crisis: Local activists say Real ID is bad for New York.
PHOTO: Nicole Klaas
Real ID, Please
urge Gov. Spitzer to oppose an unfunded national-ID law
the future, millions of Americans may have to present their
passport in order to hop a cross-country flight. The idea
may sound strange, but within a few years, it could be a reality
for residents of states such as Idaho and Maine, where legislators
have voted to oppose a federal personal- identification act
that was intended as an antiterrorism measure but is described
as an unfunded mandate by its critics. In New York, several
activist organizations are hoping Gov. Eliot Spitzer will
lead this state to do the same.
The Real ID Act passed Congress as a rider on the 2005 military-spending
bill. The measure establishes national standards for state
driver’s licenses and non-driver identification documents.
After the Jan. 1, 2010, compliance deadline, federal agencies
such as the Transportation Security Administration at airport
screening stations will accept only IDs that conform to the
national standards, including passports and licenses from
While the need to secure a passport for internal air travel
may seem cumbersome at first, it’s a small price when compared
to the loss of privacy, hike in driver’s license fees, and
the bureaucratic mess New Yorkers would encounter if the state
agrees to comply with the Real ID Act, according to opponents.
Representatives from a handful of activist organizations gathered
for a press conference at Westminster Presbyterian Church
in Albany Tuesday (April 10) in order to air these and other
grievances about the national law.
Real ID Act is a real fiscal and bureaucratic nightmare for
New Yorkers,” said Melanie Trimble, executive director of
the New York Civil Liberties Union. She called the measure
an unfunded federal mandate that would damage public safety
because the money necessary to comply with the act would be
drawn from antiterrorism funds. Additional costs likely would
be borne by residents in the form of increased driver’s-license
Opponents of the Real ID Act also contend that compliance
would create considerable inconveniences for the average citizen.
For example, in order to obtain a Real ID-compliant license,
residents would be unable to take advantage of online or mail-in
license-renewal options and instead would be required to appear
in person at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This and the
additional work for DMV employees may contribute to longer
wait times or the need for repeat visits.
As part of the new standards, ID applicants would be required
to provide documentation to prove name, birth date, legal
status, Social Security number and address. Digital images
of these documents would be stored in each state’s DMV database.
Real ID Act will violate New Yorkers’ privacy rights as it
will create, for the first time in the nation’s history, a
real national ID card,” Trimble continued. “The large network
of identity papers, databases, status and identity checks
could lead to the Real ID becoming an internal passport that
will facilitate government tracking of citizen’s movements.”
It also would be an ideal situation for identity thieves,
she added, because large amounts of personal information would
be stored in one location.
a form of junk security,” said Guillermo Perez of the measure’s
antiterrorism ambitions. Perez represented the Albany/Capital
District Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement,
the organization responsible for Tuesday’s meeting.
In addition to the broad and direct implications the Real
ID Act has for all Americans, LCLAA opposes the measure also
because of its affect on the immigrant community, particularly
those who cannot prove their identity because they lack the
approved documentary evidence.
According to Perez, the Real ID Act would turn the DMV into
an enforcement agency, tasked with imposing fed eral immigration
laws. He called this an improper function of the DMV and added
that the requirements would further push immigrants underground.
system that discourages hundreds of thousands of undocumented
New Yorkers from obtaining valid driver’s licenses will lead
to an increase in the number of unregistered, unlicensed and
uninsured drivers,” Perez said. “That’s bad for all of us.”
The deadline for Real-ID-Act compliance originally was slated
for May 11, 2008, but was delayed until the beginning of 2010
during March after pressure from angry state and federal lawmakers.
At least 20 state legislatures are considering bills to oppose
facing heavy criticism for on-air remarks he made
last week about the Rutgers women’s basketball
team, longtime talk show host Don Imus was suspended
for two weeks by CBS Radio and MSNBC. Imus, whose
visage bears a striking resemblance to that of
a mummy, referred to the women as “nappy-headed
hos,” and a co-host referred to the NCAA title
game between Rutgers and Tennessee as the “wannabes
versus the jiggaboos.” Imus later apologized on
the radio show of civil-rights activist Al Sharpton.
