City Council to Review ID Card program on Nov 9th

Friends, please plan to attend the Oakland City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 9th at 7 pm at City Hall, to speak or nod in favor of adopting the alternative currency ACORN for Oakland.  We need a public show of support to help the Council make the right decision, which will make our City ID Card a powerful and useful document for all Oaklanders, and will draw the attention of city officials around the USA!

The following are some responses Wilson has made to questions about ACORNs.


Wilson Riles,  October 10, 2010

Question A: I just found out about the Acorn. I don’t understand, why would I want to join, if I spend money locally anyway, what benefit do I get by paying $35, to spend money locally, that I’m already doing?

Answer to Question A:
If we are able to structure this as we (the Coalition) has designed it, (1) you will pay $35 but there will be (approx.) $50 of equivalent value on the card, (2) each time you use the card you will get your purchase at a discounted price, (3) the technology of the card will be at an advanced level whereabouts you will be able to manage your account by cell phone, computer, and i-phone – you will be able to put money into your relatives accounts, your friends accounts, and/or merchants who do not have a POS device by phone, (4) you will be able to up-load money into your account and convert $US into ACORNs at store counters, (5) finally you will be able to do remittances (to Haiti, Africa, Latin America, and/or to other Bay Area cities that adopt a local currency) at less cost than Western Union or any other funds transfer service. Lastly, let me say that you will have an alternative currency that you might choose to use to encourage the great environmental good of import replacement in your community, encourage local hiring, and buffer the $US currency value reduction and inflation that will devastate the communities that do not have this option.

Question B: Will the ACORNS be useful everywhere in Oakland? What make ACORN work when obviously not ALL money will go to ACORNS and people can still use their own dollars anywhere, even send it out of the country whenever they want. Why would a merchant join? What’s in it for a merchant? Is there a marketing campaign to promote the ACORN as like a local gift card? A local gift card isn’t a bad idea to keep money local. Why don’t you just sign up some merchants and start selling cards like other fundraisers have done? Will this be used as a fundraiser for schools or charities? I can see it as a competitive marketing system for the few merchants that want to join, why don’t you enroll some merchants and start some gift cards? Where are you in terms of developing a marketing plan for local businesses?

Answer to Question B:
The ACORN will function when and where the merchant, card holder, and city agree to accept it and use it. That is why incentives need to be built into the program to make it attractive and beneficial to all participants. This is not a mandate; the system functions on the basis of the choice of the users. It will function everywhere in Oakland where folks make that choice. I think that the incentives that we (the Coalition) have detailed will be beneficial enough that almost all merchants and card holders will choose to use it. The City will also gain a huge economic boost in its budget if it successfully comes to an agreement with the City labor unions to particially compensate work with ACORNs. I have talked with SEIU 1021 and the Firefighters Local 55; both stand ready to bargain for this to happen; I think other unions will follow. The best way to start a local currency is to spend it into existence. If the City were to pay its employees just 10% of their salaries in ACORNs, that would be equivalent to more than $30 million. That would be $30 million that the City could spend then on other needs. This is the initial start up boost benefit for the City by doing this with local currency. After the initial spend-out, if the City also accepts ACORNs for the payment of City parking, fines, and fees – also at a discount – the City would take ACORNs in to continue paying employees in ACORNs without causing inflation. This can only be done with the creation of a local currency; it cannot be done with just a debit card or a gift card function.

It is the discounts, standard or below processing and transaction fees, and the symbolization of all Oakland residents and businesses working together with the City government to make our micro-economy work better for every resident of the City that will draw folks to use the ACORN. There are other future potential uses for the card that will enhance this. A version of the card could be created as a student identification card in OUSD that would mean that parents need not give their children cash and the parents (owners of the accounts) could track their children’s use of the card. Peralta Colleges could also have a version of the card as a student identification card. The card could be adapted for discounted use with AC Transit and AC Transit could also pay bus drivers partial with ACORNs and kept those resources circulating in Oakland’s economy. The County’s EBT card could be changed to convert Federal and State dollars into ACORNs and make available these discounts, currency flow benefits, and account control benefits to Food Stamp and other recipients. That is just for starters.

Merchants – particularly small business merchants – will build customer loyalty with City workers and City residents. That is why merchants give discount coupons and all the other things they do; however, with the local currency they would be able to pay their employees and some business services in the now monetized discount. They would also be able to pay City fines and fees at a discount by using local currency. They will also be able to contribute any “excess” to Oakland non-profits and thereby get a reduction on State and Federal taxes. The circulation would stabilize their businesses. Lastly, the $US that the participating financial institution would collect in exchange for ACORNs should be lent to participating merchants at a processing cost – which should be low because this is all computerized – only for a no-interest merchant loan. Where now, small business is not able to get loans – certainly not at affordable rates – the local currency would open up a loan fund – stimulated by the discounts – that would make our businesses more competitive and successful.

Because this is a City program or is attached to a City program, the marketing for the card and Oakland businesses would be done together. Few people actually want a gift card. Few people need a City Identification card. A few people need a bank account rather than having to use Pay-Day-Loan and expensive check chasing places. There is a synergy here that is huge. There is no gift card system that could mean a boost to the City budget, a benefit to Oakland merchants, and a huge benefit to Oakland’s micro-economy, not to mention the emotional community-building aspect of having a card that says “I am proud to be an Oakland resident and contribute to the well being of my community without losing anything!”


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