Category: Public Banking News

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A Banker’s Case for Public Banking

NONPROFIT QUARTERLY – Today, more public banks are being launched and planned. For example, Public Bank Los Angeles (PBLA) was established as a socially and environmentally responsible municipal bank for the City of Los Angeles. PBLA also helped pass AB 1177, the California Public Banking Option Act, known as CalAccount, under which free and penalty-free debit cards will be offered to all Californians, providing basic financial services such as check cashing, deposits, and bill paying.

PBLA states that its goal is “to provide affordable financial services and promote economic growth in California by providing greater access to financial services for Californians, particularly unbanked and underbanked populations.” In addition, PBLA and the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA) advised Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on the 2023 reintroduction of the Public Banking Act, a federal bill that aims to facilitate the establishment of public banks by states and local governments.

A Banker’s Case for Public Banking

For over 20 years, I have explored how to change financial systems in the United States to promote greater equity and inclusion. This has led me to the conclusion that if we want to close the racial wealth gap, we need to get serious about public banking.

Public banks, owned by state and local governments, are driven by a community-serving mission, Currently, financial systems favor White-owned firms and disfavor firms that are owned by people of color, limiting the wealth-building opportunities available to them. Public banking could help change these dynamics.

Why a Banker Became a Public Banking Advocate

How did I come to adopt this position? If you had asked me 20 years ago about public finance, I doubt I could have told you what a public bank was. My journey began far from the financial world. Eventually, I moved from the nonprofit sector to corporate America, working with business leaders who wanted to be more inclusive, and started a business accelerator helping over 30 Black entrepreneurs start businesses, many of which are still thriving over a decade later.

Working with private business, I decided to follow the power and money, and started a consultancy working with financial institutions to change systems within banking. After working with many banks over the years, Berkshire Bank brought me into the bank as a C-suite executive and regional president. This experience helped shape how I understand our economy and why it’s so important for the mainstream banking industry to flow more responsible capital to people of color.

How Finance Currently Reproduces the Racial Wealth Gap

The racial wealth gap is as entrenched as ever—a chasm of earnings power, savings, and investment that threatens to leave behind another generation of Black and Latinx households. According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors staff, the average household of color earns about half as much as the average White household and holds only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth. An index known as the Gini coefficient—ranging from 0 (representing perfect equality) to 1 (total inequality)—shows a stark contrast.

Continue reading on NonProfit Quarterly.

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How advocates are building support for a public bank in Washington State

From Washington State to California, public banking is full steam ahead in 2024! “In 2023, more than three-quarters of U.S. states have a group focused on public banking or a candidate with public banking as part of their platform…The Los Angeles City Council last year voted to fund a study on the feasibility of a public bank, and city supervisors in San Francisco approved a plan to start the process of establishing a municipal bank. This year, Philadelphia’s new mayor is expected to choose board members for the country’s first municipal public bank, which the city council voted to establish in 2022.”

Read the article in American Banker.

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Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Public Banking Act

Thanks to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all our coalition partners across the country that helped craft this transformative bill! For too long, Wall Street has failed to meet the moment, pursuing profits over people’s needs. This allows us to finally build a sustainable alternative.

In California, we passed the CA Public Banking Act, AB 857, which established a regulatory structure to legalize and guide the efforts of municipalities and regions throughout the state. The federal Public Banking Act will build on and expand that framework nationally to aid efforts across the nation.

WASHINGTON D.C.  Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) introduced the Public Banking Act of 2023, which facilitates the creation of state and local public banks. The bill establishes a robust federal regulatory framework, grant programs, and financial infrastructure to promote public banks and ensure their success. The bill also mandates minimum standards for public banks relating to environmental justice, tenant protections, labor standards, democratic governance, and consumer data privacy.

“Wall Street-run banks are failing to serve many of my residents who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “It’s long past time to open doors for people who have been systematically shut out. We must provide a better option for those grappling with the costs of simply trying to participate in an economy that has been rigged against them with discriminatory and predatory practices. We need a financial system that is democratically accountable and puts the livelihoods of our residents ahead of private profits.”

“The Public Banking Act provides much needed federal recognition and guidance for public banks,” said Trinity Tran, Lead Organizer for the California Public Banking Alliance. “Public banking is key to unlocking economic transformation for communities often overlooked or exploited by our current financial system, charting a path for cities and states to build a sustainable future that prioritizes environmental justice, tenant protections, democratic governance, and strong labor and workers’ rights.”

