Press Room & Media


January 2011

In the darkest hours of the economic downturn that had begun in 2008, one hundred fifty people began meeting at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe, to attend a seven-week lecture series entitled “Democracy at the Crossroads and The Evolution of Civilization” delivered by journalist, author and social commentator Craig Barnes.  

Craig based his talks on four books: Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level, Robert Reich’s Aftershock, and his own Democracy at the Crossroads.

Craig’s lectures offered the framework for a new American story; one more truthfully portraying the reasons for our successes and our prospects; and one pointing the way to putting “the civil back into civilization.”

As the lectures progressed, attendees encountered a recurring theme in the struggle for democracy and human dignity, first formally recorded in 1898 when Dr. Jose Rizal, a leader in the battle for Philippine independence, cried out: “We are people here!”

The phrase “we are people here” animated revolutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and the Women’s Rights and Civil Rights Movements in the 20th Century. By the 21st Century, “We are people here” captured the depth of a fast-growing fracture between citizens and the globalized mega-institutions threatening their individualism and their independence.

When Craig Barnes’ lecture series concluded in March, 2011, lecture attendees recognized that they were not just an “audience” but a community of shared values, (nonviolence, civility, integrity and compassion). Calling their collective We Are People Here!, they continued to meet and examine the fundamental causes of the erosion of our democracy and society and to seek ways that erosion could be reversed. And Craig Barnes continued to lead this grassroots initiative.

Fall of 2012

Through the course of their conversations, participants in WeArePeopleHere! grew to understand that the behavior of “Too Big To Fail” Global Banks contributed not just to the financial crisis beginning in 2008. That behavior was also accelerating the transfer of money, and with it local power, from the working poor and middle classes to a shrinking number of super-rich individuals and the enterprises they control. Locally-owned banks, locally-owned businesses, and local political power and independence were fast disappearing.

WeArePeopleHere!, applying the principle “think globally, act locally”, agreed to join forces with the emerging national public banking movement. Several Cities and States were already working to show how local control and local public ownership of a bank can stabilize, strengthen and grow a community’s economy. WeArePeopleHere! created an initiative, Banking on New Mexico, to research that opportunity here at home.

Early 2013

During the January 2013 State Legislative session, through Banking on New Mexico (BoNM), WeArePeopleHere! actively supported New Mexico State Representative, Brian Egolf’s legislative proposal to establish a New Mexico State Bank. Egolf’s proposal was similar to the highly successful public bank, the Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919 to break eastern banks’ stranglehold on North Dakota’s agricultural economy. Today, the Bank of North Dakota is still owned by the people of North Dakota and has, for a century, contributed to that state’s strong and growing economy. Aggressive lobbying helped defeat Representative Egolf’s legislation and made it clear that if New Mexico is to have a public bank, we would have to start at the local municipal level.

Late Winter 2013 – Spring 2013

WeArePeopleHere! led by Craig Barnes, conversed with mayoral candidate Javier Gonzales about what a public bank could mean to Santa Fe. The candidate began to include the idea that our City should explore a public bank in descriptions of his vision for the future of Santa Fe.

June 2014 

Following Mayor Gonzales’ inauguration, WeArePeopleHere! and the national organization, Public Banking Institute, briefed the Mayor, members of the City Council and civic leaders, about public banking, how a public bank could be established and what it could mean to the City. Following that meeting, Mayor Gonzales announced he wanted the city to issue a request for qualifications to conduct a feasibility study.

August 2014

The City of Santa Fe formally called for expert proposals to conduct a study on the feasibility of a public bank for Santa Fe.

September 2014

WeArePeopleHere!, in cooperation with the Public Banking Institute, conducted a national symposium in Santa Fe, the Banking on New Mexico Symposium: Funding Local, Sustainable Economies, hosted by Mayor Gonzales and the City of Santa Fe on Saturday, September 27. National and international symposium speakers included: economist, professor and author, Richard Wolff; author and President Emeritus of the Public Banking Institute, Ellen Hodgson Brown; German banker, Thomas Keidel, Director, Financial Market Relations, German Savings Banks Association; author and Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute, Gwendolyn Hallsmith; and Mike Krauss, Chairman, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Public Bank Project. More than a dozen New Mexico officials also spoke at the Symposium.

October 2014

With the success of the symposium, BoNM became the primary initiative of WeArePeopleHere!, operating under its 501(c)3 umbrella.

January 2015

The Santa Fe City Council granted Building Solutions LLC (Principal, Katie Updike), working with the Arrowhead Center at NMSU, a contract to investigate the business, financial and economic feasibility of a public bank in Santa Fe.

June 22, 2015

Building Solutions LLC principal Katie Updike presented a draft of the Phase I consensus document developed through research, meetings with City officials and staff, BoNM and many financial and other experts.

July 8, 2015

Building Solutions LLC principal Katie Updike presented to the City Council an update on the content and structure of her feasibility study on a public bank for Santa Fe and indicated The Arrowhead Center would receive her work for further economic analysis in the early Fall of this year.

