Is Oakland Ready for a Publically Owned Bank?





Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is organizing a forum to discuss the benefits of creating a publicly owned bank in Oakland, Thursday, Feb. 9, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. in Hearing Room 3 at Oakland City Hall.Presenters at the forum will be Marc Armstrong, co-founder and past President of the Public Banking Institute, and co-founder and president of Commonomics USA;

Tom Sgouros, author of “Checking the Banks: The Nuts and Bolts of Banking for People Who Want to Fix It,” and senior policy advisor to the Rhode Island Treasurer;


Nichoe Lichen, member of Santa Fe’s, Brass Tacks Team “public banking facts that stick,” and board member of the Public Banking Institute; and


Henry Wykowski, past prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office
 in Northern California, currently Harborside Health Center’s lead attorney, speaking on cannabis law as it relates to public banking.

The Oakland City Council in December unanimously approved a feasibility study to establish a public bank that would operate in the public interest, giving low-interest loans to small and medium-sized businesses and help fund affordable housing.


The council decision directs city staff to seek input from community stakeholders about the feasibility study, including suggestions of potential contractors and funding sources; and makes it clear that the study should cover the legality and feasibility of providing banking to the cannabis industry.


The City Administrator’s report is due March 1.


A public bank, where the City of Oakland, other cities, agencies and businesses could place their money, would an alternative turning over millions of dollars to one of the gigantic Wall Street banks, many of which have been found guilty of criminal and unethical practices.


According to Susan Harman of Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, she and others are basing their proposal on the public bank in North Dakota, which has been operating for 100 years.


“That bank has been successful, and we are trying to follow that pattern,” she said.


The Oakland bank, in which other cities could participate, would be a wholesale bank. That is, it would not have ATMs, tellers or make loans to individuals but would partner with community banks and back them up so they could provide more services to individuals, she said.


“Partnering with community banks is another way to keep money local and not send it off to Wall Street,” Harman said.





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