Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
Published on April 21, 2017
City Council Committee To Vote Tuesday On $100K Appropriation For Public Bank StudyPhoto: Walter Thompson/Hoodline

A proposal to appropriate $100,000 from the city's General Purpose Fund for a public-sector bank feasibility study is due to go before the Oakland City Council Finance and Management Committee Tuesday morning.

The Finance Department is recommending hiring Global Investment Co. to conduct the study. The Oakland-based company is “an independent financial services firm and investment fiduciary,” according to its web site.

The matter is ticketed as the seventh item on the agenda for the meeting, which is to start at 9:30am in the Sgt. Mark Dunakin Room on the first floor in City Hall. The committee's members include Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington and Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Abel J. Guillén and Noel Gallo.

If the committee green-lights the study, the full council will take it up May 2 at the earliest, “but note that the staff are recommending that the funding allocation be done in the context of the 2017-19 budget approval process, which ends in June,” Kalb’s legislative aide Oliver Luby said.

Approval from Mayor Libby Schaaf would be needed only if the eight-member council has a tie vote; the mayor does not have veto power, Luby said.

Advocates see public-sector banks as a way for public jurisdictions such as cities, counties and states to fund public works projects and offer low-interest loans to homebuyers, students and small businesses, removing reliance on private-sector banks.

A public-sector bank could also give cannabis industry stakeholders a transaction base that federal laws prevent private-sector banks from providing; cannabis product sales in most U.S. locales are cash-only, and industry employees generally lack access to direct deposit and other payroll services.

Not readily apparent is what if any resistance a public bank proposal would encounter. Schaaf and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce are taking a wait-and-see stance until a detailed plan comes forward. A City Hall insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Hoodline in early March that city administrators see a public bank as “a pipe dream.”

Guillén and council colleagues Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan seem keen on the idea, as do at least some officials in Berkeley and Richmond.

North Dakota operates a public bank, and advocacy groups are reportedly active in Santa Rosa, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, Seattle and Washington.