In the Fall of 2012 WeArePeopleHere! a grass-roots progressive political action collective which had formed in Santa Fe in 2011, decided to direct our energy toward the promotion of social justice through advances in economic justice.
The great recession of 2008 had left New Mexico’s already struggling working-class in even more dire straits and further eroded the economic underpinnings of our middle and professional class, not just in New Mexico, but across America. It was increasingly clear that the practices of the global banking Industry had precipitated the 2008 financial crises and just four years after massive Government bail-outs, America’s top ten banks remained intent to consolidate capital holdings, constrict available credit, and further centralize banking, making it more of a casino than ever. At the same time, locally and regionally owned banks, upon which America’s communities have long depended for construction, real estate and business loans to spur economic growth, continued to weaken and often fail under pressure from the global banking industry.
By 2012, a national movement was forming to answer the threat of global banking. The concept of creating community banks owned by local government entities – known as public banks – was fast gaining support. Because WeArePeopleHere! understands the importance of applying the principle “think globally, act locally,” as we explored local, positive actions to help our own community, the idea of a public bank was becoming a more powerful tool. A Public Bank, like the Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919, or Bank2, created in 2002 by the Chickasaw Nation, could accomplish much to return local control to local banking, and keep tens of millions of government dollars working here at home rather than being exported to global bank headquarters in California, New York and Minnesota.
We are fortunate that the Mayor of Santa Fe, Javier Gonzales, supports the idea of a Public Bank for Santa Fe. WeArePeopleHere!, in cooperation with the Public Banking Institute, organized the Banking On New Mexico Symposium: Funding Local, Sustainable Economies to help inform the public, officials and ourselves. Hosted by Mayor Gonzales and the City of Santa Fe the symposium took place on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Click to watch Symposium presenter videos.
With the success of this symposium, the Banking On New Mexico initiative became an independent arm of WeArePeopleHere!, operating under its 501(c)3 umbrella, and presses forward to help both our government officials and the public understand the important benefits of a Public Bank for Santa Fe, which could be the first municipal public bank in the nation.
Since the Symposium, Banking on New Mexico has continued its research of how a Public Bank for Santa Fe could be created and how it would serve our City — resulting both in a legal opinion supporting such a bank and a Five-Year Model demonstrating it’s profitability.
Our Genesis – “We are people here!”
In January, 2011, a hundred fifty souls began meeting at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe for a seven-week lecture series, “Democracy at the Crossroads and The Evolution of Civilization” delivered by Craig Barnes. Based on four books, these lectures would create the foundation for a new American story, one that more truthfully represents the reasons for our successes and our prospects for our future. Those books were Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level, Robert Reich’s Aftershock, and Barnes’ own Democracy at the Crossroads.
Through the lecture series, those attending discovered together that a recurring cry in the history of democracy and the struggle for human dignity was uttered in 1898 by Dr. Jose Rizal when, in his battle for independence in the Philippines, he cried out, “We are people here!”
And as the lecture attendees began to coalesce into a collective of like-minded social and economic justice activists, it seemed quite natural to take the name WeArePeopleHere!.
This name points to our Constitution. After all, we are the people identified in the preamble, “We the People” and today, we the people are once again on the move, searching for our true identity and future. Our true identity and true future are based neither on conquest, nor on greed; neither on isolation nor on dominance; but on working, alive in our diversity, united in our intention to revive democracy.
When the Collected Works lecture series by Craig Barnes drew to a close in March, 2011, its participants were ready to put principles of nonviolence, civility, dignity and compassion into practice. That fall, Craig returned from a sojourn in the Colorado mountains and shared with us his increasing certainty that confronting the global banking system at the local level, by advocating for the formation of a public bank, would be the most significant action we could take. Through Craig’s remarkable leadership we began to see clearly how we could most constructively focus our collective energies to assure that our Democracy, most assuredly at the Crossroads, would choose a wise and fruitful new direction.