John Nichols, The Nation. Public Bank LA is one of the “five contests that could signal where we’re headed on climate change, criminal-justice reform, financial reform, net neutrality, and militarism.”
Los Angeles will vote on a charter amendment to remove barriers to developing a city-owned bank. The proposal represents an initial step in the complicated process of developing a municipal bank along the lines of the 99-year-old state-owned Bank of North Dakota. But make no mistake: LA’s first step is a big one—especially at a moment when communities and states across the country are exploring to alternatives to Wall Street. The grassroots Public Bank LA campaign—which has drawn support from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Council President Herb Wesson, major unions, Our Revolution, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters—has made a compelling case for a people’s bank. “Last year the City of Los Angeles paid $170 million in banking fees and $1.1 billion in interest to big banks and investors. Banks have leveraged our tax dollars to finance harmful industries including private prisons, fossil fuel extraction, and weapons manufacturing. In 2017, the City of Los Angeles divested its funds from Wells Fargo, which was fined billions of dollars for creating illegal customer accounts, has a history of discriminating against Latino and African-American home buyers, and finances industries harmful to Angelenos. Local community banks are too small to manage the city’s funds, but Wall Street is not the only alternative,” the group reminds voters. “Banking as a public utility is a proven model worldwide. Public banks keep money local and cut costs by eliminating middlemen, shareholders and high-paid executives.”
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