Read the press release:

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San Francisco Green-Lights Nation’s First Public Bank

KQED – “Interest in a statewide public banking option is also bubbling. In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1177 into law, which called on the state to analyze what a statewide public option for personal financial services could entail. That analysis is due by July 1, 2024.”

Read: San Francisco Green-Lights Nation’s First Public Bank

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SF supes vote unanimously for first municipal bank in nation

KRON4 – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create the first municipal bank in the nation! The plans include a business & governance plan for a publicly-owned municipal financial corporation and then converting it into the San Francisco public bank.

Read SF supes vote unanimously for first municipal bank in nation.

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Proposed S.F. public bank gets first review by supervisors

The San Francisco Chronicle discusses the proposal to create the nation’s first municipal public bank in San Francisco to address the city’s housing crisis and economic challenges. Modeled after the Bank of North Dakota, the plan aims to fund housing projects for low- and middle-wage workers, support small business recovery, and promote a carbon-neutral future. The bank would partner with private banks rather than compete with them, generating funds that enable community banks to provide financing at lower interest rates. The benefits of a public bank include facilitating affordable housing and jump-starting small businesses. The article quotes Sylvia Chi, the Alliance’s Legislative Co-Director and member of the San Francisco Public Banking Working Group: “If we’re going to redevelop the Westfield Mall into something, they should use green building techniques and make sure it’s as efficient and sustainable as possible,” Chi said.” Although the bank’s cash reserves would be modest at first, it could grow to channel significant funds into community initiatives over the next decade. The proposal has been sent to the Board of Supervisors for examination and approval, and it aligns with California’s authorization for cities to explore public banking. The Bank of North Dakota’s success and impact on various sectors provide insights into how a public bank could benefit San Francisco.

Read the article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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After years of ups and downs, Los Angeles moves forward on creation of a public bank.

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to fund the first phase of a public bank that would empower communities and support projects driven by public interest. A public bank would be more beneficial than private banks in serving Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities, small businesses, green energy initiatives, and affordable housing projects. To tackle our housing crisis, the LA public bank could build or preserve over 17,000 affordable housing units within 10 years, assist with construction loans, convert housing into affordable stock, provide mortgage assistance, and prevent the conversion of affordable housing into upscale homes. Low-income communities of color stand to benefit greatly from a public bank, as it would offer lower-cost debt, free banking, alternative credit scoring methods, and help employees purchase small businesses. It’s a chance to create targeted wealth and job stability for neglected communities. The LA public bank would be funded by deposits from the city, pension funds, and green mutual funds, bypassing expensive Wall Street middlemen. This means more direct access to funds for local government projects. The LA Times interviews key figures, discussing the far-reaching impact of the public bank on communities across Los Angeles, including CPBA and PBLA co-founder Trinity Tran.

Read the coverage in the LA Times.

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Public Banking Efforts Are Gaining Momentum And Clarity In California

California cities, from Los Angeles to San Francisco to the East Bay, are moving full steam ahead on public banking! LA recently approved funding for Phase 1 to plan and implement Public Bank Los Angeles, SF Public Bank is working to fund a Municipal Finance Corporation that will scale up to a public bank, and Public Bank East Bay is making moves on a business plan for a regional public bank. California leads the way in the movement to reclaim public funds from Wall Street banks and reinvest them in local communities.

Read the article on Next City.

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Why Banking for the Public Good Is No Pipe Dream

The California Public Banking Alliance and Public Bank East Bay organizer Susan Harman started a women’s public banking group with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to encourage women activists across the country to get involved in the public banking movement and promote the idea of a more equitable and locally-focused banking system that serve the needs of the community, prioritizing accessibility, transparency, and sustainability.

Read in Ms Magazine: Why Banking for the Public Good is no Pipe Dream.

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Bank Bailouts, Again! Time to get the SF Public Bank Up and Running

The Alliance’s Rick Girling penned an op-ed discussing the banking system’s shortcomings following Silicon Valley and Signature Banks’ collapse. Advocates propose public banks to offer fair services and break the cycle of bank failures and bailouts.

Read the article on El Tecolote
Artwork: Mural Doctor

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