Public Banking, Public Water: Who's in Control? Gwendolyn Hallsmith and Rep. Lawrence

From poisoning Flint to bankrupting Main Street, can residents regain a say in what happens in their communities? In this episode, Laura discusses race, gender, and banking with Gwendolyn Hallsmith, the author of 'Vermont Dollars, Vermont Sense,' and she asks Michigan Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence who - and what - failed the people of Flint, MI.

Plus an F Word from Laura on shedding light on dark money. What might media cover if they weren’t so obsessed with Donald Trump?


Laura Flanders: Gwendolyn Hallsmith is the founder and executive director of Global Community Initiatives and has over 25 years of experience working with municipal, regional, and state government in the US and internationally. She's also the author of several books, including her most recent, 'Vermont Dollars, Vermont Sense,' published this year with Michael Shuman and the Post Carbon Institute. The book describes how people, organizations, financial advisors and governments can move money currently invested in Wall Street to benefit Main Street businesses. She even has a band called The New Economistas.

Welcome Gwen, I'm so glad to have you back on the program.

Gwendolyn Hallsmith: Thanks. It's great to be here.

Laura Flanders: There have been so many developments since last we spoke, but let's start at the top. Vermont Dollars, what do you mean?

Gwendolyn Hallsmith: We're looking at how you move your money from Wall Street investments, which is where most people have their retirement savings and their IRAs and other things, into the local economy. Right now there aren't that many options. People have become more and more interested in local economies. They buy local food, but where their money grows and helps them out over time is still somewhere far away.

Laura Flanders: Why is that? As you said, there's been a big push towards localism, invest locally, buy locally. Why is it so hard? What are the obstacles?

Gwendolyn Hallsmith: There are several obstacles, some of which Michael Shuman wrote about in his book Local Dollars, Local Sense, a lot of the obstacles have to do with the rules of the games. It's very difficult as a small investor to invest in a local business because of all the SEC rules that require all sorts of filings and due diligence on how you are able to offer a security into the market.


Laura Flanders: The days have turned to months since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan first came to light. The lead poisoning in the water, the result of a shift in the water supply ordered by an emergency manager to cut costs, is being connected to everything from a rise in lead levels in children's blood to Legionnaires’ disease. Brenda Lawrence represents the 14th district in Michigan. This is her home turf.  I asked her, what that water crisis looks like.

Talk directly to us, congresswoman, about what is happening in Flint right now. What are people dealing with up close?

Congresswoman Lawrence: Right now there is this lack of trust in our government. There's water being distributed, there are central locations where people are picking up water, so think about water to drink, water to cook with, water to bathe with. It is a situation that has so many ripple effects. Just think about our government, there are three basic things every human being that is a citizen of these United States expects from their government, that's air that's clean to breathe, food that's safe to eat, and water that they can consume that will not harm them. We failed in a basic trust of our government. We don't think about it in America when we turn on our water.

So what did we learn from this situation? We learned that there was a breakdown in our government. There, for some reason, there was this sense of for economic reasons not to comply with the Clean Water Act, not to ensure that the safety of American citizens, 100,000 people, 7,000 children. Lead that was in the water because of lack of treatment, attacks the brain of a developing child and it's irreversible, you cannot go back and clean it up.


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