Sharpton and others have been calling for Imus
to be fired. Rutgers players said they were “highly
angered” and “deeply saddened” by the remarks.
Let the Door Hit You
most devout loathers of President George Bush
can hardly wait for the end of his presidency,
and some industrious people have come up with
a way for Bush haters to bide their time. The
fine folks at bushclock.lose.com feature a Bush-presidency-countdown
clock that can be downloaded to any desktop theme,
Web site or MySpace page. As of this writing there
are 650 days, 13 hours, 45 minutes, and 40 seconds
until Bush must bid the White House adieu.
reporter in Alabama stumped Republican presidential
candidate Rudy Giuliani Tuesday when he asked
the former mayor of New York City a question about
the price of staple products such as milk and
bread. Giuliani priced one gallon of milk at around
$1.50 and a loaf of break at about $1.25 or $1.30.
Not so in New York City or Montgomery, Ala., where
prices for milk average more than $3 with bread
ringing up at least $2, according to an Associated
Feeling the Love
President Dick Cheney must get the feeling he
isn’t having a good run. He was the target of
a suicide bomber last month, and his polling numbers
have dipped to historic lows. Now even the students
at notoriously conservative Brigham Young University
have said that they don’t like him. According
to the Associated Press, students on the Mormon
campus have organized an effort to force the college
to withdraw their invitation to the vice president
bill aims to reshape the industry, and draws fire from community
media organizations and major corporations
is the consumer-protection pack age that we need in New York,”
said state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) of
Assembly Bill 3980. Brodsky is the bill’s sponsor. “It lowers
rates, it enhances public access, it deals with universal
and affordable service. It preserves what’s called net neutrality.”
The bill proposes to reform the telecommunications industry
in New York by creating a Broadband Development Authority
to oversee an increase in the availability and quality of
high-speed broadband Internet. It also aims to increase the
telecommunication industry’s investment in infrastructure,
as well as to promote cable-television competition within
Peter Sikora, research coordinator for Communication Workers
of America, which supports the bill, said that telecommunications
is an important, changing industry that needs to be addressed
and properly regulated. “Society is insisting that you need
high-speed Internet, but there’s no government backing for
it,” he said, “so we’re leaving it up to the quote-unquote
One of the more contentious parts of the bill calls for statewide
franchise agreements. This “would cut the cities and towns
out of the picture,” said Michael Max Knobbe, chair of Alliance
for Community Media New York.
Currently, a cable company wishing to provide service to an
area must work out an agreement with the municipality directly.
Because the company is using the public right-of-way for power
lines, a certain percentage of resources must be allotted
to fund public, educational, and governmental programs, or
PEGs. Bill 3980 grants the state the power to make such agreements.
The concept of statewide licensing has caused some members
of community media organizations, like Knobbe, as well as
others such as state Assemblyman Peter Rivera (D-Bronx), to
speculate that telecommunications companies want to enter
only lucrative markets. This will, they argue, result in the
redlining of poor districts and an increase in the digital
divide between rural and urban communities. They also fear
that, without localized agreements, the ability for individual
communities to negotiate terms that best serve them is taken
away and given to the state.
A spokeswoman for Verizon said that her company also opposes
the bill and feels that the proposed regulations will slow
product development. She mentioned net neutrality as a specific
point of contention. (A neutral network, the center of the
complex and contentious issue of net neutrality, would be
one in which service providers couldn’t place undue restrictions
on access for customers.)
listened very carefully to those concerns, and we’ve addressed
them,” Brodsky said. “We have the best anti-redlining language
in the country.” The bill would require that a company with
a statewide agreement serve 50 percent of the state after
three years, and 85 percent after six.
Sikora argued that it is the current system that allows companies
to pick and choose which markets they enter, whereas Bill
3980 would ensure that the services serve most of the state,
resulting in increased competition and a widespread availability
of affordable service.
Knobbe voiced another concern. He said that when legislation
similar to Bill 3980 took effect in other states, “PEG access
facilities were forced to close because of uncertainties and
inconsistencies with the bill and some of the technical language
not being considered enough,” he said. “We don’t want to repeat
mistakes made in other places.”
