Californians Need A “Bank of Good”

Public banking is on a roll! People across the nation are turning out to learn more about public banking — and Californians are at the forefront of making public banks a reality for the first time in generations. Public banking activists, politicians and financial experts are busy producing viability studies and business plans so that public banks can come online in the near future.

On Wednesday March 30, 2022, over 170 community members joined the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA) Town Hall featuring elected officials from cities and regions actively working to form public banks. They see public banks as a powerful tool to keep taxpayer dollars reinvested in local communities. We’re grateful for the leadership provided by legislators from five cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz) joining us to discuss their commitment to making public funds work for the public by their courageous efforts to establish local public banks.

If you missed last week’s town hall, tune in to the replay.

Thank you to all participants for joining in a robust town hall chat. We’ve added answers to your questions and comments in this document.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago recounted the story of our team beating an army of Wall Street lobbyists on AB 857. We couldn’t have done it without his leadership. But he’s right. Justice work isn’t easy. It takes the grassroots to fight for a system that puts people before profit!

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia wants to be “one of the first cities with a public bank that focuses on local issues and provides justice and equity for all. We have public transit, public libraries, public housing. Public banks are absolutely something we can focus on in the future.”

LA City Councilmember Curren Price spoke about the wide-ranging benefits of a public bank. Los Angeles distributed over $120M to small businesses and minority-owned businesses during the pandemic. A public bank could expand critical relief efforts dramatically and help address the affordable housing crisis.

“A public bank can increase revenue for our community,” says Santa Cruz City Councilmember Justin Cummings. It could “take money we normally invest in private banks and create a local bank where we can invest our tax dollars… the interest that we gain comes back to support the communities we live in.”

Former SF Supervisor John Avalos led the early efforts for a San Francisco public bank following the 2008 financial crisis where he witnessed the devastating aftermath of communities affected by defaults and foreclosures from Wall Street predation.

Richmond City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin says, “We are at a crossroads. It is vital that Richmond, and our region, and regions everywhere are equipped with tools. A public bank will provide these. Private banks have failed miserably; we can and must do better!”

Keynote speaker Eric Hardmeyer shared his experiences leading the nation’s successful state public bank: “We like to call the Bank of North Dakota the ‘Bank of Good’ for the state of North Dakota… Instead of backing away from a crisis, we run to the crisis…. That is what makes the bank different from the private sector…. We believe that it is our mission to help the state go forward. And sometimes that means you’ve got to jump into the crisis. [We’ve] got to be the firefighter going up the ladder, not running away. That’s how I’ve always thought about the bank. That’s how future leaders will think about the bank.”

We have the opportunity now to build a new alternative banking system through locally-controlled, socially and environmentally responsible public banks, enabling cities and counties to recapture public dollars and have a say over the financing of our own communities.

With no motivation to maximize profits and no legal mandate to funnel profit to private shareholders, California public banks can make affordable housing truly affordable, fund climate mitigation projects, and partner with community banks and credit unions to support local small businesses. The future of finance has arrived!

Resources

Check out our Resource Booklet to learn about the basics of public banking: bit.ly/cpbabook

Take a deep dive with Public Bank East Bay’s Viability Study: ow.ly/prgH50IgBIO

Check out Constructing a Democratic Public Bank of Los Angeles: bit.ly/LAgovernance

Eight one-page explanations of popular public banking topics: bit.ly/CPBAonepagers

Join the movement!

If your city, county, or regional group would like to join the California Public Banking Alliance, review our onboarding document and reach out to us at calpba@gmail.com with questions: bit.ly/CPBAonboard

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California Public Banking Alliance

California Public Banking Alliance

CPBA is a coalition of public banking activists in California working to create socially and environmentally responsible city and regional public banks.