CityKey ID needs everyone to unlock Chicago opportunities

By Editorial Board

Chicago plans to launch its municipal ID program this month, and residents will have the most accessible form of activism readily available to them.

The Chicago CityKey Program, which city officials began developing in October 2016, will provide an alternative to residents who are often unable to obtain government-issued identification. The homeless, undocumented or recently incarcerated will finally be able to use the “3-in-1” card that also acts as a Ventra pass and a public library card.

The city has thought ahead to ensure cost will not bar residents from the CityKey. The adult fee for the card is $10, but there are many fee waivers for low-income people, homeless people, survivors of domestic violence, people recently released from prison, veterans and participants of the One Summer Chicago Program, the city’s youth employment initiative. Children under 18 will be charged a $5 fee and senior citizens age 65 and older will receive the card at no cost.

The program will also allow applicants to self-designate their gender on the card, bringing at least some relief for transgender and nonbinary residents who found correcting gender markers on state-issued identification difficult.

Many were excited by these details. But others had reservations, concerned the program will make it easier to obtain information on undocumented residents and for them to be targeted by law enforcement.

The Office of the City Clerk’s website states the CityKey  “captures minimal information from applicants, which includes only a unique identifier, the date of issuance and the expiration date.” City officials have also promised no information about residents will be shared with other government agencies.

Other cities have had similar ID programs with mixed results. Two years after New York City launched IDNYC, about 1 million residents opted in the program. With only 30,000 cards issued since launch in 2009, San Francisco has struggled to encourage interest in its own program.

There are currently plans to expand the uses of the card by working with local businesses, sports teams, cultural institutions and community organizations to appeal to all residents with discounts, which can also prevent vulnerable residents from being targeted.

This is how all Chicagoans can work together to not only ensure the program is a success but also collectively stand with the city’s marginalized residents. Applying for a CityKey is a simple way to prevent the program from being solely identified with the homeless.

Considering many can be ashamed of applying for the CityKey because of stigma associated with seeking the resources it provides, all residents can make the program Chicago’s new normal with one trip to City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Drive, to apply.

Although compassion is a sufficient motive for seeking a card, the CityKey is expected to provide a range of benefits to cardholders. Unless you have a deep-seated disdain for people the CityKey is meant to help, how can anyone fail to promote a program that offers so much to so many?

The CityKey is another example of local governments acting to protect residents in the face of an administration ready to strip their rights. Current events can be terrifying and the future can look grim, but we must acknowledge small steps in progress when we see them and support them by all means necessary.

And in that case, Chicagoans should be ready to soon be proud CityKey cardholders.