© 2023 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbus Considers Municipal IDs After Push From Community Activists

Christopher Columbus statue in front of Columbus City Hall.
Gabe Rosenberg

An effort to push Columbus to issue municipal ID cards is gaining steam, with Columbus City Council members agreeing to study the issue.  

A group made up of several community organizations, called One ID Columbus, supports the effort to examine the ID cards.  

"It’s a serious problem," says spokesperson Ed Hoffman. "And we really see it as an opportunity issue.  This is about extending opportunity to people who are in the margin or in the shadows."

Columbus Council allocated $9,000 to pay for the study. Two local university professors will research how other cities with municipal IDs are using them.

Hoffman points to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Providence and Hartford as cities that found success in using munipal IDs.

“It was seen as a way to engage more and more people in the community, in the arts, and in small business and in banking and to reach out to the most vulnerable in our city and give them access,” Hoffman says.

Hoffman estimates the ID cards could cost residents $5 to $10. He says there are thousands of Columbus residents without a government ID. 

“Prior to the Trump administration, demonizing undocumented people so severely, we generally understood that these people live in our communities and they’re our neighbors,” Hoffman says.

Hoffman estimates the city would have to invest at least $600,000 into the ID cards, but he says they can benefit everyone.

“It would actually make for a safer environment in the community,” Hoffman says. “People with ID are more favorably inclined to be witnesses if they’re victims of crime to reach out, to engage with the police.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther does not support the study, and says that council members did not consult his administration.

“The issue of municipal IDs has been thoroughly researched and documented," Ginther's office said in a statement. "We believe another study will not produce different results. Municipal IDs will not provide the benefits advocates seek, but would come at a significant cost to taxpayers.”

Hoffman disagrees.

"The benefits of establishing municipal ID programs have been established in dozens of communities all across the United States,” Hoffman says. “And we think that as the study goes forward more and more people will recognize that and see the benefits that will come.”

One ID Columbus contains 11 organizations including National Church Residences, Service Employees International Union (SEIU # 1), Equality Ohio, the Coalition for Homelessness and Housing, and BREAD.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.