Green Party candidate Jake Tonkel, who joined Andrew Boone in challenging incumbent Dev Davis for the San Jose’s District 6 City Council seat, aims to make public banking a part of his platform in the 2020 election.
As a member of South Bay Progressive Alliance’s public banking action team, Tonkel, a 28-year-old biomedical engineer, is a vocal proponent to establish a city-run financial institution to mitigate the housing crisis, spur investment in clean energy and support small private lenders. “Credit unions or nonprofit community banks are more likely to provide safe investment opportunities,” Tonkel says.
Tonkel’s vision for public banking in San Jose rests heavily on the fate of Assembly Bill 857, which would allow cities and counties to establish their own regional depositories for the first time in California history. The San Jose City Council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors have both come out in support of the bill.
Tonkel admits that establishing a public bank is an uphill battle. But he says recent examples of city programs underscore the promise of the idea, and the potential for partnering with local credit unions and community banks to make it happen.
During the federal government shutdown earlier this year, for example, the city offered short-term loans for 500 furloughed air traffic controllers at Mineta San Jose International Airport. Technology Credit Union administered loans totaling $10 million in all from the city’s general fund.
Tonkel imagines the city extending similar help for affordable housing or sustainability measures. “We will get the return on our interest and do the moral thing: take care of our neighbors and our community,” he says.
Boone, a fellow progressive in the race, plans to focus his campaign on improving public transportation and raising the minimum wage. Davis, who is out of town and unavailable for comment, has previously said that she welcomes the competition.