ROCHESTER — Municipal ID cards could be in Rochester’s future.
Rochester City Council is expected to vote on a proposal to allow them at its regular council meeting on May 2.
“I think it’s a reasonable step to take locally,” council member Nick Campion said of the proposed photo IDs, which would be issued by the Rochester Public Library.
Campion said he heard from townspeople who struggled with options to prove their identity due to a lack of more traditional identification.
“It gives us the opportunity to solve some of these problems, at least at the local level,” he said.
Andy Stehr, manager of circulation services at the Rochester Public Library, said the idea was brought to the library by members of the Southeast Minnesota Interfaith Immigrant Legal Advocate, who pointed to the challenges facing immigrants face, especially those who have been forced to leave their country of origin without necessary identification.
The option has been discussed by the library board and others in city offices for two to three years, and similar programs are in place in about 40 other cities.
“It’s not a new idea,” Stehr said, naming Northfield as the first town in Minnesota to issue a municipal ID card, which happened last year.
In addition to providing options for immigrants, Stehr said the ID cards would also provide a free option for residents who cannot obtain state driver’s licenses, such as physically disabled residents on fixed incomes.
State ID cards cost just over $20, and Stehr said the library has the staff, technology and equipment to produce the cards at no additional cost to the city or the recipient. This is the same equipment that is used to create staff ID cards.
Stehr said library staff worked with partners to define how ID cards could be used in the community. He said some banks have already indicated they will accept them for check cashing purposes and pharmacies are likely to accept them when people take prescriptions.
He said city staff are working with the Rochester School District to determine if the cards will help overcome a major hurdle for some parents, who must provide photo ID when visiting or picking up their children.
“Conversations are ongoing,” he said.
Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said she sees this as a key reason to consider city-issued ID cards.
“It was a very compelling use for me,” she said, recalling when the concept was presented to her earlier in her tenure.
Council member Patrick Keane said he liked the concept, but raised questions about safety and potential abuse.
Stahr said that hasn’t been an issue in other cities, largely due to limited acceptance.
“IDs won’t be able to be used to buy cigarettes, guns or alcohol, so there’s not a whole lot of benefit to counterfeiting them or anything like that,” he said. -he declares.
To obtain a municipal ID card, someone will need to show two specific forms of identification.
One must be a primary identification document, such as a driver’s license or state ID card, passport, released offender ID card, tribal ID card, card of permanent resident, a medical insurance card or W2.
A second option from this list could be used, but a secondary source could also include a driver’s license or other state ID, social security card, certified birth certificate or marriage certificate or a school transcript.
The applicant will also need to provide proof of qualifying Rochester residency.
Stehr said the exact requirements will be part of a draft city ordinance presented to council on May 2.
Council President Brooke Carlson expressed concern that IDs could end up creating a stigma for the people who carry them, as they could identify them as immigrants or someone who cannot not get a state ID.
Stehr said communities have overcome these issues by making voluntary local ID cards a source of community pride.
“It’s also becoming brand-in-hand,” he said, noting that Northfield’s program includes engaging businesses to offer special discounts to people who present municipal IDs.
“The more people we have who have community IDs … the less stigma the cards will have,” he said, also noting that diverse use would also limit the use of cards to generate user-specific data.