Council to hear Public Bank Proposal

City officials are awaiting councilors to approve $50,000 contract

The Santa Fe City Council is scheduled to decide in its Jan. 28 meeting whether to award a private company a $50,000 contract to study the feasibility of a publicly funded bank.

The proposal to award the contract to "investigate the business, financial and economic feasibility of a public bank initiative for the City of Santa Fe" cleared the five-member Finance Committee on Jan. 20 with votes from councilors Chris Rivera, Signe Lindell and Joseph Maestas.

During the campaign, Mayor Javier Gonzales based part of his economic platform on pushing for a publicly funded bank that would award low-interest loans as a way to diversify Santa Fe's economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and government jobs.

City staff is recommending that the contract go to Building Solutions, LLC. No entity by that name is listed in the secretary of state's online corporations database, but its managing partner says it's a registered business with the state. In the proposed contract, the entity lists its address at 650 Old Santa Fe Trail and its managing partner as Katherine L Updike, who told the Albuquerque Journal that her "company would enlist the help of the Arrowhead Center, an economic development project at New Mexico State University," where Gonzales and Ike Pino, the city's public works director, are both outgoing regents. Pino serves on Arrowhead's board of directors, reports the Journal.

Updike tells SFR that Arrowhead will be focusing on asking the question of what the potential economic impact of the bank might be.

Her firm, she says, started in Chicago and focuses its work on consulting and project management "around issues of economic development." Updike lives in Santa Fe, she says, and she's worked on the issue of public banking before, specifically the idea of a public bank along the US-Mexico border. She says the firm will specifically investigate whether the public sector in Santa Fe would be able to fund its own infrastructure.

Instead of advertising the proposal to bidders, city staff recommended the contract go to Building Solutions after putting out a request for qualifications. The city reports that it received six proposals, and it picked Building Solutions after reviewing the proposals and interviewing two candidates.

A Jan. 9 memo from Bryan Snyder, city manager, to Kate Noble, acting director of housing and community development, requests that the city waive its normal requirements that contractors for the city carry general liability insurance coverage. "We feel that coordination of this program raises no general liability issues for the city," the memo reads.

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