31 year-old Amara Enyia holds a J.D. and PhD, has served as a lawyer, a public policy fellow in the Chicago city government, a municipal development consultant, and is currently executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce on Chicago's West Side. And she's not only a supporter of public banking, but is making public banks a foundation of her energetic campaign to be the next Mayor of Chicago.
Anyia, who has made quite a splash across Chicago as a community-builder with integrity and an audacious campaign, was recently named one of Jet Magazine's "40 under 40," "Black activists [who] are killing the game," successful and innovative people who have the potential to change politics and political culture.
"Chicago is at a crossroads," her campaign video begins, between the status quo and "stronger public policy foundations." "[B]alanced, equitable development" and "fiscally responsible government" means financial policies that work. For this candidate, public banking is one of those policies. Her campaign's press release on public banking in Chicago reads:
Moving Chicago in the right direction requires out-of-the-box thinking about what it takes to grow the economy. Dr. Amara Enyia downloadis proposing a public bank for Chicago because Chicago needs to be able to finance its major infrastructure projects, provide access to capital for small businesses and homeowners, and generate revenue. “Establishing a public bank in Chicago would make us a national leader pursuing the boldest financial reforms,” she said.” Chicago’s economy remains in the clutches of private banks and prioritizes the needs of private banks over the needs of the City. This depletes our treasury and keeps our economy from improving and creating jobs,” said Enyia.
Chicago has one billion dollars in debt to the big banks which means taxpayer dollars leave the city. A public bank, modeled after the Bank of North Dakota, would allow us to invest in large and small scale projects, that will stimulate investment.
“Our proposal will support the local economy by making loans to help small businesses, homeowners and landlords, and fund infrastructure, while the publicbank would benefit from revenue generated through the bank” said Enyia. “Being able to extend lines of credit to small business owners beyond what traditional banks have been able to do, allows communities that have been struggling with access to capital to grow.” The city would be able to more effectively address infrastructure needs without the high interest rates and finance fees the city now pays to borrow from other financial institutions.
A public bank could also address lending disparities that affect housing quality and access. A report issued by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University found that while the multi-family loan market is dominated by bigger loans targeted to wealthy communities, credit is difficult to obtain for apartment building owners in low-income neighborhoods. Lack of access to finance means landlords struggle to pay for projects like roof repairs and this puts properties and neighborhoods at risk of deterioration.
“A public bank could offer low-interest loans to homeowners and landlords. This would decrease the poor conditions in many housing developments that cater to low-income residents. It also ensures that homeowners are able to care for their homes, which can stabilize and improve property values,” added Enyia.
As mayor, Dr. Enyia’s economic agenda seeks to promote balanced growth across the entire city and strengthen Chicago’s economy by ensuring that money circulates within the city for the benefit of the public. Moving Chicago forward requires bold thinking under new leadership.