Tag Archives: Public Banking Institute

Banking on Colorado: Bringing Our Money Home Conference Videos

Supported by a grant from the Denver FoundationBe the Change — USA, along with the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center and the Public Banking Institute, hosted a conference in Denver on Saturday, January 31, 2015, Banking on Colorado: Bringing Our Money HomeWe present here videos from the entire event.

Introductory Address – Nomi Prins: Wall Street and the Concentration of Wealth in the Big Six Banks

Panel 1: Digging Deeper into Public Banking

Moderator: Michael O’Neill, Chief Compliance Officer, Colorado National Bank

Ellen Brown, Founder of Public Banking Institute, and Author

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Executive Director, Public Banking Institute, and Author

Mike Krauss, Chairman, Pennsylvania Public Bank Project


Panel 2: The Challenge: The Need for Local Funding

Moderator: Dennis Gallagher, Auditor for the City of Denver

Student Loans: Roshan Bliss, Student and Youth Organizer

Renewable Energy: Amanda Bybee, Director, Strategic Planning & Initiatives, Namaste Solar

Family Farms: August Miller, Owner, Foodshed Products

Community Banking: Michael O’Neill, Chief Compliance Officer, Colorado National Bank


Panel 3: The Response: Public Banking

Moderator: Dennis Gallagher, Auditor for the City of Denver

Karl Beitel, Director of the Public Banking Project, San Francisco, and Author

Ellen Brown, Founder of Public Banking Institute, and Author

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Executive Director, Public Banking Institute

Mike Krauss, Chairman, Pennsylvania Public Bank Project

Earl Staelin, Board Member, Be the Change


Keynote Address – Nomi Prins: Financial Autonomy: From Greece to North Dakota to Colorado

Call to Action Keynote Address – Ellen Brown: Banking on Colorado: Why the State Needs Its Own Bank

Call to Action – Mike Krauss

Thanks go to Jason Bosch, ArgusFest, for producing these videos, aided by Dave Gardner on the second camera. Jason’s videos can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/argusfest/playlists

Public Banking In the News: How Public Banking is Winning the West

Public banking efforts are very active in the Western United States. Matt Stannard, who writes frequently about progressive economic issues, writes here about four of the more active public banking efforts in the western states: in Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.

From the Occupy.com:

Photo: liewcf / Flickr
Photo: liewcf / Flickr
How Public Banking is Winning the West


FEBRUARY 17, 2015

You’ll read a lot about activism in this story, but most of it won’t sound terribly sexy or radical. There will be no black masks, no broken barricades or cops bashing skulls. Instead, what you’ll read about is hard work, lots of research about banks and economics and feasibility studies and cost-benefit analysis. There will be meetings, more meetings, and then more meetings. With people in suits even.

This is what the economic justice movement looks like on the inside. A new economy requires financing, and that financing needs to be managed democratically. Public banks are the way we do that.

Public banks are run by local or state governments, without shareholders, with a mandate to support local community banks and fund public goods like schools, city services and small businesses. Wall Street hates public banks because they demonstrate that local governments and communities can manage their money and finance their services without making massive interest payments to big banks.

Currently, there’s only one public bank in the United States, in North Dakota, but there are movements in over 20 states to create more. This story is about movements in four Western states where, because of persistent organizing, meetings, conversations, and a belief that democracy must be materialized, people like you and me have made impressive strides in the campaign to bring public banks to the United States.

Washington: “A Great Step Towards Democratic Control”

The state of Washington has been home to a public banking movement for a while now, with members of the Washington Public Bank Coalition finding a longtime ally in State Sen. Bob Hasegawa. The empowerment in Seattle of one of the country’s most progressive city councils may be decisive in tipping the scales for the public banking movement. The Seattle City Council’s adoption last year of a strong and uncompromising minimum wage ordinance – combined with a city budget that is revolutionary in its scope of social investment and commitment to economic empowerment and community revitalization – makes a publicly-owned financial institution especially appropriate for the city. A series of meetings on public banking took place in Seattle in December, featuring the state coalition, the Public Banking Institute, and several organizations from Seattle and throughout Washington.

