by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast Oct. 29, 2011
KPFA News Anchor: Fourteen states are now considering creating public banks amidst the backlash against predatory lending, foreclosures and the federal bailout of the Wall Street investment banks most responsible. North Dakota, which has had a state bank since 1918, was, by 2011, the only state which had escaped the budget crises now facing the other 49. In Yes Magazine, public finance expert Ellen Brown wrote that “North Dakota has its own credit machine, making it independent of the Wall Street banking crisis that has infected the rest of the country.” The Public Banking Institute reports that, over the last 15 years, the Bank of North Dakota (BND) has contributed more to the state budget than oil taxes, even though oil extraction is one of North Dakota’s principle industries.
This week San Francisco District 11 Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos held a hearing about creating a San Francisco municipal bank at a meeting of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee at San Francisco City Hall. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Supervisor Avalos:
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Supervisor Avalos, we know that you’re still in the process of gathering information and expertise, but do you have a time line in mind for creating a Municipal Bank of San Francisco?
Supervisor Avalos: I have a time line that probably consists of a couple years. It’s going to take that long to be able to do it and also to look at ways to build up to a municipal bank around other laws that affect how we invest our public dollars.
KPFA: So, if your time line is the next couple of years, it would be during the term of the next mayor of San Francisco.
Supervisor Avalos: Yes, it would.
KPFA: Interim San Francisco Mayor and mayoral candidate Ed Lee has, for two weeks, failed to respond to KPFA’s question: Will he support a San Francisco Municipal Bank? It appears that you might be close to a majority in favor of a municipal bank on the Board of Supervisors, but Interim Mayor, or should he be elected in November, Mayor Ed Lee, could veto it. What would happen then?
Supervisor Avalos: Well, the Board of Supervisors would need eight votes to override a veto. But we’re nowhere near any piece of legislation that would enable or establish the municipal bank, so it’s very hypothetical to be talking about it at this time. I think what’s most important to think about is, Would Mayor Lee prioritize a municipal bank? Clearly he would not. Clearly he would want to keep our municipal banking system the same way it is, because if he’s not talking about doing anything else, he’s probably fine with Wells Fargo and Bank of America having the same sort of influence over our local economy that they do have, and their influence right now is, at best, one of benign neglect.
KPFA: So will there be any point in pursuing this further if San Francisco doesn’t elect you or one of the other mayoral candidates favoring a municipal bank on Nov. 8?
Supervisor Avalos: Of course, if we do not have a mayor who supports a municipal bank, it makes absolute sense to continue to work on the municipal bank. The municipal bank idea is one that has been in the making for a long time, and now you have a whole context, across the country, of people being greatly suspicious of our banks, and frustrated with our banks, that they serve the 1 percent and not the everyday people, the 99 percent.
KPFA: That was San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos on the possibility of creating a municipal bank. Supervisor Avalos and all the other candidates who attended the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s September candidate forum have gone on record in support of a municipal bank. They include playwright-performer Terry Baum, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Supervisor David Chiu, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, City Assessor Phil Ting, entrepreneur Johanna Rees and state Sen. Leland Yee but NOT Interim Mayor Ed Lee.*
This week Interim Mayor Lee exercised his first mayoral veto of a board majority to stop legislation that would have closed loopholes in existing law requiring San Francisco corporations to provide health insurance for their employees. Not vetoing, Interim Mayor Lee said, would have been anti-business.
*San Francisco City Tax Assessor Phil Ting did not arrive at the San Francisco Bay Guardian forum in time to answer the first question, “Will you support the creation of a municipal bank to offer access to credit to small business instead of relying on tax breaks for economic development?” but he has since confirmed to KPFA that his answer, like that of all other candidates present at the forum, is “Yes.”
San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own blog, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.