Viewpoint: L.A. City Council Proposes Developing a Public Bank

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The City could turn its new bank and bank vault into a lounging area.

When the L.A. City Council announced last week that it may try to start a public bank, a resident wrote Circling the News: “Ya’ know….if they could just keep the streets paved, and safe, trim the trees and open our Library, maybe they could start looking at new things to manage. They’ve made a disaster of the commercial trash service in L.A. by eliminating competition and massive price increases.”

CTN is full on board for a City-operated bank—what could go wrong? After all, the City has been spectacular in everything it has attempted in recent years. Why not add a financial institution to its resume?

Let’s just ignore for the moment that current Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and two ex-councilmen, Mitchell Englander and Jose Huizar, have faced corruption charges that have nothing to do with money, we’re sure.

Councilman Mike Bonin is in favor of starting an L.A. City bank.

According to an October 5 L.A. Daily News article, “A public bank is a huge and essential step to building back better from the COVID crisis and from the recession,” [City Councilman Mike] Bonin said in a statement to City News Service on Monday. “With a public bank, we can invest in our neighborhoods, promote affordable housing, help struggling small businesses, support a just transition to a green economy, and advance equity.”

Perhaps Bonin was referring to helping the small businesses that have closed along the boardwalk in Venice. He blames it on Covid, but residents who live there blame it on the onslaught of homeless and an ensuing criminal element that scared tourists away.

Still, CTN is ready to trust placing tax revenue in the L.A. City Bank, because our esteemed council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti have taken the Measure H dollars and solved homelessness. The money has been well spent, is accountable and everyone is housed with no one left in parks, underpasses or streets.

The City Council should have a bank because it has also handled the DWP so well. In March 2016, the council passed ordinance 84133, which approved increased rates fixed by the DWP, including a three-tier system and a Power Access Charge, both of which were new, and both of which raised utility costs. Of course, that is still being litigated.

The ordinance was signed by Garcetti and approved by City Attorney Michael Feuer, and the appropriate public notice was published in a daily newspaper and posted for 10 days at a bulletin board on the Main Street entrance to City Hall, another on the Main Street entrance to the Los Angeles City Hall East, and a third on a bulletin board located on the Temple Street entrance to the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.

Please don’t try to dissuade me from backing a City Bank by recalling the 2017 garbage collection debacle, when the City Council voted to overhaul the way trash was picked up at tens of thousands of businesses and the work given to a select group of companies. This resulted in only a few minor problems.

In 2019, a settlement agreement was reached between the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and seven RecycLA service providers. The city would split the expense of any fees, including retroactive charges, at an initial cost of $9.12 million. Contamination levels up to 20% would also be allowable through 2020 in an extended “optimization period.”

If the L.A.City Council is out of its element with garbage collection agreements, it’s hardly prepared to deal in high finance. A bank should be profitable – for someone.

City Council originally members proposed this bank motion soon after Govenor Gavin Newsom signed AB 857 in 2019, which would allow the creation of 10 public statewide banks starting in 2020.

In 2018, L.A. voters denied the city the authority to create a public bank in a ballot measure, with 44 percent voting in favor of establishing a public bank and 56 percent opposing.

But last week, on October 5, the City Council took a step toward creating a public bank by unanimously voting to authorize the Chief Legislative Analyst to seek contractors or consultants to develop a business plan for the bank.

According to a report by the Chief Legislative Analyst, the city should seek voters’ approval before forming the bank, but it’s not required by law.

Will this happen? Who knows? But keep checking for postings on doors in downtown L.A.

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1 Response to Viewpoint: L.A. City Council Proposes Developing a Public Bank

  1. John Friar says:

    Given that several LA City Council members have been suspected of or found guilty of financial malfeasance, they are probably among the least appropriate people in the entire city of LA to run a bank .

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