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Is a Public Bank Right for Santa Fe?

The idea of a public bank for Santa Fe was first introduced by the grass roots organization WeArePeopleHere! seeking ways to strengthen the city’s economic health. Their initial exploration of the history of public banking, and research on “if and how” a public bank would serve Santa Fe resulted in their establishing Banking on New Mexico, which has led an extensive, in-depth examination of this significant public policy initiative.





City Officially Undertakes Research into Public Bank

Exploration of a public bank for Santa Fe began in fall 2012, when members of the grass roots collective WeArePeopleHere! began to study publicly owned banks in the US and abroad, establishing a relationship with the expert economists and bankers of the Public Banking Institute. Soon, city officials including Mayor Javier Gonzales and city councilors, joined the examination of whether a public bank was possible and would be of value to the city’s financial stability.

  • September, 2014 – City of Santa Fe, Public Banking Institute and WeArePeopleHere! host international symposium on public banking, resulting in the establishment of Banking on New Mexico and continued exploration of a public bank by the city.
  • January, 2015 – City Council contracts Building Solutions LLC (Principal, Katie Updike) to conduct Public Bank Feasibility Study
  • November, 23, 2015 – BoNM presented the mayor and city attorney a definitive legal opinion from David Buchholtz of the Rodey Law Firm that New Mexico Constitutional and Civil Law and financial regulations permit the chartering of a public bank.
  • January, 2016 – City of Santa Fe Feasibility Study reports a public bank is economically and operationally feasible
  • January, 2016 – BoNM releases its Five-Year Model, confirming a public bank can provide new income and interest savings for city
  • April, 2017 – City Council votes unanimously to establish the Public Bank Task Force proposed by Councilor Villarreal

Creating a Task Force to Answer Hard Questions

On April 16, 2017 a City Council Resolution set up a nine member Task Force “to determine the procedures, timelines and requirements that would be necessary to establish a chartered public bank and to make recommendations to the city council in order for the city council to make an informed decision about whether to establish a Public Bank for the City of Santa Fe.” The resolution further directs the Task Force to define the purpose of a chartered public bank, investigate how to best capitalize a public bank, and to recommend bank governance structures that will provide transparency and accountability to the public, with maintenance of a “high ethical standard.” The Task Force’s final report, due early in 2018, will include all the research needed to make an informed decision about submitting a New Mexico bank charter application for a Public Bank for Santa Fe.

On August 15, the Work of the City-Appointed Public Banking Task Force Began.

TASK FORCE PROCEEDINGS BELOW:
We are making available here, full audio recordings of the meetings with significant documents presented in meetings, and news of upcoming events and reports.

Public Banking Task Force Members’ Experience

June 28, 2017, city council unanimously approved Mayor Gonzales’ suggested appointees to the Task Force: finance and banking professionals, J. Wayne Miller, Randolph M. Hibben, and Darla Brewer; attorneys experienced in finance and banking, Kelly C. Huddleston and David P. Buchholtz; a professional in state and federal banking regulation, Judy A. Cormier; and two citizens at large, Robert A. Mang and Elaine Sullivan. The ninth member, Adam Johnson, is City Director of Finance. Task Force Chair David P. Buchholtz wrote the Rodey Law Firm’s formal opinion on the legality of a public bank for Santa Fe in 2015. READ MEMBER CREDENTIALS



Task Force Proceedings

Public Banking Task Force 2017 Meeting Schedule

All meetings are open to the public and held from: 4:30pm to 6:30pm at the City of Santa Fe Offices, 2nd floor, Market Station Building in the Roundhouse Conference Room, 500 Market Street (next to REI). 505.955.6581

Upcoming Task Force Meetings
  • Wednesday, December 20

#6 Task Force Meeting

A complete recording of the November 29 meeting (in 2 sections), is available here:

After roll call and approval of the minutes, New Business included the discussion of forming a subcommittee to gather information from “outside experts.” There was consensus that these should include local banking professionals and national public banking experts and that low-to-no cost participation should be an objective. A debriefing of the November 20 Public Forum noted that Task Force work to date was presented, including subcommittee progress reports, but the goal of receiving public input on the desired purpose for a public bank was not achieved. Members learned that the City Finance Committee didn’t include the planned Task Force report in its December 4 agenda. The Chair indicated wanting to clarify deliverables with the Finance Committee and advised that Task Force financial resources are exhausted. The remainder of Part 1 and most of Part 2 began discussions of what a public bank could provide Santa Fe, not currently being accomplished by existing banks or the City’s Finance Department.

Members suggested they needed a definition of purpose for the proposed public bank in order to hone a capitalization model. Some talked about obstacles inhibiting a public bank, but not much discussion yet on overcoming them or identifying benefits from a public bank that would make overcoming obstacles worth the cost or effort. It was asked if the city has specific funding and economic development needs that could be met by a public bank in ways that the current budget and programming don’t address.

