Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to issue municipal ID cards with the aim of helping undocumented immigrants function in society has political punch. It comes seven years after ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's failed bid to do the same with state drivers' licenses -- and amid renewed talk of reforming federal immigration laws.
The city's Human Resources Administration, in charge of public assistance, would manage the cards' distribution for a processing fee, mayoral spokeswoman Maibe Ponet said. San Francisco, New Haven, and Oakland do this. For New York, however, crucial details have yet to be settled.
De Blasio's new budget proposal sets an initial cost at $430,000 for staffing and planning. No estimate was available for administrative costs and fee revenue once it all commences. Proof of identity and local residency would be required to get the cards, which could then serve as ID to file police reports, open bank accounts, sign leases and enter city buildings.
City officials caution that the optional cards would not be a license to drive, and "won't be valid to purchase alcohol or tobacco, and is not intended to be accepted by federal agencies for federal identification or other official purposes."
De Blasio still must appoint an HRA commissioner. Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli is planning the program, Ponet said. It is also too early to predict if neighboring locales will recognize the IDs.Brian Nevin, spokesman for the Nassau County executive, said: "It is impossible to comment without having reviewed the city regulations and its application."
ADDICTION POLITICS: At a budget hearing last week, Arlene González-Sánchez, the state's commissioner for alcoholism and substance abuse services, faced questioning from lawmakers over narcotics addiction, as spotlighted by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's apparent fatal heroin overdose. Assemb. Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) said "the prescription drug and heroin situation has exploded" and asked how her agency could react. Essentially, she said it was possible some funds would be "repurposed," with local input.
After decades of research, some policymakers continue to debate what works. Reached last week, Henry Bartlett, who directs a statewide coalition of opiate treatment programs, said in battling chronic long-term opiate addiction, "medicines like Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Vivitrol, combined with counseling, has a far greater likelihood of success than any other approach."