But Sikora said that this is not the case with this bill.
“When you have a franchise agreement, the town and municipalities
negotiate for a percentage [for PEG access funding]. Some
towns get 5 percent and some do not,” Sikora said. “3980 requires
The bill also contains strong “consumer and worker protection,”
In addition to Verizon, the bill is also opposed by Time Warner
united them,” Brodsky said jokingly of the companies’ opposition
to the bill. “This is the one that’s actually good for real
civic groups look beyond a shady budget process with hopes
for a session of progress
was the ugliest process I’ve seen in several years,” said
the League of Women Voters’ Barbara Bartoletti, of the recent
state budget process. “Certainly the last couple of years
of the [George] Pataki administration, the Legislature had
open conference committees where the rank-and-file were beginning
to actually debate in public the issues that were important
to their constituents. This year, although we had one open
meeting with five leaders, it quickly became five men in a
room behind closed doors.”
Rachel Leon, of Common Cause, agreed.
was one of the more secretive budget processes in recent memory,”
Leon said. “They passed budget reforms in January, and then
they retreated to a backroom to cut the deals.” It was a move
egged on by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and other leaders’ desire to
expedite the process, she added, and not wind up with a late
governor had raised expectations that on Day One everything
changed and that this process was going to be open, transparent
and accountable,” Bartoletti said. “However, I think the on-time
budget, because we went through this whole comptroller show,
that they weren’t able to get this process begun in a timely
went back to the bad old days to get it done,” Leon added.
“They decided it was more important to get it done fast than
And while Bartoletti believes Gov. Spitzer when he says he
didn’t like the process either, she said that her organization
and other good-government groups will be careful to hold both
the governor and the legislative leaders to their word that
they truly want to be reformers. “I don’t think the leaders
of the Legislature or the governor can continue to call themselves
reformers if next year they don’t bring in an open and transparent
To that end, Leon said, her organization and others will be
looking to the remaining days of the spring session. “We are
looking at the roadmap for reform for the rest of the session,”
she said. “We are looking at what has to happen to have a
good reform year.”
What has to happen? A combination of bills need to be advanced,
she said, that will address the state’s campaign-finance laws.
Some of the most egregious problems are the unlimited amounts
of “soft money” that can be donated to a candidate, the extraordinary
amounts of money that can be legally donated to a campaign,
and the inadequate disclosure of funding expected by of a
reform doesn’t happen until you reform the culture of Albany,
and the culture of Albany is institutionalized with the incumbency
protection machine of redistricting and aided by the incumbency
protection program of campaign finance,” Bartoletti said.
“Where as an incumbent you can raise and personally use your
campaign monies. Someone who is opposed can still raise money
and gets to spend those campaign dollars on personal use.
And we have seen vacations, cars, Christmas parties, all kinds
She anticipates that Gov. Spitzer will support such legislation,
as he campaigned on campaign-finance reform, even mentioning
the issue in his State of the State. On April 23, Reform Day,
people will be coming to Albany to lobby the Legislature en
masse, and Bartoletti and Leon are hoping that the governor
is there, too.
Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and
NYPIRG will hold a press conference on their session reform
agenda today (Thursday, April 12) at noon in Room 130 in the
Legislative Office Building.
the Winners Are . . .
writers honored at annual New York Press Association conference
garnered three awards this year at the New York Press
Association’s Better Newspaper competition.
News editor Chet Hardin brought home the competitive Writer
of the Year award.
Hardin used dialog, detail and description to wrap the reader
in a sense of place and atmosphere,” the judges wrote. “His
topics are provocative, contemporary and often important and
he moves easily from zoning issues to trend stories.”
Nicole Klaas and Miriam Axel-Lute were honored with a first-place
in the Coverage of Health, Health Care & Science category,
for, respectively, the stories “Making Babies, for a Price”
(Dec. 7, 2006) and “Breaking the Trust” (Jan. 5, 2006).
Staff writer Klaas also was honored with third place in the
Rookie Reporter of the Year category. The judges said that
“Nicole writes complete, comprehensive, unbiased stories—she
does a great job of localizing national issues.”
loose ends this week-