At our recent Ward Three meeting we discussed, among other things, the feasibility of transferring all city accounts to local, community banks and credit unions, and closing out any accounts with lenders with poor local history, with high rates of foreclosure, or with consumer-unfriendly terms on their cards or credit. This was actually Arianna Huffington’s New Year’s resolution: “Move Your Money.” Her argument is that if banks are “too big to fail,” and if government is too weak to break them up, we can contribute to their size a lot by moving our money to banks who work with us rather than against us. (See http://tinyurl.com/yafueme.) Here in Somerville, that means East Cambridge, Winter Hill, Wainwright, and Century Bank – it specifically excludes Bank of America, Sovereign, and Citizens, one of which is the most aggressive in foreclosures, and the other two are foreign owned.
This Move Your Money movement has already gotten to the legislature of the State of New Mexico, for example, who voted to shift all state accounts to local banks. It costs nothing. It makes a clear and easy to defend case. And it holds our city – and eventually other cities and the state – to a simple, realistic, and important standard. As a Wainwright depositor I have my own reservations – they charge an outrageous fee for bounced checks, for just one example – but, at least they’re local and I can reasonably complain. I can’t commend higher the Move Your Money blog and website that Huffington started (http://moveyourmoney.info/) and wonder why or when our Aldermen will demand an accounting of where the city has deposits – and they’ve always got accounts, whether for cash or retirement.
While on that subject, incidentally, Ward Three also discussed Verizon, and their red lining of Somerville (and Boston), excluding our city from FIOS. What surprised the Ward Committee most was that Verizon (and ATT) had been funded to make this conversion in 1996. They got a multi-billion dollar accelerated depreciation for their copper wires (which, by the way, are the ones we use here in Somerville, and were installed around a century ago). They argued, quite compellingly, that the copper wires don’t have enough bandwidth for modern telecommunications. They got their money and then they changed their tune, and began promoting DSL (which is about half the speed of cable).
So, why does the city have ANY contracts with Verizon? Why do we re-imburse for Verizon cell services? Why do the schools use Verizon for anything? Why must we subsidize guys who not only got paid to put a cable in over a decade ago, but are now redlining our city because they don’t want to pay for SCAT?
And, by the way, Google just announced that they would be soliciting community proposals to wire cities with fiber many times the speed of FIOS. They will be looking for “relatively compact areas…with the networks reaching at least 50,000 and up to 500,000 people.” Somerville is the most densely settled community in the state and 7th densest in the nation; and Cambridge is third. We are perfect for their demonstration. Check out the story in today’s Washington Post (http://tinyurl.com/yjwvrzp). Somerville was the first city in Massachusetts to have competing cable systems. Why don’t we be the first with a really high speed system, and throw the bums out? Google’s looking for models and we have the most concentrated, most diverse, and most easily wired community in the nation. Who in the city administration will take this on?