Another Voice: ID cards part of ‘safe and supportive community’

Hood River County Commissioners are considering issuing a form of photo identity (ID), available for all who live here. Across the USA, 18 other communities have such programs, including smaller jurisdictions, like Washtenaw County, Mich., and large municipalities, such as New York City.

Local governments can issue ID that is recognized by city or county entities, including law enforcement, and businesses can offer a “local’s discount” for cardholders — an important perk in a tourist destination like ours.

These IDs are especially helpful for community members who can’t get other forms of ID for several reasons. These include older adults (18 percent of seniors lack photo ID), homeless, foster youth, recently incarcerated people, and immigrants. Without ID, it can be impossible to cash a check, open a bank account, use a library, or pick up medications. Local ID programs create feelings of belonging in a community, which research shows improves health. A long list of local social service, health, and faith organizations have endorsed the idea.

Local ID improves public safety by empowering community members to report crimes with confidence, and helps law enforcement know who they are dealing with. Local ID can help with enrollment in the county emergency communication system, a need which was clear during 2017’s fire and ice. Both Sheriff Matt English and Police Chief Neil Holste have endorsed the idea.

Local ID doesn’t allow people to use services they aren’t eligible for.

It can’t be used to drive a car or board a plane, for example. It doesn’t subvert State or Federal ID requirements; it simply helps vulnerable members of our community prove who they are, and where they live.

Gorge Ecumenical Ministries has secured $30,000 in grants for the program. With other grants pending, and a $20 fee per ID, we expect the program to be entirely self-sustaining, with no taxpayer funds required.

Please join us in showing our local pride as a safe and supportive community by encouraging the HR County Commission to support the idea of Local ID.

Signed, Tom Kaser, Rich Martin, Lorena Sprager, Rev. Vicky Stifter, Mark Thomas, Anna Williams, Maija Yasui Planning group convened by Gorge Ecumenical Ministries

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