Oakland mayoral candidate wants bitcoin to address poverty


Oakland Democratic Mayor Jean Quan is facing a tough re-election campaign this year and the polls show the voters aren’t really in support of her administration: 66 percent disapprove of the job she’s doing and 64 percent said the city of Oakland is on the wrong track.

On Nov. 4, a wide range of candidates will look to unseat Quan, including mayoral candidate Bryan Parker, a senior director of finance at tech firm iPass, who is making poverty one of his biggest campaign issues.

Parker spoke with the San Francisco Gate on Wednesday to discuss the election, his campaign and how he plans to fight poverty and improve the economy in Oakland, two of the biggest problems facing the California city in addition to crime.

He might have an edge over his opponents because he is incorporating the five-year-old peer-to-peer decentralized digital currency bitcoin into his economic plan – a teaching resource, if you will. According to Parker, it could very well help individuals adapt to modern technology and assist them in learning about money. He admits, though, that it “is a big, ambitious goal.”

“What I’m doing is engaging in the fight on poverty, which is a big, ambitious goal. What is one of the ways you get poor people into different habits? You start getting them to save more, get them online,” said Parker. “(Bitcoin) is a way of using modern technology that’s helpful in doing that. If I have money in the bank, I have embedded in the system a savings pattern because I have to go somewhere to get money. When you’re operating on cash, all your cash is there and it’s harder to keep track of. We’re reversing the paradigm here. I think (bitcoin) is something we can do in combination with financial literacy to drive better behavior.”

The virtual currency can be the means to get Oakland citizens online and saving more of their hard earned money. He argued that bitcoin is a democratic type of currency and the market is self-regulating, but conceded that there have to be some safeguards.

“It’s just like how you get people interested in the banking industry in general, but people have had mistrust of banking,” added Parker. “We go in and do education. We partner with organizations that are in the community. And if you live in a bad neighborhood, you’re not walking around with cash anymore. It’s in your electronic wallet.”

Although bitcoin can obviously be used in the marketplace, many have wondered how exactly it would work within the government. Parker didn’t really provide an answer to the question, but he explained that he wants to establish a developed technology sector in Oakland and allow the market to bring about the endless possibilities.

One element he did cite was the possibility of crowdfunding, a concept he thought about when he attended an Easter Egg hunt at San Antonio Park and there was plenty of garbage and the grass was not cut.

His mayoral campaign is currently accepting bitcoin contributions – the donations are immediately converted into U.S. dollars.

Other candidates to be accepting bitcoins as part of their political campaign fundraising include Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (Governor), Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman (Senator), Libertarian Darryl W. Perry (President), Eric Brakey (State Senate) and Blaine Richardson (Congress).

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