Denver, CO – Today, the newly formed Colorado Public Banking Coalition hosted its first event – a Colorado Public Banking Town Hall at 12 noon. Ellen Brown, chair of the Public Banking Institute and author of The Public Bank Solution and Web of Debt, spoke alongside local public banking experts and community leaders. Representatives of various Colorado communities and sectors shared testimony about why public banking is needed now during an economic and health care crisis, and how public banking can be part of a rapid economic recovery locally and make us more resilient in future crises.
Author Ellen Brown, spoke about why public banking is an essential part of creating healthier, more resilient local economies that align with local values.
“Banks can now borrow at 0.25% from the Federal Reserve, but they are not passing those low rates on to the people and their local communities,” said Brown. “Banking needs to be a public utility. Public banks will cut out expensive middlemen and direct affordable credit where it is most needed.”
Earl Staelin from Rocky Mountain Public Banking Institute joined Brown in a discussion about public banking and how it can help during crises and build resilience.
“The Town Hall brought out the enormous potential, indeed necessity, of public banks to help solve both our COVID-19 health crisis and the resulting huge financial crisis, without raising taxes,” said Staelin. “Colorado can take advantage of the new Federal Reserve rules that make it significantly easier to establish public banks, make them financially profitable, and render them effective to solve our most serious problems, including preventing the bankruptcy of our states, cities, and counties that is likely to occur due to the lack of appropriate or adequate action by Congress.”
Colorado State Representative Jonathan Singer shared information about legislation to enable more banking options in Colorado that he plans to introduce when the Legislative session re-opens.
“This bill creates an option for local governments to use banking institutions other than the commercial FDIC-insured banks and will allow for the creation of public banks at the state and public level,” said Singer. “Our constituents are struggling with their healthcare, their housing, their job or maybe all three at once, and when you’re in a crisis you don’t always look at the big picture. It’s our job as leaders to look at the things that created this crisis and made it worse… I want you to reach out to your lawmakers and tell them you want to see new finance options at the local and state level.”
Several community leaders also expressed their support for the legislation and for public banking in Colorado, including Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver and Aurora City Council member Juan Marcano.
“I think you would find the City Council very supportive of starting with a state public bank… and Boulder is a Home Rule City, so we would certainly think about the possibility of creating our own public bank,” said Sam Weaver, Mayor of the City of Boulder. “One of the goals the city has is a lot more renewable energy on our grid, and project finance for that is always of interest and having a public bank… would allow funding for such projects more readily.” Mayor Weaver also expressed interest in the ability of public banking to help the city address affordable housing issues and noted that the network of public banks in Germany, which has one of the strongest economies in Europe, allowed the country to invest heavily in renewable energy.
Aurora City Council Member Marcano said, “Public banking is an emancipatory idea that allows communities to take their destinies into their own hands. Whether the issue is housing, infrastructure maintenance, small business loans, or technological investments, public banking allows communities to invest in themselves and get more bang for their buck without raising taxes.”
Representatives from Colorado’s labor, faith, health, housing and environmental sectors spoke about how public banking addresses so many intersectional issues in our state and how public banking can keep taxpayer dollars local, working for our communities.
“State Employees firmly believe it’s time for a new economy based on Public banking, a model that has the best interest of Colorado citizens as its’ core mission,” said Dragan Mejic, Vice-President of CD3 Colorado WINS State employee’s union and a state employee for 18 years.
“Public banks may be the closest thing to a “no brainer” for state budget pressures, COVID response, the energy transition, affordable housing and more – whatever communities want to invest in, at super-low rates,” said Marie Venner, a faith community leader with Colorado Call to Action, Catholic Network and Together Colorado. “Public banks support communities and community banks, by leveraging the deposits by 10x or more that states must keep on hand for payroll and agencies, getting that money back out into the community, for locally owned businesses, local and agency projects, for communities to invest in their future. This approach, which takes the common good into account and orients resources that direction, is great! It supports the dignity of all, the ability for all to live.”
“Environmental organizations are focused on banks and stopping the money pipeline that’s fueling fossil fuel infrastructure and projects and funding the fossil fuel industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars every year,” said Deborah McNamara, Campaign Coordinator for 350 Colorado. “A lot of people don’t realize that our public money through pension funds and the banks our communities use are funding the climate crisis and the Wall St. Banks are leading this problem. In fact, 33 of the Wall St. banks funnelled $1.9T into fossil fuel projects since 2016. Since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, JPMorgan Chase alone has invested $196B into fossil fuel projects and infrastructure. Our communities need more options to keep taxpayer dollars local, working in line with our values for our communities.”
Over 30 local organizations and community leaders have signed onto a letter of support expressing support for banking options for Colorado’s cities and counties.