Public bank for San Francisco moves forward this week

On Thursday/19 At 3 p.m., newly hired public banking consultant HR&A Advisors will join the Reinvest in San Francisco task force to formulate a plan to establish San Francisco’s first public bank since the city was founded more than 200 years ago.

Last June, the Board of Supervisors took an important step toward creating a public bank for the city by unanimously passing the Reinvest in San Francisco Ordinance introduced by Supervisor Dean Preston. Another dramatic milestone came on April 15, 2022, with the first formal meeting of the task force, made up of finance professionals and community representatives tasked with preparing a business plan for the bank. After being approved by the Supervisory Board, the plan will be submitted to the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation in Sacramento.

Lawyers gather outside City Hall to lobby for a public SF bank.

While there are 910 public banks in the world with assets of $49 trillion, the United States has only one, in North Dakota. Therefore, there is no model for the creation of public banks in the United States.

Nonetheless, San Francisco is determined to be among the first California communities to pave the way for the United States to join nations as diverse as Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Brazil and Japan, which have state-owned banks. that have been working successfully for generations.

Thomas Marois, an expert in public banking from the University of Oxford, will join the members of the working group at a meeting of the local branch training committee the following day, Friday/20 at 10 o’clock.

The nine-member task force is made up of three financial experts and four authorities in community concerns relevant to public banking, such as affordable housing, environmental justice and support for small businesses, in addition to representatives of the Treasurer and city ​​controller. San Francisco is fortunate to have in its group Sylvia Chi, one of the authors of California’s historic law authorizing public banking (AB 857).

A public bank for San Francisco would result in significant benefits for the city. Above all, it would be able to amplify the city’s financial resources for projects that directly improve the lives of San Franciscans. Almost all of the revenue paid into SF (taxes, fees, fines, and state and federal allowances) is currently in the hands of huge corporate banks with little interest in making substantial investments to benefit the locals.

Among the advantages:

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  • A public bank could provide financing for affordable energy-efficient housing on a permanent basis. The most effective way to achieve this is to convert existing buildings into affordable housing. Public banks can provide bridging loans and loan guarantees for the purchase of existing properties, removing them from the speculative housing market by converting them into permanently affordable social housing. A public bank could accelerate the construction of new affordable housing by more effectively securing sources of capital.
  • A public bank could prioritize local investment in much-needed green infrastructure such as cost-effective and environmentally beneficial solar panels, LED lights, transport electrification and renovations for better insulation and energy-efficient appliances. energy such as on-demand water heaters in public buildings, which will save taxpayers money as they tackle the climate crisis.
  • A public bank could finance local businesses such as worker cooperatives like Arizmendi Bakeries and Rainbow Grocery, as well as businesses owned by people of color and women who have historically been denied loans from banks solely focused on maximizing benefits. profits.

Financial competence comes with the inclusion of three leaders in community banking. Jennifer Finger, executive vice president of strategy and development at Beneficial State Bancorp, has worked there since 2015, helping assets grow from $500 million to $1.4 billion. Rafael O. Morales spent nine years at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, representing more than 250 community development credit unions and is now Senior Director of Development Policy and Impact at Self- Help Federal Credit Union. Elizabeth Dwyer who brings a decade of experience with non-profit community development financial institutions developing operations to deliver microcredit programs that help small businesses, and is currently a director of Fondo Adelante (Mission Community Loan Fund LLC) at Mission Economic Development Agency.[1]

Having people on the working group with direct experience in these areas will provide the necessary context to ensure the bank is realistic about what it can achieve. Architect and urban planner Fernando Marti has more than ten years of experience in affordable housing as co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. Bookstore and bar owner Christin Evans knows the challenges of running a small business. Michelle Pierce has 23 years of experience in the field of sustainability and social justice while working closely with businesses and residents of Bayview Hunters Point.

Rick Girling is co-director of the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition

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