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Public Banks for our Communities: Building Economic Democracy

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Protests erupted in cities around the country including in Denver, on Wednesday February 8th, in reaction to the government giving the green light to the Dakota Access Pipeline. The cities of Seattle and Davis have also just announced that they will divest public funds from banks that invest in DAPL and there are similar discussions happening in Boulder County.

Part of that nationwide divestment discussion is what are the alternatives for banking for cities and municipalities…one option is a public bank that is owned by the city, county, or state that founded it. That means that the money it makes by making loans comes back to the taxpayers, rather than to private banks and investors. Earl Staelin, chair of the Rocky Mountain Public Banking Institute says that public banks would be very unlikely to invest in pipelines like DAPL.

“I don’t think public banks would be inclined to invest in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Even the Bank of North Dakota which is the nation’s only large public bank, and it’s been around for 98 years, as far as we know it did not invest in the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I think for good reason because there are issues there. A public bank in Colorado probably wouldn’t even consider lending to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the banks that have done that are mostly large international banks.”

Staelin says that public banks also benefit communities in times of national economic crisis.

“Public banks lend counter cyclically and what that means is that when a nationwide recession happens like 2008, the Bank of North Dakota actually increased its lending, and that meant that there was no recession in North Dakota. North Dakota actually had a record year that year of income and the rest of the nation, the private banks, they tend to reduce their lending. They’re not thinking about the community, but they’re thinking about their own shareholders.”

There will be a forum on Saturday February 11th in Boulder on “Public Banks for our Communities: Building Economic Democracy!” One of the presenters will be Earl Staelin, Chair of the Rocky Mountain Public Banking Institute, one of the presenters.

Pre registration is required to attend the forum. Find out more here.