Occupy San Francisco's Common Cents: A Municipal Bank

KPFA Weekend News, 09.15.2011: 



Protestors temporarily shut down Wells Fargo Bank in downtown San Francisco on 10.12.2011. KPFA Weekend News Host David Rosenberg: In San Francisco, the OccupySF encampment, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street,  has articulated a demand - a municipal bank. While this might seem radical, large companies, like PG&E and Bechtel, have held investment banks as wholly owned subsidiaries, to substantially reduce their banking fees, for years. To many San Franciscans, a municipal bank has seemed like an obvious, common sense proposal for cutting costs, raising revenues, and investing in a sustainable local economy. But in San Francisco’s infamous pay-to-play politics, the campaign contributions of Bank of America and Montgomery Street investment bankers, have always stopped a municipal bank proposal from moving forward. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.  

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Banking contributions to campaign coffers have stopped municipal and state bank proposals from moving forward, but times have changed. In San Francisco, the backlash against predatory lending, home foreclosures, and, the federal bailout of the big banks most responsible, has finally created a political climate in which a San Francisco Municipal Bank is on the table.

San Francisco's District 11 Supervisor John Avalos told Occupy SF that "Yes, we can" create a municipal bank, at a rally on 09.29.2011.

On September 29th, Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos rallied a crowd at Occupy SF around the idea:
Supervisor John Avalos:  I wanta pull our dollars outa these banks that don't give us a plan about how they can support us locally. And together, with our power that we have here, in this plaza, in front of this building, we can make it happen! Are you with me?
Occupy SF: Yeeeeeeees!!!
Supervisor John Avalos:  That was kinda loud.  Are you with me?
Occupy SF Crowd: Yeeeeeeees!!! 

San Francisco Public Defender and mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi also thinks San Francisco should do its own banking.

Supervisor John Avalos:  Can we create our own municipal bank in San Francisco?
Occupy SF: Yeeeeeees!!!
Supervisor John Avalos: Yes, we can!  Thank you very much.
KPFA: Supervisor Avalos has scheduled an open hearing on a municipal bank at San Francisco City Hall on October 24th.  
Public Defender and mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi also says that the City and County of San Francisco should do its own banking:

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi: San Francisco absolutely should have a municipal bank for a number of reasons. For one, the idea that giving money, taxpayer money, to the banks, so that they would assist citizens who are suffering and hurting right now, was a bad idea. It was a bad idea then; it's a bad idea now. And having a municipal bank would allow San Francisco more control over its municipal economy. We spend over $6.8 billion a year and we bank through Bank of America and other institutions that charge us millions and millions, tens of millions, in fees. 
KPFA: If the City and County of San Francisco is a normal banking customer it is reasonable to estimate that its banking fees total between thirty and fifty million dollars annually, not including fees from issuing bonds for schools, parks, road improvements, water system upgrades, and so forth, which may easily double the number to as much as 100 million a year.  

The San Francisco Green Party and its mayoral candidate Terry Baum are longstanding advocates of a municipal bank, and State Senator and mayoral candidate Leland Yee now supports the idea as well. KPFA has not yet been able to determine how many more of the City’s 16 mayoral candidates support a municipal bank, but we will make an effort to report that before election day, November 8th. Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos’s staff report that they anticipate support on the Board of Supervisors from Supervisors Mar, Campos, Mirkarimi, and Kim, but are still uncertain about Supervisor and mayoral candidate David Chiu, who could, by joining them, create a six-vote Board majority for a municipal bank.

For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

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