Today, San Franciscans will take to the streets.
More than a year ago, a coalition of Native Americans, environmentalists and concerned San Franciscans testified before the Board of Supervisors. Many of them experienced brutalities at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota as they protested the Dakota Access Pipeline’s impact on clean drinking water and Native Americans’ rights. They urged San Francisco to divest taxpayers’ money from banks financing the oil pipeline.
The supervisors listened. They directed Treasurer Jose Cisneros to establish a Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force and to evaluate the creation of a public bank. A public bank could handle taxpayers’ money, provide loans to local businesses, fund affordable housing and ensure San Francisco isn’t complicit in preying upon the vulnerable and destroying the environment.
Last week, task force members began hashing out potential solutions for the bank’s high startup costs. Some believe the budding cannabis industry could give San Francisco the green it needs to break free from Wall Street banks and the harm they’ve caused.
But advocates remain concerned a public bank may still not move forward.
“A public bank in San Francisco is feasible,” Cisneros told me. “The more challenging question: Is it a good policy decision given the complexity, expense and risks?”
Other municipalities haven’t figured out ways to overcome these challenges. Last week, Santa Fe’s task force determined a public bank’s benefits are “at best marginal and at worst would carry risk of non-viability.” The Los Angeles chief legislative analyst called startup costs “exorbitant” in its report last February.
A public bank could require a minimum of $10 million in capital, approximately $1 million in startup costs and about $2 million for staff salaries, as well as additional funds for offices, branches,