I asked City Council member Kshama Sawant about the role of a public bank in financing the City’s vision of economic democracy. “Public banking is a great step towards the kind of democratic control over the economy that is urgently needed for investments in renewable energy, affordable housing and public transportation,” she told me. Fellow Council member Nick Lacata agrees; he recently told the Puget Sound Business Journal, “I think what really resonates with people is that these are public funds. Why are we putting them in private banks that don’t necessarily have the public interest in mind? Why don’t we capture them and put them in public banks that have the public interest in mind?”

Much work remains to be done in Washington where, as in many states, Lacata points out, questions exist concerning the constitutionality of public banks. (The Washington Coalition has concluded that public banks would not violate the state constitution). Sawant and other City officials find Washington citizens’ efforts inspiring in the face of the damage done to America by too-big-to-fail banks. “Wall Street and the big banks looted the economy and destroyed the dreams of millions of working people,” Sawant says. “And not only have these banks not been held accountable, they have successfully clawed back the few meager reforms meant to prevent another crisis like the Great Recession.”

New Mexico: “Dignity, Respect and Control Over their Own Lives”

Santa Fe was hit hard by the 2008 financial meltdown. Chiefly funded by tourism and money from the state, Santa Fe finds both of those sources depleted. Since 2011, the group We Are People Here has been fighting to bring economic democracy to the city. The group’s primary initiative has been the creation of a public bank. Last year, the City of Santa Fe answered the group’s call and agreed to listen to what they had to say. Following a symposium hosted by Mayor Javier Gonzales in September, the city began to seriously consider opening its own bank. Then, on Jan. 28, the Santa Fe City Council approved a feasibility study for such a bank.

It’s “the first official step” in the process, according to Nichoe Lichen of We Are People Here. “It will answer some important questions and compare several models for how a bank might serve Santa Fe.”

But Lichen hopes the city won’t limit itself “to evaluating Santa Fe’s current financial circumstances.” Rather, people should ask about “the risk of loss to public funds with Santa Fe’s current financial arrangements” with no public bank. That’s a fair question, since too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks can now “bail in” and gobble up depositors’ funds if they go under due to losses in shady, speculative deals.

Economic justice advocates in Santa Fe are excited. “Our mayor has taken the lead,” Lichen says. “We are so proud of him. The vast majority of individuals and organizations we have reached out to over the last two years have said this is a no-brainer.” Lichen says community bankers are somewhat uneasy about a public bank, believing it would compete unfairly with local banks, which are encumbered by operational costs and regulations. But a public bank would partner with, rather than compete with, community banks, allowing those banks to expand their portfolios without begging for support from Wall Street. Lichen also fears that officials in Santa Fe will settle for something less: a revolving loan fund that “would not keep our public funds safe from a bail-out or bail-in. It would not help end our debt cycle.”

“We are doing this to provide a more democratic, just, sustainable economy for Santa Fe,” Lichen says, “with dignity, respect and control by the people over their own lives.”

Arizona: “Liberation from Crushing Debt”

Over the past year, Arizonans for a New Economy co-directors Jim Hannley and Pamela Powers-Hannley have met with public officials, made presentations throughout Southern Arizona, and maintained one of the more impressive web sites in the new economy movement. “We are working at the State and local political levels to create a public bank for the City of Tuscon and/or the State of Arizona,” Jim Hannley told me in an email. The group recently met with State Sen. David C. Farnsworth, a Republican, and has been working closely with Sen. Steve Farley, a Democrat who has enthusiastically endorsed the idea. The group has also been engaging with Tuscon City Council members. Jim Hanley reports that Tuscon Mayor Jonathan Rothchild has promised to discuss public banking with Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

The effort involves a stream of meetings and presentations with local sustainability and economic interest groups. But that patience and persistence is necessary, because public officials are risk-averse. Historically, when communities have been close to getting a public bank, the Wall Street bankers have parachuted in, filling public officials’ heads with misinformation about the supposed deleterious effects of such a bank (last year’s experience in Vermont is instructive in this regard). Elected leaders, fearing controversy, might conclude it’s not worth the effort.

“The challenge we face is primarily from elected officials who fear public backlash when an ill-informed constituency hears about the founding of a State or City bank,” Jim Hanley told me, and “addressing these challenges means developing partners in community organizations to provide a new distribution channel for our message.” This includes meeting with community bankers, who have more interests in common with their local businesses than they do with Wall Street bankers. The work is worth the effort for the Hanleys and Arizonans for a New Economy. “We are political activists who understand class conflict,” Jim said, “and the role that the banking monopoly plays in ensuring that the 1% continues to dominate all aspects of our country.” The democratization of finance, he said, “can liberate [people] from needless, rapacious, crushing debt.”

