With San Francisco and Los Angeles both working on filing bank plans under the new bill, look for these cities to join North Dakota and American Samoa, as well as dozens of other countries where public banks are established, in being able to provide non-profit, transparent, accountable and affordable finances for public purposes—putting public money to work for the common good, rather than Wall Street profits.
Alliance Co-chair Nancy Price was one of dozens of CA Public Banking Alliance campaigners who met with Assembly and Senate committee members in the spring and early summer to help shepherd the bill through several committee hearings and votes, and to help fend off unfriendly amendments. “The combined efforts of Coalition members and endorsers of this bill, as well as calls to the legislature and committee members and in-district visits led to success,” she said. “And this California win will give a huge push to Alliance sponsored campaigns” for public banks, currently underway in Massachusetts and Portland OR.
Alliance national campaigns coordinator Barbara Clancy told the committee that the bank builds on recent advocacy, including a push to divest Boston pension funds from fossil fuels and corporations involved in the prison industry, and to move $250 million of the state’s pension’s operating funds to impact investments and local banks. “We have the need, expertise and values to be one of the first states to successfully establish a public bank… a model of public finance which is flexible, cost-effective, and rooted in the community-minded values of voters,” she said.
Still, thousands of bills are filed in the Massachusetts legislature every session, and most die in committee. To make the Massachusetts plan a reality, Barbara said, “we should really look to California—not just how they built a coalition but their determination to stick with this issue over the long haul.” She pointed out that the Los Angeles group was not deterred by losing a city-wide ballot question on public banking, instead using the vote as an opportunity for more outreach and education.
Massachusetts Public Banking volunteers recently tabled at the state Democratic Party Convention, and they aim to follow up with contacts made there and with other grassroots, housing, labor, and other groups to help bolster advocacy. A recent article in support of a Massachusetts public bank also has helped raise the profile of the campaign.
In Oregon, Alliance co-chair David Delk is an organizer for the Oregon Public Banking Alliance, which is working on legislation that would remove some state roadblocks for public bank creation. “We’re optimistic that the passage of the California law will kick our current efforts into higher gear,” he said. “It certainly helps with talking points to be able to say there is a second state permitting the creation of public banks in America.”