By Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland
The public banking Feasibility Study commissioned by the City of Oakland was released to the City Council and the public last week.
Unfortunately, the study does not address, or does not provide specific input on, many key issues related to public banking. Thus, the City staff, the City Council, and the public aren’t getting the full picture of the benefits the Public Bank of Oakland will provide.
The Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland have been firewalled out of the study process from the beginning, and thus have been unable to share our knowledge of the subject.
We understand that the failings of the feasibility study put the City staff into an untenable position. Nonetheless, the City Council should not make its decisions based on incomplete and misleading information.
We are especially disturbed that the feasibility study does not address two of the most pressing reasons for a public bank: divestment from Wall Street’s agenda, and local reinvestment in the needs of the city and surrounding region.
The Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland do regular outreach in our city’s farmers’ markets, street fairs, and other events. The overwhelming consensus of voters and general public opinion supports divestment from earth-destroying projects in favor of reinvestment in local projects for the good of our communities.
A big question is: when the City divests from Wall Street, as it has committed to do, where can it put its funds, other than public banks?
The interest and fees we currently pay to Wall Street can be far better used to support local reinvestment, including: jobs and job training, affordable housing, new small businesses and worker co-operatives, infrastructure improvement, climate-change mitigation, and community-centered disaster assistance.
In addition to the central issues of divestment and local reinvestment, the Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland call the City’s attention to the following points overlooked by both the Feasibility Study and the staff report:
- We have a simple, clear roadmap and list of key steps to public banking: The two essential milestones are getting a bank license/charter issued by California’s Department of Business Oversight and a master account number from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (like the one provided this year to the public Territorial Bank of American Samoa).
Both of these milestones will be reached by submitting a detailed business plan that lays out the details of capitalization, investment policy, bank governance, and other pertinent information.
- Oakland is not alone. The City of Oakland asked the Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland to bring in financial support for the Study. We brought in contributions from Berkeley, Richmond, and Alameda County. Thus, the Council has an obligation to these contributing partners to move forward, despite a faulty feasibility study and a negative staff report.
- California legislative obstacles are being cleared. The California Public Banking Alliance (org) was formed in mid-2018. This is a coalition of eight regions: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, San José, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Eureka.
- Public banking has both statewide and national momentum. The Federal Reserve in April provided the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, the nation’s second public bank. Public banking efforts, including pending legislation are ongoing in more than 10 states.
Waiting for eventual progress from Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (as recommended by city staff operating on incomplete information) will not solve Oakland’s problems and will not satisfy Oakland’s voters.
To contact Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, go to [email protected]