Oakland to Host Forum on Public Bank Plan


Rebecca Kaplan.
  • Rebecca Kaplan.
Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, At-Large, and Dan Kalb, North Oakland, are scheduled to host a discussion on Monday about the city’s efforts to create a public bank. The proposal is designed to assist the region’s cannabis businesses, which struggle to find banking services, and to help grow renewable energy resources.

Earlier this week, the council approved a resolution, authorizing a feasibility study for public banking. Under the plan, Oakland will contribute $75,000 to the study, and the city of Berkeley will kick in $25,000.

“As distrust in big corporate banks and lack of oversight at the federal level are growing problems — this is how we can be part of the solution,” Kaplan said.

According to officials, a regional public bank would be able to provide community benefit lending. “We can fund needed projects, offer low interest loans to underserved populations and invest in accordance with our values,” Kaplan said.

The bank would have the ability to manage cannabis-related transactions. Currently, most banks will not serve medical cannabis businesses, even if they’re legal, because marijuana remains unlawful under federal law. As a result, those businesses have to deal in cash, which makes them vulnerable to crime. The public bank also could help develop renewable energy businesses. Oakland and Berkeley have already joined with other cities in the county to create a locally managed green energy program, known as Community Choice Energy.

“We can protect our cannabis community by taking them out of the cash economy,” Kaplan said. “And, like our recent successful efforts to create Community Choice Energy, we can harness local community support to take action that improves the environment, public health, and the local economy.”

On Monday, Sept. 25, Kaplan and Kalb will host a community forum called “Public Banking Local Renewables” to review how Germany developed local public banks. Wolfram Morales, chief economist of Sparkasse, a Germany-based association, will explain how they’ve successfully advanced their solar and wind resources. In addition, Bay Area analysts and activists, like Nicolas Chaset, Greg Rosen, Jessica Tovar, and Pennie Opal Plant, will share their knowledge on the subject. The meeting will be held at Oakland City Hall from 7-9 p.m.