Every year, billions of dollars of public money flow through banks. Wallstreet Megabanks, often accused of prioritizing shareholder profits, control a total of $509 Billion in deposits and $4.3 Trillion in state and local pensions. Advocates for public banks want more of that money to benefit the community.

The little city of Hazen, North Dakota, population 2,300, is the kind of town where farming and ranching families often have a second income from a job at a power plant or a coal mine.

As a teenager, Christie Obenauer, née Huber, frequently made the hourlong drive from Hazen to Bismarck, the state capital, to go shopping with her sister. On the way, they’d usually make a stop to run an errand for their dad, who ran Union State Bank of Hazen.

At least 90 percent of the nation’s cities are facing a budget crisis because of the economic shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a mid-April report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities. Because municipal governments cannot run deficits, they will have to respond by cutting staff and programs, which will worsen the economic conditions of the cities they serve.

One hun­dred years ago July 28, a bank in Bis­mar­ck, N.D., opened its doors for the very first time. This would have been an unre­mark­able event, like­ly lost to his­to­ry, except for the fact that it was a pub­lic bank, owned by all the res­i­dents of the state. A cen­tu­ry on, the Bank of North Dako­ta (BND) is still the only pub­licly owned bank in the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States (a sec­ond pub­lic bank was recent­ly estab­lished in Amer­i­can Samoa) — though poten­tial­ly not for long.