LOOSE ENDS: Joan Bartl is part of the movement aimed at creating a public bank for New Jersey


Originally posted by Pam Hersh on CentralJersey.com | May 19, 2017

The connection between fighting against “Dick-and-Jane” gender stereotyping and fighting for a public bank in New Jersey is a fighter called Joan.

A resident of Princeton since 1968, Joan Bartl is known as a tireless advocate for causes intended to improve the lives of those living in her community. Using weapons of passion, energy and intelligence, she has fought to end hunger, to end gender stereotypes, to end domestic abuse, to end civil rights abuses, and most recently to begin a new era in New Jersey public financing by establishing a public bank.

Working as a volunteer, Bartl  is the coordinator of Banking On New Jersey, www.bankingonnewjersey.org, a non-profit citizens group created to educate and coalesce support for the creation of a public bank in New Jersey. The goal of a public bank is getting the best use out of public money to serve the public good, according to Bartl. Public banks invest municipal dollars locally for community benefit.

The website defines the mission as “bringing the value of a municipally owned public bank to New Jersey. We envision a public institution managed professionally, guided by strong citizen oversight, and accountable to the public as its only stockholders. The bank will have flexibility to support current community needs and foster resilience in the face of economic and natural hardships. We promote a bank that works in partnership with local banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions to make loans in our local communities.”

With a professional background in finance and marketing, Bartl for the past quarter century has served as president of her own credit card processing business, called Payment Management. Her advocacy for a public bank, therefore, was born out of her fiscal sense, as well as her moral and community sense.

The first time she merged finances with community service was decades ago, when her knowledge and advocacy on gender equality issues brought her and five other women with whom she worked consulting jobs, as well as proceeds from children’s books they co-authored.

“Any income I got from consulting or book sales, I would put into a savings account,” she said. “I saved $17,700 and got 5 percent interest — which I used as the down payment on my first house in Princeton.” This was not only a great investment for her, but also for the public good, because it kept Bartl in town.

Bartl works collaboratively on public banking advocacy with the national public banking organization, the Public Banking Institute (PBI). This educational non-profit works to achieve the implementation of public banking at all levels of the American economy and government. PBI’s board chair, Walt McRee, lives in New Jersey, and often accompanies Bartl to “friend-raising” meetings and discussions about public banking.

North Dakota is the only state with a public bank, but interest throughout the country is growing. Bernie Sanders has just thrown his support behind establishing a public bank for Vermont. Gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy has made the issue one of the central themes in his campaign. Murphy says he would like to see a state-owned bank that would allow college students and small businesses to access loans at more equitable rates than those charged by profit-driven commercial institutions.

Accustomed to seeing Bartl fight on behalf of society’s most vulnerable, I was at first a bit puzzled when I learned she was advocating for a project seemingly removed from the segment of the population that for years she felt so compelled to serve.

In fact, Bartl said, “it is my commitment to individuals struggling with a number of fiscal and social issues that got me involved in public banking. It struck me as the only sustainable way to finance the initiatives whose future always seems in peril because of funding issues. . . . A public bank working in partnership with community banks ensures that local money works locally and stays local, supporting development and businesses that build up our neighborhoods and increase our common wealth.”

I never got a chance to ask Joan how a public bank would preserve the single most important aspect of my life — getting my morning coffee. The computer meltdown that closed Starbucks stores throughout the Mercer region and maybe beyond on May 16 made me feel helpless and disoriented.

I assume a public bank would be powerless to solve the social issue of caffeine-deprived vulnerability. But knowing fighter Joan Bartl as well as I do, I would rule out nothing. She welcomes all other questions about the public bank concept. You can email her at joanbartl@bankingonnewjersey.org.