Opinion: What Are We Waiting For?


Three City Councilmembers sponsored a very successful forum in February in support of the Public Bank of Oakland.

So far, although no opposition arguments have been raised, only two councilmembers are clearly in favor of funding the bank’s feasibility study.
City staff and the other six councilmembers are equivocating: the money needs to be spent other ways; maybe the Bank should be regional; let’s wait and see what San Francisco will do.
What are we waiting for?
This Tuesday, June 13, the City Council’s Finance Committee will face a simple decision: spend $100,000 now to start moving toward the Public Bank of Oakland or sheepishly follow the staff’s recommendation to wait some unspecified period of time for some unspecified thing to change.
Other municipalities have already expressed interest in partnering with our Bank. If Oakland shows some courage, we will find support.
What are we waiting for?
If Oakland doesn’t start a public bank, the City Council will always be making the hard decisions they’re stuck with now: do we allocate our money to the homeless or to keeping long-time housed residents in the city? Do we rebuild the pier that the rowing club needs, or do we get the rats out of the parks?
At the same meeting where they do or don’t allocate that $100,000, the Finance Committee will almost certainly approve an $86 million note financed by Bank of America.
B of A will earn $2.5 million for that note. If that $2.5 million went to the Public Bank of Oakland, we could use it to rebuild the pier and get the rats out of the parks and have plenty left over to help our community banks finance small businesses and student loans.
If the $56 million we paid in interest to Wall Street last year went to our Bank instead, we’d be able to address many more of our competing problems.


Last year the Bank of North Dakota (BND) earned $136 million in profits. Oakland is about half the size of North Dakota, so once our Bank is up and running, it could earn about half what BND earned, or $68 million.
That comes to $186,000 per day that we’re not earning without our Bank. What are we waiting for?
Why should we be missing these financial opportunities?
The Finance Committee members are Abel Guillén (238-7002), Dan Kalb (238-7001), Annie Campbell Washington (238-7004), and Noel Gallo (238-7005).
Please call them and ask, “What are we waiting for?”


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