Colorado: “Fix this Badly Broken System”

Coloradans have been pushing for public banking since at least 2011, when a group calling itself the Main Street Partnership Bank coalition, made up of state legislators, public and non-profit lending agencies, and economic justice groups, began researching and debating the formation of state- or city-owned banks. On Jan. 31 of this year, a Denver conference entitled “Banking on Colorado” featured leading national figures such as Ellen Brown, Nomi Prins of Demos, and Mike Krauss and Gwen Hallsmith of the Public Banking Institute. Scores of local leaders were among the 120 or so people attending the event, which was sponsored by Be the Change-USA and moderated by Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher and Colorado National Bank’s Mike O’Neill.

Earl Staelin, a member of the board of directors for Be the Change-USA, has co-sponsored several citizen initiatives in Colorado to amend the state constitution to establish a public bank. He told me that the Bank of North Dakota was the model for Colorado – a bank that “makes loans in partnership with community banks such as in North Dakota,” and that would “lend for infrastructure, home ownership, student loans at low or no interest, clean energy,” and other public goods. The bank would be prohibited from “speculative investments such as mortgage-backed securities and derivatives.” Now, citizens in Denver, Boulder, Westminster, Englewood and other cities have joined the struggle.

The next steps are formidable. 86,000 signatures are needed to get public banking on a referendum ballot; Staelin’s group wants to collect 115,000 to provide a sufficient cushion for the inevitable challenges to signatures that will follow. Getting those signatures will take resources – petitioner circulators need to be paid, and Staelin guesses “it would likely take several million dollars” to sustain an informational campaign to beat back the propaganda from the big banks, particularly “the two large banking associations in Colorado, the Colorado Bankers’ Association and Independent Bankers of Colorado.”

But the multi-year effort is worth it to Staelin and his colleagues. “Public ownership and control of banks in the public interest,” he told me, “is the most realistic and effective way I know of to fix this badly broken system and to enable the vast majority of our population to thrive in a robust and stable economy, a clean and healthy environment where we have a meaningful opportunity to participate in our democracy.”

Matt Stannard is Policy Director for Commonomics USA and does research for the Public Banking Institute.

This article originally appeared at Occupy.com.

Philadelphia Symposium on Public Banking — Public Banks for Public Works: Banking on the Common Wealth — October 18, 2014

Pennsylvania Public Bank Project and the Public Banking Institute together presented a national public banking symposium, Public Banks for Public Works: Banking in the Common Wealth — A symposium to educate and inform the citizens of Pennsylvania and its neighbors about the role a public bank could play in supporting an economy that serves us all, not just the wealthy.

The symposium was held at the Quaker Friends Center in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

We provide here, videos from all sessions of the Public Banks for Public Works: Banking in the Common Wealth Symposium.

Seattle Forum on Public Banking — December 10, 2014

The city council of the City of Seattle recently held a public meeting, Public Forum: The Possibility for a Public Bank in Seattle to discuss, with experts in the field, the possibility of establishing a public bank in Seattle. Of particular interest is a “Public Banking 101” presentation by Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute and one of the invited speakers at our Banking on Colorado: Bring Our Money Home to be held on Saturday, January 31. 2015. Information about the Conference, including a link to the registration page are in the column to the right.

The video is set to start at the beginning of Gwen Hallsmith’s presentation. The start times of other speakers at this forum are given below the video.

At t = 15:04 — Karl Beidel, Director, The Public Bank Project

At t = 27:22 — Thomas Keidel, Director, German Savings Banks Association (DSGV)

A 40 minute session of public participation begins at t = 1:04:43.


Banking on Colorado Speaker Gwendolyn Hallsmith on the Tim Danahey Show

Tim Danahey set up his portable studio in the Green Room of the Banking On New Mexico Symposium to interview several of the invited speakers at the Symposium. The Symposium, whose principal topic was public banking, was held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Videos of the full program of events can be found on this website at Symposium Videos.

