The Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to accept $150,000 in private grants to fund the second year of the Elm City Resident Card.
The committee approved the grant resolution after hearing testimony from dozens of city residents who overwhelmingly praised the resident card and supported the acceptance of the grants. Almost 150 residents in total filled the packed aldermanic chambers promptly at 7 p.m., most wearing yellow ribbons in support of the ID program. Even Dustin Gold admitted that the aldermen were not likely to be sympathetic to his opposition to the ID cards. Instead, he said the aldermen should reject the money from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, because, Gold claimed, they support “erasing borders” which would “destroy our soverignty.”
The favorable vote came after having been pushed back from the Sept. 10 meeting. On that day, no one from City Hall came to the meeting, because of miscommunication over scheduling.
But on Tuesday, there was no such confusion.
Kica Matos, the city’s community services administrator, presented the board with the proposed grants and sought to correct any misunderstandings about the funding.
“There has been some confusion,” Matos said. “[But] the program is only funded from three private organizations and money generated from the sale of the card.”
The program’s budget to date totaled $190,672, she said, and thus between the $150,000 in grants and some $60,000 from ID card sales revenues, the program is running about a $20,000 surplus. Most of the expenses go toward staff salaries and benefits, Matos added.
The city will receive $75,000 from the Atlantic Philanthropies, $50,000 from the Four Freedom Funds and $25,000 from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. The money will be transported through Junta for Progressive Action, a local nonprofit, because the organizations do not directly fund city governments, Matos explained.
Ana Winn, the card program’s coordinator, said that in addition to providing the cards, the Office for New Haven Residents provides assistance, such as educational and financial information, to local residents.
Matos went on to explain that beyond continuing to promote the ID card throughout the city — more than 6,800 residents have obtained one to date — the city will seek to increase the amount of money that can be uploaded onto the cards to allow them to be used as “virtual bank accounts.”Furthermore, the city will develop a “mechanism” to gauge the overall effectiveness of the program, she said, although she did not provide any details.
The response from those community members present in support of continuing and funding the program was nearly unanimous. Except for a few members of the Community Watchdog Project, an anti-illegal-immigrant group, all other community members who spoke urged the committee to accept the funding, with some saying that the program’s benefits are such that it would be worth spending city money, even though that is not necessary in this case.
At precisely 8 p.m., the some 100 residents who had arrived at 7 p.m. left just as promptly.
Raphael Magarik ’10 , who came with Jews for Justice, explained the mass exit.
“We wanted to make clear how many people support the ID card program,” Magarik said. “Now [aldermen] can look and see how empty the room is afterwards.”
The yellow-ribboned crowd included members of local churches, activist organizations, Yale student organizations — many under the Dwight Hall umbrella — and other supportive community residents.
Despite the staged exit, many others stayed while testimony, which began at 7:30 p.m., continued until after 9:30 p.m.
New Haven police officer Lt. Luis Casanova, who works in the Fair Haven community, told the aldermen the card has improved public safety.
“It has helped people trust the police when they are the victim or the witness of a crime,” he testified. And it has allowed them to avoid carrying large quantities of cash that make them targets for criminals, he added.
Members of local grass-roots organizations lauded the ID card program’s ability to improve access to services. Hannah Greaves, education coordinator for Junta, said in her testimony that since the beginning of the ID program, many more ESL students have taken advantage of access to public libraries.
Moreover, she said, it has made registration more efficient for New Haven Adult Education, because instead of being told to come back with ID — and then perhaps never returning — immigrants can feel confident presenting the city ID.
Ultimately, there was little doubt about the city accepting the money.
“We went through this last year. We knew what we were getting into [this time],” Ward 28 Alderman Mordechai Sandman said. “It’s just a continuation of a grant, no change in policy.”
And when one man testifying said he hoped the aldermen had their IDs, Finance Committee Chairman Yusuf Shah proudly slammed his on the table.