November 7, 2015 

Public Bank for Central New Mexico in Albuquerque, conducts a half-day symposium launching the conversation of a public bank for Albuquerque.

November, 23, 2015

BONM presents the Mayor and City Attorney a definitive legal opinion from David Buchholz of the Rodey Law Firm, among New Mexico’s oldest and most respected firms, that New Mexico Constitutional and Civil Law and financial regulations permit the chartering of a public bank.

January 13, 2016

The City of Santa Fe released its Public Bank Feasibility Study, which found that the City’s Administration should continue to pursue its initiative to create a public bank.

January 22, 2016 

BoNM officially released its Five-Year Model Supporting a Public Bank for Santa Fe, which the grassroots organization had in development for the past several months. With the help of the City Finance Department, BoNM’s Brass Tacks Team identified loans and bonds available for refinancing during a five-year proposed start-up period.

October 26, 2016

Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal introduced a resolution to establish a task force to determine the “next and final steps to determine whether to establish a Public Bank for the City of Santa Fe.” City Councilors Joe Maestas and Carmichael Dominguez (who is also chair of the Governing Body’s Finance Committee) joined the resolution as cosponsors at the time of its introduction.

April 27, 2017

Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution to establish a Public Bank Task Force to explore the costs, risks, and implications of creating a chartered public bank, managed by professional bankers, and independent of city politics.

June 28, 2017

Santa Fe City Council approved the Mayor’s nominations for seats on the Public Bank Task Force as Santa Fe Finance Department Director Adam Johnson; three finance and banking professionals, J. Wayne Miller, Randolph M. Hibben, and Darla Brewer; two attorneys experienced in finance and banking, Kelly C. Huddleston and David P. Buchholtz; one professional in state and federal banking regulation, Judy A. Cormier and two citizens at large, Robert A. Mang and Elaine Sullivan.

August 15, 2017

The Public Bank Task Force held first of nine semi-monthly public meetings concluding on February 7, 2018.

November 20, 2017

The Santa Fe Public Bank Task Force held a public forum asking attendees to consider 4 questions:

  • What community needs could a public bank uniquely address?
  • What might change or transform in Santa Fe as a result of establishing a public bank here?
  • How could a public bank enhance or enable existing entities (community banks, credit unions, city staff, etc.), to be more effective in the pursuit of a thriving local economy that benefits all of our residents?
  • What would be the compelling value added of this financial institution?

May 9, 2018

The Public Bank Task Force submitted its Final Report to the Santa Fe City Council advising that the City of Santa Fe’s financial infrastructure is not large enough to create a city-owned public bank, but that the benefits of public banking are sufficient to encourage the City to support consideration of a statewide public bank. The Task Force also recommended:

  1. That the City of Santa Fe Finance Department continue to develop its financial, strategic and operating improvements in furtherance of the recommendations of the 2016 Feasibility Study.
  2. That, instead of a stand-alone Santa Fe Public Bank, the Governing Body move forward, in participation with appropriate legislative and executive officials at the State level, to investigate and, if deemed appropriate, develop a statewide public bank in which Santa Fe would participate.
  3. That the Governing Body establish a standing committee to evaluate, enhance and coordinate a collaborative financial network in Santa Fe for the purpose of leveraging public, private and philanthropic capital toward effectively addressing our community’s critical needs. The committee would be composed of leaders from the philanthropic and private financial sectors and representatives from the City Council’s Finance Committee, with participation from the City’s Economic Development and Finance Departments in an ex officio capacity. In addition, the committee would provide a Public Communication Forum to the committee regarding public needs.

October, 2018

Santa Fe City Council passed a Resolution to support NM Legislature’s consideration of a State-owned public bank.

December, 2018

After months of conversations, Banking on New Mexico and Public Banking of Central New Mexico joined forces forming a statewide non-profit: Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity

January, 2019

Senate Memorial 5 sponsored by Senator Jeff Steinborn was introduced calling for a Feasibility Study regarding the establishment of a New Mexico Public Bank. It was endorsed Senator Gerald Ortiz y Piño, but the legislature adjourned before the bill could be acted upon.

February, 2019

House Memorial 41, co-sponsored by State Representatives Matthew McQueen, Linda Trujillo, Joanne Ferrary, and Dayan Hochman-Vigil, was introduced calling for research into how a state-owned public bank could benefit the people of New Mexico in variety of ways including: reduced bonding expenses; lower cost funding for infrastructure projects, economic development and improved educational facilities; and increased access to capital for small business and farmers. The Legislature adjourned before the bill could be acted upon.


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“I had the good fortune to work on this initiative before Bernie kidnapped all my time. This is one of those no-brainer initiatives that only the 1% could oppose. It has the potential to save the state millions of dollars by vastly reducing the cost of its bonds to improve infrastructure funding. in a public bank, our state funds can be used to build our local economy and our local infrastructure.”
– Paul Gibson
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