In solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, Richmond is exploring divestment from corporations that do not pay income tax.
Council members took inspiration from a report on corporate tax dodgers.
The report found that 30 large corporations, including Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo and PG&E, paid nothing in aggregate federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010.
Richmond's divestment decision could touch off a national movement, Councilman Jeff Ritterman said this week.
"We can stand up as a city and say, 'Hey, Wells Fargo, you have $300,000 in our account, and we can move it to Mechanics Bank -- a Richmond company -- and next year think about paying income tax,' " he said to loud applause Tuesday. "And maybe every city council in the country will do it."
Richmond keeps most of its money in bonds and treasuries but is invested with at least one of the corporations singled out by the report issued by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, according to City Manager Bill Lindsay and the Finance Department.
Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido said that the corporation did not pay income taxes from 2008 to 2010 because of its losses in acquiring Wachovia.
"What that report is doing is it's taking data out of context to advance an agenda," he said.
The resolution asking city staffers to look into a divestment policy passed, with council members Corky Booze and Nat Bates voting no.
Bates charged that the council's ideological resolutions are leading Richmond to eclipse Berkeley "as the No. 1 socialist city in the Bay Area." He said that the council should focus on local issues such as potholes and crime.
"These are the areas where elected officials locally are directly responsible," he said. "We're not going to take care of all the ills in the world."
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin cut Bates off, telling him he was off topic. She said that the resolution was a way to communicate support for those demonstrating for economic justice.
"This movement is asking something of us as public officials," she said. "This item is a place where we can say, 'We represent the many.' "
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier.