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    Kaplan Spearheads Public Banking

    RebeccaKaplan-02Imagine a bank that invests in the local economy and is mandated to serve the public interest. In Oakland, we have begun the process to establish a public bank that would achieve such policy objectives, including stimulating economic development, spurring job creation, reducing municipal debt service, and expanding the tax base, through direct, long-term local lending at below-market rates.

    Last Tuesday the members of the Finance Committee unanimously approved my Resolution directing the Administration to prepare an informational report regarding a feasibility study for establishing a public bank for the City of Oakland, and possibly for the larger region.

    A public bank would allow the City of Oakland to lessen its reliance on big banks, and keep our community economically sound in a time where there is much uncertainty surrounding the federal government.

    For guidance, we look to the Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s first and only public bank. During the recent “Great Recession,” the State of North Dakota escaped the credit crisis, maintained budget surpluses with zero public debt, and had the lowest credit card defaults, foreclosure rates and unemployment rates in the nation, due in large part to the Bank of North Dakota’s willingness to provide loans to keep the state economy functioning while credit had been frozen elsewhere. In addition, over the last two decades, the Bank of North Dakota’s total assets have increased seven-fold and returned $385 million to the state’s General Fund.

    A public bank would be of special importance to California’s burgeoning cannabis industry, which is primarily cash-based and often a target for robberies. The relationship would be mutually beneficial, as cannabis businesses could be a significant source of deposits for such a bank.

    As we move forward in the wake of the national election, it is important that we celebrate our local victories and continue to work for socio-economic justice. Now is the time for a public bank, and I am proud to be spearheading the process here in Oakland.

    Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012, and again in 2016. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Councilmember Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.