Oakland mayoral candidates file, speak on proposed local currency

As Oakland mayoral hopefuls filed their nomination papers, the Oakland Community Action Network (Oakland C.A.N.) held a press conference August 11 for candidates to express support for a proposed local currency and present their platforms.

The proposed Alternative Currency for Oakland Residents and Neighbors, or ACORN – not to be confused with the now defunct human rights organization – would combine both a local debit card city ID card in order to promote the circulation of money in Oakland.

Half of the 13 candidates spoke at the press conference, in order of their arrival.

Greg Harland announced would not support a local currency. Instead, Harland favors improving parking and alleviating the fear of crime to bring in more shopping revenues to Oakland. Harland proposed increasing the Oakland Police Department to 1,050 officers, a proposal met with light jeering by the audience.

Joe Tuman stated he supported the concept of a local currency, but needed more details. He added, “I want to spend dollars in Oakland, especially in poorer parts of our city.” He called the current state of the city “unacceptable,” and said the widening gap between rich and poor “has to change.”

Don Mcleay, the Green Party’s candidate, supports the initiative hoping Oakland learns from other communities with local currencies and city ID’s.

“I think it will help our economy,” Mcleay said, “especially when we have a budget emergency and a worldwide financial crisis.”

Orlando Johnson, a member of Oakland CAN said he has long supported ACORN and organized for the local currency. Although citing his experience as a community organizer as his credentials, he announced he will be dropping out of the race. He will be supporting Mcleay.

“I don’t have what it takes to break the glass ceiling of the elitists and prejudice racist structure of Oakland,” Johnson said. “I look forward to the day when campaigns are not judged by how much money is raised, or by which developers support us.”

Councilwoman Jean Quan took a few jabs at former Don Perata for his efforts to stop Ranked Choice Voting and for spending most of his campaign war chest. She also criticized those who wanted to double campaign expense limits earlier this year.

“I’m not parachuting or using this position as a launching pad,” Quan said.” My family has been here 100 years. I want to be mayor of Oakland.” She cited her experience on the OUSD school board and efforts around community policing as her qualifications. After prodding by the moderator, she said had been working on ideas related to the municipal ID and “Buy Oakland” campaigns.

Terrence Candell stated he supported the local currency, and proposed that non-Oakland residents who work in the city pay a one per cent commuter tax. Candell also proposed a $100 million Mayor Summer Job’s Program in which workers get On-The-Job training in local small businesses. He also proposed longer hours for recreation centers, a roller skating rink and a bowling alley for youth. The proposals were met with cheers from children in the audience that attend his prepatory academy.

The final candidate to speak, Larry Lionel Young, Jr., stated he was reserving judgement on the local currency until he had more information. He supported Candell’s proposed commuter tax as well as increased funding for youth programs.

“I want Oakland to be the best place to live, work and vacation,” Young said.

Other mayoral candidates who have filed, but were not present are: Arnie Fields, Don Perata, Marcie Hodge, Niki Okuk, Rebecaa Kaplan,and Tim Brown.

For two years, a coalition of local organizations has been working on the ID/local currency card. So far, 29 organizations shave endorsed the City ID/Value Storage Card, according to Oakland C.A.N. The combination of a local currency on the ID card will defray implementation costs.

“This is about currency circulation,” said Wilson Riles, Jr., president of Oakland C.A.N. “This will be the first electronic local currency in the U.S.” Riles said ACORN will not solve all of Oakland’s problems, like poverty, institutionalized prejudice or past injustices, but it will contribute to the vision of Oakland as a model city.

Since many people who work in Oakland do not live in Oakland, after the employed leave work, they spend their dollars elsewhere, Riles said. The former city council man added that businesses fail to hire Oakland residents.

The card is supposed to benefit small businesses, as it can only be used in Oakland. Oakland residents will have an ID card combined with a debit card, while non-residents would be able to get the ACORN debit card.

Anyone who lives in Oakland would be eligible for the card, regardless of citizenship. In response to concerns about the card being used to invade people’s privacy, Riles said the ID card’s connection to the financial system requires more stringent privacy laws, and would not be applicable to Freedom of Information Act requests, for example.

There are over two dozen communities in the U.S. that have local currencies, Oakland C.A.N. said, over 60 at one time or another. In a press release, Oakland C.A.N. said, “During times of economic crisis, interest in local currencies increase because of their proven ability to relieve economic distress in a micro-economy.”

Three vendors have responded to the ID cards Request for Qualifications issued by the city in March. Riles expects that the council will select a vendor in September.

For more information about the ACORN currency and city ID, visit http://oaklandcityidcard.org. For more information about local currencies, visit the E.F. Schumacher Society at http://smallisbeautiful.org.

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