Two days ago, the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County took important next steps towards making their banking practices more responsible and transparent, and tomorrow, the Minneapolis City Council will move forward with this process, when they vote on a Responsible Banking Ordinance. If passed, this ordinance would call for greater accountability from banks with which the city deposits tax-payers’ dollars, and would make Minneapolis only the tenth American city to pass such legislation.
To learn more about the proposed ordinance and what it would mean for Minneapolis, please read the testimony of Mysnikol Miller below. Ms. Miller, the recently-elected Chair of JCA’s partner, the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition, testified at Tuesday’s public hearing with the Minneapolis City Council Ways and Means Committee, and explained her support of the ordinance, as well as the willingness of many Minneapolis residents to work with the city in its implementation.
If you can join us tomorrow, Friday, October 4 at 9:30 AM for the City Council’s vote, please RSVP right away to Gabe. And whether you can join us or not, please call your City Council member today and let them know that you support the Responsible Banking Ordinance! To find out which City Council member represents you, click here.
I want to start by thanking all of the council members and staff who have worked to get this ordinance in shape and on the agenda today. My name is Mysnikol Miller. I am a Northside resident and recently-elected Chair of the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition. NCRC was created in 2006 as a multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-class response to the imploding sub-prime lending crisis, which was, and continues to be disproportionately damaging in diverse neighborhoods of color. We believe that residents deserve fair access to housing and credit to build community wealth. We know what recession feels like, and we know what recovery needs to look like, in north Minneapolis and throughout the Twin Cities. We are reaching out and connecting our neighbors with resources and opportunities to avoid foreclosure, and protect and build our assets and community wealth.
I could sit and read story after story of families that we are working with in their struggle to get affordable loan modifications from banks against mighty odds OR some of the success stories that we have had in working with families to stay in their homes and protect that source of generational wealth- 50 plus successes and counting. But I want to focus on our vision for business as it should and could be. We want financial institutions that serve the City of Minneapolis to negotiate fair lending commitments that make business sense, and benefit our communities- fewer foreclosures, small business lending and resulting well-paying jobs.
As I continue to explain this issue to other leaders and stakeholders, I find myself coming back to this analogy: Shopping at Wal-Mart, because of their cheap prices does not allow our community to thrive. Likewise, doing business with banks that offer the city the lowest prices on banking services, with no strings attached is not healthy for our sustainable economic development. You, as stewards of our tax dollars, need to look at all of the costs of doing business (including the roughly $17,000 that each foreclosure costs our local government).
So I want to both celebrate this proposed ordinance, AND share some of the concerns that we have with it. Namely: the city needs to actually use this tool for accountability and transparency to incentivize banks to lend fairly AND community members need to be included and be given a say as we collectively reward banks with our hard-earned public funds.
We’ve already had language about fair lending within the city on the books for a few decades now, which has gone unused. So what will be different this time around? Some very important things will be different: This ordinance contains data requirements like loan modifications and small business lending and info about bank branch locations (which we need many more of on the Northside). All of this will be made available to the public. We’ll be able to look at these data by census tract and lay it over racial demographics. We are committed to looking at it. Our friends at the University are committed to supporting us as we look at it. But what will happen with the data and community concerns about fair lending when future city councils are voting on future banking contracts? What process will be in place at the city to support your staff in making sense of these data as they help you make the best decisions? The same can be said for the “2-year reinvestment plans” that financial institutions will need to submit. We are excited to use this as an accountability and transparency tool as well, but we want your assurance that you will take this seriously.
Finally, how will the community be involved and aware that all of this is happening? Today is the first time that the city’s banking decisions are seeing the light of day. This is step in the right direction. We’ve got about 30 people here at today’s hearing, because we know this is important for us. But this is not ideal for transparency and community participation. If we want our community leaders and more families who have experienced foreclosure involved in weighing in on these decisions, we need evening hearings, or opportunities for public comments that are truly transparent and accessible. Some cities even have community review panels to look at these decisions.
When it comes to community reinvestment, we need the city to facilitate a race to the top—rewarding the best reinvestment plans to create well paying jobs, affordable housing and quality education, and not more of business as usual.
All in all, NCRC and our allies support this ordinance and we look forward to working with the City Council and city staff, and certainly with the banks that you chose to improve lending in our community. Thanks.