Continue reading Banking on Colorado Speaker Gwendolyn Hallsmith on the Tim Danahey Show

Public Banking in the Press: Public bank advocates gain advice from experts – A Report from the Banking On New Mexico Symposium

The following article, from the Santa Fe New Mexican, is a report from the Banking on New Mexico Symposium: Funding Local, Sustainable Economies held in Santa Fe on September 27, 2014. The format of Banking on Colorado: Bringing Our Money Home Conference, to be convened on January 31, 2015 is very similar to the Santa Fe symposium, with some of the same nationally know speakers.

From The Santa Fe New Mexican:

Public bank advocates gain advice from experts

Posted: Saturday, September 27, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 11:18 pm, Sat Sep 27, 2014.

By Ed Moreno
For The New Mexican

The path to establish a publicly owned bank will be scattered with legal and political obstacles, but scores of citizens, public officials and public finance experts gathered in Santa Fe on Saturday to make the case that it can, and should, be done.

The spirited gathering, organized by “We Are People Here,” brought local, national and international perspectives on why it is necessary to try to establish publicly owned and operated banks that serve local communities, and not the “plutocracy” that controls the nation’s wealth, the event’s organizer said.

“We are gathered here because we recognize to the degree greater than in any time in the last 40 years that we are on our own,” said Craig Barnes, the founder of the organization. He cited the concentration of wealth and power and said “the life’s blood is being sucked away from our local communities.”

“We’re not here to blame, we’re not here to complain. We’re here to get up off our knees, because it’s in our nature as Americans to be on our feet,” he said.

Continue reading Public Banking in the Press: Public bank advocates gain advice from experts – A Report from the Banking On New Mexico Symposium

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Executive Director, Public Banking Institute – Interviewed by Craig Barnes, Founder of Banking on New Mexico

Gwen Hallsmith, Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute, was interviewed this morning (Saturday, September 6, 2014) on Our Times with Craig Barnes. Gwen points out that actions to establish state and local municipal public banks are sweeping the country. She explains how interest income that normally goes to the Wall Street banks can be returned instead to serve local purposes in our own communities.

Gwen Hallsmith on Our Times with Craig Barnes, September 6, 2014

Gwen is one of the invited guests at the upcoming Banking On Colorado Conference that will be held at the First United Universalist Unitarian Church on Saturday, January 31, 2015. Other internationally renowned invitees are listed in the sidebar to the right. The event is being jointly sponsored by Be the Change — USA and the Public Banking Institute. Information about the Symposium can be found at Banking on Colorado: Bringing Our Money Home Conference. Registration for the Conference is $25 for the General Public and $10 for Students with ID. Please join Be the Change — USA and the Public Banking Institute at this exciting and informative event.

Money and Banking 101 — Issues and Solutions (Part 3 of 3)

From time-to-time we will post items that we are calling Money and Banking 101. These come from various sources around the world. This is the first in that series. The three videos presented here come from the Public Banking Institute and the Pennsylvania Public Bank Project. This is the last post of three in this series.

The third of these videos shows us an important part of the solution to the problems outlined in the first two videos–the formation of public banks. Our cities are not broke. They are struggling with onerous interest payments to Wall Street bankers who are nothing but middlemen. These interest payments impoverish your communities, while enriching Wall Street. This video shows how municipalities, counties, universities and states can significantly reduce their interest payments by creating their own public bank. This has already been done and proven, and could cut the costs of public projects by at least half.

Money and Banking 101 — Issues and Solutions (Part 2 of 3)

From time-to-time we will post items that we are calling Money and Banking 101. These come from various sources around the world. This is the first in that series. The three videos presented here come from the Public Banking Institute and the Pennsylvania Public Bank Project. This is the second post of three in the series.

The second video informs you of perils your deposits face in large global banks — as set by law. People think that money is safe in the big banks because the FDIC will protect the deposits. This assumption is not based on fact. This video will show official government documents that describe the plans for confiscating deposits when (not if), a big bank fails. Individual, as well as public funds from municipal, university, county deposits are at serious risk. Your taxpayer money will disappear in the next crisis! Public officials in charge of taxpayer funds need to be aware of the dangers here. The loss of taxpayer funds and the inability to meet payrolls and obligations will certainly prompt a response that will both immediate and forceful.

For more information about current law and how it jeopardizes your bank deposits, see Legal Framework for Big Banks Puts Depositors at Risk by Steve Seuser, Co-Director, DC Public Banking Center.

Part 3 — Tomorrow