Groundswell of interest in Public Banks has advocates pondering how they could transform their cities


SF Supervisor Malia Cohen, photo courtesy Next City


An inspiring new article in Next City takes the pulse of key San Franciscans as they consider starting a Public Bank. The article mentions PBI and delves deeply into the benefits the city could gain. Ellen Brown and Walt McRee are among those quoted.

It includes a particularly good analysis on governance and how the city is already making the same sort of loans the Public Bank would make without running into political issues. A Public Bank would simply expand the city’s ability to make the types of loans it is already making. Supervisor Malia Cohen wants to get the Public Bank incorporated by the end of this year. 

Author Oscar Perry Abello writes:

“As [Supervisor Maria] Cohen and others see it, modeling a city-owned bank after the Bank of North Dakota would go beyond protecting public dollars from being used in ways that contradict public values and priorities — it could also help utilize those dollars as a powerful tool to advance those values and priorities."

Supervisor Malia Cohen:

“The key thing I took away from the [community responsive banking] report was this is doable. There’s a lot of moving parts in our financial banking and payroll system, but San Francisco has a lot of talent, and the legal framework already exists.

It’s my goal to have a thoughtful directive from the task force by the summertime, so we can move forward in the fall to introduce legislation to get this incorporated by the end of this year.”

Abello continues: 

"Predominantly rural North Dakota may seem an unlikely place for cities to look for a solution, but there are some clear parallels between the Bank of North Dakota’s origins and the circumstances facing cities today. When the bank was founded in 1919, North Dakota farmers had been frustrated with the lending terms given to them by banks based in Minneapolis and Chicago, which they felt were too onerous and even predatory.

In today’s San Francisco, Cohen sees affordable housing developers struggling to access loans at affordable interest rates that would allow them to build or preserve more affordable housing, and at deeper levels of affordability. She also sees small businesses — both startups and well-established enterprises — struggling to get access to non-predatory credit that would enable them to grow and hire more employees."

[Read the full article]

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