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SF Treasurer Announces Priorities Of Public Banking Task Force

Above Photo: burhan rehman/ flickr

Note: Public banking is making progress in cities throughout the country. The San Francisco Examiner reported on the task force created to study public banking in San Francisco and also reported that cities in the East Bay are pursuing a public bank:

Fred Brousseau, an analyst with the Budget Analyst’s Office who conducted a study of a public bank, said, ‘Oakland is actually in process of conducting their feasibility study. They’ve partnered with the city of Berkeley, the City of Richmond and Alameda County.’ He said that study is due within months. Brousseau said if [San Francisco] launched a public bank, it would be a separate legal entity with an independent board of directors. ‘It’s like launching a startup, and The City would be the investor in it,’ he said.”

A member of the San Francisco Task Force, Former Supervisor John Avalos, told the Examiner “With the profit motive out of its mission, the municipal bank can hold private financial institutions to a higher standard of greater equity and public good.”

San Francisco’s Chief Assistant Treasurer, Tajel Shah, said there were many unknown factors but that the task force would spend the next six months investigating them. “There are several hurdles,” which include, “how do we bring in-house some of those core functions that we do with our banks right now, such as payroll or vendor payments” and what the cost would be to do that. “There are a lot of aspirations for a public bank — one supporting our cannabis businesses, another is housing, another is businesses. One of the big challenges is going to be making those policy decisions around what areas and outcomes are we going to focus on and what areas and outcomes are we going to invest in. And what’s the scale.”  – KZ

Treasurer José Cisneros announced today the 16 members of the Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force. The formation of the Task Force was recommended by the Board of Supervisors to identify and pursue opportunities to extend access to credit for small businesses, provide banking services to the cannabis industry, expand capital for affordable housing, and research the viability and advisability of a municipal bank.

“San Francisco has always been a leader in socially responsible banking and investment. I am eager to work with the Task Force to identify new approaches to support our City’s bold vision for inclusive innovation,” said Treasurer José Cisneros.   “My primary responsibility is to safeguard City funds, and I am confident that the Task Force will recommend solutions that also meet the stringent fiduciary and investment requirements set by state law.”

The Task Force was selected via a competitive application process, and includes experts from inside and outside government, representing a diversity of experiences and opinions. The Task Force includes advocates working to improve access to credit for low-income, communities of color; finance professionals with years of experience in traditional consumer banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions (CDFIs); and government officials with expertise in banking, investment, affordable housing and public finance. Together, this group has the knowledge and background to plan and evaluate opportunities for the City to prudently leverage its banking and investment functions to support the local economy.

“The Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force will prioritize Local Control, Transparency, and Financial Empowerment in our financial system, so that our city finances reflect our City values,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen. “Understanding how we can both divest from Big Banks, and use our money to invest in San Franciscans, demands out of the box thinking. From home loans to refundable money bail to the emerging cannabis industry, I am excited about the opportunities and ready to work with this strong group of experts toward bold change.”

The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on Thursday, February 1 at 10am in Chambers (City Hall, Room 250) to discuss “Community Supportive and Public Municipal Banking,” including the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office’s policy analysis report on “Community Supportive Banking Options” published in November 2017 at the request of Supervisor Fewer. Chief Assistant Treasurer and Task Force member, Tajel Shah, will testify regarding Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector operations.

“San Francisco must continue to lead the way, by exploring opportunities for investments that are in alignment with San Francisco values,” said District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “I am proud that community advocacy has led to a strong list of screening factors for city investments, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I am eager to hear from city residents about what they’d like to see a Public Municipal Bank achieve.”

The Task Force builds on work that the Treasurer has done previously to improve our City’s banking operations. In October 2017, the Treasurer announced a new investment opportunity with local financial institutions called Safe, Sound and Local, that makes up to $80 million of the County’s Pooled Investment Fund available over the next year for investments in banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) located in San Francisco that are backed by letters of credit issued by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Safe, Sound and Local unique opportunity to safely put our City’s money to work in our local economy.

Additionally, the Treasurer, through the Office of Financial Empowerment, offers programming to strengthen the economic security and mobility of low income San Franciscans. These services include Smart Money Coaching, free one-on-one financial coaching, Kindergarten to College, a universal and automatic college savings program for public school children, and Summer Jobs Connect, which provides youth with a credit union account and financial education.

The first meeting of the Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force will be on Wednesday, February 21 in City Hall room 305 from 3-5pm. The full meeting calendar is posted at:

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