OAKLAND — The city is moving ahead with creating a program to provide identification cards to illegal immigrants and others who have trouble obtaining state identification, but some key questions remain unanswered.
The City Council voted Tuesday to request proposals from vendors on how they would operate the program.
One question is whether the effort can bring in enough revenue to cover its cost, which many see as crucial for a city still mired in a budget crisis. Another is whether the cards would strictly be for identification or might also work as debit cards for people who don't have access to bank accounts.
On the latter question, the program's two chief sponsors are split. Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) said if officials try to do too much, it might end up taking too long — and the city could end up with no program at all.
"At the end of the day, the main purpose, the main intention of (the program) is to provide individuals, Oakland residents, with a municipal ID that would allow them to report crimes, that would allow them to become part of the system," De La Fuente said.
Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel) believes it might not be so difficult to expand uses.
"I've been talking to vendors who are going to bid on this," she said. "And they actually say they can do the debit function, but we have to be clear on what we want. I've urged them all to bring us different proposals to give us different options."
Six members of the council voted in favor of putting out a request for proposals, with Councilmembers Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) and Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) abstaining.
Under the council's direction, the city will request bids from banking institutions, and debit card and identification providers. The bids are expected to be returned by the end of 2009.
Mayor Ron Dellums floated the possibility this week of supporting sanctioned sideshows as an alternative to the street gatherings that frequently lead to destruction and violence.
It's an idea that's been discussed in the past, and Dellums hasn't reached any final conclusion yet on whether he believes such an effort could work.
He said he discussed sideshows — where crowds pour onto the streets of Oakland to watch car racing and stunts — with police Chief Anthony Batts on Batts' first day on the job Monday.
"It's a very difficult issue and problem in the era of cell phones and text messaging," Dellums said. "People can figure out where the police are and just go someplace else."
The mayor said if it's possible to provide a safe venue for sideshow drivers and spectators alike, it might make sense to do so.
"If a significant part the motivation for people in sideshows is to demonstrate their competence at the wheel, maybe you don't need to do that in the streets (and) endanger people and endanger the community and endanger yourselves," Dellums said.
Whether the idea goes anywhere remains to be seen. In the meantime, police say they will be out in force this weekend to crack down on sideshow activity after three people were killed in a sideshow-related car crash last weekend.
Batts was clear Tuesday night the department won't tolerate any illegal activity on the streets. He also said the long-term answer will involve some new strategies.
"We've been doing suppression for 20 years and the problem hasn't gone away, so we have to take a different tack," he said.
Merchants across the city are hoping customers turn out to celebrate the "return of free evening parking" tonight, with many shops keeping their doors open late and offering special deals.
The citywide "Open House" follows the council's decision Oct. 6 to roll back the parking-meter enforcement cutoff from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The event gets under way at 5 p.m., and was put together to encourage people to shop in Oakland after a number of businesses reported a downturn following the council's decision in June to extend metering hours.
"We're a city of neighborhoods, and our small businesses are the heart of our neighborhoods," said Pamela Drake, director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District.
Drake said merchants in areas including Uptown, Chinatown, the Fruitvale, Montclair, Lakeshore, Grand Lake, the Laurel and the Dimond are participating. For more information, visit www.shopoakland.com.