Cities like San Francisco looked at ways to separate taxpayer money from fossil fuels but realized there was a limit. In two big ways, North Dakota both shined a light on a problem and offered a solution — one that eventually brought Jackie Fielder, an indigenous Defund DAPL organizer, to help form the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition and take it to the state with similar-minded folks in Los Angeles.
“The narrative shifted,” says Trinity Tran, co-founder of Public Bank LA, of battling Wells Fargo lobbyists while pushing for divestment. “It was pretty apparent that this is literally the people versus Wall Street. This is a permanent form of divestment.”
In 2017, then-Supervisor Malia Cohen was intrigued by the idea and established a public bank task force. Cohen’s status as a San Francisco moderate showed it wasn’t a pie-in-the-sky idea but something for governments to seriously consider.
“I know it’s sort of a culture shift to think about a public bank and what does that mean,” Fewer says. “I never thought San Francisco would be moving toward buying or acquiring PG&E assets. This is very similar to the path toward public banking.”
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