID’s. While these ID’s cannot replace driver’s licenses or non-driver identification cards that are used to obtain government benefits, the ID cards have other uses.
According to Bix, the ID cards can be used as and alternate proof of identity (the cards have a photo and basic identifying information) at businesses that are encouraged to accept the ID’s such as banks and pharmacies, as well as libraries and schools.
Bix also explained that all residents would be encouraged to obtain a municipal ID in order to “create a more united community and foster civic pride.”
Program Already Available in Poughkeepsie & Middletown
The city of Poughkeepsie, where Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson is based, will be implementing a Municipal ID program as will Middletown, NY in Orange County NY. Both were approved by unanimous votes of their respective city councils, according to Bix.
The cost of the program should be at no cost to the Village with expenses covered by a nominal fee charged to obtain the ID’s. Trustee George McManus commented that perhaps the program should be proposed to the Town of Warwick – the ID would then be town-wide including the three Villages within the Town as well as the smaller hamlets.
Mayor Michael Newhard said he approached the Town with the same idea and was told that Town officials feel that non-driver ID’s were a sufficient form of identification for now.
ID Requirements Less Stringent
Bix explained that the list of “acceptable forms of identification” to obtain a Municipal ID is longer and less stringent that that required to obtain a driver’s license or non-driver ID. This allows residents who need a form of identification to more readily obtain the Municipal ID.
Trustee Eileen Patterson questioned the “value” of a Municipal ID if the requirements to obtain one are not as stringent.
Bix replied, “Some value is better than no value.”
He reiterated that no government benefits may be obtained with a Municipal ID, but that those who have one may be able to utilize it for other services and situations that require identification.
Residents Speak in Favor of Municipal ID
Following Bix’s presentation, several residents spoke to the Board of their experiences with situations in which they did not have a driver’s license or non-driver ID and the problems they have encountered.
Olivia Figueroa, speaking through an interpreter, told the Village Board that she had an experience where she was trying to pick up her children from school. She was asked for identification and provided a Mexican consular identification card. She was told it was not acceptable, it was “garbage,” and could not be used to pick up her children.
Fernando Alquezada, a student at Warwick Valley High School, commented that his parents have had trouble picking up his siblings from school due to lack of identification.
Another resident explained that having a Municipal ID would make it easier to cash checks at the bank. Others hope that a Municipal ID will make for better relationships with law enforcement.
Trustee McManus pointed out that having a Municipal ID from the Village would not automatically mean that it would be accepted by the School District as the District has its own policies and requirements for acceptable identification.
School District Identification Policies
Dr. David Leach, Superintendent of the Warwick Valley Central School District, responding to questions about School District’s policies, wrote an email addressing this issue. According to Dr. Leach, the District uses an Electronic Visitor Management System (EVMS) for all visitors, volunteers and guests who enter any of the school buildings.
According to Dr. Leach, upon presenting a valid, state or government issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, the EVMS will check against known sexual offender databases. The ID is scanned and a visitor’s badge is issued to be worn throughout the entirety of the visit to that school.
If a visitor refuses to show an ID or fails the check, that visitor may be asked to wait in the school lobby or leave the building.
“The District considers the safety of its students and staff to be of the utmost importance,” Dr. Leach wrote in his email.
He also addressed the issue regarding parents picking up their children from school and the identification that is accepted.
“No custodial parent has been, nor will be denied access to their child at school…The District accepts various forms of identification when verifying the identification of a parent wishing to pick up his or her child from school,” he stated.
Community at Large Support of Program
Reverend Rolfi Elivo, pastor of the Warwick Reform Church which has an active Hispanic ministry, read a statement supporting the program and outlining the many ways in which he felt it would be beneficial to the community such as better relationships with the police; ability to open bank accounts, use the library; and pick up children from school.
“The Warwick Reform Church supports, 100 per cent, this effort in order to be [a] safer, more united and secure community,” Elivo stated.
Sharon Halper, representing Temple Beth El Shalom commented that the Municipal ID cards will say to those who need them “you are one of us, you are welcome here” and she supports the program.
Village resident Patricia Reinhardt taught for 36 years in the Warwick schools before retiring. She currently teaches part time in Newark, NJ which already has a successful Municipal ID program.
Reinhardt thanked the Village Board for their consideration of the program and remarked that it would be beneficial for the children of the community, their sense of security and well-being. Additionally, Reinhardt commented, the Municipal ID program gives those who use it a “strong sense of belonging”.
“I think it would make you [Village Board] and us models of a more caring and compassionate community, because I think that’s what Warwick is about,” Reinhardt said.
Trustee Patterson would like to ensure that the businesses and organizations cited in the presentation would, in fact, accept Municipal ID’s as a form of identification. Additionally, she would like to look into any liability issues the Village might face.
Mayor Newhard suggested creating a focus group that includes three to four representatives from the community and Village Trustees to work together to answer questions raised and determine how to proceed. The group will likely start in January, following the holiday season.