Politics
12:18 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

With ‘Occupy’ Inspired Item, City May Shift Banking to Credit Unions, Local Banks

The City of Austin’s banking practices may soon get a thorough scrubbing with a resolution inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

An item before the Austin City Council this Thursday would examine the city’s banking practices, assess the impact of dissolving arrangements with large financial institutions and examine contracting with local credit unions and banks instead.

It would also direct the City Manager “to review the city’s current banking policies and make recommendations on changes to give preference to banks that support community reinvestment goals, such as the stabilization of the housing market, provision of loans to local homeowners and businesses, establishment of local branches in low-income communities, and opportunities for local employment.”

The item is sponsored by council member Laura Morrison. She tells KUT News a large part of the resolution is simply fact-finding.

"Apparently we do an RFP [request for proposals] for financial services every five years,” she says. “We want to know where we are now, what options we might have on the next go around for doing our banking with local or regional financial institutions.” Morrison says it’s her understanding the next opportunity to revise city financial contracts “might be pretty soon.”

“You know there’s been a lot of really important dialog over the past six to ten months about the whole issue of banking and choices that we’re making personally when we choose our banks and what we're supporting,” Morrison continues. “So, it has been raised as a question about where the city sits in all of this. And I think it’s entirely appropriate for the City to take a look at it.”

Asked if the initiative is an outgrowth of concerns raised by Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Austin (which has organized local customer divestments from large banks to credit unions), Morrison says yes. “It’s specifically something that we’ve spoken about with some of the Occupy Austin folks, but also, clearly something that was raised more generally with the whole Occupy Wall Street movement and the conversation there.”

“The city has some demanding requirements for financial transactions and all,” Morrison notes, “so that’s one of the challenges I think that we’re gonna have, to see if we can meet those with local or regional financial institutions.”

The resolution is co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and council member Kathie Tovo, and appears on the agenda for council’s meeting this Thursday, March 1.