City of Portland Moves Closer to Divestment

From Ron Williams, Executive Director, Oregon Action

Alliance for a Just Society affiliate Oregon Action testified in front of the Portland City Council on May 9th in support of a local ordinance that would divest money out of Wells Fargo and into local community banks and credit unions. The Responsible Banking Resolution was introduced by Mayor Sam Adams amid growing public pressure on the city, including a mobilization campaign by Oregon Action, to ensure that tax dollars are being invested into the local economy.

Portland currently holds substantial money on deposit in multinational banks. Instead of reinvesting our tax dollars into the struggling economy, Wells Fargo has invested in private prisons and predatory payday lenders, and has been exposed as one the worst corporate tax dodgers in the country. Instead of finding ways to help homeowners keep their homes, they have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.


On the other hand, as this resolution points out, local banks and credit unions are a vital part of our economic and civic communities. They can tailor their decision making, lending policies, and practices to meet the needs of the local community, and are better positioned to help sustain the local economy and local employment. It just makes good sense to pull money out of big banks like Wells Fargo and invest it into these local banks and credit unions.


Community members in Portland agree. Since February, Oregon Action has spoken with over 3,000 community members in Portland neighborhoods. More than 1,000 of them have signed on in support of investing their tax dollars into responsible local financial institutions, community banks, and credit unions. Hundreds have written letters and made phone calls to Mayor Adams and the city councilors, all culminating with Oregon Action’s testimony at the city council meeting on Wednesday.


Main Street Alliance of Oregon also spoke in favor of the Responsible Banking Resolution. MSA Oregon reported that Portland businesses surveyed recently expressed discontent with banks in terms of failing to provide needed credit, excessive credit card and other fees. Many of these businesses also expressed strong support for doing business locally.


Portland is just one of many local governments working on divesting local taxpayer dollars into community banks and credit unions. Cities from Seattle to Austin and beyond have already taken steps to start moving their money out of the Wall Street banks. Here in Oregon, MSA Oregon and Oregon Action are building momentum across the state.


Council is expected to vote on passage of the resolution May 15th at 2:00PM

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