Steps Towards a Public Bank in Oakland


Oakland, like so many other big cities, spends almost as much money managing its money as it does using its money, yet no existing affordable bank can handle the size of the city’s budget.

February 2017

Applications for the feasibility study were submitted on February 24. One was submitted by friends of Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, and we now know there was one other. The City Administrator will report back to the Finance Committee on April 25 with her office’s recommendations for who to choose. We want it to be sooner (does it really take two months to decide between two 15-page applications?).

Council Member Abel Guillen, Laura Holtan (policy aide to Council Member Kaplan), our own Susan Harman holding the microphone, Council Member Rebecca Kaplan

Along with three Oakland City Council members, we hosted a hugely successful forum on public banking at Oakland City Hall on February 9. See our front page for details and the video. The Oakland Post’s report on the evening is here and their photo is just above. Hoodline also provided a good write-up.

January 2017

On January 5, 2017, our own Susan Harman spoke at the City of Oakland’s housing forum. Here’s a Twitter video clip of her speech, thanks to TDL:


On November 29, 2016, the City Council passed this resolution, written by City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, and cosponsored by City Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Abel Guillen, requiring the City Administrator to provide a report on the scope and cost of a feasibility/implementation study for a public bank.. City Administrator Sabrina Landreth‘s report is due in 90 days, or by the end of February, 2017.

On November 27, 2016, our own Susan Harman and City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Policy and Legislative Director Laura Holtan talked about public banking on Kitty Kelly Epstein’s radio show, Education Today on KPFA.

The Refund and Rebuild Oakland Coalition provides background here.

This white paper lays out exactly what a public bank could do for Oakland, and how it can be done.

Oakland can use liquid assets it owns as part of the capitalization base required to create the bank. Other funds necessary to get the bank up and running will come from the General Fund or a small bond levy, ultimately repaid many times over as Oakland prospers. A total of some $20 million to $30 million in capitalization will be required.

Oakland will deposit some or all of the over $1 billion a year that flows into the City from taxes, fees, and State and Federal government grants into the Public Bank of Oakland.

The Bank will make various types of loans – described in part below – that are both financially sound and in the public interest. It may also provide certain services. Interest from these loans and reasonable fees for services will generate a flow of funds into the bank to pay for its operations, build its capital, and create its profit. This profit will not go to pay for million-dollar bonuses to already-wealthy executives as happens on Wall Street. (As of 2013, the President of the Bank of North Dakota, a civil servant, made just over $200,000.) Instead, because the City of Oakland will own the stock of the Public Bank of Oakland, the profit the bank makes will be returned to the City of Oakland as dividends or be re-deployed to make more publicly-beneficial loans.