6 Questions to help you DIVEST YOUR COMMUNITY


1. Which bank does your city use?

If you can't find your city on the list, help us find out. Call or email the City Clerk, Treasurer, Financial manager, or Finance Committee, and ask which bank(s) they use to hold its annual cash flow. Ask how much money they entrust to each bank. They are usually legally obligated to tell you. Check this list to see if your city's bank is financing pipelines. If it is, congratulations: you have a campaign!

2. Who can you count on?

It may be just you or you and a friend in the beginning. It may be just you and ten other people in the end. Either way, it is crucial to find other people and groups in your community to ally with. Divvying up responsibilities is a huge help--between social media, lobbying, legislating, and researching. 

If possible, be sure to center communities who are forced to bear the brunt of the destruction caused by fossil fuel extraction (e.g. communities near extraction sources, refineries, in the path of other pipeline projects). 

3. where will you move the money?

In order to ensure your town's values are represented in your new bank, we recommend following Seattle and Oakland's move by creating investment and contract ordinances (see Question 4). This kind of ordinance is one in which your city has certain standards for selecting a banking contractor. If your city already has those kinds of standards [e.g. weapons manufacturing, tobacco manufacturing, etc.], you can add financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline as a "no-go."

An ethical banking alternative could be as simple as switching to a "mission-aligned" bank or credit union that does not fund pipelines or fossil fuels. However, credit unions and mission aligned banks may be out of the question for bigger cities--it's best to ask your city's financial manager. This leaves three options:

  1. A commercial bank that doesn't finance prisons, pipelines, firearms, etc;
  2. Divvying up the responsibilities between smaller community banks (decoupling); or
  3. Creating a public bank from the ground up.

A new commercial bank?

Make a spreadsheet and compile a list of all the commercial banks in your area using this locator.  Smaller cities may be able to use credit unions and mission aligned banks as alternatives. Track if they are listed as a funder of pipelines. Once you have a list of banks, you can see how much each bank has in assets by checking Federal Reserve statistics. B-corp banks, credit unions, and smaller community banks will not be in those statistics because they are not U.S.-chartered. 


Ironically, the Bank of North Dakota is the only surviving public bank in the United States. It loaned $30 million for the militarization of law enforcement at Standing Rock.

Ironically, the Bank of North Dakota is the only surviving public bank in the United States. It loaned $30 million for the militarization of law enforcement at Standing Rock.

A Public Bank?

 "Across the country, community activists, mayors, city council members, and more are waking up to the power and the promise of public banks."

Public banking is distinguished from private banking in that its mandate begins with the public's interest. Privately-owned banks, by contrast, have shareholders who generally seek short-term profits as their highest priority.  Public banks are a way to build local wealth and resist the market’s predatory predilections. A few cities are leading the way for public banking in the US, including:

  • Santa Fe had a feasibility study last year and are now creating a task force to generate the charter and business plan
  • San Francisco will convene a public banking task force in July
  • Oakland oted in June 2017 to dedicate $100K to a public banking feasibility study
  • DC has voted to put a feasibility study in their city's budget

It is important to understand that public banking will fall into the same greedy traps as big banks if the charters are not authored by those most hurt by Wall Street. This means including indigenous people whose livelihoods, water rights, religious rights, and human rights have been risked by DAPL, Keystone XL, and other pipelines. 


4. Will you propose an ORDINANCE Or a resolution?

Get the ball rolling by drafting an ordinance. It doesn't have to be perfect--a legislative aide will likely amend it with you [watch their amendments!]. You can use these pieces of legislation passed by other campaigns to help draft your own:

Seattle [DAPL] Ordinance passed in February

San Francisco DAPL Resolution passed in March

San Francisco Public Banking Task Force resolution passed in April

Seattle Keystone XL Resolution passed in April

Chicago DAPL Ordinance introduced in April



Find a City  or Tribal Council Member who will support the ordinance: Who is the most progressive? You can email or call them--or all of the city council members individually--and request a meeting. If you have already built a coalition by this point, you are more likely to get the meeting. Also, if you have any prominent locals who will speak out in support of the bill, bring them to the meeting as well.

Once you are at the meeting, explain to the Council Member (or their legislative aide, if that is who you end up meeting with) that the City of Seattle, San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Monica, the Mille Lacs Tribe, and Muckleshoot Tribe have already done this -- and that you would like to see your own City/Tribe support Standing Rock by divesting from the big banks funding the pipeline.

Once you have a Council Member who has agreed to sponsor the bill, you are ready for the next vital step.



6. how will you get your message out and pressure politicians?

Create a Facebook page where you can create events, invite people to like your page and join your events, post updates on your campaign, and message us to get it shared by Mazaska Talks.

Use canva.com (it's free!) to create flyers and social media posts.

Hold public events to (Seattle & San Francisco) organize calling campaigns, talk to the media and ensure that you absolutely pack out Council hearings.

Plan a demonstration, drop a banner in a highly visible location, organize a day for the public to shut down their accounts at the same time. Pray for the water. 

Email jackie@mazaskatalks.org if you have any questions or would like help planning an action!