Baltimore City Hall

Baltimore City Hall. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

A new report issued this month by the Abell Foundation concludes that public banking is “a formula that has worked and can work … for Baltimore.”

Sean H. Vanatta, author of the study, is a visiting assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. His in-depth report examines the current state of market failure and disinvestment in Baltimore by Wall Street banks, and illuminates the nationwide movement to “invigorate finance with public purpose,” highlighting PBI’s work.

Vanatta writes:

“Across the city, large commercial banks are closing branches, shutting down critical points of financial access for individuals and small businesses and contributing to ongoing patterns of financial exclusion in the city’s marginalized communities. Financialization has repackaged redlining. … In Baltimore, two banks, headquartered outside the state of Maryland, control half of the local banking market. … In Baltimore County, [post-2010] closings amounted to 25 percent of bank branches. The closings tended to occur in lower-income and non-white neighborhoods.”

The study describes the successful global models of public banking and distinguishes what Vanatta labels a government-led approach to public banking — one that focuses on infrastructure financing — from a community-led approach that puts social and economic justice at the center.

[Read the full report]