Ordinance Calls for Responsible City Banking

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Where would Jesus bank?

That's the question before the City Council this month - because, according to advocates for the Responsible Banking Ordinance, the City of Los Angeles ought to keep its money in banks that are "socially responsible."

A group of synagogues, mosques and churches called LA Voice have been pushing this for more than a year. It would give banks a score based on criteria like small-business lending and foreclosure modifications. But the ordinance wouldn't force the city to pick any given bank.

But Reverend Ryan Bell, pastor at Hollywood Adventist Church, thinks the city will adhere to the ratings because it's the right thing to do.

"One of the stories that Jesus tells in the New Testament [shares] a man who owed the king an enormous sum of money, and the king is forgiving on that day," Bell said, alluding to a parable in the Gospel of Matthew. "But as soon as [the king has] forgiven his debt, he goes out and strangles a guy who owes him a fraction of the money that he owed the king, and throws him in jail when he can't pay him back. This, to me, is an exact parallel to the way the large banks were bailed out and yet the minute that they had that money, go out and choke ordinary citizens."

The City Council took public comment on the Responsible Banking Ordinance today, though, and they're finding that many others define the city's responsibility differently.

The Chamber of Commerce says the measure will endanger 40,000 banking industry jobs in LA, plus cost the city millions of dollars.

"The banking ordinance presented to you is not only not responsible, it will also not do a single thing to help the foreclosure crisis in LA," a spokesperson said. "It will create additional bureaucracy for city staff, who have said they do not have the time nor the expertise to implement such a mandate."

LA Voice thinks City Council shares its values, though. The group hopes to see the ordinance pass by the end of this year.

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