Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time to consider a municipal bank

Time to consider a municipal bank
The Eureka Times-Standard
Richard Salzman

Ten days into the Occupy Wall Street protests, I wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the lack of mainstream media coverage. By the time that letter was printed, they finally got to the story, to their credit.

There are now “Occupy” actions taking place in 1,482 cities across the country (as tracked at, including in my own town of Arcata in Humboldt County, California.

Surprisingly, even as the media has covered the story, many in the mainstream press seem mystified by the motives and/or lack of cohesive message. Does “people's needs, not corporate greed” explain it?

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, a mayoral candidate, wants his City Hall to pull its money out of corporate financial institutions and start a municipal bank “so we can control how we are investing in local businesses.” I hope Humboldt County will also consider that option.

Long ago, I pulled my money from a big bank and put it into a local credit union. Then, it was recently publicized that the CEO of my small “nonprofit” credit union was taking home just shy of $1 million a year in compensation (making the $160K that our county administrative officer earns seem pretty reasonable). I'm sure people would love to put their money in a county-owned bank whose CEO doesn't get $1 million (see for more on this subject).

Here are six more excellent ideas taken from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone magazine:

1. Break'em up. If a financial institution is too big to fail, it's too big to exist. Start with repeal of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance, investment and commercial banks.

2. Pay for bailouts. A Wall Street speculation fee on credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures would both pay for the bailouts and do plenty to fight the deficits.

3. Cap credit card interest rates, end usury. Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Chase should not be permitted to charge 25 to 30 percent interest when they received over $4 trillion in loans from us.

4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. Repeal the carried-interest tax break, which taxes hedge-fund titans only 15 percent on their income.

5. The Federal Reserve needs to provide small businesses in America with the same low-interest loans it gave to foreign banks.

6. Stop Wall Street oil speculators from artificially increasing gasoline and heating oil prices.
Richard Salzman, who lives in Arcata, works as an illustrators' rep and political consultant.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street deserves our support


Letter to the Editor
Posted: 09/29/2011
Times Standard

If you've not seen coverage of the protests happening on Wall St. for the last two weeks (since Sept. 17th), and you likely have not if your only news comes from mainstream media sources, then you should take a moment to read about (and offer support to) them at the organizers' website OccupyWallSt .org. It's been thousands of people holding rallies day after day to protest the class war that's been waged by Wall Street and the banking industry and corporations against working Americans for the last 30-plus years and finally, people are starting to fight back. I support these protesters and I hope you will too.
Richard Salzman
Sunny Brae

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lawsuit Targets Arcata Panhandling Law
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
by Daniel Mintz - Eye Correspondent

ARCATA – Having declined to strike aspects of its panhandling ordinance, the City of Arcata will have to defend itself against a lawsuit from a well-known political consultant.

Arcata resident Richard Salzman, who has helped coordinate the campaigns of District Attorney Paul Gallegos and several other liberal candidates, announced his filing of the lawsuit on May 19. It attacks the ordinance’s prohibitions against spoken and written requests for handouts, arguing that they’re unconstitutional.

The complaint, filed by Salzman’s attorney, Peter Martin, states that the ordinance’s ban on panhandling signage and comments “places an impermissible burden on the free speech rights of citizens in a public forum” and “presents an unacceptable risk of chilling and/or suppressing protected speech.”

Salzman is asking the court for an injunction on enforcing the ordinance, a declaration that it’s unconstitutional and recovery of costs involved with filing the lawsuit.

The ordinance’s prohibition of aggressive panhandling isn’t being challenged in the lawsuit.

In a press release, Salzman alleged that the City is violating basic civil rights and targeting the poor. “If first they silence the poor and the homeless, and I say nothing, who will speak up when they try to silence me?” he asked.

The City Council approved the ordinance last year but Arcata Mayor Susan Ornelas and Councilmember Shane Brinton voted against it. The council recently voted not to amend the ordinance, with Brinton casting a lone dissent vote.

In addition to banning aggressive panhandling and solicitations, the ordinance prohibits begging within 20 feet of businesses, parking lots, banks with automatic teller machines, bus stops, foot bridges and intersections.

Its findings section states that other city laws have failed to have an effect on a situation that has “generated an enhanced sense of fear, intimidation and disorder, and has caused many retail customers to avoid shopping or dining within the City.”

In an interview last February, when Salzman notified the City of his intent to sue, City Attorney Nancy Diamond said the ordinance is modeled after what’s been done elsewhere in the state and country, and what’s been tested in court.

“We are not the first community to look at panhandling ordinances,” she said. “This is very widespread and there is a fair amount of judicial law we were able to look at … we weren’t acting in a vacuum.”–-may-25-2011/comment-page-1/#comment-31373

Friday, May 20, 2011

Arcata Panhandling Ordinance lawsuit filed 5.19.11

Arcata, CA – On Thursday May 19th Richard Salzman filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of California against the City of Arcata claiming that their Panhandling Ordinance is unconstitutional.

In March the City of Arcata declined Salzman’s request to amend its panhandling ordinance. ”I requested that they amend their ordinance so as to comply with our guaranteed protection of free speech as outlined in the United States Constitution. Since they declined to do so I felt compelled to file a complaint yesterday in the Superior Court of California against the city” said Salzman.

Salzman has stated that he is a proud lifelong member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and staunch defender of the Constitution of the United States and the First Amendment right to free speech.

As written, the ordinance makes it a crime to merely hold up a sign asking for a hand out. By denying citizens constitutional right of free speech, Salzman contends the City Council overstepped its authority.

“If first they silence the poor and the homeless, and I say nothing, who will speak up when they try to silence me?” Salzman asked. He notes that the section of the ordinance against “aggressive panhandling,” including blocking one’s path, any physical contact or shouting, was left unchallenged by this legal action.

read lawsuit here:

Read article in: The Arcata Eye

Read article in: The Times Standard