Elm City tries to attract Elis to municipal IDs

With a major outreach effort potentially on the horizon, Yale students may soon have an easier time counting themselves as members of the New Haven community.

Students and City Hall officials said they are exploring strategies to register Yalies with the city’s municipal ID card program, the first in America to offer ID cards to all residents, both documented and undocumented.

“I encourage all Yale students to get an ID card because we’d like for all New Haven residents to get an ID card,” City Hall policy analyst Emily Byrne said. “We want it to become a metropass where people … ask, ‘How do you feel like you’re a member of the community?’ and students pull out their card.”

The cards, which City Hall began to issue in July, function as picture ID, a New Haven Public Library card, a debit card and a parking meter pass. Cardholders can also access Lighthouse Point Park and the city dump, receive discounts at the city golf course and open bank accounts. Yesterday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also stated that the cards could be used as a form of identification at voting polls, but cannot confirm citizenship or register voters.

Whether through established campus organizations or a potential new student coalition, a number of students said they plan to encourage their peers to register for the municipal ID card and help them navigate the registration process, which some felt could be challenging for students during the school year.

“City Hall’s hours are so short and conflict directly with most people’s classes,” Susan Steinman ’10 said. “More students would probably get cards if City Hall could be open late one day.”

To confirm their identity and New Haven residency, students are required to go to City Hall and present their Yale ID cards, state driver’s licenses and proof of school registration, whether from the Yale Registrar or through an official class schedule.

Though City Hall offices are currently only open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Byrne said, officials are in the process of making card registration more compatible with students’ schedules. They plan to come on campus and register students on Nov. 13 and 14.

FOCUS coordinator Jason Blau ’08 said he and a few students met with Byrne to discuss details about the on-campus registration for students, but that they have not yet actively searched out other organizations’ collaboration. The students also hope to solicit the support of local restaurants and businesses, he said.

Among the Yalies who also expressed interest in municipal ID card advocacy were Eric Kafka ’08, president of the Yale College Democrats, and members of New Haven Action. MEChA moderator Jose Rivera ’08 said that in addition to introducing the cards to students on campus, the Mexican-American group may do community outreach work in New Haven on behalf of the ID card program.

Kafka said registering students will be a matter of logistics, not persuasion.

“It’s not that students don’t want the cards,” he said. “I’m sure most students want an ID. It’s just that in college there are a lot of things going on and when someone comes up to [a student] and says, ‘Here’s something important’, then it’s really easy to sign up.”

Students may be unsure of how they will market the ID cards to Yalies for the time being, but community members have a few suggestions. Fair Haven resident Lee Cruz said advertising the cards’ financial perks should be prioritized over political advocacy.

“Whether or not you decide to get a card because of a political stance … is something that comes first,” said Cruz, the senior philanthropic officer at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. “But in terms of self-interest, it makes sense to me that when New Haven draws the circle [it should] include Yale and not make Yale separate and apart.”

But others in the community disagree. Political reasons may be enough to motivate students to get cards, Town Green Special Services District Executive Director Scott Healy ’97 said.

“I know Yale students wouldn’t be driven as much by money than by what the card means as a piece of public policy,” he said.

Healy, like Cruz, said that political affiliations should be cast aside when students consider the ID cards, especially given the national coverage the cards received this summer. On June 6, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents entered Fair Haven and arrested 32 undocumented immigrants just 36 hours after the Board of Alderman approved the ID card program.

“New Haven is a community that embraces diversity, [but] most of the national media sort of focused on the fact that New Haven is setting its own immigration policy, [which] is such an over-reading of the policy,” Healy said.

The card may also encourage students to venture beyond campus borders, he said, which would help address residents’ complaints that Yale students do not go into the city enough.

But Kate Kraft ’10, who recently received her municipal ID card, isn’t so sure that having ID cards will encourage Yalies to leave the campus.

“To be honest, just venturing to City Hall will be a change for most Yalies,” she said.

The cards, which cost $10, have $5 stored onto them when they are printed. Over 40 stores in New Haven debit purchases onto the card, including Atticus Bookstore & Cafe, Caffe Adulis, Hull’s Art Supply & Framing, Koffee?, Koffee Too?, and the UPS Store.

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