It was suggested members revisit the city’s 2015 Feasibility Study, the June 5, 2017 City Finance Report and prepare to discuss the October 2017 Impact Network Santa Fe Report, Pollinating Prosperity – to identify possible needs that have not already been successfully met by City Finance. The Task Force discussed what and how to report to the council’s finance committee and deferred reporting until January 2018. There were two public comments. One stressed the importance of improved behavioral health services and a second said other public bank task forces around the country were focused on rising above obstacles to creating public banks, while the Santa Fe Task Force has identified obstacles, but not how to overcome them as of yet.

November 20 Public Bank Task Force Public Forum

On November 20, 2017, the Public Banking Task Force held a Forum, open to the public, at City Hall from 5:30 to 8:00pm. The purpose of the forum was two-fold; to bring to the general public a high level review of the work undertaken, issues being considered and obstacles identified by the Task Force half way through its six month deliberations – and to solicit the public’s views of how a Public Bank might best serve the people of Santa Fe.

The slides in this PDF presentation were prepared by each of the Task Force’s four sub-committees, Legal, Regulatory, Governance and Capitalization. Each subcommittee report identifies the community experts they interviewed and summarizes the central issues identified and explored.

#5 Task Force Meeting

A complete recording of the November 8 meeting (in 2 sections), is available here:

The call to order, then corrections and approval of the minutes open Part 1. Noting that the Task Force is halfway through its six-month assignment, facilitator Michele Lis suggested each member reflect on their impressions of the role a public bank might realistically play in the community and, based on their research, discuss how they see the Task Force’s work going forward. The conversation ranged over a variety of topics including the citing of significant obstacles to creating a public bank and consideration of how, and why, those obstacles might be overcome.

Chair David Buchholtz reviewed the allotted Task Force budget with members and the group explored how and when additional outside experts could be incorporated into their deliberations. The facilitator then explained the recommended structure for the upcoming November 20 Public Forum, which will include subcommittee reports to the public and a question and answer period. The bulk of the forum will be reserved for public input on what a public bank could achieve for the community. The Task Force then heard comments from the attending public, both supporting and opposing the concept of a public bank.

#4 Task Force Meeting

A complete recording of the October 18 meeting (in 2 sections), is available here:

The City Attorney’s office submitted a report from outside counsel, Attorneys Mark Chaiken and Richard Virtue, hired by the city to research regulatory issues related to public banking. Among those addressed were home rule power, the anti-donation clause, state law related to investment and deposit of public dollars, and benefits for the Task Force to further clarify expectations about the functions of a public bank.

Subcommittee reports were reviewed, plus helpful public input was offered about one of the presented bank governance models and the value added of a public bank to complement both current and future City Finance Department work.

Governance Subcommittee Report – October 18, 2017

Capitalization Subcommittee Report – October 18, 2017

#3 Task Force Meeting

A complete recording of the September 27 meeting (in 2 sections), is available here:

Task Force Chair David Buchholtz reported that the Santa Fe City Attorney has retained outside counsel to prepare a legal opinion for the city on a public bank. The Task Force then discussed the offer by Mr. David L. Dubrow with the Arent Fox Law Firm from NYC, to answer questions or provide expertise to the Task Force during its deliberation. A motion from Bob Mang was passed to graciously acknowledge Mr. Dubrow’s offer and to reconsider it in the future if needed. Discussion of the issues of timing, character and venue for the Task Force’s first public input meeting began, but was deferred until individual Task Force subcommittee reports were presented. Reports were made by several Task Force subcommittees including the Regulatory Committee, the Governance Committee and the Capitalization Committee.

The discussion of a public input meeting was resumed and resulted in a preliminary plan for such a meeting to take place sometime prior to the Task Force’s first report to the city council’s Finance Committee, possibly in mid-November, and the maximum possible promotion for such a meeting was urged. Under new business, it was recommended that the Task Force create a technical committee to specify the exact assets needed to launch a bank. In the public comment period, two attendees urged the task force to persist with the resolution’s focus on a chartered public bank.

Governance Subcommittee Report – September 27, 2017

Subcommittee Report – September 27, 2017

#2 Task Force Meeting

A complete recording of the September 6 meeting (in 2 sections), is available here:

The first section of this recording includes a presentation by Katie Updike reviewing the Public Bank Feasibility Study, which was commissioned by city council in January of 2016 and presented to the city council in January of 2017. It concludes with the beginning of City Finance Director Adam Johnson’s presentation of a report requested by the city council on city financial operations as part of the Task Force Resolution.

The second section of this recording includes the balance of Adam Johnson’s report on city finances and concludes with questions by members of the public attending the Task Force meeting.

The Finance Department’s report on Treasury Management and Investment Practices prepared at the instruction of city council for the Task Force

Subcommittee Report – September 6, 2017

#1 Task Force Meeting

The August 15th meeting (not recorded) was organizational in nature, reviewing the tasks to be accomplished, setting up a preliminary schedule of meetings and plans for reporting to city council.



Banking on New Mexico is the primary initiative of WeArePeopleHere!.
Our goal is to promote economic justice at the local level by putting the peoples’ money to work here at home, where it can be an engine for reducing debt and growing revenues for our community. Our Mission is to transform the current social and economic condition to one of a democratic society that respects and represents the well-being of all its people.





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Public Banking — Funding Local, Sustainable Economies